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A re-sale agent lost in a new home development

By March 4, 2010

Democrat columnist

Two weeks ago my column was about homebuyers generally taking longer in making a decision about buying a home, finding the right property and then finally closing escrow. The erosion of home values over the last few years has soured many on investing in a home. Qualifying for a loan is more difficult and is taking longer. The sense of urgency to buy today or forever miss the boat isnÕt the same as it was a few years ago. Agents and escrow officers are complaining that even after escrow is opened, appraisals are derailing sales. It requires lots of patience to be a participant in todayÕs real estate market.

A slower paced market isnÕt bad; itÕs just different. Agents understand that clients canÕt be rushed into making a hasty decision. We expect delays in the loan approval process and nothing is guaranteed. When first talking with a new client a few years ago, I might have asked them, ÒWould this weekend be good to show you some homes?Ó Now I ask, ÒIs your time frame within the next few months?Ó

Then Tim called.

ÒHi Ken, I got your name from a guy I will be working with in Sacramento. My wife and I are driving up this weekend and we want to look at new homes in Roseville. We have three days to find a home. Can you help us out?Ó

After 30 years of practicing real estate you finally settle into a comfortable niche. Some agents are better representing sellers and some prefer working with buyers. I know an agent in Sacramento, who for the past 25 years has only been selling land to developers, another that does nothing but lease commercial property. There are 20 different areas of real estate specialization. I feel confident and have a background in over half of them but at this stage in my life, I feel most comfortable working with re-sale residential. So why am I saying yes to showing new homes in Roseville?

There are a few agents in El Dorado County that will not cross the county line to do a deal. IÕm not one of them.

Many agents will specialize in a particular area or neighborhood. They are very knowledgeable about every neighborhood listing and sale, schools and who baby-sits and does day care. However, an increasing number of agents are focusing less on specific locations and more on customers.

Technology has empowered this selection. Multiple listing services that were once limited to listings in a specific county or small region are now nearly statewide. Agents have the ability of locating and showing properties in San Jose as easy as in Folsom. The Internet provides instant information on neighborhood demographics and a $200 GPS will guide us to any address in the county. Well, almost. Finding streets and house numbers, if they exist, can be a challenge in a new 2009 development.

After wondering around Roseville from sunrise to sunset showing new homes for three days, I have a few pointers for any prospective new homebuyers.

¥ Take your agent. Many potential new homebuyers mistakenly believe their trusty reliable residential re-sale agent canÕt help them in finding a new home and assisting them with the negotiations. That can be a costly mistake. Most builders employ their own sales representative. New homebuyers wonÕt pay any more for having their own agent looking out for their interest.

¥ ThereÕs more than one. We found several builders that had one of their new homes in their new development listed for sale in the MLS but there were usually several others even of the same model, not listed but available.

¥ Stop at the sales office first. My clients were looking for very specific minimum size, number of bedrooms and a three-car garage that would be available no later than April 1st. Stopping by the sales office will save time. Site agents appreciate brevity and direct questions. They may be managing several prospects at the same time with various degrees of interest.

¥ The price is the price. Builders try really hard to hold the line on their selling price. Buyers shouldnÕt expect any serious discount off the listed price. Options, upgrades and other builder incentives are easier to gain concessions. My clients offered full price but asked for and received a $10,000 incentive which could be applied to an appliance package or closing costs.

¥ If it has a gate or a pool the buyer is paying for it. Most new housing developments come with a little something extra called Mello Roos. This is a special tax to pay for some of the developmentÕs infrastructure that the developer passes along to the buyer. Most Mello Roos fees in Roseville will run $175 to $200 a month. If there are other amenities such as a clubhouse, pool, entry gate or common area landscaping, add another $50 to $75 a month.

¥ New home inventory is very limited. Once a new homebuyer has identified a desirable location and new home design, they should move quickly to cement a deal. Standing completed inventory is at the lowest level in recent history and most builders have a limited number of homes under construction. We found sales offices with couples waiting in line for the opportunity to speak to a site agent.

There will always be something very special about moving into a new home and neighborhood. The intensity of our three-day search was both exhilarating and exhausting. But it was relaxing to again focus on El Dorado County. Maybe I might get lucky this week and show some bank repos in Georgetown.

Ken Calhoon is a real estate broker in El Dorado County. He can be reached through his Website

Ken Calhoon

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