Making The Most Of Your Real Estate Agent

chalkI recently spoke with a man whose parents owned a residence in Boston. His parents were considering selling their home and he indicated that, once they made a decision, they would contact me. This approach is a great example of a missed opportunity. If his parents already have a relationship with an agent they trust, they have an excellent opportunity to get some high quality free advice and consultation. If his parents don’t have an agent, they can evaluate the agent’s services on a trial basis and possibly get free advice and consultation.

The greatest value of having a relationship with a real estate agent you can trust is that you can consult with him or her regarding major real estate decisions. For a seller, what decision is more important than the initial decision to sell? Even a seemingly simple situation can actually be quite complex. For example, suppose you are transferred to the west coast. Do you need the equity out of your home so you can purchase in California? Should you rent out there first? What are the implications of renting your home here? How solid is the current market and how confident are you that the real estate market will get better for sellers, stay the same, or get worse? And how does all of this factor in to your decision?

Consulting with an agent regarding your decision to sell reveals the ability of your agent to objectively analyze your situation and offer sound advice. A good agent with a consultative approach can assist in fully analyzing and synthesizing all the different factors to help you make a powerful choice that furthers your goals.

Many people, however, make these decisions without expert advice, because they are uncomfortable bringing in an agent to help them. This is understandable. They don’t have a real estate agent they can trust. Because agents work on commission, they naturally have a bias in favor of wanting you to sell. It is difficult for them to be completely objective in their analysis and advice. However, at some level, almost all professionals have a personal financial bias. It all comes down to trust. Can you trust that your real estate agent has enough integrity to keep your interests truly in mind and be as objective as possible?

Your agent’s trustworthiness will be put to the test by consulting with him or her regarding the decision to buy or sell. The primary piece of information that you probably need, if you are thinking of selling, is an accurate picture of the value of your home. Most agents offer this analysis without charge. Not surprisingly, the raw data is subject to interpretation and the final value is more art than science.  Agents are often overly optimistic about the value of your property. You want the home to be worth as much as possible, and the agent wants the business. An experienced agent, who understands the market, and is good with the numbers, is the starting point. Only an agent you trust, and one who really understands the value of a long term agent-client relationship, can give you a truly honest appraisal of your home’s value. If you already have an agent you trust then this information will be very valuable. If you are working with an agent who is new to you, vigilantly check your agent’s references and consider how much you trust the agent before making any decisions. If you feel that the agent has genuinely assisted you in the decision-making process, and there is a foundation of trust, even if you decide not to sell in the current market, you have found the right agent. {Please Comment Here}

Tub/Shower Combo vs. the Walk-in Shower

As with my last post, this question may not be of immediate concern to you, but it is likely to come up sometime in the future if you are a homeowner.

If your bathroom needs remodeling or you are putting in an entirely new bathroom where there wasn’t one before, should you go with a walk-in shower or the tub/shower combination? I think the answer is clear: get rid of the existing tub (in the case of a remodel) and go for the walk-in shower. If you already have a tub somewhere else in your home, this decision is a ‘slam-dunk’. Why would you ever need more than one tub in your home?  In my experience of over 16 years in residential real estate (I actually do talk to people about these things), adults don’t take that many baths. Unless you have several very young children in your home who all need baths at the same time, don’t hesitate to convert one tub/shower combo to a walk-in shower.

The tougher question is what to do if you are renovating the only bathroom in your home and there is not enough space for both a walk-in shower and a tub. Here again, I think the walk-in shower is the answer.  Many people’s biggest concern is about resale. “If I don’t have a tub, won’t that hurt resale?” The answer is ‘no, you will lose some buyers, but you will gain more.’ Those people who just have to have a bathtub won’t buy your place, but the “wow factor” that your walk-in shower creates will substantially help your resale. Even those who thought they had to have a bathtub, may easily change their minds when they see your beautiful walk-in shower.

Why a walk-in shower is just better:

  1. More room in the shower generally.  The sloped walls and thick sides of most tubs make the actual floor space of a tub relatively small compared with a walk-in shower that occupies the same floor space.  With more floor space in the shower it is easier to make room for two!
  2. Tiled walk-ins can be fit into oddly shaped areas or areas too small for a tub.  If you take out your tub, you might be able to make room for a small walk-in shower and a new linen closet.
  3. They are easier and safer to get in and out of – no side wall to step over.
  4. Not as dangerous.  Cast iron, porcelain, and fiberglass tubs are slippery. Most walk-ins have tiled floors which are generally less slippery.  Look for tiles made out of materials that are known to be less slippery.
  5. They can easily be made to look great with glass doors and good tile work.  You can put glass doors on a tub, and nice tile as your tub surround, but it never looks as good as it does without the tub.
  6. Less expensive and a wider choice of great looking fixtures than the tub/shower combination fixtures.  As I noted in my last post, there is a wider choice of fixtures when the fixture doesn’t have to divert the water between the tub and the shower (tub/shower diverters).
  7. No shower curtain.  I know they make pretty ones but there is a big downside.  They are highly susceptible to mold, they don’t stay in place easily, and they just always seem to be in the way.

Tell me what you think!
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How Small Is Too Small?

After writing about enormous over-the-top penthouse condos in the city, I thought it might be nice to mention the other side of living in the city.

“Micro Condos”

I have sold some pretty small (but still nice) homes in my time.  My personal record is a 330 square foot studio apartment at 56 Commonwealth Ave. in the heart of the Back Bay that I sold 3 times as follows!

October, 2002         $229,000
July,  2004               $214,000
August, 2006           $245,000

A 340 square foot renovated studio on the third floor of 56 Comm. Ave. just sold for $281,000 in case you wondering how much it might cost you to own one of these babies today.

The most amazing micro-condo that I could find is in Hong Kong.  It is 344 square feet of hip environmentally friendly space that transforms through the use of sliding walls and slide-out furniture:

“Tiny Houses”

While I have never sold one of these, I recently learned that there is a new movement dedicated to living in exceptionally small houses.  These are not mobile homes but real houses that are typically between 100 and 130 square feet in size and are very often illegal because they are not even large enough to meet local building codes.  In Massachusetts, for example, a home that houses one person must have at least 150 square feet of habitable space.

For a fascinating and detailed discussion of tiny houses, check out this article from a recent New Yorker.

And if you still want more, go to Tinyhouseblog.com

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More Real Estate Eye Candy

I fully intend to blog on some more serious subjects other than just real estate “eye candy,” but, I couldn’t help but comment on another ultra-high-end property that just hit the market today.  I am speaking, of course, about the Penthouse atop the Albert A. Pope building at 221 Columbus Ave.  This is the building developed by Paul Roiff in the late 1990s. The Penthouse built on the roof, which you have probably seen from the Mass. Pike, is his personal residence. similar sites It is now on the market for the first time (a mere $7.2M).  The restaurant Mistral is on the street level. Check it out:

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