You can’t always get what you want

Sometimes it is very very difficult to find exactly what a buyer wants, especially in this market. There are few listings available, and they are selling FAST, so picky buyers are really being left in the dust.

This isn’t just about being picky though, this is more about the times when you just can’t get what you want.

I just saw a couple on House Hunters who moved to Racine, Wisconsin. The wife wanted a front porch and for the garage to be on the side or back of the home. Guess what? In Racine, there are not very many front porches because of the cold weather, according to their agent. Also, for the newer style of home they wanted, in the price range they wanted, garages are typically placed out on the front of the house. That’s just the way it is.

It reminded me of when we moved from Indianapolis to Houston. Before we moved, we talked about what features we would like to have in our new home. One thing we all agreed that was a “MUST HAVE” for our family was a basement. Guess what? They don’t do basements in Houston. The area is not high enough from sea level and the water table is too high, basements would flood too easily. It was disappointing but that’s just how it is.

I used to have buyers who would say that they wanted a home in an established neighborhood with lots of big trees and tons of character and also an open floor plan. Big trees and lots of character in that area usually meant an older neighborhood. But in older homes they rarely have an open floor plan, unless it has been renovated, which ups the price.

Sometimes you must make compromises. It is not a case of the agent not showing you the right homes, it’s just that they don’t do it that way in that area. With so many relocations to the Houston area, some buyers are learning the hard way that their idea of the perfect home needs to change.

Luckily for my clients, I have the knowledge and experience to educate them on the area and the patience to help them adjust their idea of their dream home.


Hot Market= Lazy Agents?

Every day I have the new listings emailed right to me so that I can keep track of what is going on in my market. I’m seeing more and more things that shock and disappoint me.

Today I saw a brand new listing come up on the market with a front photo that was taken vertically. The MLS (and every other website) requires horizontal photos. It looks awful!! I use professional photographers on my listings, and am sure to use the correct specifications when uploading pictures to the MLS. Using the wrong photo format is just embarrassing!

Then I started to wonder why on earth an agent would not even take the time to do the FRONT PHOTO correctly? I mean, this is your first impression of the house, the photo that will be featured on the flyers, the websites, in the newspaper advertising…. oh wait, maybe that agent doesn’t use all of those advertising opportunities?

Perhaps the agent thinks that because this is such a hot market, with homes often selling in just a few days, that they don’t have to take the time to do it right. Maybe they think that it’s ok to slack off because it very well could sell anyway. It is rare to see homes expiring from the market like they did in years past.

Just let me assure you that I am not slacking. I am keeping an eye on the market, watching for great homes for my buyers, and taking advantage of ALL advertising routes for my sellers. I am committed to do my very best for each and every client, no matter the state of the market!


How Do I Get It All Done? Great Partners and Great Tools!!

My goal is to exceed client expectations by being both effective and efficient (it says so right in my Mission Statement!) but there is a LOT to do to get homes sold!

When I am at a listing appointment, I go over my marketing plan and all of the fabulous things that I am going to do to get the house sold. Likewise, when working with buyers, it takes a lot to get from first meeting to an offer, and eventually to a closing. So knowing how many pieces there are to the real estate puzzle, some may wonder how on earth I get it all done? Well, I’m about to share my secrets. Does YOUR Realtor use these tools to make your transaction go more smoothly?

Smart Phone– Seems like a no-brainer, right? But not every agent uses their smart phone to it’s full advantage. Heck, not even every agent OWNS a smart phone. I think it is the most essential of my tools. It helps me to be productive almost anywhere, to be able to communicate with my clients quickly and effectively. I once had an agent tell me “I can’t reply to your email because I’m not at my office” Um, what???– Wow, what an amazingly powerful site! I use HAR on a daily basis, and I love how easy it is for my clients to use it as well. Everything from listings to agent ratings to school info. And of course I have it constantly at my fingertips by having the HAR app on my phone.

Client Gateway– One of the best parts of, the Client Gateway allows me to have new listings immediately sent to my buyers automatically! My buyers are aware of what is going on and what homes are available just as soon as they are listed on the MLS. They can even use their Client Gateway site to leave me notes about the homes, to mark them as “rejects” or give them a thumbs up. Another great way to use this system is to have new listings sent to my sellers so that they can see their competition as soon as it comes on the market. Why wouldn’t you want that info?

CSS (Centralized Showing Solutions)– CSS allows agents to set up showings so easily! I often see agents who do not use this system, but I couldn’t imagine being without it! When my seller has a showing, they can get a call, text or email to allow or deny the showing. CSS also sends out a feedback request after the showing so that sellers will know if the buyers had any interest. When I’m showing buyers around, I can use my CSS app to schedule our showings (IF the listing agent uses it), get showing instructions, and easily leave feedback. It makes showings smooth and easy for both parties!

ZipForms– I can easily pull up the required form and type right onto it. Then I can email it to my client or colleague. It keeps my files straight and safe online, so that I can access them at any time. They are easy to read when I send the paperwork to my clients or other agents, and if we need to make any changes they are easy to do.

DocuSign– After I use ZipForms to write up the agreement, I can email it to my client using DocuSign and they can sign it right on their computer. No more print, sign, scan and email (or fax) back. Just read, click and you’re done. This saves so much time for everyone involved. [Speaking of FAX— The other day on Million Dollar Listing, Madison said he would FAX the contract over to the other agent, I was like, WHAT?!? You’re selling multi-million dollar houses in Malibu and your’e still using a FAX???]

SureClose– Document storage for all of my files that I can access anytime? Sure, I’ll take it! I love SureClose because it ensures that I have all the required docs for the transaction all in on place. If I am out at dinner with my family and someone needs a form, I can log in and have it sent immediately. It saves me from losing papers, and having to carry files with me. This is also accessibly by my manager and office staff so that they can grab anything they need to complete the transaction.

eKey– Can’t forget my Supra lockboxes and eKey!! The most secure way to provide entry for showings, Supra boxes hold the key and can only be accessed with a special remote control that the agent carries. Some agents use a larger remote and enter their code on the remote, I use an app on my phone. The Supra system can track who accessed the lockbox and when. They are much safer that combo boxes (which I still see some agents use).

I’m amazed at how many agents don’t take full advantage of all the time saving tools that we are offered. I can say for certain that these products make my hectic job way easier, and I am always on the lookout for things that will help me serve my clients. If you want an agent who will truly use technology effectively and efficiently to get the job done, just call me!

Giving Away my Commission, Sometimes Less Really is More!

Typically, I fight for my commission. I can tell you exactly why I deserve to get paid as much as I do for the work that I do. I can tell you all about the breakdown of how much I actually get out of that 6% that the seller pays in “Marketing Fees”. I negotiate as hard for my commission as I do for you.

But once in a while a situation comes along when I am happy to give up a portion of my commission. Relocation and referrals are  a large part of my business and there are fees that I must pay in those situations.

In this case, I’m not talking about a relocation or a referral.

One day while I was the “On Call” agent, I got a call from G. She was interested in a property that was listed by an agent in my office but it turned out that the property already had multiple offers on it (very common right now!). Of course, I told her that I could help her with any other properties that she might be interested in, but she told me that she already has an agent helping her. At that point, I tried to politely excuse myself because I do not want to step on another agent’s toes. G was so friendly and sweet, I felt an instant connection to her, but since she had an agent, I told her that it would be best if she asked her own agent abut the properties.

The next day, I got another call from G, apparently she felt that connection too! She had another property that she was interested in. I explained that because she was working with another agent, I didn’t want to step in and cause trouble. She then told me that her agent has been helping her for a while and was a great agent but that she was sick, and unable to show her homes. She said that after talking to her agent, they decided that she should switch to me, and that I could be her new Realtor.

I was still a little skeptical, I have to admit. So, I phoned G’s agent and got the scoop. She said it was true that she had been sick and was not sure when she would feel well enough to go out looking at homes again. She said that G was a wonderful client, and she wanted the best for her, so it was best that G find an agent who could get out and show her properties.

I told the other agent that if there was a time when she was well, and I hadn’t found G a property yet, I would be happy to give her back, so to speak. But the agent and I both agreed that it is better for the client to just stick with one agent.

As I was talking to this agent, it hit me. She is sick, she is a good agent, who has already helped this client a lot. She deserves something for her hard work. So, I offered to pay her a 25% referral fee if G purchases a home through me. I just could not let that agent go completely unpaid for the hard work they had already done just because she got sick.

I’ve been working with G, showing her great homes and I can’t wait to give away part of my commission once she finds her dream home.

Sunday Open Houses

Today I’m going to go visit as many open houses as possible here in my new market area. One of the very best ways to get to know the market is to get into as many of the homes as I possibly can, so that’s my plan.
One of my biggest challenges to relocating my career to Houston will be learning the market area. Not very much changes about negotiating for my clients, using the MLS, marketing homes, filling out contracts, and most aspects of being a Realtor. However, the area is different and I need to learn it.
Luckily, there are a lot of open houses in the area for me to tour. Agents like to do open houses because they can get themselves out there and meet new people. Sometimes open houses turn into “job interviews” for new clients.
Sellers (should) like open houses on their properties because a buyer might fall in love with the home, or someone who walks through might tell a friend who could end up buying.
Buyers use open houses to tour homes quickly, narrow down their choices, and learn the different neighborhoods.
Of course you will always have people who just enjoy looking at houses or getting decorating ideas. I know that some buyers don’t like that, but exposing the home to as many people as possible is essential to getting it sold.
One of the most important things for sellers is to remember that they need to guard their valuables. Put things away or take them with you during open houses (and showings). During an open house, my top priority will always be my own safety.

I’m having a new house built, I don’t need to pay for an inspection, right?


Even if you are purchasing a newly constructed home from a builder, you need to hire an independent inspector. 

It will cost you anywhere from $350-$500, but it will be well worth it! Haven’t you ever watched “Holmes on Homes”? Nobody is perfect, not even builders. In most cases, with your REALTOR’S help, you can talk the builder into fixing anything the inspector finds wrong with the house.

This is the biggest investment that most people will ever make, so spending a few hundred to make sure that everything is right should be a no-brainer.

I have been in situations with builders where the home inspection turned up items that the buyers would never have realized. Some of them were quite serious. There were mistakes made in the electrical panel, the de-humidifier was not plumbed to drain correctly, and there were some other issues that needed to be addressed. In that case, I was able to discuss the findings of the inspection with the builder and they agreed to fix them before my clients moved in.

You definitely need to go ahead and consider an inspection to be just one of the costs of buying ANY home. Whether is was just built, or if it is 100 years old, every home needs an inspection, and a great agent to negotiate those repairs with the seller on your behalf.

How to prepare for your Home Inspection

When you are selling your home, the home inspection can be a stressful time. You’ve already negotiated the purchase agreement and now there is this new hurdle to think about. Tension is high, but there are some ways to ensure that it goes as smoothly as possible.

Most importantly? BE PROACTIVE. Take steps before the inspection to lessen the number of items the inspector will bring up. That will go a long way in helping the buyers of your home feel comfortable. If you know of ANYTHING wrong with your home, go ahead and get it fixed on your terms, on your schedule, and with less stress and pressure on you.

Have you been ignoring that loose hand rail? Maybe you forgot about that bucket you put under the sink to catch those few drops or water it leaks? Perhaps you put off re-caulcking the windows? The best thing to do is fix it before the buyer is made aware of it.

Other thing to do before the home inspection:

  • remove extension cords
  • fix minor items
  • be sure the attic, crawl space and electrical panel are easily accessible
  • get plumbing leaks fixed
  • put in a new furnace filter
  • leave receipts of previous repair work and any service contracts out for the inspector
  • get the pets out of the home
  • make sure the utilities are on and pilot lights lit
  • replace burnt out light bulbs
  • remove any wood or stored items from toutside of the home

If you are proactive, you will help ease a lot of potential headaches. Don’t let your buyer get spooked by a long list of minor inspection items that could have been taken care of before they even saw them.

What will my Closing Costs be??

The sort answer: It depends.

The long answer: Closing Costs are made up of several factors, and are very very difficult to predict with absolute accuracy. Many different things go into the closing, some are items that agents don’t even know about! Let’s take a look at some common closing costs. Some you will already know and expect, others that seem to pop up at the last minute.

  • SELLER- The seller usually pays the Real Estate Commission. This is negotiated between the seller and the listing agent when the house is listed. There is usually a $5 fee that goes to the Title Insurance Enforcement Fund, $75 for deed preparation, and $25 wire fee. Sometimes the seller will agree to pay for a Home Warranty, these usually cost around $400 at closing. Sometimes they owe money to the utility company that has to be paid at closing. Sometimes there is a “transfer fee*” for the HOA (see comments later about this one). Any late HOA fees will also need to be paid at this time. The seller might see “Attorney’s fee” or “closing fee” which is usually about $150. A larger fee that the sellers will have to pay is the taxes. In Indiana we pay our taxes in arrears, so the seller has to give money to the buyer for the taxes. These are pro-rated to the day of closing and can vary widely. The seller usually pays the “Owner’s Title Policy”, a fee which changes according to the price of the home. Finally, and closing costs that the seller has agreed to pay for the buyer.
  • BUYER- The buyer is given a list of fees by their lender before closing, a “Good Faith Estimate” that shows several of the fees associated with the loan. These might include the origiantion fee, points, credit report fee, and appraisal. Sometimes you must pay for the appraisal up front, sometimes it is paid for at closing. The lender also can set up an escrow account for the buyer to pay the insurance and taxes, in which case they will need to pre-pay a few months of those fees. You might also see a payment to the insurance company to get the insurance going, or sometimes the insurance company will have you pay them up front. Of course, your home insurance depends on the home and the items you own. If you have a down payment less that 20% you may see a fee for Mortgage Insurance. This is different from your homeowner’s insurance. The buyer usually pays the “Lender’s Title Insurance”, which varies. Recording fees around $100, transfer fee for the HOA*, and that good old Title Insurance Enforecement Fund fee of $5. Sometimes, if the seller has already paid the HOA for the full year, the buyer will need to reimbuse the seller. The seller also has to pay for their Home Inspection (at the time of inspection) and they get the credit for their taxes.

Confusing enough for you? **About that HOA transfer fee.** This is something that as an industry, we kinda stink at. There is no place on any form to disclose it, and we generally have no idea how much this is going to be until we are sitting at the closing table. In most cases, the fee is $25-$100, sometimes it is split between buyer and seller, sometimes it is charged to just one side. In a recent transaction, the fee was $500 and was going to be charged to my buyer. Nobody told her up front about this fee, and it was so high that she could not (and would not) pay it. I don’t really blame her. I know now to check with the HOA before the offer is made to see what that fee is (if they charge).


I’m a Broker Now!!

I got this email from the Indiana Professional Licensing Board:

Congratulations Michelle Morris! Your Real Estate Associate Broker (license or permit or registration) has been issued by the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency.

So what does that mean? I now have a broker’s license rather than just a salesperson’s license. That means that I have more training than most agents. I have taken a 52-hour course and passed 2 tests in the course, then passed the state of Indiana licensing test. I am committed to my career and my profession.

With this license, I can (dare I say it?) RULE THE WORLD!!! Well, not really. I can manage an office though, or someday start my own real estate company. I did NOT pursue this license in order to do those things though. I just believe that continuing my education is very important. It is another way that I can serve you and provide more than other agents can.

(Bonus points to you if you can tell me what movie I quoted!)