People not Paychecks.

I saw a Facebook post a colleague made this morning.  He said, “My day started out great and ended with a real estate nightmare. Sleepless night and hoping that today is a better day. Real estate isn’t for the faint of heart.”

He’s right, real estate isn’t for the faint of heart.  Things can change on a dime.  At a moment’s notice sellers and buyers can go from carefree and feeling fine to wondering if they have to unpack and start from scratch – or worse.

The response that prompted me to right this blog post was this, “Keep telling yourself… it is only a house , it is only a house…”  True, it is only a house.  It’s the lives attached to the house are what keep a Realtor up all night, tossing and turning, concerned for a clients’ well being.

I have had buyers’ on the brink of homelessness at the possibility of a deal falling through.  I have seen family members heart broken at the sale of a long loved family home filled with memories.  I have seen buyers break down and cry over the stresses of daily life compounded with a home search/purchase/lender demands for documentation.

Real estate is not cut and dry.  Combine one of the largest purchases and sales of a person’s life with the emotional attachment/drain such a transaction can make, and a real estate purchase/sale can be one of the most emotionally challenging events of a persons life (next to marriage/birth/death).  If a transaction has bumps along the way, those emotions compound.

Many agents find themselves wearing many hats – including counselor.  We are attached to our clients.  We care about them and the outcome of the transaction.  Not for the paycheck – for the people.  We understand the heavy burden we chose to carry.  We understand how important home ownership – having a roof over your head is.  We care about you and are working towards your success.  It’s not about the mighty dollar, and those who think it is, are sorely mistaken.

We do our best, often time going above and beyond, to “fix” situations that are beyond our control, we offer alternatives and advise that may not be apparent, we work hard to ensure our clients are taken care of and their best interests met.  Are there some bad apples, yes.  Every field has them.  But if you ask me, most Realtors care about their clients.  They want them to be happy.  They want their dreams to come true and they will do everything in their power to make that happen, even, no especially, when the chips are down.

Florida Real Estate Sales – Contract to Close. I think we’ve got it right.

Real estate sales are different from state to state. Procedures are different, how and when we go under contract is different and who closes the sale differs. I am licensed to sell real estate in Florida. I have never sold anywhere else. Based on stories I have heard, observations I have made and experiences REALTORS from other states have shared with me, I believe Florida has gotten it right when it comes to contract to close procedures.

I have contacts with REALTORS across the country. For the sake of brevity, I am going to discuss Massachusetts and New York in comparison to Florida. It is my understanding that these 2 sales handle real estate transactions similarly.

In Florida, title companies are typically used to close/complete the sale. The title company is a neutral party in the sale. They perform lien searches to ensure there are no liens against the property that a buyer may be held responsible for, make sure the chain of title is clean (no one has claim to the property), order payoffs, prepare and record the deed, etc. They basically close out the sale. In Massachusetts and NY, attorneys handle closings. Attorneys also handle contracts.

In Florida, REALTORS handle contracts. In most instances, contracts that have been contractdrafted and approved by The Florida Bar. The steps of a sale in Florida are pretty straight forward. Buyer finds a house they like, they make a written offer on a contract and buyer and seller agree to terms. The terms are spelled out on the contract. Terms include sale price, closing date, escrow deposit and how it is handled in case of buyer or seller default, inspection periods, financing contingencies (including financing type and loan commitment deadlines), repair limits, etc. It is all spelled out and agreed to in writing by all parties prior to moving forward with inspections, appraisals and loan approval. Once the contract is executed by the buyer and sellers, inspections, appraisal, and all steps that lead to closing are completed.

In Massachusetts and New York, buyers and sellers come to a written agreement on price, inspections are performed, then an attorney drafts the contract to purchase. As an agent that works in residential sales in handshakeFlorida and has only worked in Florida, I find this mind blowing.

Here’s why: I have heard stories of buyers and sellers coming to agreed upon purchase price and finding other terms in the contract that both parties haven’t agreed upon. One example of this includes a change in buyer financing (i.e. going from 5% down on conventional financing to 0% down on a USDA loan). For a seller, this could be alarming. The seller agreed to a purchase price based on one set of terms and is presented a different set of terms at the time of entering into contract. Terms that could appear less appealing or “safe” than what was anticipated. Another example I have heard is buyer and seller agreeing to a contract price and when the contract is presented, buyer sees a clause stating they would lose their entire escrow deposit if financing was not in place within 20 days of contract. (most lenders need 30-45). I’m sure most times these items can get ironed out. Sometimes they don’t though. Sometimes weeks can be lost “renegotiating” terms that, in Florida, would have been ironed out up front – before a buyer invests time and energy on the house and more importantly spends hundreds of dollars on inspections.

I am grateful to be able to sell real estate in Florida. It seems to me it is more cut and dry, straightforward, and certain when a buyer and seller have a binding contract with all the terms to the agreement spelled out prior to any actions being taken. I can only think it cuts stress levels, too. If I were selling real estate in MA or NY I may think differently.  As a Florida Realtor, I would be extremely hesitant to allow a buyer to spend monies on inspections prior to being in a fully executed contract. I understand an agreement has been made by the parties in NY and MA, but without having all the terms to the contract laid out and agreed to beforehand seems like a risky endeavor to both parties in the transaction.

I’d be interested to hear from other REALTORS about contract to close procedures in your state, and what I’ve gotten right and what I may have gotten wrong about sales in MA and NY based on the information and examples provided to me by other in the field.

Selling Season in Florida.

Huffington Post posted an article about peak seasons for house hunters throughout the US.  Clermont, FL on a sunny day in JanuaryAccording to the article, buyers’ online search for homes in Florida peaks in January & February.  Makes sense since a lot of the country is tucked in their homes for the Winter and day dreaming of warmer climates.  Having lived in Rhode Island for 30 years, I remember the days well – sometimes even fondly. 

What I have found as a Realtor selling in the Orlando area is that the buying season in Florida never ends.  We do find more snowbirds (people who live in FL during the Fall & Winter and go back North for the Spring and Summer) purchasing in the Winter months, but ultimately the sales season in Florida never ends. 

Lake Minneola from Palisades Country Club in Clermont, FLThe climate and desire to relocate to the area assures us a steady selling season.  There is never a bad time to list in Florida.  Buyer traffic is steady and diverse.  Our markets include primary home owners, second home owners, investors – rental and flip, vacation homeowners, etc.  About 1/3 of all transactions are cash and we have a melting pot of domestic and foreign buyers; the bulk of which hailing from Canada, Brazil, the UK & China currently.