Frequently Asked Questions
Questions are sorted by topic. Click on the question to view Teri’s answer.
27. What’s an REO?
Questions and Answers
Competence, empathy, a burning desire to truly hear what clients want and find it for them, just enough obsession with detail to keep your deal on track. Humor. And a superb team of inspectors, contractors, carpet cleaners, escrow officers and other specialists.
2. How well do you know the neighborhoods in Napa or Sonoma?
I’ve lived in Napa and traveled back and forth to Sonoma for 20+ years. I know these towns like the back of my hand.
Try to keep me from it! I insist that my clients go into any venture with eyes wide open.
I handle residential property and land sales exclusively.
I prefer not to represent both sides in a transaction unless it provides a special benefit to both buyer and seller. So, generally, I represent either the buyer or the seller. But I do both equally well.
Selling Your Home
8. How do you determine how to best market my property? I start by creating a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) to help determine your price, then build a clear picture of who your most likely buyer(s) are so we can tailor the message and media to those buyers.
9. Do I have to have my home staged to get the best price for my home sale? What your home really must be to sell is sparkling clean.Then, at a minimum some staging is usually required. In fact, I often bring my stager along on our the visit when we list your property.. She walks the house discussing with me how we can make small changes to give it the broadest appeal — or, in some cases, appeal to a specific market segment. She will suggest you remove personal items, collections, anything that hides the features of the house and arrange furniture and accessories to highlight the home’s selling points. We don’t see too many occasions where we need to empty the house and bring in all new furniture. But that can be very effective in some circumstances and it’s a godsend when you need to move first and sell afterwards. Vacant homes lack warmth and empty rooms look smaller. So staging vacant houses, even if not completely, is highly recommended.
10. My home requires some repairs before I can sell it, should I wait to contact you until they are completed? The sooner you and your agent start working as a team on the sale of your home, the more helpful the agent can be. My preference is that you call me if you even start thinking about selling the house. Then I can best advise you on what repairs to make.
11. When is the best time of year for me to buy or sell my home? When you need to, if you are under financial duress. Otherwise, the majority of buyers start coming into the market in March and the market gets brisker through the summer with the wave breaking about October. The market is quieter in November through February, but it is by no means dead. We close sales every year the week before Christmas. And I used to dread Super Bowl Sunday because I inevitably was writing an offer and missed the game every year. Thank God for VCRs!
12. I’ve got too much space and need to downsize, but I’m worried about what to do with my stuff and feeling cramped in a new place. Any ideas? I confess that, while I confront this with clients a lot, there doesn’t seem to be one easy, general answer. I’ve seen people sell virtually everything and just start over in the new house, keeping only things that are truly meaningful to them. I’ve also seen a “downsizer” buy a house that was actually about 200 square feet larger than the one she ”downsized” from. The good news: most of it is on one floor; the 2nd story rooms are principally for family/guest use. So, that was a good solution for her, and she brought nearly everything from the “big” house to the “small” one. Seriously, no two clients are ever the same. We tend to reach the compromises that must be reached as we look at property.
13. My home is too expensive now. I’m not sure if I should sell it and buy a less expensive home or find a rental. What do you suggest? It sounds like you would benefit from:
(a) a heart-to-heart with your accountant,
(b) a Comparative Market Analysis from your agent to see what your property might bring on today’s market, and
(c) a sample listing of homes in your preferred price range to see if those would work for you.
Next, pit the homes for sale against rental listings to compare costs, tax benefits (or lack of same) and features. Bear in mind that rents go up but fixed rate mortgages do not.Then make a financial calculation. Finally, see what your heart says. If it murmurs: I want to travel and not have to worry about keeping up my property, think about renting or buying a condo.
Buying Your Home
14. I’m a first-time homebuyer. Can you explain what the steps are to finding a home, making an offer and closing on the deal? Please see my 13 Tips for Home Buyers page for more detail. Get over the notion that if you just keep looking you’ll find the perfect house (which doesn’t exist) and you’ll close on the “right” house in short order. Start by finding an agent you trust. Decide what your home’s must-haves versus like-to-haves are. Be realistic about your price range; then get prequalified for a loan. Find your house and have the courage of your convictions. Make the best offer you can. When your offer is successful, get inspections, appraisal and loan approval. Then follow the timetable your agent, escrow and loan officers lay out for you. And start packing!
15. What steps are involved in figuring out what properties may be most appropriate for me to look at versus all the other ones in my price range? Before buyers ever set foot in an open house, I suggest they sit down and think carefully about how they want to live, how their home has to function and for whom. If you truly want a single level house, for example, don’t bother to even look at two story houses.
16. How do I know how much I can afford to buy? There are affordability calculators on countless websites – your own bank probably has one. But this is as good an informational calculator as I’ve found at Ginnie Mae. (And you can use it without inadvertently applying for a loan.)
17. I’ve been wanting to buy a home for years, but I’ve been very nervous about such a huge commitment. What can you tell me that will put my nerves at ease? If you’re looking for guarantees, no one can forecast what the market will do. I can, however, demonstrate that buying now typically makes more financial sense than renting, and there is a long list of personal rewards in owning your own home. Finally, any choice carries risk. Just as there are risks in buying, there are also risks in renting, in that rental rates are rising and inventories are shrinking which suggests the rise in rents will continue.
18. What do you need from me so we can start looking for a new home in Napa or Sonoma? I need to meet with you so we can talk about the process, your expectations, and your financial overview and gauge how well we get along. If there seems to be a good fit between us, I’ll recommend you talk to a lender or two and get prequalified with someone you feel confident working with. And I’ll set you up with a portal so you can start educating yourself about the market we will be searching. Once you’re prequalified and have your personal musts/likes for a home solidly in mind, we’ll start house hunting. The first tour is the most informative for me: I watch how you react to the properties we go through. After that first tour, I pretty much know what you will like and what you won’t. So if I call and say, “You have to see this house,” you should get in the car. J
19. Should I be looking at a much lower price range in the event there are multiple bidders? This is a discussion to have with your agent because the market is constantly in flux. Right now, looking at properties priced slightly under what you can afford does give you a needed cushion in case multiple offers drive up the price.
21. Do I need to pre-qualify before we even start looking for a new property? Yes, you do. First, you need to know what you can afford to pay comfortably. It’s pointless – and hideously disappointing — to look at houses that are far more or far less expensive than your budget. Plus, while it doesn’t happen often, occasionally one of the first properties we see will clearly be “it.” Your offer is immeasurably stronger if you can supply a lender “prequel” with the offer.
22. I drove by a house I’m really interested in seeing. Should I call the agent listed on the sign for help? If you don’t have an agent, it’s perfectly okay to call the agent on the sign. However, if you already have an agent working with you, you should call your own agent to see any listed property. The REALTORS® Code of Ethics requires us NOT to engage with clients that already have an agent. We appreciate it when buyers don’t put us in that uncomfortable spot.
23. How many homes can we look at during one appointment? I try to hold the number somewhere between four and six. (Four maximum if children are in the tour group; they think house-hunting is super boring.) That’s about as much stimulus as one person can take in a trip. I’d rather schedule more trips and see a reasonable number of properties on each one because, after six, they all start to run together.
25. I saw a photo of a great home in the newspaper; can you show it to me? What’s the best way for me to get you the information on it? First, understand that all agencies advertise their listings to get you to call their office. That property in the newspaper may already be in contract. If you want to find out what properties are really on the market, you can go to the public face of our local Multiple Listing Service www.greathomes.org. Then, if you want to talk about it, you’ll have an address and/or an MLS number to give me. Alternately, I can set up a portal in the MLS that will automatically notify you when a new property comes on the market that meets your general criteria. Having a portal, by the way, is an exceptionally good way of getting a quick education in any local market’s behavior before you start looking in earnest. You’ll see when a property appears, when it goes “contingent” (into contract), if it comes back, and when it closes and for what price — very useful information.
26. What’s a short sale? Owners, often in consultation with their lenders, put their house on the market and sell it at current market value, even though the proceeds do not completely repay the mortgages on the property. In return for selling rather than forcing their lender to foreclose, the lender “forgives” the mortgage debt in excess of the market price. That debt forgiveness is currently non-taxable but that could change if Congress does not extend the legislation excluding it from income.
27. What’s an REO? It’s bank terminology for Real Estate-Owned. The lender has foreclosed on a property because mortgage payments were in arrears, the former owner has moved out, and the house is being sold with very little information available to the lender that took it back. REO sales are As Is and buyers should expect deferred maintenance, at a minimum.
28. What’s a contingency in a real estate transaction? Think about the purchase agreement this way: you offer in the contract to pay X dollars for a property after you have a period of 17 days (sometimes less, sometimes more) to inspect the condition of the property (including well and septic systems), get an appraisal and line up a loan. These are the three major contingencies on which the sale depends. If you find conditions you cannot live with and the seller refuses to fix them, you don’t “release inspection contingencies,” you sign a release of contract. Same thing if there are appraisal or loan issues. The contingency period obviously protects the buyer, but benefits the seller as well, in that deficiencies on the buyer’s side become apparent up front and the “iffy” parts of the deal (or contingencies) get handled in pretty short order.
29. I’m worried about selling my current home in time before I have to start paying for a new home. Can you tell me how we work it out so I’m not in a financial pinch? There are actually several ways. Perhaps the most common is to put your current home on the market when the timing is right once you have a general idea of where you want to move (confirming location and on-going inventory in your price range that meets your requirements). As soon as property #1 is about to go on the market, start looking in earnest for the replacement property in the new location. You can even make identifying such a property a contingency of your sale. It takes careful work among all involved agents, lenders and the title officers; but closing your sale (and perhaps renting back for a few days) shortly before closing your purchase of a new property is do-able. Not stress-free but definitely do-able.
30. Do you ever represent both the buyer and seller in the same transaction for the same property? Only under special circumstances. And even then my partner represents one side and I represent the other, which allows us to maintain that essential undivided loyalty to our clients.
31. Can you represent me both to sell my home here in Napa as well as find one in Sonoma? Of course. And I have. It helps to have great title company contacts in both towns, as well as a roster of inspectors and other vendors that serve each community.
32. I want to move to Wine Country from San Francisco, but I’m a little nervous about relocating to the country. Any suggestions on making the leap from city to small town? It’s a very personal preference – the excitement and array of activities of the City versus the slower pace and natural beauty – not to mention the wonderful climate – of the Wine Country. Personally, I enjoyed the city in my 30s but as I got a little older the aggravation of trying to get anywhere or do the simple chores of daily life coupled with the certainty that my car would be stolen every July caused me to look North for a new home. The fact that I could buy so much more house in the Wine Country than I could have in the City made moving here an easy decision — one I’ve never regretted. But it comes down to how you want to live. The laid-back country isn’t for everybody but neither is the go-go pressure of the City.
33. This is a good site for varied general information about mortgages in California – https://www.moneygeek.com/mortgage/california-rates-and-homebuyer-resources/