Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Real Estate Intervention

Many of today's sellers need a reality check on pricing we all know this, and there has been this sort of eye rolling here-we-go-again attitude among selling agents when they go on listings. However it is a very difficult thing to tell a home owner his biggest investment is not worth what he thinks it is.

Mike Aubrey--who I had the opportunity to speak to--he gave me a very nice referral, yet another perk of being with a global company like Re/Max-- provides a reality check to one "lucky" homeowner each week on HGTV's "Real Estate Intervention."

The popular TV show follows sellers who are either thinking of listing their property or have had their homes on the market without a successful sale. Aubrey, a Hall of Fame and Chairman's Club member with RE/MAX Metropolitan Realty in North Potomac, Md., takes sellers through two comparables – a home that recently sold and one that's still on the market – to show them how their property stacks up to the competition. Then he sits them down for "the talk," which entails a rundown of the numbers and his suggestion for pricing.

Most of the time, the truth hurts.

"Sellers can get extremely upset or offended when I tell them my opinion on what their house is worth given the market conditions," says Aubrey, who remains remarkably patient with difficult sellers in several of the episodes (much more than I would). "Part of this business is telling people things they don't want to hear, but you can't get emotional about it. You have to control the situation and trust your work and the numbers. Having their best interest at heart means being honest."

Aubrey's straight-talking and frank manner has made the show a fan favorite; he gets thousands of letters and e-mails from agents and Broker/Owners who say they watch the show religiously. Some even make it required viewing during sales meetings. After speaking with him, and seeing a few episodes, I took a deep breath, and made a few uncomfortable phone calls. The one thing that he said to me that stuck, is "trust your numbers." Now here in rural Sullivan County, finding valid solid comps can be more challenging. But it is doable.

While it's not much different from what he does with his clients everyday, Aubrey says that the opportunity to show sellers a recently sold comp offers a unique angle to the discussion – something he wouldn't normally get to show his actual clients.

Aubrey got the gig after appearing in a few episodes of HGTV's "Get It Sold" and "House Hunters." But he doesn't consider himself a TV star by any stretch.

"I'm a guy who sells real estate that happens to be on TV – and not the other way around," says Aubrey, who works full-time with his team serving buyers and sellers in the Washington D.C. metro area. "I originally declined the offer to do this show because the filming would've interfered with my business, but they came back to me and offered me a shooting schedule I could live with.

"It's a lot of fun, but it's hard work; I put in 95-hour workweeks between selling homes and taping."

Having his own real estate show has opened up countless avenues for Aubrey to promote his business. He has appeared on the Today show, which invited him back on July 11 (7 a.m.-9 a.m. ET) to discuss online real estate resources for buyers.

Aubrey's real estate anecdotes have been included in The Washington Post and The New York Times, and he has appeared on news commentary programming and talk shows such as "Fox & Friends," and "Rachel Ray."

"One of the great things about doing 'Real Estate Intervention' is that I get to showcase the great work real estate agents are doing across country – especially right now," Aubrey says. "It's a big responsibility to be in a venue where I'm essentially representing all Realtors. So I make sure to do my homework and do the profession proud."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lakefront listing

My Re/Max software has a new "imbed" feature for the virtual tour, so I figured I would try it out here. I know...shameless self promotion of my own listings, which I swore this blog would not be about. Still it is pretty cool that I can do this. $289,000 for a five acre brand new house with deeded rights to a big private motorboat lake is a good deal.$289,000 click here

Well the imbed did not work right. It did not fit in the picture, so I guess I still have to figure this HTML thing out. But rather than confuse my vast readership, and delete this post altogether, I created it as a link.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rock Snot

I went out this past weekend with a few of my friends, who are all a bit more outdoorsy than I, and a few of the fisherman in the group were complaining about the Delaware and the surrounding tributaries. It hasn't really been covered by the "major" news outlets up here, but after talking with them, and doing some research I found out a bit more.

Didymosphenia geminate, or "rock snot" as is had been nicknamed, is an invasive freshwater diatom (microscopic alga). Didymo can form extensive “blooms” on the bottoms of rocky river beds, essentially smothering aquatic life forms such as macroinvertebrates (aquatic insects), native algae, and other organisms. Didymo uses stalks to attach to rocks and plants in a river system. The diatom actually creates these stalks, which can form masses 3 inches to 5 inches thick on the river bottom, and trail for lengths of 2 feet to 3 feet in the current. It is actually the stalks that are more problematic than the alga. The alga will eventually die off and decompose, while these stalks tend to persist for several months on the river bottom.

It is not native to NY. It started showing up around 2006-07, and has been getting steadily worse. I guess no one is sure exactly where it is originally native too, although it has been in New Zealand for decades. It can easily stick to waders, boat and canoes, even fishing lures. Only a few of these alga need to be transferred to start a new colony.

The problem is the invasivness, it kills all the small insects that the fish feed on, so it is a real threat to the river and stream's fish population. Apparently there has already been documented declines. And a large part of our tourism depends on the weekend, and vacation angler. I went and checked it out myself in Hankins. For a lack of a better term, its gross.

From what I can gather, there isn't really a whole lot than can be done, it blooms in the spring, pretty much covers everything, and then dies off in the July/Aug. months, only leaving behind the stalks. I guess dryer springs, which make the water levels lower make the blooms more prevalent.

At any rate, is is something to keep a close eye on. the Delaware's crystal clear water, and polished rocky bottom is what makes that river so attractive. Rock snot is anything but attractive.

Friday, June 11, 2010


Over the past month, I have been in contact with a dozen or so buyers of mine who have bought from me over the years. Most are in full summer swing, and are piling in the car as early as possible on Fridays, and not heading back until it is starting to get dark on Sunday. (There are a handful who have less traditional schedules, but the majority are Mon thru Fri.)

One of the many differences between the Hampton's and SC, besides its size, is there are a variety of ways to get here. But sort of like the LIE, we have Route 17, which is really the main artery to most of our region.

Well I'm sure some of you have noticed, but starting at about exit 118 (if you are heading east), until below Middletown, major construction has dropped 17 down to one narrow lane in both directions, and from the look of the progress (or lack thereof) this is something that will continue throughout our summer season.

I had one couple tell me on Memorial Day Monday, it took them six hours to get from Bethel to Queens. Ugh.

But again, unlike LI, there are a variety of ways to avoid this, and although it may be a two lane, somewhat slower route, it is certainly better than sitting through that mess week after week.

One of my favorites is Route 17K, which can hook you up with the Thruway, or stay on 84 over the Beacon Bridge and don the Taconic. Or if you are more western SC, you can go 97 to Port Jervis, and jump right into Jersey, of course depending on your final destination, that brings a Manhattan river crossing into the picture, which in my opinion should always be avoided unless it is 4AM.

At any rate, if you haven't already experienced it, just a word of warning. That spot is a mess, and with Bethel Woods concerts starting up, if you catch it wrong, you could be there for a while.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I had a busy weekend. Both days were chalk full of showings. I ended up looking at about thirty homes in the SC area. Although long and tiring, I am not complaining. Busy is good, and also seeing a house is invaluable for the next time some one calls, or inquires. I know the good and bad, and can relate that to the next prospect. There is no comparison. If the agent hasn't seen the house, they know just about as much as you, which is normally just carefully worded copy, and artful pictures, none of which tell the story.

It goes back to my point to make sure to work with an agent who is out there in the trenches, knows the inventory, and can help avoid wasting time. Often if it is the first time out with people, I will explain the issues of a certain property, but follow it up with, but I would be happy to show it to you. After a few of those, they start to trust me.

But to get to the point of my post. I showed two of my own listings, and the rest were co-brokes, listed with different agents. So there is quite a bit of work that goes into coordinating looking at thirty different homes to four different customers in two days--calling, waiting for callbacks, lock box numbers, owners being home etc. Driving around and being a home voyeur is the fun part.

And then Monday comes, and the phone starts ringing. This week it started at 8 AM. Its agents wondering how the showings went, and asking for feedback. I received more than a dozen throughout the day.

When someone shows one of my listings, I rarely call for feedback. I think it is a waste of time. If the buyer liked the house they will call. If there is no call within 48 hours, I chalk it up to a no. Most of the time, the original call will be a the kitchen table staying? How much are the utilities...something that lets you know there is interest.

Calling back over a dozen different agents to tell them my people did not like their listings is time consuming and a pain in the ass. And to get feedback I think doesn't help. Everyone's tastes are different, so if it is small things like...we want a more open floor plan, or there is not enough room for my antique armour, then it makes no difference, because those are things that cannot be changed. And if it is big things, like...we don't like mouse droppings in the sink, or a rusty car in the backyard...the agent should already know about that.

Even price is not worth feedback. If I get a buyer that says they love the place, but the price is too high, I say make an offer, and then the agent will be hearing from me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An Example of why I love Sullivan County

This driving range is on a back dirt road. By the honor system you put the money in a box nailed to the tree, (three bucks for a bucket. I think it is a quarter a ball at Chelsea Piers), and hit the balls out into a hay field. The eldery farmer who is retired, does it as a hobby. Every time I am there, I am the only one. Try finding a spot like this in the Hamptons.