I'm often amazed when I receive an out-of-the-blue offer for a listing, meaning the buyer's agent has not made prior contact with me. It's sort of like they figure that buying a home in Sacramento is on par with flipping through a Macy's catalog. Photographs and the sales price of a home tell only part of the story. There is always a story.
This weekend, I'm showing homes in Land Park, Midtown, East Sacramento and Carmichael to several sets of home buyers. I work with buyers based on the homes that they want to see and the homes that I think they would like to buy. But I would rarely show a home if I haven't made an effort to communicate with the listing agent. For one thing, that home could be under contract and not yet changed in MLS. Or the agent could be in the middle of a counter offer. (I've snatched some homes for buyers because the buyer who made the counter didn't act fast enough.) Or the agent might have information that could influence the price and terms my buyers might want to offer.
When buyers send me an advance list of homes they want to tour, I go to work. I do not print them out, stuff the buyers in my car and hit the streets. I've got behind-the-scenes work to get done before my buyers see any of those homes. Buyers might not know what an experienced buyer's agent does for them, but it's far more than being an order taker.
The first thing I do, of course, is make sure the home is still available for sale and the information in MLS is correct. It's not only wasting my buyer's time to look at homes in Land Park and East Sacramento that are not available, but it's wasting my time. Moreover, if the information in MLS conflicts with the tax records, that's a red flag telling me my buyer might have a problem in underwriting.
Ken Stieger, the Sacramento County Tax Assessor, came to my office last week to talk with all the agents at Lyon Real Estate. The question of discrepancies in the tax records came up because sometimes the tax records are incorrect due to human input error. Mr. Stieger explained that if a Land Park agent, for example, is about to list a home in Land Park and discovers the home has four bedrooms but the County records show three, that agent can call the County and get the tax records fixed. Simple as that.
Conflicting data in the tax records is not the only potential problem I look for. The second thing I look at is whether the seller owes more than the home is worth. If I find an encumbrance that makes it appear as though the home could be in short sale status, but not listed as a Sacramento short sale, I get in touch with the listing agent. It could be a home equity line of credit that has not been tapped. Or, the seller could be planning to bring cash to the table to close, which could make that list price pretty firm. Or the agent might not even know the seller owes more than the list price.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, though. Tomorrow I will talk about the other things I do before showing homes. Because there's a lot more to buyer representation than meets the eye. Stay tuned for part 2.