Articles Featuring Brendon
New Stribling broker Brendon DeSimone says settling into the New York real estate market takes some getting used to. A major San Francisco broker who found success on numerous HGTV television shows as a housing expert, DeSimone just decided to make the jump to New York.
“I’m young, and I’ve always wanted to live here,” says DeSimone, 37, who grew up in Connecticut. “It’s a risk leaving a successful career behind, but you only live once, so I figured now is the time to give it a shot.”
There are big differences in how the two markets operate, according to DeSimone. First of all, almost every property DeSimone repped in San Francisco got its own individual website, no matter what the price. And the lack of a common multiple listing service in Manhattan hurts a broker’s ability to service clients, he says.
“You have to go to five or six different sites to prepare lists of properties to show people,” he says. “It’s just different. [In San Francisco] you have one source with all the listings. There’s also less cooperation among brokers, and it’s more competitive. It means you have to work a little harder.”
Another major difference is disclosure. A San Francisco broker is personally liable for anything he withholds from a buyer. For example, if DeSimone sold a home but neglected to tell the buyer about a loud rock band or constant construction next door, the buyer can sue the broker for up to 10 years.
“You’re on the line for anything having to do with the home,” he says. “Accountability is crucial.”
So what does he love about New York? The diversity of neighborhoods and properties, for one. The constant excitement, for another.
“There is always something going on in this market,” he says. “It really is a world unto itself.”
The pop heard ’round the world when the housing bubble burst brought a lot of bad news — from plummeting home prices to mounting foreclosures.
But with all bad times come a slew of good lessons to be learned, says Shari Olefson, author of “Foreclosure Nation: Mortgaging the American Dream.”
Depressed home prices and low interest rates may have you wondering if the real estate market has reached its bottom, but even if the worst is behind us, it makes sense to take in the lessons of the past few years so we can avoid making the same mistakes twice.
Lesson No. 1: Adjust expectations. Years ago, people purchased a home, lived in it all or most of their lives, passed it down to their children and enjoyed a gradual increase in wealth as the home gained value. But in the last decade, people bought a house expecting it to increase in value about 5 or 10 percent in a couple years, and they’d move on to something bigger, says Brendon DeSimone, a Realtor with Paragon Real Estate Group in San Francisco.
If the housing bubble nightmare has shown us anything, it’s that you can’t count on a home to be worth more than you paid for it when you’re ready to sell. “It’s back to basics,” says DeSimone. “You have to be in it for the long haul and you can’t be looking at your home value every month to see how much it’s gone up.”
“You will never sell at the all-time high and you’ll never buy at the all-time low by planning it,” says Tim Burrell, a Realtor for Re/Max United in Raleigh, N.C. “The market will time you. You will sell and on occasion you may happen to hit the all-time high or happen to hit the all-time low but to study it and plan it and figure out and actually do it — it doesn’t happen.” Instead, take a long-term approach to real estate and look for a home that enhances your life and will increase in value over time.
Lesson No. 3: Don’t treat your home like a piggybank. At the height of the real estate market boom, “We had a whole bunch of people refinancing high-interest credit cards with a low-interest second mortgage on their homes,” says Olefson. Today, some of those people have lost their homes or are in danger of doing so because they were unable to handle the mortgage debt.
“As a country we’ve all gotten way too comfortable with credit and having debt in our lives,” says Olefson. “But the problem really came when that morphed into our homes.”
As the market rebounds, “We need to promote the value of owning your home free and clear again because residential real estate really is the backbone of our country. It’s the biggest asset for most people,” Olefson says. Likewise, instead of depending on your home for all of your wealth, continue to build up your cash reserves, suggests Burrell.
Lesson No. 4: Do your own research. Some people ran into trouble before the real estate market crash when they took the advice of mortgage professionals without doing their due diligence and making sure the advice was in their best interest. The wisdom of speaking to a financial adviser, calling a nonprofit housing agency or even reading books on real estate transactions before signing on the dotted line became apparent as homeowners struggled with changing terms on mortgages that they didn’t understand. It also makes sense to check the credentials of anyone advising you. “Be careful who you trust, take time to educate yourself, and first and foremost, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” says Olefson.
Lesson No. 5: Think long-term financing. Adjustable-rate mortgages appealed to those who wanted the lowest possible interest rates and expected to be able to either sell their homes or refinance them before the mortgages reset. However, after the real estate market crash, many didn’t have enough equity to refinance and houses began to sit on the market as prices went into a freefall. When it comes to financing, “You can’t just look at the next six weeks or two months or next year,” says DeSimone. “You have to say, ‘What happens to me in five years.'”
Ultimately, the real estate market collapse was a lesson in learning to adapt, experts say. “When you see over exuberance, expect that it’s going to change,” says Burrell. “The only thing constant is change.”
Emily Rennie’s three-bedroom house in Oakland was a beauty in a sweet location. Walking distance to the lakeshore. Close to shops. A refurbished patio in the back. Inside, a modern kitchen with granite countertops.
Listed at $539,000 when she put it on the market, the Excelsior Avenue house was missing one crucial thing: The right price. After a few weeks with no offers, she cut the price to $499,000 in May. Then she cut it to $475,000 in June. She is still hoping for an offer.
Rennie is discovering the cold reality of post-housing-bust prices: No matter what she thinks her house is worth, what matters is what buyers are willing to pay. That can be a lot less in areas where the supply of houses for sale is swollen by foreclosures and short sales, often priced 20% to 30% below the ones being sold by financially healthy owners. Nationally, such properties account for a third of all sales three years after a historic chill blew over an overheated housing market.
Foreclosures “do make it harder to sell,” acknowledges Rennie, who works in marketing communications. “People can get a really good deal.”
Real estate professionals say Rennie is in good company. Nationally, 30% of the houses for sale were reduced in price in June, according to Zillow.com, an online real estate site. Plenty of sellers have trouble pricing their home against the foreclosed houses that lenders are trying to unload.
“It’s one of the hardest things for sellers to do. They have an emotional attachment to their house,” says Amy Bohutinsky, a spokeswoman for Zillow.com. “For sellers to understand how they should price, they should deeply understand their market and competition — what’s on the market now, not just what’s sold.”
Those who do that successfully don’t have a problem.
“People who price their homes to the market are selling them in a reasonable amount of time, but people who cling to 2004 or 2005 prices aren’t,” says Richard Smith, president and CEO of Realogy, the parent company of Century 21, ERA, Coldwell Banker and Sotheby‘s International Realty. “If you take into account (bank-owned property) pressures, you’ll sell pretty quickly.”
Competition for bargains
Oakland and nearby San Francisco are two markets where foreclosures have a strong influence.
Nearly three of every 1,000 homeowners in Oakland lost their homes to foreclosure in May, according to Zillow. Foreclosure resales made up 36% of all sales in May, although that’s down from a peak of 66% in March 2009.
Sellers have had to adjust. In June, 20% of the properties for sale in Oakland made price cuts, according to Zillow.com, compared with 15% in May. Drawn by falling prices, young professionals from San Francisco are coming across the bay to snap up homes in Oakland, and most of the stiffest competition for properties is in the top tier, around $808,000.
At that price, sellers in May paid 0.1% less than the asking price, according to Zillow. In all price ranges, they paid 0.3% less than asking price. Based on the median list price, that’s $1,080 less than the last listing price.
But some agents are seeing bidding wars.
“We’re seeing multiple offers; we’re seeing above asking price,” says David Kerr, a ZipRealty agent who represents buyers and sellers in Oakland. “People are buying foreclosures, fixing them up and selling them and getting offers.”
Those who do take foreclosures into account and price their homes right cannot only find a buyer, but sometimes one who will pay well above what they’re asking.
One such buyer was Rosa Verdin, 40, who bought a restored Victorian in north Oakland from a developer in May. The asking price was $450,000, which was well-priced, she says. She and her partner, Kelly Helms, 32, a nurse, offered $50,000 more, outbidding at least two other parties.
“We had been looking for six to eight months,” says Verdin, 40, who works in graphic arts. “The location was centrally located to our work, the house was move-in ready and within our price points. Timing just seemed right, and the decision was relatively easy.”
Not all offers go so smoothly. Even when owners find willing buyers, getting their price isn’t a sure thing. Lenders generally require appraisals before giving a mortgage, and appraisers often take into account what foreclosed properties in the area sell for when determining how much a home is worth. If a home is being sold at too high a price, the sale can fall apart.
“Every day, sales fall apart,” says Leslie Sellers, with the Appraisal Institute. “Smart sellers get appraisals done before they sell the home.”
Even in markets where most sellers are getting just below asking price, some are taking a long time to find a buyer. Glen Cox put his sprawling, five-bedroom Oaklandhome with sweeping views of the bay and Golden Gate bridge up for sale at the end of 2008 for $1.8 million. He’s selling it without a real estate agent. He took it off the market for a while after he got no offers. Today, he’s offering it for $1.695 million.
The house features vaulted ceilings, nine rooms with French doors, travertine balconies and an oak-arbored entry corridor. “There’re not many homes in the $1.5 (million) to $1.6 million range, and mine is nicer than most of them,” Cox says. “If you don’t have the one buyer right away, it can take awhile. It’s a very tough market.”
Neighborhoods buck trend
Other neighborhoods also show just how well good prices pull in successful offers.
In the heart of San Francisco, Noe Valley is home to dot-com millionaires and working professionals. The streets are lined with Edwardian and grand Victorian row houses built in the late 19th century, and the neighborhood, flanked by hills, features an eclectic array of coffee shops, sushi restaurants and lively bookshops.
The real estate market in San Francisco is struggling to regain its footing, with home prices down 0.7% from the third quarter of 2009 to the first quarter of this year. But in Noe Valley, most homes are going just above listing price. In May, homes sold for an average of 0.02% more than the last listing price, according to Zillow.com. Based on median list price, that translates into $218 more.
“It’s crazy,” says Brendon DeSimone, a Realtor with Paragon Real Estate in San Francisco, who represents buyers and sellers in Noe Valley. “I had one house with five offers, and it went from $1.4 million to $1.7 million. The valley has just popped. It’s not uncommon for one open house to have 200 people come through.”
Nationally, the average property takes eight to nine weeks to sell, down from 10 to 11 weeks a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors. In Noe Valley in May, there were 25 listings that sold after averaging five weeks on the market.
But Paul McCickard, who put his home on the market in mid-March, is still waiting for a buyer. So far, he’s had only one offer. His home, priced at $2.149 million, is a 3,400-square-foot Edwardian with four bedrooms, a two-car garage, marble fireplaces, stream showers and a view of the skyline. He says he had to price it at that amount in part because it was an investment property. He bought in 2005, demolished the home and rebuilt it; he needs to pay back the money he owes on the construction — and hopes to make a little profit.
“We’ve invested a lot of money into the house, so it’s a matter of trying to recoup the money. Hopefully, it will sell,” says McCickard, who sells heavy equipment. “There’s been a lot of walk-throughs and a few interested parties, but we’re still waiting.”
Other homes have found buyers, and fast. Charlie Frisbie lost out on his first offer in Noe Valley, so he bid again last year on a two-bedroom Edwardian with an asking price of $998,000. There were a total of 11 offers; he got it at $1.1 million.
“You’re getting the best the city has to offer — transportation, good weather, access to parks,” says Frisbie, 48, an accountant. “Twice this year, homes came for sale on my block, but they didn’t even go on the market — they just sold. Those that do go on the market go substantially over” asking price.
Noe Valley has taken a hit as the overall housing market has tumbled, with home values down 17% from their peak in June 2008, according to Zillow.com. In the neighborhood, about 5% of home sales in March were foreclosure resales.
But Noe Valley remains a hot neighborhood for several reasons. Other neighborhoods such as Pacific Heights and the Marina District have already been in such demand that prices are often out of reach for younger families, DeSimone says. Noe Valley remains more affordable but still has the kind of row houses desired by families.
It’s also closer to Silicon Valley than other neighborhoods in northern San Francisco, which shaves off about 20 to 30 minutes of commuting time (Google and Apple both have bus stops in Noe Valley). And many buyers want historic Victorians, so demand for homes in the neighborhood is strong.
That’s why, when homes are priced well, they can set off a bidding frenzy — even in an anemic real estate market.
What They Say About Brendon
“Brendon did not miss a beat. He stayed on top of everyone and everything and always had things done before I even knew it had to get done.”
“Brendon has phenomenal real estate knowledge, expertise and energy. He expertly marketed and sold my property with fantastic results.”
“Brendon approaches things in a different way. I would not have closed on my home without him.”
“Brendon is personable, knowledgeable, and straightforward. I always knew what to expect.”
“I learned more during a one-hour phone call with Brendon than I did working with 2 agents over six months. His knowledge and expertise go far beyond other Realtors.”
“Brendon can spot a great opportunity that most might either miss or not understand as an opportunity.”
“Brendon treats the buying or selling of your home like it’s his own.”
“Brendon’s marketing plan was right on target. Thanks to his advice, we got top dollar for our property.”
“Brendon created a winning situation for everyone involved. This ultimately saved the day.”
“Brendon DeSimone has phenomenal energy and real estate expertise. He expertly marketed and sold my property with fantastic results.”
“Brendon is a true advocate for his clients before, during, and after a transaction.”
“Brendon helped us to see our home in the eyes of a potential buyer. It was hard to be objective but I trusted his advice and it paid off, big time.”