Thursday, December 22, 2005

Holding Off On Second Offer

I spoke with the agent for this property again. I told her I noticed that the property was still available and I would like to make another offer on it. She remembered me and said I would have to do "much better" on my offer. I was able to get a bit more information. The listing said the property fell out of escrow and the seller wanted a quick close and had reduced the price $10,000. Based on that, I made the assumption that the owner needed to sell the property in order to complete the purchase of another property. That may not be the case. I found out from the agent that the property is currently empty and the seller is living elsewhere. So the motivation from holding up another purchase is gone, but in its place, there is motivation of holding on to a vacant property. The problem is the former motivation is much stronger than the latter. If a pending purchase is being held up, there is a large, daily motivation to sell, but if the property is vacant, the motivation is more in the monthly timeframe - due to mortgage and HOA payments.

So I'm a bit torn as to what to do. I was planning on submitting another offer about $5,000 higher than my first offer. Given this new information, I'm fairly certain that would be rejected as well. Instead, I think I may wait and see if the property is still available next week, between Christmas and New Years. If it is, the seller should have the prospect of another needless mortgage payment firmly in mind and may be more receptive. Also, during the holiday lull (which is also going on right now), there may be fewer offers to choose from. I suspect the seller may be waiting until after the holidays to see what offers she might get. Hopefully, if Christmas comes and goes and the place is still unsold, her resolve might weaken a bit.

On a different note, I was checking my referrer logs this morning and noticed that over 25% of the last 100 visitors here came via a link at Blueprint For Financial Prosperity. I'd like to thank Jim for the nice blurb and link. Welcome to those that have come from there!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Another Offer Submitted (Updated)

I put in an offer yesterday on a condo that looks like it's in pretty good shape. The listing said the seller needed a quick close, which is what caught my eye. When I talked to the listing agent, I was a bit disappointed to learn that the seller was looking to close around the middle of January. That's almost a month away and not really what I would consider a "quick close." However, I submitted an offer anyway, at about $35,000 under the list price. Based on my research, that would still net the seller about $15,000. I haven't gotten a response yet, but they have until 4:00 PM today. I am preparing myself mentally for the "this offer is ridiculous" call. I plan to point out that my offer is not contingent on financing and is about as close to a sure thing as one can get. I won't be falling out of escrow.

The previous property I made an offer on is still for sale. If it's still available tomorrow, I will submit another offer. Supposedly, this is another seller who wanted a quick close.

UPDATE: Just got the call and yes, the exact words used were "ridiculous offer." I made my speech about my offer being a sure thing and the agent said sarcastically, "and all she has to do is give up $35,000 of equity." I replied "She wants a fast close and everything comes with a price." (By the way, I came up with my figure by taking 76% of the listing price.)

One thing she did say was that the fact that I was not using an agent would not save the seller 3% commission because she had a listing agreement that specified she would pay 6% commission no matter what. Well, either the seller signed the worst listing agreement in history or that agent is lying. The listing agreements I have seen say the full commission will be paid to the listing agent only if the agent also acts as a buyer's agent. She would not be acting as my agent and therefore should not get paid for doing so.

Oh well.. Another one to put in the file for follow up in a week or two.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Another Offer Made And Turned Down

I love it when real estate agents feign surprise or outrage at your offers. I came across a property in the MLS today that had just fallen out of escrow. The description said the seller reduced the price by $10,000 and that the seller wanted a quick sale. The property just came back on the market within the last day or two, so I checked it out and quickly put in an offer that was $40,000 under the asking price, but all cash and "as-is." About two hours later, I got a call from the agent, who asked "Is this offer for real?" In situations like this, I've found if I keep my answers short, the other party tends to talk more, so I just said "Yes." She said "It's listed for $160,000 and that's already been reduced $10,000." I said "Yes, but the price I offered is what I can pay to get the return I want on my investment." The agent seemed put off and said "The buyer wants me to tell you she's rejecting this offer." With a pleasant tone, I replied "OK, but this is an all cash offer and I can close as quick as you want. I won't back out of escrow." I was told the buyer still was rejecting the offer. I thanked her and hung up.

In retrospect, I should have done a few small things differently. First, I should have asked if she would tell me why it fell out of escrow. That might have allowed me to emphasize the pluses of my offer better. For instance, if it fell out due to the buyer being unable to get financing, I could tell her that was guaranteed not to happen with me, since I was paying all cash. Second, instead of re-emphasizing my ability to close quickly, I should have again mentioned it was an as-is offer and that I would not back out from something the home inspection might turn up. (The house was in very good shape, by the way.) This and the financing issue are the two most likely reasons for falling out of escrow, so I should have shown how those would not be a problem with my offer. Instead, I emphasized fast closing, which was mentioned in the listing, but probably wasn't that big of a deal at this point, since it had only been back on the market a day or two. But, in my defense, I did get the agent's call while I was shopping at Costco and I was caught a bit off guard.

I'm not put off in the least about losing this property (or the agent's attitude of treating my offer like it was a joke). Active Arizona MLS listings are at levels that haven't been seen in years. It is no longer a seller's market. It may take a while for Realtors and sellers to realize this, but they will eventually. It's just a matter of time before I come across the truly motivated seller that will accept my offer. Until then, I'm treating this as a declining market and keeping my bids low to be a bit conservative.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Are Banks Reluctant To Foreclose?

This article on slate.com puts forth the notion that banks are afraid to foreclosure on delinquent homeowners. The author makes the argument that foreclosures cause a hit to the bank's balance sheet and create bad PR, so banks would rather let mortgagees miss more and more payments than take their houses back. Lower foreclosures also helps keep the bank's stock price high.

I'm not sure I agree with this. As the author states, in Louisiana and other hurricane-damaged areas, it does seem to make sense not to foreclose. But everywhere else? I can't see it. Banks balance sheets contain entries for non-performing and under-performing loans, so the balance sheet still takes a hit. (And this is not even considering the lack of income non-payment of loans causes the bank, which also shows up on the balance sheets.) If investors see lots of underperforming loans on the books, I think questions are going to be raised about the bank's business practices: Why is the bank lending to deadbeats? Why is the bank continuing to lose money on these loans rather than cut their losses? Now, I do think banks have a bit of wiggle room here. Because of the hurricanes, they can claim higher than normal amounts of non-performing loans and get away with it, which allows them to hold off on foreclosures across the nation and not just in disaster areas, since they most likely aren't going to break out the loans by state in the financial reports. But this is a temporary reprieve and dragging it out will only delay the inevitable. Indeed, it will make it worse as each month that goes by without a payment is that much more money the bank has lost.

It also appears that current data does not support the author's conclusions. The article is based on data up to the second quarter of 2005 - data that is several months old. As I mentioned before, foreclosures have actually increased nationwide in the last couple of months. (And interestingly, that article attributes part of the rise to increases in foreclosures in hurricane disaster areas - exactly the opposite of what the Slate article predicts.)

Friday, December 9, 2005

Offer Turned Down

I guess the agent was not able to convince his seller to take my offer. I never heard back from him and my offer expired at 4 PM yesterday. If the seller is really strapped for cash, and based on the agent's suggestion of a 7 day escrow and non-refundable deposit, I think he is, I may hear back from them. Then again, it might just be that the agent wants to sell this property more than the seller - he works for "Scottsdale Luxury Properties" and this thing is anything but a luxury property! Oh well. On to the next one!

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Offer Possibly Accepted

Got a call from the agent for Property C. He is going to take my offer to his client and he thinks his client will accept it. He wanted to know if I could close in 7 days. I have no problem with that, but I had to check with my escrow company if they could move that fast. He also wanted to know if I would make my $1,000 earnest money deposit non-refundable upon contract acceptance. I agreed to that. The agent said the guy needs money and this would sweeten the offer, given that it was already $40,000 below the asking price.

I called up the escrow officer I used for the sale of my last property, since she was so helpful. She definitely remembered me :-) and said there was no problem closing in 7 days.

So now I'm just waiting to hear back from the seller. And of course, I have the usual self-doubts now: should I have offered less, what if the house is a disaster, etc. I've called my agent to request some comps to see if her values are in line with my values. It's a bit scary now, given the current price declining environment. I suppose if I get cold feet, I can back out at the counter-offer. The seller will need to write a counter to change the COE date and make the deposit non-refundable. I told the agent those changes were ok, so if I do back out, it will probably piss him off, but better that than be stuck with a bad deal.

Back Into The Swing Of Things

With the holidays approaching, I felt I really needed to at least get some offers out there. I figure there probably aren't too many people buying houses this time of year, so I'd have a better chance at getting my lowball offers accepted. I've had this thought in the back of my mind since before Thanksgiving, but I just been so busy. Even though I'm still really busy, I managed to make some time for research yesterday..

I spent a couple of hours searching the MLS for motivated sellers. I came across several properties and narrowed the list down to three. I then called the agents and got some information about each property.

Property A was a small house in Mesa. The listing said the seller was motivated, but after talking to the listing agent, I didn't get that feeling. I can't pick out any one thing that made me feel that way. It was just a feeling. Anyway, the property was at the upper end of my price range, so I passed on it.

Property B was a house in Phoenix. The listing said the owner had passed away and a son was selling the house. It was being sold "as-is" and the owner knew there was a leak in the roof, but would not fix it. This sounded good, so I called the agent and was told the property was actually owned by three sons (which I already knew from a property records search) and that they had a couple of offers already. The agent was meeting with all three sons that afternoon. I didn't have a chance to write up an offer and fax it in and was planning on doing that this morning. Just for the heck of it, I looked up the property again this morning to see if the sons had accepted any of the offers. The status is no longer "available", but "TOM," which I believe stands for Taken Off Market. I haven't spoken to the agent yet, but I'm guessing the sons did not accept any of the offers and took the property off the market for some reason. Perhaps they want to wait a bit before selling, perhaps there are estate issues. I don't know. I'm going to go ahead and fax in my offer anyway. Maybe it will generate a phone call from the agent with some more details. Given that three people are involved and they have already received a couple offers, I don't expect my offer to be accepted.

Property C was a small house in south Phoenix. Again, the listing said the owner was motivated and to bring all offers. The agent told me the owner currently lives in Show Low and is at the property only occasionally. A records search shows he bought the property in 1995 for about $46,000. The agent said he's put in new electrical, new plumbing, and one year ago, he put in a new roof. The picture shows the outside to be in ok shape, but you can tell it's vacant. I figured with the owner living 150+ miles out of town, he's probably well motivated. I faxed an offer yesterday afternoon that was about $40,000 under the list price, but, as always, I included a cover sheet pointing out the positives of my offer: all cash, quick closing, and pointed out that I was not using an agent, so the seller will save X dollars in commission (where X is 3% of my offer). No response yet.

I also talked to a Realtor about getting daily MLS listings emailed to me. His website allows you to set that up yourself, but the only criteria I could specify was price range and cities. He called me up after receiving my request and I told him what I was looking for and that I was hoping to get a listing of properties that used certain keywords in the listing agent's comments field. He said he thought he could do that and would set me up. I see this morning I've gotten two emails from him, but I haven't checked them out yet, so I don't know how successful he was.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Foreclosures Increasing Nationwide

I found a news article on The Creative Investor from RealtyTrac which states nationally, foreclosures were up almost 19% in October over the previous month. At that rate, 1 in every 1,422 households in the nation has entered foreclosure. The states with the largest number of foreclosures were New Jersey, Texas, and New Mexico. Here in Arizona, the foreclosure rate actually dropped by 6.9%.

What surprises me is the Arizona statistic. Actually, in looking at the data state by state, 25 states had a decrease in the number of foreclosures. So half the states in the country experienced a decrease in foreclosures, but the increased numbers in the other states more than made up for them. I would have expected increases in more states. As interest rates rise, it seems inevitable that those with variable rate mortgages will fall behind. However, there is some lag between the interest rate increase and mortgages going into default, since the mortgage company will usually give the home owner a couple of months of being late before starting foreclosure proceedings. Expect more increases in the future and prepare yourself for the opportunities they present!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thoughts On Purchasing Filled Lease Options

Got back into town a couple days ago from a holiday trip and now I'm trying to catch up on everything...

I get emails occasionally from people selling properties that have tenants in them with leases with an option to purchase, usually 1 or 2 years out. Many times, the purchase price is fixed, but I have seen some that say the purchase price is the appraised value in 1 or 2 years, or whenever the option runs out. I was just thinking this morning that those types of options might be dangerous for the investor buying it today. Prices are at near-historic highs today and there seems to be a general consensus that the real estate market will crash soon. If it does, the investor could end up in a position of being forced to sell the house for less than he paid for it. If the market collapses, or even suffers a small decline, the appraised value in the future could be less than what it was bought for.

Just something to keep in mind. And, of course, if you don't believe the market will decline, this shouldn't give you cause for concern.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What Is It With Contractors These Days?

It seems no one wants any work! I guess this is what happens when you live in an area that has a mad housing market.

I'm getting some work done on my house - we needed some drip irrigation lines installed in the backyard, my fountain is leaking and needs to be fixed, and I'm having a bunch of electrical work done inside the house.

I had to call 5 companies to get someone to install the drip lines. Three companies never returned my call and one said they only do work within a 10 mile radius from their office. The fifth guy returned my call after about 3 days. He missed his first appointment and, about a week later, came out for an estimate. The work was finally done yesterday.

Similar problems with the fountain - no one wanted to work on it. I finally got a referral from a local real estate investor. This guy came out to look at it, again after missing his first appointment (but, to be fair, he missed it because he broke his ankle). He gave me some things to try, which I did, and I verified it was the fountain that was leaking and not something else. I called him back and again, he didn't return my phone call. A couple days later, I got hold of him and he said he didn't call back because his dad had to go in the hospital for heart surgery. So that delay is understandable too. But he was supposed to have fixed the fountain on Monday or Tuesday and it's still not done.

The electrician I am using has great referrals and is doing work for some family members. However, it took him three weeks to come out and do the first half of the job. For the second half, he needed to order some parts. He was supposed to be back Monday to finish and he never showed up. He's a great electrician and works fast, but he is just really busy. It's frustrating.

So I've been spending the last 1.5 months trying to get these little tasks done. No one follows up on their own and I have to babysit each person. Argh!

Ok, just had to vent. I'm going out of town next week for the Thanksgiving holiday, so no updates here for a while.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

They Dropped The Price A Bit

I am keeping an eye on the property I talked about earlier in the week. Sure enough, today they dropped the price by about $3,500. Still too slim of a deal for me, but I'll keep watching it...

Monday, November 7, 2005

Visit To A Property

I found a potential property today at buyazforeclosures.com and went over to check it out at lunch. This property caught my eye because they were selling it for about $30,000 under FMV.

This property would be a good rental, but I don't think it would work for a flip. As is standard with foreclosures, there was a fair amount of trash and holes in the walls present. The kitchen needs new appliances and new cabinets. In fact, all the cabinets in the house need to be replaced. The bathrooms weren't too bad, but they would at least need new sinks and vanities. The furnace was missing. Of course, carpet and paint would be needed. The backyard also had a fair amount of trash that would need to be hauled away - a couch, some dressers, tires, etc. The house was also built in the early 1970s, so there could be aluminum wiring issues. All in all, I think there are enough things that need to be done that I would need to hire a contractor to coordinate and supervise the repairs instead of just using a handyman.

It's too bad really. I like the neighborhood. It's an older neighborhood, but the houses and yards are well kept. The house across the street is being remodeled and will have a really classy front facade. I figure you probably could still make about $5,000 on a flip, but that's not enough profit to take on such a large project, especially when you take into account possible cost overruns and any repairs my cursory examination might have missed, not to mention the cooling of the local real estate market. But, as I said before, I think it would make a good rental.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Getting Back In The Swing Of Things

I'm starting to get back into routine of looking for new properties. Two days ago, I went through my lists of contacts and emailed people who responded to my post on birddogs. One person responded with a property and I checked it out yesterday at lunch. I don't think this one will work. The guy thinks it will sell for $210,000 to $215,000 when fixed up, but I don't see it. The neighborhood isn't that great and the comps I am pulling show prices in the $170,000 range - which is his asking price. The guy is a real estate agent and the property has a sold sign on it from another agency, so I'm thinking this guy is a wholesaler. If I was going to rent the place, it might be worth it, but for a flip, that price isn't low enough.

I'm curious to see where this guy got his comp figures from. I found two recent sales close to that price range, but they are in better neighborhoods (although just a couple blocks away). Coincidently, if you take 80% of the midpoint of his comp range ($212,500), you get his exact selling price - $170,000. Since I listed 80% of FMV as one of my buying criteria in my email, it makes me wonder if he just worked backwards from his selling price to tell me a comp range that would meet my requirements.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Mansion Impossible

This real estate-based game is a fun way to waste some time. Found it on Eric's blog.

Even Arizona Feels Effects Of Katrina And Wilma

Out here in the desert, we remain in the midst of a multi-year drought, yet we still are feeling the effects of the hurricanes hitting the eastern half of the U.S. Gas prices, of course, are the most visible repercussion, but the effects are also turning up in unexpected places. I received a letter yesterday from my carpet supplier informing me of shortages of the raw materials needed to manufacture carpet. Here are some statistics they cite for the chemicals needed to make carpet and pad:
  • 34% of North American capacity of propylene is shut down
  • 68% of North American capacity of butadiene is shut down
  • 53% of North American capacity of paraxylene is shut down
  • 40% of North American capacity of benzene is shut down
  • 59% of North American capacity of cyclohexane is shut down
Their source for these stats is CMAI Hurricane Update.

The upshot of all this is that they are increasing their prices by $1 per yard, effective November 1. Take this into account when figuring your next rehab job.

Friday, October 21, 2005

A Bit Of A Breather

I'm sort of in a take-a-break mode now. I've got to take care of filing all the paperwork from the property sale and send off the settlement statement to my CPA to have the data entered into Quickbooks. (That's beyond my accounting skills now, but once I see how she does it, I should be able to do it myself in the future.) I also just got a new computer (courtesy of the profits from this flip), so I've been spending time transferring data from my old system to the new one. My home office is a mess and I am shopping for new office furniture.

If a good deal comes my way, I won't turn it down, but I'm not going to be actively searching for properties until I clear up a couple of my backlogs. Which reminds me, one of the things I need to do is send some follow-up emails to the folks who responded to my entry about needing birddogs. I need to see if they are still birddogging and let them know I have funds available again.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Final Results And Post Mortem For House 11

OK, I haven't been able to get the detail I want out of my analysis, mainly because I'm having trouble entering all the stuff into Quickbooks, so I'll need to get with my CPA on that. (I could do it by hand, but my time is pretty limited right now.)

Anyhow, here are the numbers on this property:

Purchase Amount

- $128,00.00

Fix Up Costs

- $15,254.87

Costs Subtotal
- $143,254.87

Selling Price


Late Close Of Escrow Fees Collected
Selling Costs
Property Taxes
- $872.59

Income Subtotal

Misc. LLC Expenses
- $500.00


Time Property Held

214 days

Total Return (ROI)


Annualized ROI


Fix Up Costs include the repairs I made plus utility payments during the time I held the property. Misc. LLC Expenses include the costs of running the business - a fax line, office supplies, etc. While not technically related to this property, this is the only property I've sold this year, so the profits of the entire LLC are really the same as the profits made by this one property.

All in all, that's not bad. If you look back to the rough estimates I made when I bought the place (check the Comments section), it seems I was wildly optimistic :-) I guessed $2,500 for fix up costs and I went way over that. Part of that was a $2,000 loss to the first cabinet guy. I also didn't originally intend on replacing the cabinets, which was about another $5,000. Additionally, I didn't know the house had aluminum wiring that would need to be fixed to the tune of about $1,000. But even excluding those unseen $8,000 costs, I still was over my fix up estimate by about $4,500.

Of course, I was also off on my estimate of the time it would take to get the property back on the market. I figured 2 months and it was closer to seven! But again, 2 months of that was my own fault for letting the ordeal with the first cabinet guy drag on and on. (FYI, if I had not used the first cabinet guy, I would have saved $2,000 and 2 months, which would have brought my profit to $31,017.04 and the holding time would have been reduced to 154 days, giving an ROI of 21.7% and an annualized ROI of 51.4%. And if I hadn't had to raise my buying price by $8,000, I could have had even better numbers... Woulda coulda shoulda....) It's almost embarrassing to look at entries titled "House 11 Should Be Listed By This Weekend!" that were posted 6 months ago. I was so naive :-)

The good news is I was also wrong on my estimate of the selling price. I estimated it would sell for $149,900 and we ended up selling for much more than that. Part of this error was due to me basing my estimate on past sales in the area rather than current listings, and part was due to the increased holding time - property values were rising dramatically as the cabinet ordeal dragged on and I profited from that.

So my investors are happy, I learned a lot, and we all made some money on this deal. Now it's on to the next one!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Phoenix Area May Be Peaking

Just spoke with my real estate agent this morning (who is still having a hard time believing we finally closed!) about the general housing outlook in Phoenix. There are currently over 18,000 active listings in the MLS. A few weeks ago, there were 15,000. Time on market is also increasing. In other words, the seller's market is disappearing here, so be careful when buying properties in this area. Also, beware of comps - any high comps you find might be from the peak of the market.

I should also mention that her husband is a principle at www.buyazforeclosures.com, a company that buys and resells foreclosures. His business is picking up after being down for about 8 months, so more foreclosures are happening.

Opportunities are starting to present themselves to those who can see them. Remember: you make your money when you buy, not when you sell!

In other news, I called my bank to check on the status of the wire transfer and was told their computers were down. They will call me back when they are up.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Escrow has closed!!! We're just waiting for confirmation from the recording office that the documents have been recorded and then the funds will be released! That should happen before 5 PM today!!

YAAAAAYYYYY!!!! I'll have final figures tomorrow and will then post the details of the investment - ROI, etc.

Should Close Today

Of course, I've said that before.

I just got off the phone with the escrow officer and she said the lender had just one last requirement - they wanted a letter of explanation from the buyer about one of his renters or something. I didn't get many details because I don't want to get involved with that, but I was told that the loan officer wrote the letter and is getting the buyer to sign it. He shouldn't have to overnight it to them or anything, so hopefully we will close today. And no, we have no idea why it has taken the lender over 1.5 months to request this letter.

I found out it is the buyer who is paying the $50 a day fee. And yesterday was a bank holiday, so the funds couldn't have been wired to me anyway.

For those of you looking for a lender or dealing with a buyer's lender, the company that is giving my buyer such a hard time is Argent Mortgage. I recommend avoiding them like the plague.

Monday, October 10, 2005

This Lender Is Unbelievable!

We were supposed to close Thursday or Friday, but the escrow agent got a call Friday from the lender. Apparently, on one of the loan doc pages, the notary didn't put his stamp in precisely the right place, so the lender wanted that page redone. He also decided he needed a document for the Patriot Act, which is basically a copy of the buyer's driver's license. So a mobile notary was sent to the buyer on Friday and the requested documents were FedEx'd to the lender for morning delivery today. We'll see what they say now. I'm glad I got the $50 per day fee added on. And as soon as I find out this lender's name, I'll let you know so you can have a heads up if you run into them.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

I've Been Interviewed!

A short interview with me has been posted at www.reiblog.org. My interview is here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

We Have Docs!

Yesterday, the escrow officer received docs from the lender! If all goes well (and based on how things have been going, that is a mighty big if), the loan should fund on Thursday or Friday.

One good thing is that we were able to get the buyer to agree to a $50 a day fee for each day they are past the scheduled close of escrow. I stole this idea from a comment Empty Spaces made on Hespy's Real Estate blog. The fee is retroactive to the day the Cure Notice period ended, so as of yesterday, it was at $650.

Monday, October 3, 2005

What A Weekend

It was a fairly hectic weekend, in terms of the property. On Friday afternoon, I heard from my agent that escrow still had not closed because the buyer's lender STILL had not provided docs for the buyer to sign. No one at the lender will return the calls of the buyer or the escrow agent. The buyer's real estate agent (who is also his daughter) has gone out of town for two weeks. We tried calling her and got a message telling us to contact her assistant. Her assistant had no idea she was out of town.

I didn't want to miss out on any weekend traffic if I had to put the house back on the market, so my agent and the escrow agent discussed our options. The only reason anyone can think of now for the lender's behavior is that, for some reason, they want to have this loan funded in October instead of September and they were delaying us until Monday. Technically, we are no longer under contract with the current buyer, since we've already delivered the Cure Notice, so we've put the house back on the market. However, the escrow officer is leaving the escrow open in her system until Monday (today), in case loan docs suddenly appear. If they do, the house goes to the buyer. If they don't, I'll get his deposit and we'll move on to another buyer.

The house went back on the market at around 11:30 AM Friday and I ran back out there to put the lockbox back on. Within 4 hours, we had an offer come in. By Sunday, we had 5 offers. Unfortunately, none of them are very strong. Most are for full price or more, but they usually want me to credit back 1%- 3% of the price for closing costs. Most are also being bought with 100% financing and only have a $500 earnest money deposit. Not too promising. We asked a couple of them if they would increase the deposit to $1,000 and make it non-refundable after the inspection period. They all rejected that. (One buyer already lost a deposit because they couldn't get financing before escrow closed. This person has been looking for a house for 6 months. He obviously doesn't have good credit.)

On Sunday, we did get one offer that looks promising. It's for full price, but they want me to contribute 1% cash back. They don't want a home warranty, they are putting down $1,000 earnest money, and they will pay for the inspection. The agent said the 1% cash back wasn't really required and they would probably drop it, if we asked. The agent also doesn't think making the deposit non-refundable will be a big deal. So towards the end of the day today, (so the first buyer's lender has a chance to submit docs), we will counter that offer and see how it goes.

I feel bad for the first buyer. He really likes the house and wants it, but his lender is really screwing him. If I was him, I'd be threatening a lawsuit, or at the very least, a complaint with the state's banking commission. This lender is not returning phone calls and that directly caused him to lose $2,000 (or it will, if they don't come through today.)

The only reason I am still giving the first buyer a chance is that I won't have to wait another month for a new escrow. This buyer already has the keys and has already done his inspection. I have also already taken the utilities out of my name. If I have to have another escrow, we're talking another month, minimum, and I'll have to get the utilities turned back on, which will probably entail some costs. The $2,000 I'd make would more than cover it, but I want to move on to the next project now.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Further Explanation Of The Delay

I just spoke with my agent, who spoke with the buyer's agent and I now have a better understanding of the problem. The issue isn't just a misspelled name. Apparently, many years ago, the buyer changed his middle name. The docs showed his former middle name and he signed with his current middle name. Nobody caught it until the lender was doing the final review of the signed documents. Given this information, I can totally understand the lender wanting to get this straightened out.

Anyway, the buyer has taken the entire day off work and he's ready to sign the docs the moment they arrive. The lender's funds are already at the title office and they are just waiting the lender's authorization to release them to me. Unfortunately, that probably won't come until tomorrow, after the signed docs have been overnighted back. We're hopeful that the lender will accept a faxed version of the documents to release the funds today and they won't require us to wait until tomorrow when they receive the originals.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Possible Delay Again

Well, I just got off the phone with the escrow agent and they still do not have funds yet. Apparently the problem now is that the lender is being a jerk. It seems the loan documents the buyer signed had the buyer's name spelled incorrectly and neither the lender nor the escrow agent caught it. The lender was complaining about this and wanted to get new docs, which means the buyer would have to sign docs again. Given the late hour, that would probably mean another 2 day delay, at least, to overnight the documents back and forth. However, the escrow agent said there is an "errors and omissions" document that was included in the loan package. Since the buyer signed his name spelled correctly on the paperwork, she is pushing to get the lender to correct the issue on their end as per the errors and omissions document and not require the buyer to sign new docs. The loan agent is going back to her boss with this request.

I told the escrow agent that I would give them another day, but she said she wasn't going to tell them that, in order to get some pressure on them to get this resolved.

I'm giving them another day because this delay is purely administrative - the buyer's loan has been approved and there isn't a chance of him being turned down anymore. Now, the lender is just being pretty anal about the issue. (The escrow agent said this is typical behavior for this lender.)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Another 1 Day Delay

I got a voicemail from my agent this afternoon and she told me the buyer signed his loan docs today - which means the loan will not fund until tomorrow, since the docs have to be overnighted back to the bank. But she was also told the bank has ordered the wire for the funds, so it should be all set to close tomorrow. I went ahead and gave them a one day delay. It sounds like things have finally progressed.

Another reason I let the buyer have another day was that today was my first day at my new job. The first day is always pretty hectic, so I didn't want another item to worry about.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Found the HUD error!

As I said before, there is always a mistake on the HUD settlement form - it's just a question of finding it. I originally thought this time was a rare exception, but it turns out I was wrong. There is a mistake.

A friend brought to my attention the fact that the $26 for four days of property taxes figure I gave seemed a bit high. Turns out, he was right and I made a calculation error. The actual amount is about $12 for four days. But in reviewing this, I discovered the HUD statement had me overpaying my taxes by $1. They listed the first half of the year's taxes at $561.31 instead of $560.31. OK, it's only a dollar difference, but still. I can stand by my claim that the HUD statement always contains errors! :-)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Update On Closing

I got a voicemail from the escrow agent and she told me she received my Cure Notice and has notified the buyer. She also spoke with the lender and he told her the delay was because the buyer's use of the property has changed. Now, I was told he was buying two houses and one was going to be an investment property and the other was to be his residence. He supposedly liked my property the best, so that was going to be his residence. The message the escrow officer left had it the other way around. Whatever the issue, she says we should close early next week. Well, that better mean Monday because that's the day the Cure Notice expires and I will have no qualms about putting this thing back on the market and keeping the guy's earnest money. He had a 30 day escrow period and now an additional week to get his loan situation straightened out. Of course, if it doesn't close and he wants another extension, I might be willing to give the guy another 1 week - but he will find the price of the house will have gone up.

Entering The "Cure Period"

Back when I listed this property, my agent told me Arizona Realtors have a new sales contract they use and it is very pro-buyer. Yesterday, I ran into one of those pro-buyer clauses.

At the end of the day, I still had not heard back from my agent or the escrow officer, so I called the escrow officer and spoke with her. She had still not received any loan docs. I told her as far as I was concerned, the buyer was now in breach of contract and has lost his earnest money deposit. She told me that I needed to submit a Cure Period Notice. I had no idea what this was, so I called my agent to find out.

Now, keep in mind the contract addendum I signed extended the close of escrow date to Sep. 20th. It was now Sep. 21st and escrow was still not closed. It seems to me this is a pretty clear case of breach of contract.

Unfortunately, this new pro-buyer contract has a provision that, should either party not meet the terms of the contract, they must give the other party an opportunity to "cure" or correct any problems. This is known as the Cure Period Notice. The cure period lasts 3 days. Had I know this, I would not have agreed to extend the close of escrow date and instead would have just started the cure period. After all, they wanted a two day extension and the cure period is 3 days. But I didn't know that and now the buyer has until Monday to get his loan issues straightened out. If it doesn't happen, the house goes back on the market and I get his $2,000 earnest money deposit. At least, I hope I do.

Another pro-buyer provision in the contract is that a failure to secure a loan is not considered non-compliance with the contract and so the earnest money is refundable. Fortunately, we also specified that the earnest money was non-refundable after the inspection period ended. My agent assures me that this will override the other part of the contract which says it is refundable, but it's not really something I'm looking forward to testing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Delayed Again

Apparently, this house was not meant to be sold quickly. Everything I have attempted to do with it has been delayed.

Escrow was supposed to close today and this morning, I called the escrow officer. She said the buyer's lender had spoken with her and told her she would have the docs "very soon." The day went by and I got a call from her this afternoon at 5:00 PM. She still didn't have the docs. The lender said she would have them tomorrow. This is the same thing he told us Friday.

So I called my agent and let her know my displeasure. She called the buyer's agent and got her voicemail, so she left a message indicating that I wasn't happy. We're going to give them one more day only, and I am not going to sign another extension. If the loan doesn't fund tomorrow, the house goes back on the market and the buyer loses his $2,000 earnest money deposit. (I'm glad we made the deposit non-refundable after the inspection period ended.) Based on this, I expect to hear something from the buyer fairly early in the morning.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Closing Has Been Delayed

The buyer's lender did not get stuff done in time. The loan is still going to go through, but it is "in line for funding," whatever that means, instead of "funded." So our new closing date is Tuesday, although it could close as early as Monday.

The buyer had his final inspection and everything was ok except for no hot water. The house has an electric water heater and I know for a fact the circuit breaker for that is turned off. I don't know why it is, but I know yesterday when I was out there, I had to check the circuit box to make sure the blanks were installed, and I noticed that one particular breaker was off. Since I didn't need hot water at the place, I left it off. We told the buyer and they are ok with that.

Also yesterday, I picked up my lockbox, hid the key outside, and put the other copies of the keys inside. My agent passed this info on to the buyer, which is when they went to do their final inspection.

One thing I am curious about is that my HUD settlement shows I am paying the property taxes up through Friday. With the extension, there are now another 4 days of taxes due while I own the place. Since the delay was not any fault of my own, I don't think I should have to pay the additional tax. I'm curious to see if the escrow company modifies the HUD settlement document to show this. It only amounts to about $26, so if they don't, I'm not going to make a big deal out of it. However, it will be something I keep in mind for the next time. The extension was done just as a contract addendum, so if I run into this situation again and the delay in closing is not my fault, I'll counter the addendum and include the request that the other party is responsible for taxes beyond the original close date.

I never want to schedule a close of escrow on a Friday again. If some problem comes up (and one usually does), nothing can be done until after the weekend is over. Rather than stress out over the weekend, it would be nice to have a business day the next day for things to get resolved.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Escrow Closes Today - Theoretically

I just spoke with the escrow officer and she emailed me a copy of my HUD settlement statement. Everything looks OK, which is pretty shocking given that there are usually always errors on these things. The statement only reflects a 70% investor discount on the title charges, but she is waiting to hear back from the company I purchased title insurance from when I bought the property. Once they confirm my old policy, the discount will go up to 80%.

Her only opening for a signing time today is 3:30 PM, which doesn't really work for me. I'm to blame for this, since I neglected to set up a signing time in advance. But, since her office is pretty far from me, she said she could email me the documents and I could sign them. There is only one page that needs to be notarized, so I will have that done when I go out for lunch today. Then, I'll call her and she'll send a courier to pick up the papers.

Based on the preliminary numbers, it looks like I'll be making around $25,000 on this property. I'll do a more detailed analysis once everything becomes final and the money is in my account.

The reason I say the closing date is theoretical is because she has still not received docs from the buyer's lender. Additionally, she is having problems with her email (which is why I never received the HUD statement she emailed me last week), so who knows if everything will come together today.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Rejected For Office Depot Card

Yesterday I received another rejection notice, this time from the Office Depot credit card I was trying to get. Again, I'm not too concerned about this, since I won't really be needing credit anyway. I still have not heard back from the cashback credit card offer I sent in a while ago. I'm thinking I'll get it because I believe I had to offer a personal guarantee of financial responsibility on that one. These other two cards I did not (but I was given the option to).

The Handyman Returns

When I was going over the work that needed to be done on the property, my handyman told me he had an assistant who was going to work on replacing the dry rot on the patio enclosure. He gave me his number and last night I called him, in an attempt to find out the status of the job. When I initially talked to him, he wasn't sure who I was, but he did tell me that my handyman had returned from vacation Monday night. So I called and left another message for him.

Yesterday, the assistant called me back and apologized for not knowing who I was earlier and then told me all the work on the property was done. He said the venting was done, the window was replaced, etc. This was good news!

This morning, I went out and checked on the property. What I found was pretty upsetting. Only about half of the items on my checklist were done. The two vent pipes were not fixed, despite what the assistant told me. The electrical box did not have blanks installed. The master bedroom ceiling fan and lights did not work. Caulking around the master bath shower was not fixed. In addition to this, there were more things that needed to be fixed: the master bedroom door strike plate was adjusted and the door closed correctly, but one screw was missing from the doorknob, so that was loose. The handle to the screen door leading to the back patio was missing and the screen was ripped in two places. I also discovered the air conditioning was left running and there was a hose bib in the back that was dripping. Those things were probably going for 2 weeks, so that will raise my utility costs.

I called the handyman this morning and left a pretty angry voicemail. At the time I was leaving it, he called me and left a message for me. His message stated all the work was done, according to his assistant - the same thing I was told. However, in my message to him, I listed all the things that were not done, plus the new problems that needed to be fixed. I told him I was pissed that I met with him over two weeks ago and he told me the job would take 1 day, yet over two weeks later, it still wasn't done. I demanded he call me back today to explain what was going on and that I wanted the work done by 5 PM tomorrow, since escrow closes the day after that.

About 30 minutes later, I got another message from him. (I missed the call because I was talking with some co-workers about my upcoming departure.) His message said he was sorry things weren't done. He thought he had things covered when he left for vacation, but apparently he didn't. He said he would go over to the house today and get everything done, then call me this evening with a report. He also said there would be no charge for all the work.

We shall see...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Where Is The Handyman?

Escrow is supposed to close on Friday. I met with my handyman two weeks ago to go over the work that needed to be done. He told me it would take 1 day and that he could start the following day. He did mention he would be on vacation last week, but that still left him a full week before his vacation to get the job done.

I've called him Sunday, Monday, and today. All I get is his voicemail and he hasn't returned my messages. I haven't had a chance to go over to the house yet, so I don't know if anything has been done. This will probably be the last time I use him.

Friday, September 9, 2005

Escrow On Track

I called my escrow agent yesterday to make sure things were on track for our closing a week from today, since I haven't heard anything yet. She said she had everything she needed from me, short of my signature on the closing documents. She is just waiting for some loan paperwork from the buyer's bank and then we'll be good to go. She said I could go ahead and come down and sign everything, but I said I'd wait until the buyer's docs arrive. No point in signing if for some reason, the deal falls through. I did ask for a copy of the HUD settlement statement to be emailed to me though.

I also called my handyman this morning to see how things were going. I got his voicemail and left a message.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

New Rat Race Job

I accepted a job offer today at a new company and gave my two weeks notice to my current employer. I'm still in the rat race, but at least I'll be making a bit more money and have better benefits - plus the coolness factor will greatly increase since I'll be working at a company that makes video games. The raise will allow me to save more towards passive income investments, which puts me one step closer to leaving the rat race. It will be very tempting to spend the extra income (especially considering salaries at my current company have been frozen since I was hired almost 5 years ago), but I'm confident I can keep the spending under control. What the new job will mean, however, is less time available to research new properties. I'm currently lucky in that I have a fair amount of "free time" at my current job to do research. That will change. Unfortunately, I'm scheduled to close escrow on my current property about 10 days before I start my new job, so just when I'll be ready to look for another property, I'll not have much time to do so. Any Phoenix area birddogs out there?

Rejected For Lowe's Card

As part of my efforts to build credit in my company's name, I applied for credit cards at Lowe's and Office Depot, as well as the 3% cash back credit card offer I got in the mail last week. Today I received a letter from Lowe's (actually, from GE Capital Financial, who runs the Lowe's credit card program) saying my application was rejected because my company did not have a Dunn and Bradstreet credit file. Lowe's was supposed to be an easy card to get. Oh well! One down, two to go.

Truthfully, I think I am only trying to get credit for my company for purely academic reasons. Since this company pays for everything in full, it really doesn't have a need for credit. But learning the process will help me with future businesses that may need it and that is why I am trying.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Just As I Thought

When my handyman told me fixing the items on the buyer's Inspection Report would take 1 day and that he could start Tuesday, I knew there was no way that would happen and I figured it would really take him three days. Sure enough, late yesterday afternoon (Wednesday), I got a call from him saying he hadn't started yet, but he was going over there now to start. He asked again when escrow was closing and I told him a week from Friday, which is the 9th. Actually, it closes a week after that on the 16th, but I want him to hurry.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Old Neighbor in Preforeclosure

This is interesting! Last night, I was going through some preforeclosure listings and came across an address that seemed very familiar: it is across the street and about 2 or 3 houses down from the house I used to live in about 2 years ago! I never met the guy living there, but I know the neighborhood and the houses and they are both pretty nice.

From what I can tell, this property is not yet listed in the MLS, so the owner may not have an agent yet. I'm going to send him a letter today and hopefully, if he does decide to sell, I can do it without an agent, thus saving him some money on commissions (which, of course, means I don't have to pay as much).

I did some research on him this morning and it looks like it's the second mortgage that is foreclosing. He bought the property as a new home from the builder in 1995 and refinanced once in 1997. The home owner's association also filed a lien against the property in 2004 for about $2,000 in unpaid fees and took him to court to get that paid in 2005. The civil judgment hasn't been released yet, meaning he still owes them. With late fees and court fees, the amount is now around $2,800.

So my letter will emphasize that I used to be his neighbor, that I can buy his house quickly if he wants to sell it, and that he can save some big bucks on commissions by dealing with me. If I don't hear anything back in a week or two, I'll send a follow up letter. I sure hope the closing on the house I am selling now goes smoothly. It's scheduled to close on 9/16. If all goes well with this guy, I may need my cash by then!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Buyer's Inspection Notice

On Friday afternoon, I received the Buyer's Inspection Notice. They had the property inspected and this notice is a list of things they'd like me to fix. I went out to the property Sunday to verify the items and to meet with my handyman and go over which ones I am willing to fix. Here's the list with my responses:

  • Fascia boards and trim have wood rot / deterioration on northwest corner of patio cover. I will fix this. There is about a 6 inch section of wood at the corner that has some wood rot. You can tell the bottom half of the piece of wood was replaced previously. It looks like whoever did the work previously didn't get all the rot.
  • Electric panel cover missing blanks. I will fix this. This showed up on the inspection I had performed when I bought the house. I had mentioned to the electricians I hired that I wanted this fixed, but I guess they forgot. This isn't a big deal. Basically it looks like two circuits were moved in the electrical box and the blanks that cover the old breaker locations were not installed.
  • Screen door at main entry needs repair / replacement. I will fix this. The inside handle is missing.
  • Laundry drain pipe vent needs to be installed up through the roof to the outside. I will fix this. The laundry room of this property is attached to the enclosed patio and the vent pipe extends up to the ceiling and stops, so it vents into the room. I made things a bit easy here for my handyman because the range vent hood I bought was a non-venting model. The old one vented to the roof. Since the laundry room is on the other side of the kitchen wall, we're going to extend the laundry vent pipe in the attic and join it to the old range vent pipe, which is not being used anymore. My handyman won't need to cut any new holes in the roof this way. This item also showed up on my inspection.
  • Closet door guides in the guest bedrooms are missing. The closet door in one of the bedrooms needs to be adjusted. I'll fix this.
  • One of the guest bedrooms has a broken window. When I looked at this, the crack is a little 1.5 inch semicircular crack that runs from one edge, out a tiny bit into the window, then back to the edge. I was going to not fix this because it's such a tiny crack, but my handyman tells me replacing the window isn't difficult and the glass should only cost about $20, so I'll fix this as well.
  • Ceiling fans and lights in master bedroom and one guest bedroom do not work. I know these work because I checked them when I bought the house. The problem with the one in the guest bedroom was that the fan direction switch was in-between positions. I pushed it all the way up and it worked. Issue solved! The one in the master bedroom however, doesn't work. I know this one worked before and, when I had the electrician pigtail all the aluminum wiring, I had him do the fans as well. His work order shows he did this fan and that he tested it afterwards. I checked the circuit breaker and that was ok, so I have no idea why this fan decided to stop working. My handyman will check it out and, if necessary, replace the fan with a cheap one.
  • Drain leak at kitchen sink. I don't see it. I filled both sides of the sink with water and let them drain simultaneously. No leak. I let the water run for a while on both sides and saw no leak. The only thing I can think of is that, if you feel the bottom of the cabinet, there is a spot under the drain pipe that feels like there might have been water there once, but I imagine that happened during the installation of the cabinets and sink. So I just tightened all the plumbing joints and reported the leak was fixed.
  • Exhaust fan from hall bathroom terminates in attic instead of outside. This is something else that showed up on my inspection and I had asked my handyman to fix it earlier, which apparently, he didn't do. The attic entrance is actually in that bathroom, right next to the fan, so all I had to do was open the hatch and I could see the vent hose not going anywhere. There is a vent in the attic wall right next to it. I suggested to my handyman that he might be able to route the vent hose to that, thus avoiding the need to put a hole in the roof. He said he'd check to make sure that was ok code-wise before doing it. Anyway, this is another item I will fix.
  • Interior water pressure is low and both bathrooms. I will not fix this. Truthfully, the water pressure seems fine to me.
  • Main entryway security light not working. Fixed this. Just needed to replace the lightbulb.
  • Master bedroom door strike plate needs adjusting. The door doesn't latch closed unless you push hard. What a ticky-tack thing. I'll fix this.
  • Caulking needed around shower enclosures. I'll fix this. The caulking has some gaps in it in both bathrooms where the drywall meets the shower enclosure.
All in all, it's not a bad list of problems and three I was able to fix on the spot. My handyman tells me it's about a day's work, which is what I figured, but experience tells me it will probably take him 3 days to finish. He will start working tomorrow. I expect most things will be pretty inexpensive. The biggest expense might be if he can't use the wall vent in the attic and needs to extend the bathroom fan exhaust through the roof.

I sent my response to the buyer's list to my agent. She's typing it up on the correct form for my signature and then we will fax it back to the buyer for his approval. Tomorrow is the end of his inspection period and the point at which his deposit becomes non-refundable.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Article On Why RE Agents Aren't Getting Rich

There's a good article on Slate.com about why real estate agents aren't getting rich from the current housing boom. I love the last line :-)

Building My Company's Credit part 2

Following some of the advice from the site in Steve's comment, I went to Dun and Bradstreet to request a D&B number. They have a section where you can check to see if you already have one because 1 out of 2 companies requesting a number already do. It turns out, my company does! So I requested it online. A short while later, I got an email saying they couldn't email me anything because the information I provided didn't match what they had in their records, and to call in. So I called and gave them my company's name and they found me. They asked for some additional information to complete their profile and then they told me my number. Based on their questions, I think my company has a plus - because my largest investor is a woman and she owns at least 51% of the company, I qualify as a "woman-owned business." That will probably help obtaining loans down the road.

If you do call in, watch out for the upsell. (Watch for it on their website too.) All you need is a D&B number. They will try to sell you a whole credit building package. The one on the website is $499 and the one they pitched on the phone was $799. For the purposes of building business credit, you really don't need these (from what I've read).

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Building My Company's Credit

I'd like to get to the point where my company can apply for bank loans and other financial instruments without a personal guarantee from me, but few banks will lend to a company without some legal recourse against a person should the business fail. To show the business is solid, it needs to have a good credit history. Today, I took the first step towards establishing that credit history.

I received an application in the mail from Chase Bank for a business credit card. Normally, I throw these in the trash, but this one caught my eye because it offers a cashback bonus. You earn 3% cashback on purchases at gas stations, restaurants, office supply stores, and home improvement and hardware stores. All other purchases earn 1% back. Based on what I have read on other personal finance blogs like Savvy Saver and Personal Finance For The New Age, this sounds like a pretty good deal. There is no annual fee and all charges for the first year are at 0% interest. After that however, the interest rates are killer. They offer the program at three different levels: The Elite level gives you a 8.99% rate. The other two levels (I forget what they are called) give you a 13.99% and a 20.99% rate. Of course, they don't tell you what level you will qualify for until after you apply. But reading the fine print discloses some additional gotchas: They can change the program at any time. They can change the interest rate at any time. They can changed fix interest rates to variable or variable to fixed at any time. And, the killer, the interest rate will NEVER go lower than 8.49%, 13.49%, or 20.49%, depending on what level you qualify for.

I would never get a card with terms like this for my personal use. In fact, I probably wouldn't even get this card for a business. However, I am lucky in that my house flipping business is basically a cash business. I have my investor's money to use for all expenditures and therefore, I never need to carry a balance on a credit card. So now I'll use this card to buy all the appliances and materials needed for rehabbing a home, collect the 3% cashback bonus, and then pay off the bill in full each month.

FYI, I couldn't find this offer on Chase's website anywhere, so it might not be offered online.

Meta: A New Record!

Yesterday, this blog had the highest single day hit count in its history: 611! The previous record was somewhere around 400 and I was waiting for the day we broke 500. Turns out, we shattered 500! Thanks to all you readers for making this blog a success!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Yard Violation Cleared Up

I called the city inspector to verify he got my message from yesterday stating the yard was cleaned and could be re-inspected. He said he did and had checked out the place and it looks good, so that violation is now cleared up.

Meta: Comment Spam

I've been hit with a bunch of comment spam lately. Deleting it is annoying and time consuming so, in an attempt to limit it, I've enable Word Verification for comments. What this means is in order to leave a comment, you will now be asked to type in a series of random letters shown in a graphic in order for your comment to be posted. This prevents automated programs from leaving spam comments.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Now The Paperwork Begins!

Now that escrow is opened, the paperwork begins in earnest!

Today, I received a fax from my agent of the earnest money deposit receipt. I also received a contract addendum that changes the name of the buyer from agent's name and nominees to the name of the agent's father, the actual buyer. This is functionally equivalent to assigning the contract but was done via a contract addendum rather than a separate assignment document. My agent also said she did not receive my signed agency disclosure and listing agreement that I faxed last week, so I had to re-fax those.

When I got home, I had a paperwork package from the escrow company waiting for me with more stuff to fill out:

  • Proceeds Authorization - how I want my money from the sale delivered to me
  • Seller's Escrow Information - data needed by the escrow company (any mortgages, any HOA, assessments, my social security number, etc.)
  • Terms of escrow - the terms and conditions of escrow. This is standard legal stuff detailing the escrow company's role and duties.
  • Notice of Title Policy Discounts - notification that I may be eligible for discounts on title insurance because I recently purchased title insurance when I bought the place.
  • Checklist of things I need to do.

If past history is any indication, in addition to the above documents, I will probably need to provide a copy of the articles of incorporation of my LLC to prove I am the manager and am authorized to act on behalf of the LLC.

The title policy discount is a nice touch. I knew that if you got title insurance recently through the same company, you could get a discount, but this says I may get a discount even if the policy was purchased through another company.

And speaking of discounts, I need to make sure they give me investor rates. My agent told them , but I like to follow up myself to make sure.

Yard Is Clean!

Wow! I stopped by the property this morning to check out the work the yard maintenance company did and I am completely impressed! I had told the company about the violation notice I received from the city and that I had to cut the weeds down to no higher than 6 inches and trim a tree that was overhanging the sidewalk. That was what I expected them to do - cut the weeds down. What they actually did was pull them all! There is no evidence of weeds at all, anywhere! I must say, the yard looks very impressive now! Of course, it cost me $400...

In addition to doing a good job, the landscape company was willing to work with me. Normally, they collect payment at the property after the job is complete. Since the property is vacant, they couldn't do this. Believe it or not, this company does not accept credit cards, so I couldn't even pay over the phone. They suggested that I leave a check under the doormat, but I told them the property was an hour away from my house and I couldn't do that easily. They agreed to let me mail in the payment that day. And they performed the work on a Saturday too!

While I was at the house this morning, a neighbor came over and started talking to me. He said the landscape company had a bunch of people working there. We got to talking some more about the previous owner and the neighbor was probing me for what I paid for the house and what I sold it for. I didn't see any harm in telling him. He's glad that the sales price is high because it helps his home value. I did find out a funny story about the previous owner: I guess he liked to tell stories with a little bit of embellishment. As the neighbor told me, according to the previous owner, I bought the house by bringing over cash and counting it out to him on the hood of his car!

In other news, I submitted the SPDS to the new buyer on Thursday. I haven't heard anything else yet on the sale and I'm just waiting now for them to have their inspection completed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Psychology Of MLS Listings

As I wrote about before, I wanted to get this property listed in the MLS using the key words identified in Freakonomics that correlate to a higher sales price. Here is the text of my MLS listing:


One of the keywords was maple. That didn't apply to my property, but oak did, so I had my agent substitute that. Also, move-in-ready was a keyword and that was included in a slightly modified form. New, another keyword, was inserted all over the place :-)

So how did the psychology experiment go? Well, it's hard to tell because Phoenix is such a seller's market right now. I received a total of four offers in four days: two were at full price, one was more than list price, and one was under list price with the caveat they would go over list price by a certain amount. All in all, good bids! But it's hard to tell if the wording caused them or market conditions did. I do know I'll keep using these words in future listings, just in case!

Moving Forward With Sale

My agent confirmed escrow was opened yesterday. As soon as she gets a copy of the earnest money payment, she'll fax it to me.

The next step is providing all the paperwork the contract states I will provide to the buyer: the lead based paint disclosure, the SPDS (seller property disclosure statement), and a list of any insurance claims against the property.

I faxed over the lead based paint disclosure this morning.

I have requested and received a CLUE report from my insurance agent on the property. A CLUE report is a report provided by the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange and it lists all the insurance claims against a property in the last seven years. I knew from when I purchased this property that there was a claim filed for roof repair due to hail damage a couple years ago. This needs to be disclosed to the new buyer. This was also the only claim that showed up on the report.

The SPDS is 6 pages of questions about the condition and history of the property. For this property, there are only two issues that have to be disclosed. The first is the roof repair. I'm attaching a copy of the CLUE report to this document, as well as a letter from the previous owner's insurance stating what the repair was for and when it was fixed. (I asked for this when I purchased the house. I don't need to provide it, since the CLUE report shows the same thing, but I'm trying to "kill them with kindness" here.) The other thing I need to disclose is the aluminum wiring issue. Normally, this might give a buyer pause, but in this case, it allows me to show I have fully repaired the problem. I will be attaching the invoice for the copper pigtailing work that I had done by a licensed electrician. And, of course, I am writing the magic phrase on the SPDS as well.

The next step is to wait for the buyer to have an inspection performed and to get their list of items they want corrected. As with everything in real estate, the items on the list are negotiable. I'm hopeful things will go smoothly. The buyer is a real estate agent and I'm sure she understands she is buying a 30+ year old house, so it won't be in immaculate condition.

Oh, the one other thing is the yard clean up. I submitted a request for a quote via a website yesterday, but never heard anything back, so I had to make a phone call today. The company will be out at the house tomorrow at 10 AM to make an estimate and then the work can be performed usually within a week after that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

House Is Sold!

My counter offer to the previous offer was rejected. The buyer did not want to come up with the extra cash or to make the earnest money non-refundable. His agent said she's been trying to get him a house for a couple months, so I guess he's pretty picky. Could be a good thing he backed out.

Yesterday afternoon, my agent received a rather strange offer: it was from a family-run real estate agency here in the Valley which is rather large and whose members are all Realtors. The offer was for $175,000 but the buyer's name was "name and/or nominee." Of course, anyone who has read anything about birddogging recognizes that phrase and what it means - that the person making the offer likely won't be the buyer and will be looking for someone else to buy it. The offer also wanted a 45 day escrow (30 is normal) and they wanted their earnest money to be refundable anytime during the first 2 weeks after contract acceptance. The cover letter to the fax stated that this agent had lots of investors willing to buy properties. It also stated they would beat any other offers by $500 up to a maximum price of $184,000.

I rejected this offer. Or rather, we were going to sit on it until Wednesday, 9 PM, which was when it expired. I felt this offer was obviously a mass-market type thing by an agent who puts out tons of offers in the hopes of getting one accepted and then finding a buyer for it. The way it was written, I wouldn't have been able to entertain any other offers for two weeks and, if the guy changed his mind or couldn't find a buyer, he could walk away for free, wasting two weeks of my time. We decided to sit on the offer for as long as possible before rejecting it because this would give us a competing offer if another offer came in. A little ammunition for a bidding war, if you will.

Late last night, my agent got another offer. This one was from the agent of the guy above who rejected my counter offer. She decided the property would be great for her father, so she put in an offer for $181,000 with a $2,000 earnest money deposit and a $7,000 down payment. The deposit is non-refundable after the inspection period. They are paying for the appraisal and home warranty. Her father is pre-approved from his bank. This offer was for $1,000 over list price and I can't find anything else wrong with it. I accepted it and escrow will be opened today!

Need New Cabinets In Phoenix?

Ok, I met up with Keith yesterday to settle up our bill. After working with him on this project, I have to say he is a fantastic person to do business with. He has fantastic attention to detail and is considerate of my time. For example, we agreed to meet yesterday at my work to wrap things up. We had not agreed to a specific time - he was going to call when he was on the way. I got a call about 10 minutes to 3 PM saying he was just getting off the freeway near my work. Turns out, he remembered that I work 6 AM to 3 PM and planned his arrival to be near 3 PM so he would not disturb my working day.

He probably isn't the cheapest cabinet guy around. However, he is honest, fair, and incredibly dependable. He cares about getting the job done right. He works with several investors who flip properties, so he knows time is of the essence when replacing cabinets. He manages projects well. If you need cabinets, I can't recommend him highly enough. He is a franchisee of Kitchen Solvers and his contact info can be found here. His name is Keith Wolfram. Tell him Shaun sent you. (This is an unsolicited recommendation.)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Offer Fell Through, But New One Received

Now the fun stuff begins - offers and counter-offers!

The buyers did not want to agree to my counter offer to make the earnest money non-refundable after the inspection period, so that deal is gone. My agent says this, along with the use of an FHA loan (which is usually used by people with poor credit), indicated a weak buyer.

But we've got another offer on the table. This one is for $185,000, which is $5,000 more than the list price. However, the buyer wants a seller's contribution of 3%, which is $5,550. Now this buyer also did not want a home warranty and there is no $410 fee associated with an FHA loan like the last offer, so on the surface, it looks like there is only a $140 difference between the two offers. However, I would need to pay commission on the higher selling price. That's an extra $200 I'd have to pay, meaning this offer is now $340 less than the previous offer. Other details are a $1,500 earnest money deposit and a $5,500 down payment. The buyer has a FICO score of 805, which is great. Apparently he's got money, but it's in accounts he doesn't want to touch - IRAs, 401(k)s, etc. This is the reason for the seller contribution.

We're countering back with a seller's contribution of 2%, or $3,700. As before, we are asking the earnest money deposit be non-refundable after the inspection period.

Offer For House!

A couple hours before I got the call from my cabinet guy with his cost for fixing the cabinet fiasco, I got a call from my agent telling me she had received an offer for the property! The offer was for full price ($180,000). The buyer was putting 3% down with $1,000 earnest money. It was an FHA loan. They did not want a home warranty. They will pay the appraisal fee. I am to pay a maximum of $410 towards the buyer's closing costs.

It sounds like a great offer. The only strange thing is that it's an FHA loan. My agent said she hasn't seen one of those in 3 years. I counter offered with the condition that the earnest money is non-refundable once the 10 day inspection period has passed. They have until 5 PM today to respond.

Because this is being bought with an FHA loan, the buyers are owner-occupants, not investors. It also means there are likely going to be some additional hurdles to jump through and I would not be surprised if this sale did not go through. First, the FHA will not issue a loan if the seller has owned the property for 90 days or less. I pass that test, since I've had it for almost 6 months. However, if the seller has owned if for less than 12 months, they may require two appraisals to verify the purchase price. Full details of their requirements can be found here. My agent says sometimes they will want two appraisals, and sometimes they will accept one appraisal, but it will be reviewed by a second person. The other reason I think this sale may not go through is that, during my research on the seasoning issue, I came across the maximum amounts FHA will loan for Maricopa county: $172,632. The buyers will need a loan of $174,400. Oh, scratch this. I found another site that gives a bit more detail. That $172,632 amount is for non-metro areas of Maricopa county. For the Phoenix - Mesa - Scottsdale area, the max is $214,700. So it looks like we're ok there.

If they accept my counter-offer, then it looks like the place is sold and the only thing I have to worry about is the dual appraisals. If they do not accept my offer, I'm not too worried. My agent said she had a couple other agents express interest. She was trying to get them to submit their offers before the reply-by deadline of this FHA offer, but it didn't happen. So there could be other, non-FHA offers out there, waiting to come in.

Cabinet Costs

I got a call from Keith last night to discuss the bill for getting the cabinets installed. I had mentally figured around $2,000, which is what the other guy charged me for the job. It turns out to be a bit more than that... The total cost is going to be around $5,200! Keith had about 25 hours of his time in the job, plus his assistant had 25 hours. His rate is $40 - $45 an hour. There was a little more than $1,000 in parts costs and the countertops were about $1,500. Oh, all these figures are not just for the kitchen cabinets and countertops. They also include the bathroom vanities, countertops, sinks, and faucets. Although the old cabinet guy had the kitchen cabinets made and in the house, he did not have the new bathroom vanities made, so I had to buy those. I'm meeting with Keith today to get a full invoice and to give him a check.

This was more than I expected, but I'm not too concerned. Why? Well, for one thing, there was the $13,000 phone call. For another, well, you'll see in my next post!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Yardwork Revisited

Well, it seems like I'll have to get the weeds cut down anyway. When I came home from work this afternoon, I had a letter from the city stating I was in violation of city codes. They say the weeds must be cut down to less than 6 inches and a tree on the south side yard must be trimmed so that its branches are at least 7 feet above the sidewalk and 12 feet above the street. I have until August 31st to comply and I will need to have the city inspector back out again to verify the work has been done. At my last property, my handyman cleared the yard of weeds, so, given my difficulties finding people to work the yard at this house, I've called him again to see if he can do this. I called at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon though, so I don't expect to hear from him until next week.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Cabinet Photos

Here are some pictures of the long awaited cabinets. I have previously posted photos of the old cabinets. Click the pictures for a larger view.

The $13,000 Phone Call

I was just leaving for lunch when my agent called me. She checked out some active listings in the area and she thinks I can get more than $167,000 for the place. She suggested $180,000. There are 3 active listings in the subdivision and, even at $180,000, mine would still be the lowest priced one. I was a bit concerned because, although I did do a lot to improve the place, the bathroom showers are still a bit, well, not the best. But one house in the neighborhood is a pending sale for slightly more than $180,000 and it is tenant occupied, so you can be sure that house isn't in the best of shape either. So what the heck! I told her to list it for $180,000! She thinks it'll sell fairly quickly too. That was a great phone call!

Of course, this leads me to reassess my valuation skills. I had seen some higher priced homes show up on the comps list, including one that sold for $225,000. Some had pools. I figured a pool added $20,000 to the price. My agent said it only adds about $10,000. A two car garage adds a bit (my property just has a 2 car carport) too, but not a huge amount. I think, in my mind, I had assumed the higher priced homes were in immaculate condition or had some other features that I couldn't tell from looking at the comp list. I guess I need to change my thinking a bit.

House Is Listed!! (Updated)

Or it will be, as soon as my agent checks her email.

I went to the property this morning and everything looks good! The cabinets are finished!! Finally!!! I spent about 45 minutes cleaning up the place. There was a bunch of sawdust from the cabinet install to vacuum up, plus all the boxes for the cabinet doors had to be thrown out. I installed the bathroom light cover and the sink hole plug. The old kitchen countertop was on the back patio. It's too big to fit in my car as is and I didn't want to spend the time taking it apart, so I moved it under the kitchen window, where it is out of sight from inside the house. With all the boxes and wood cuttings, the two trash cans are filled again. I have not done anything with the dead weeds in the yard and one bathroom is missing a shower curtain, but I'm not going to do anything about those unless the buyer requests it.

I did take pictures of the cabinets and I was all set to include them in this post when I realized I forgot to bring the camera's USB cable to work with me. So pictures will have to wait until this evening. Sorry!

I'm listing the house at $167,000. We'll see if we get any bites. Hopefully, my agent will have it listed and a Realtor lockbox on the place in time for the weekend.

11:05 AM Update: Just heard back from my agent. The signpost for the For Sale sign is being ordered today and the house will be in the MLS by this evening. FYI, as I mentioned way back when, I instructed her to use some special words and to avoid using others in the listing to try to get a higher price.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Guess What?

The cabinet are not done!

Now, I know that probably comes as a surprise to many people. After all, this is just a simple little cabinet job. I mean, how long can it take, right? And the guy told me he would be done yesterday...

Ah. Nothing like some sarcasm to start the day off right. I ventured out to the house this morning and discovered the remaining two cabinet doors were still not installed. I was pissed and proceeded to give my lungs and vocal cords quite the workout. I left, forgetting to install the new bathroom light cover.

So I get to work and figure I'll wait until around 8:30 or so to call Keith. At 7:00, I get a call from him. He said he was wondering if he could meet up with me at the house this morning. When I told him I was already there and gone, he was taken aback. Yesterday, when I told him I was going to swing by before work, he assumed I worked the standard 8 AM to 5 PM hours. Actually, I work 6 AM to 3 PM, so when I visit somewhere before work, it's really early. I told him the doors weren't installed. He said he knew that and he didn't get over there last night because he wasn't done with another job until 10 PM. He said he was going to pick up some coffee and get over to the house this morning and finish. He'll call me when it's done.

It looks like things will be done today. At least I hope they will. If so, I'll email my agent the property details to get it listed, but I will still need to go back there for some work. The stove was still not put back in place and, although the debris from the cabinet install was swept up, it was still in a pile in the living room. Not sure if Keith will clean this up or if I have to. And of course, I still need to install the bathroom light cover and the sink plug.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Third Time's The Charm For The Hinges?

Keith called me just now and said he's picked up yet a third type of hinge for the corner cabinet doors. Man, I guess Joe didn't have a clue how to make the cabinets and must have done something really strange. Anyway, Keith said he'd get over there tonight after dinner to install them. I told him I was planning on stopping by tomorrow morning before work to check out the job. He said fine. I'm keeping my fingers crossed this will be done. If it is, I'll try to post some pictures.

Monday, August 8, 2005

Turns Out, It's More Than A One Day Delay

Why did I expect things to be done on time? I got a message from Keith on Thursday saying the cabinets would be done on Friday. So I went out to the property on Sunday afternoon and nothing was done. The parts that still need to be installed were there - the veneer and toekicks and such, but they weren't installed yet. The stove was still not put back in place either. So this morning I called Keith and asked what was up. He said his guy was out there Sunday and finished everything except for the doors on the upper corner cabinets - the hinges for those didn't work. I was at the house Sunday from about noon to 1 PM, so I asked Keith when his worker was there. He wasn't 100 percent sure, but said he'd find out. It must have been after I was there or someone is lying. So theoretically, there are just two cabinet doors to install that's it. Keith tells me he's getting hinges for those today.

It wasn't a totally wasted trip out there for me, though. I vacuumed the house and threw out some boxes that were left from the installation of the bathroom sinks and faucets. (By the way, these cordless vacuums are fantastic! Lightweight, cordless, and they pick up fairly well. They won't do heavy cleaning, but they are great for doing a final touch up.) I also did a tiny bit of painting. The new cabinets that go over the stove are shorter than the old ones. Since the place was painted before the new cabinets were installed (yeah, I know.. stupid move), I had about a 6 inch wide strip of old paint visible. So I painted over that. There were also some cardboard boxes laid down ages ago by the appliance delivery people to protect the carpet . I finally hauled those out. I also took the full trash cans out to the curb for garbage collection, which happens today.

While there, I noticed that the light fixture in the master bathroom was missing the glass that covers the light bulbs and that one hardware mounting hole in the new kitchen sink was not covered. So on the way home I stopped by Home Depot and picked up the light cover (around $11) and a hole plug ($1). After I bought the plug, I starting thinking that maybe that hole was for the dishwasher overflow drain, so I might not need the plug. I need to check that out. I still need to get an air conditioner filter, but I didn't have my tape measure with me, so I don't know what size I need. I'm just going to get one of those cheap $1 filters. I know if I don't, the home inspector will note it.

The yard still has weeds in it. Most are dead and I think I'm just going to leave them. The guy I spoke with last week did indeed blow me off. I even called him back and left a message, but he never returned my call. I tried calling someone else and he told me that he only does weed pulling in the spring. Apparently, he's got so much work he can turn jobs down. If the house is listed and doesn't sell for a month or so, I may revisit this and pretty up the yard at that time, but I'm reaching the point where I just want this to be done, so I'm willing to forgo some stuff I would ordinarily do.

Depending on what Keith tells me when he calls me back today, I am planning on heading out there tomorrow morning before work and finishing up these last details and then getting it listed for sale. I suspect I won't hear from Keith until towards the end of the day because he spent the weekend in Las Vegas at a bachelor party :-)
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