Articles Featuring Brendon

FOX Business How to Win a Real Estate Bidding War

Brendon DeSimone, Zillow’s real estate expert, says the first step in winning a bidding war is having a local real estate agent that is knowledgeable and respected in the neighborhood. “A good agent that knows the neighborhood makes it easier,” he says DeSimone. “People like to work with who they know.”

The housing market has come a long way since it crashed in 2008, and while many markets are still struggling to gain traction, others have not only recovered, but are thriving and experiencing bidding wars.

Buyers throughout the country, including areas in California and Florida, are finding themselves competing for the same home. Having multiple buyers interested in a home will drive the price up, but these wars are not being sparked by surging sales like in the past, today, they are a result of smaller supply.

Bidding wars can be a sign the housing market is moving in the right direction, but it doesn’t mean potential buyers have to overpay to win a home. There are strategic ways to not only play a bidding war, but emerge victorious without breaking the bank. Here’s how.

Tip No.1: Hire a Local Agent

Some bidding wars are sparked because the seller prices the home below market value, which will attract numerous buyers.

Brendon DeSimone, Zillow’s real estate expert, says the first step in winning a bidding war is having a local real e state agent that is knowledgeable and respected in the neighborhood. “A good agent that knows the neighborhood makes it easier,” he says DeSimone. “People like to work with who they know.”

According to DeSimone, sellers’ agents prefer to work with familiar agents, which can give you an advantage if all the bids are in the same range. He says the seller will be more likely to work with the buyer with the known agent simply because there will be peace of mind that the transaction will be complete.

Tip No. 2: Be prepared

Sellers want a quick and hassle-free selling process, and being fully prepared for the process before making a bid could mean the difference between your offer falling to the bottom or shooting to the top of the pile. Experts suggest getting preapproved for the mortgage and having the confirmation in writing, and be willing to offer up more money when making the offer.

DeSimone says people usually offer 3% of the asking price in good faith money when making a bid, but higher offers show you are serious about buying the home. “If you put up $1,000 for a $300,000 home they aren’t going to take you seriously,” says he says. “After accepting an offer so much can happen; you want to make sure to present an offer that is clean and solid including vigorous earnest money.”

Mike Litzner, broker and owner of CENTURY 21 American Homes, says an all cash offer is a strong move to win a bidding war, but since that’s not an option for many of us, he says simply putting more money toward the down payment will show seriousness and help secure a mortgage easier. “The bigger the cash down payment shows strength,” says Litzner.

Tip No. 3: Move Quickly

A sure way to stand apart from multiple offers is to move quickly.

Be proactive about the inspection process. Normally it takes two or three weeks to secure one, but if you line an inspector and appraiser ahead of time it can slash weeks off the process and make you more appealing as a buyer.

Experts also suggest speeding up the mortgage process by requesting  your mortgage broker facilitate a quicker closing.

According to Litzner, the buyer has to understand what is important to the seller and cater to that. For instance if the seller needs to complete a deal prior to the start of the school year then offer an August closing date. “Making sure you can meet the terms can give you a little edge,” he says.

Tip No.4: Know Your Threshold

It’s easy to get swept up in a bidding war leaving you paying too much for a house. To avoid this, DeSimone at Zillow recommends identifying your top price before the bids even start rolling out.  “You have to know what it’s worth and don’t get emotionally tied to it. You can’t forget about what happened four years ago.”

FOX Business Five Emotional Mistakes to Avoid in the Home-Selling Journey

“What the owner thinks is great about the property isn’t valuable to everyone,” says Brendon DeSimone, a real estate expert. He adds it is common for sellers to overprice their home based on certain characteristics, have it sit on the market for months and then sell it as soon as they bring down the price.


Home is where the heart is, but when it’s time to sell it, it pays to be a bit cold blooded. The home-selling process is filled with negotiations and paper work, and letting emotions play a role will only cost sellers money.

Here are five expert-identified emotional mistakes that home sellers make that cost them money.

Mistake No.1: Not Detaching From the Home

Your home is where you raised your kids, threw birthday parties and hosted countless family dinners, but it’s vital you start perceiving it as a product you need to unload.

“People don’t treat selling a home as a business decision. They let emotions run wild,” says Michael Corbett, Trulia’s real estate expert and author. “It becomes more about their personal experiences.” Detaching from the home allows you to be more realistic about what the house is worth, which makes it easier to sell.

Mistake No.2: Overpricing Your Pride

You may think you have the best view on the block or the nicest flower garden in town, but buyers may not agree enough to pay extra for such enhancements.

“What the owner thinks is great about the property isn’t valuable to everyone,” says Brendon DeSimone, a Zillow blog contributor and real estate expert. He adds it is common for sellers to overprice their home based on certain characteristics, have it sit on the market for months and then sell it as soon as they bring down the price.

Mistake No. 3: Taking Offers Personally

An offer is an offer–even if it’s lower than what your wanted.

Getting a low offer doesn’t mean you should reject it outright and refuse to engage in any more negotiations with the offender.

“A lot of home sellers are personally insulted if someone doesn’t see the same value,” says Corbett. “When you get a lowball offer, take the emotions out of it and counter back in a professional, business-like way.”  Regardless of the amount, Corbett suggests always countering it to keep the house in play.

Mistake No. 4: Displaying Personal Items

You may be proud of your collection of moose heads or the 15 pictures of your grandchildren, but experts say nothing turns buyers off more than too many personal items adorning the walls and cluttering up a house.

When it comes time to show the house, make it as neutral as possible: take down pictures, photos, trophies and anything on bookshelves and counters that aren’t necessary.

“The seller needs to pretend they are the buyer and do whatever they need to see it through the buyer’s eyes,” says Corbett.

Mistake No. 5: Ignoring Agent’s Advice  

For the most part, real estate agents know what they are doing, and if you find yourself fighting every piece of advice or guidance they share, like home value, clean-up tips and repairs, that may be a sign you aren’t ready to sell.

“Take a step back if you aren’t emotionally ready then don’t sell,” DeSimone says.

ABC News Pennsylvania Company Tells Condo Owners: Rent or Leave

Brendon DeSimone, a real estate expert at, said one lesson to be learned is that people who are considering buying a condo need to ask the property owners or managers what the long-term strategy is for the condos. He also advises that potential buyers be patient when it comes to buying into a development that has more renters than owners.
“I always caution someone buying from a developer without having the balance of apartments sold yet,” he said. “I would rather buy resale or the last couple sold.

ABC 13 Toledo, OH Gardens Do More Than Just Flourish for These Upscale Properties

According to real estate agent Brendon DeSimone, “nearly every home buyer considers the outdoors in some way as a requirement for a property they’re considering.”

Cnbc How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Mortgage Fraud

It is important to know the local market, according to real estate expert Brendon DeSimone. He recommends going on the Internet and using such sites as Zillow, a real estate information marketplace with details on more than 100 million U.S. homes.

The threat of foreclosure looms over Americans who can no longer afford to own their home, but for prospective home buyers, there is more to worry about than just purchasing a home with an affordable mortgage. According to the FBI, another risk in this depressed housing market is falling victim to mortgage fraud schemes.

Charles and Sherry Mitchell of Independence. Ky., learned the hard way. They purchased their dream home from homebuilder Bill Erpenbeck only to discover they were victims of his mortgage fraud scheme that netted him a 30-year prison sentence. Just months after they moved into their new home, the Mitchells discovered there were two liens filed against the property by frustrated subcontractors who did the work for Erpenbeck. The liens totaled more than $20,000.

Erpenbeck was a homebuilder with a good reputation, but in actuality he cheated homebuyers out of $34 million, investigators said. At real estate closings, instead of paying back construction loans that would clear title to the property, Erpenbeck deposited checks from the homebuyers directly into his company’s account. The Mitchells, along with more than 250 other homeowners, were left with additional mortgages that they were responsible for, putting them at the risk of unexpected foreclosure. For the Mitchells, the purchase of their dream home quickly became a nightmare.

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Although there has been a rise in mortgage fraud schemes in recent years, there are things you can do to prevent becoming a victim.

According to Claude Szyfer, a commercial litigator who specializes in all forms of real estate proceedings, the first thing to watch for is requests for cash payments from contractors, real estate agents or other parties. All money transactions should be paid out of the established escrow account, a deposit account maintained by a lender to make tax and insurance payments for the borrower, he said.

Szyfer says homebuyers need to be smart borrowers.

“There should always be loan disclosures that are provided to you,” he said.

He also recommends using the Federal Trade Commission’s website before entering into any mortgage transactions. It provides tips and early warning signs to look out for.

Not only is it important to understand the mortgage agreement ahead of time, it is important to know the local market, according to real estate expert Brendon DeSimone. He recommends going on the Internet and using such sites as Zillow, a real estate information marketplace with details on more than 100 million U.S. homes.

The real estate agent who helps you with your search is also important.

“Find a reputable agent who is local, who knows the customs of that market,” DeSimone said.

On Zillow you can find consumer reviews of more than 120,000 real estate agents to help buyers find the right agent for them. A qualified agent could make the process more manageable.

DeSimone also says there are ways to avoid being scammed when the deal closes.

“You should never be handing money directly to a seller,” DeSimone said. “There should always be a third party handling the transaction—an escrow agent or attorney.”

Charles and Sherry Mitchell’s nightmare finally ended after years of court proceedings. The bank that allowed the illegal deposits in the first place paid off the construction mortgages that Erpenbeck had left on their home.

Erpenbeck is now behind bars. He pleaded guilty to bank fraud and obstruction of justice and in 2004 was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

To hear the full story of Bill Erpenbeck, watch “American Greed” Wednesday at 10 p.m. Eastern/Pacific on CNBC.

© 2012

The Street Beware of Value Killing Home Renovations

“Swimming pools and landscaping can both backfire,” says Brendon DeSimone, a Realtor in California and New York and blog contributor for online real estate database Zillow(Z) who has been featured on the HGTV television shows Curb AppealBang for Your Buck and My House is Worth What?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

That old adage should be a warning for homeowners. What you do to a home — in terms of renovations, furnishings and additions — is all well and good while you sleep under its roof. But if you plan to sell, your efforts could diminish rather than boost its selling price.

A miniature backyard skate park, indoor basketball court or basement lounge complete with a stripper pole and smoke machine are the sorts of extravagances that may not directly push down your home value, but could nevertheless drive away prospective buyers or provide room for them to haggle down the price. A bright pink paint job and lawn cluttered with gnomes and flamingos is going to offer little in the way of curb appeal. That koi pond you love so much may be just a headache for a new owner.

“Swimming pools and landscaping can both backfire,” says Brendon DeSimone, a Realtor in California and New York and blog contributor for online real estate database Zillow(Z) who has been featured on the HGTV television shows Curb Appeal, Bang for Your Buck and My House is Worth What?

“They are nice to have because they show really well and will lure buyers in,” he explains. “But when buyers are assessing pros and cons of the home or comparing it to other homes, the upkeep — or safety, in the case of the pool — will factor in. Some people just may not want to sign up for having to do landscaping or pay the landscaper. So while a swimming pool or beautiful manicured lawn might reel in potential buyers, eventually those things could turn them off. Gardening and over-the-top landscaping is for a very specific buyer.”

There are always exceptions to be had if the right buyer comes along. A pool in warm-weather Arizona or Southern California is certainly more attractive than one at a home in Maine where it gets only a fraction of the annual use.

Jacuzzis and whirlpools are other luxuries that can be a hit or a miss for sellers. A young couple may love the additions; a family with small children may see them as a waste of space and potential hazard.

Renovating your basement, attic or garage into an additional room? That man cave or spare bedroom may fit your lifestyle, but buyers may lament the lack of storage space and place to park their car. A basement or dormer apartment may run contrary to local zoning and be a red flag during a home inspection. Converting a bedroom into an office may appeal to a work-at-home buyer, but eliminating that bedroom in the eyes of local assessors will decrease your home’s value.

External additions can be problematic if your bigger and better house is out of character with the surrounding neighborhood in size and style. It can be even worse if your do-it-yourself project lacks professional polish. Even more modest improvements — such as doors, windows or awnings — can hurt if they don’t match your home’s architectural style.

The National Association of Realtors and Remodeling magazine publisher Hanley Wood surveys remodeling and exterior replacement projects as part of its annual Remodeling Cost vs. Value report.

Overall, the 2011-12 report estimates that homeowners would recoup an average of 57.7% of their investment in 35 different improvement projects, down from an average of 60% last year.

According to the report, seven of the top 10 most cost-effective projects — nationally, in terms of value recouped — are exterior replacement projects. It deemed fiber-cement siding replacement as the project expected to return the most value, with an estimated 78% of costs recouped upon resale. Vinyl siding projects were expected to return more than 69% of costs.

Steel entry door replacement was the least expensive project in the report, costing little more than $1,200 on average, and was expected to recoup 73% of costs.

Garage door replacements have seen prices fall more than 15% nationally and can be expected to return more than 71% of the cost. A “midrange attic bedroom” is expected to return 72.5% of costs upon resale, in part because it is “the least expensive way to add a bedroom and bathroom within a home’s existing footprint.” A minor kitchen remodel (budgeted at roughly $20,000) is expected to recoup 72.1% of costs. A wood deck addition is expected to make back 70.1% of its price tag.

Among the least cost-returning projects are a sunroom addition and home office remodeling, both estimated to recoup less than 46% of what they cost.

Where you live can affect the return on these renovation investments, and the value of specific projects can vary region by region.

The Pacific region (Alaska, Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington) has the highest average cost-value ratio in the country, at 71.3%, “largely because the high cost of remodeling in the region is more than offset by high values at resale,” according to the report. Mid-Atlantic states averaged a return of 56.8% and East North Central states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin) recouped an average of 55.3%. West North Central states (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota) saw the least amount of return, with 49.5%.

While fireplaces have traditionally been in demand, even they may be slipping in popularity. In 2009, a consumer preference survey from the National Association of Home Builders ranked fireplaces as No. 1 on a list of what NAR called Home Fads That Are Falling Out of Style. Also sliding from favor are carpeted floors and vinyl and ceramic flooring (hardwood has become more desirable) and “upscale kitchen finishes” as granite countertops gradually give way to low-maintenance, more durable laminate countertops.

DeSimone cautions homeowners against relying on add-ons and renovations to improve the value of their property when more fundamental concerns should be a focus.

“First and foremost, a seller should make sure their home is well-maintained and that it looks well-maintained,” he says. “Before a seller starts making improvements like adding new energy-efficient windows — which are nice to have, but not something a buyer would truly care that much about — I recommend they make sure the structural integrity of the house is sound. For example, if there is dry rot on the back deck or some issue with the roof or the foundation, these things need to be addressed, otherwise knowing that type of flaw exists will scare buyers off. It is not uncommon that a seller would have to spend $15,000 on dry rot just so that they can say the property is well-maintained.”

“It’s hard to put a value on this type of improvement since the sellers aren’t really getting their money back,” he adds. “But ultimately the value we’re talking about with this type of improvement is getting a buyer to write an offer on your place sooner than later and not having your home on the market for months and having a series of price reductions, which end up killing the value.”

Realtor The Question You Don’t Want From Buyers: What’s the Square Footage?

The Zillow Blog recently featured an interesting article by real estate pro Brendon DeSimone about how advertising the square footage of a home can derail a deal. It may make you rethink featuring the square footage on your listings.

There are no universal methods to measuring square footage, according to DeSimone. As such, the numbers in measuring a home’s size can sometimes get skewed–even appraisers may arrive at different figures. A city’s tax records may not offer up an accurate picture either, since it may omit renovations and expansions made to the property over the years. And the square footage listed on records pulled from architectural drawings of the home are considered “wall out” measurements, including the entire space to the exterior wall. Once the walls are in place, the square footage will likely be lower.

As DeSimone notes in the article, “dozens of lawsuits make it to court, and tens of thousands of dollars are spent arguing over as little as 50 square feet.”

If you feel a need to list the square footage for a home you’re trying to sell, you’d be wise to add a disclaimer like “appraiser’s estimation” or “per tax records,” DeSimone suggests.

Have you ever had a square footage dispute unravel one of your deals?


Curbed “How do I find out if someone died in my house?”

Zillow Blog author Brendon Desimone recently came across a message board in which a user asked, “How do I find out if someone died in my house?” He’s answering the query in a blog post today, advising, “If you’re the seller, the best practice is to disclose any known deaths that occurred on the property.” Yikes!

Bankrate “How do I find out if someone died in my house?”

Zillow Blog author Brendon Desimone recently came across a message board in which a user asked, “How do I find out if someone died in my house?” He’s answering the query in a blog post today, advising, “If you’re the seller, the best practice is to disclose any known deaths that occurred on the property.” Yikes!


Bankrate Check Out HOA Finances Before Buying a Condo

Thanks to the economic downturn, condominium prices are dropping across the country. But if the homeowners association is in the red, a condo that looks like a steal can quickly become a money pit, leaving buyers on the hook for a lot more than they had bargained.

Why knowing your HOA mattersHere’s how buyers can protect themselves before they sign on the dotted line.

Buying a condo isn’t like buying a home, says attorney Roger Winston of Ballard Spahr’s Bethesda, Md., office. Where individual homeowners must deal with costs associated with their property, condo owners delegate that duty to a homeowners association, or HOA, which has the power to collect dues, make special assessments and spend money for routine upkeep and special projects.

Of course, the money in the homeowners association’s coffers belongs to those who own units in the condo, and how that money is managed should be just as important to a buyer as the asking price.

“You see a lot of great deals on condos right now,” Winston says. “But given the current financial environment, you have to do your due diligence on the HOA to make sure you aren’t buying into a situation you can’t afford.”

What can go wrong?

According to Winston, buyers can find themselves paying for a lot more than they expected if the HOA is unable to maintain the building. Expenses can include covering dues for unsold units, shared utilities and special assessments to fix faulty construction. Those are real possibilities in cases where the developer went broke and a bank took over the building.

In other cases, when banks foreclose on condo owners during a recession, and there are fewer unit owners paying dues, solvent owners might catch their HOAs reducing services in the building, such as pool maintenance and janitorial work, to cut costs.

Ideally, an HOA’s reserve fund would cover the deficiency, but the wave of undersold buildings, individualforeclosures, bank-owned buildings and personal bankruptcies has left many condo owners with larger than expected HOA dues and special assessments.

What a buyer is entitled to
While the terminology and procedures vary by state, virtually every jurisdiction provides a mechanism for giving the buyer access to an HOA’s financials, whether the buyer gets it directly from the HOA or via the seller. Typically, that information will include the HOA’s balance sheet, yearly revenue from HOA dues, the reserve fund balance, notice of any pending lawsuits and information on recent assessments, as well as what percentage of units are behind on their dues.

Getting that information isn’t hard, says Winston. The trouble is that most buyers don’t fully understand what they find.

“There isn’t a Good Housekeeping Seal of approval for condos,” Winston says. “And unfortunately, there’s no easy, economical way to look at the financials and figure out if the HOA is in good shape.”

But there are warning signs, says Allison Scollar, a real estate lawyer at Guzov Ofsink in New York.

“Buyers should be looking for a steady financial picture,” Scollar says. “Big yearly spikes and dips in spending are good signs the building is in trouble.”

Scollar says that emergency borrowing by the HOA and frequent special assessments are huge red flags. She also says a building with a high percentage of renters is a bad sign because the owners of those units don’t have the same incentive to maintain the building.

Another good indicator is whether the HOA has done a study to determine if its reserve fund is adequate, says Brendon DeSimone, a Realtor Associate at Paragon Real Estate Group in San Francisco. Such surveys are a hallmark of well-run associations, he says.

But whether you’re an expert or a novice, reading financial documents can only get you so far. Winston advises that buyers take time to talk to as many people in the building to get a sense of how well the HOA is run.

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.”

Emma G

“Brendon has phenomenal real estate knowledge, expertise and energy. He expertly marketed and sold my property with fantastic results.”

Bevan Dufty, San Francisco Supervisor

“Brendon approaches things in a different way. I would not have closed on my home without him.”

Heather Marlow

“Brendon is personable, knowledgeable, and straightforward. I always knew what to expect.”

Merle Coffelt

“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.”

Peter G

“Brendon can spot a great opportunity that most might either miss or not understand as an opportunity.”

Heather Marlow

“Brendon treats the buying or selling of your home like it’s his own.”

Dan and Nina Scherotter

“Brendon’s marketing plan was right on target. Thanks to his advice, we got top dollar for our property.”

Bevan Dufty, San Francisco Supervisor

“Brendon created a winning situation for everyone involved. This ultimately saved the day.”

Adam B

“Brendon DeSimone has phenomenal energy and real estate expertise. He expertly marketed and sold my property with fantastic results.”

Bevan Dufty, San Francisco City Supervisor

“Brendon is a true advocate for his clients before, during, and after a transaction.”

Scott W

“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.”

Heidi P