Real Estate Marketing

We had a great turnout today for our Massachusetts Real Estate Market Report, again presented and moderated by veteran real estate reporter Scott Van Voorhis of Banker & Tradesman and Boston.com. Scott writes for the well-known Boston.com Real Estate Now Blog which is an invaluable resource.

For this installment, we added a little twist, holding a panel discussion and interactive Q&A with Ali Corton of Real Estate Executives Boston West, Chuck Silverston of Prudential Unlimited in Brookline and Dee Reddington of Bank of Canton. Ali was representing the ‘burbs. Chuck was representing the urban, Boston-Brookline market, and Dee was giving the lender perspective. We were live tweeting the event at Twitter #marealestate where you can check out the live stream.

Some take-aways from the presentation and discussion were as follows:

  • As reported just about everywhere, the Massachusetts real estate market remains very strong
  • Year over year, 16% increase in both sales volume and sales prices
  • The government shutdown has had no demonstrative effect on the market, nor on the lending environment
  • Lack of buildable land, desirability of the Greater Boston market (as always) has resulted in high demand, low inventory environment.
  • Inventory is down 30% over 2012 (which was down over 2011), putting upward pressure on prices and demand. Bidding wars common for well-priced, good quality homes in desirable communities. This is creating a frenzied dis-equilibirum in certain markets which isn’t necessarily healthy.
  • The low inventory is the “new normal.” Get used to it.
  • Interest rates are forecast to dip down a bit heading into spring market 2014, with eventual rise through the remainder of 2014 and 2015.  Overall, the interest rate environment remains very favorable to buyers and the market as a whole.
  • First time home buyers must be open to fixer-uppers and not updated homes. Otherwise, they will be in very tough competition for move-in condition homes in the good towns.
  • Lenders are doing loans for low credit (FICO 620 range) borrowers. ARMs making comeback.
  • Chuck pointed out the “Patriot Effect” for open houses on Sundays. People are staying home to watch the game. Advises trying open houses on Saturdays.
  • Ali Corton says that Metrowest sellers are routinely getting asking price or very close to that right now, and will continue to do so while inventory remains low

We are interested in hearing your thoughts on today’s market. Feel free to post your comments below!

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MA real estate agent independent contractor law

Fate of Long-Standing Massachusetts Brokerage Model Hangs In Balance

As first reported by David Frank in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, the critical question of whether real estate agents are governed by the state’s strict independent contractor law, which would entitle agents to minimum wage, overtime and benefits, is headed to the Appeals Court. According to Hillary Schwab, the attorney to a group of real estate agents who filed suit against Jacob Realty in Boston, “this is the first case in Massachusetts where the concept of employment misclassification and the real estate industry have ever been dealt with in the same opinion.” An unfavorable result at the Appeals Court would essentially turn the Massachusetts real estate brokerage model upside-down, as it has historically operated with agents considered independent contractors and paid on a commission-only basis. If brokerages were required to pay their agents minimum and overtime wages and provide all the statutory benefits afforded to employees, the real estate office as we know it would likely cease to exist.

Jacob Realty Agents Required To Adhere to Dress Code, Mandatory Office Hours

The Appeals Court will consider the case of Monell, et al. v. Boston Pads, LLC, (embedded below) brought by a group of disgruntled real estate agents at Jacob Realty. According to Curbed Boston, Jacob Realty is part of a larger network of Boston rental companies (Jacob Realty, NextGen Realty and Boardwalk Properties) with 150 rental agents, making them one of the largest rental offices in Boston.

As is customary in the industry, Jacob Realty classified the agents as independent contractors, paying them on a commission-only basis and making them responsible for payment of their own taxes and monthly desk fees. At the start of their employment, the agents signed non-disclosure, non-solicitation and non-compete agreements. They had to own day planners, obtain a cellphone with a “617” area code, adhere to a dress code, submit to mandatory office hours and to various disciplinary actions if they did not meet their productivity goals.

Lower Court Rules In Favor of Broker

Superior Court Judge Robert Cosgrove issued a ruling on July 15, 2013 that the agents should be considered independent contractors and not employees under the Massachusetts Real Estate Brokerage Act. But Cosgrove said it was difficult to read the brokerage law and independent contractor law consistently. The real estate statute explicitly provides that an agent may either be an employee or an independent contractor, he noted. In the same sentence, the law reiterates that agents must remain under the auspices of a broker. In contrast, the judge wrote, the independent contractor statute requires salespeople to be free from the control and direction of employers in order to be correctly classified as an independent contractor.

The problem arises when brokerages, such as Jacob Realty, ask its agents to do many of the things traditional employees must adhere to, such as required office hours, dress code, and performance benchmarks. This is especially so where courts have, in the last few years, strictly interpreted the independent contractor and wage laws in other industries. The more requirements imposed on agent, the more likely they should be treated as employees and not independent contractors, the argument goes.

What’s Next?

The case now heads up to the Massachusetts Appeals Court, and perhaps even the SJC — where the stakes will be much higher. This case is very hard to handicap because, as I said before, the courts as well as state and federal labor agencies have really been cracking down with the independent contractor law in favor of employees. Rest assured, I’ll be monitoring this case. I expect the MAR and GBREB will file friend of the court briefs and take a further appeal if there’s an unfavorable result. There will surely be lobbying efforts at the Legislature to preserve the historical independent contractor brokerage model.

Monell v. Boston Pads

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Lara Gordon, Coldwell Banker

Put Your Best Offer Forward & Get Pre-Approved Beforehand, Advise Local Experts

Well, it’s official now. With buyers back in droves, an abnormally low inventory of good properties, and bidding wars popping up all over the place, the Greater Boston real estate market has now made full circle into a seller’s market. As the Boston Globe recently wrote, the market is “desperately seeking sellers.”

images-11For prospective buyers in a seller’s market, the strategies to succeed and find your dream home are very different from just a year or two ago. To help you navigate these unfamiliar waters, I’ve asked Cambridge-Somerville Realtor, Lara Gordon of Coldwell Banker, and Brian Cavanaugh, Senior Mortgage Banker at RMS Mortgage, to join me in this “round-table” discussion about how buyers can succeed in a seller’s market. Lara and Brian were both featured in this month’s Boston Magazine Best Places to Live 2013.

Q: Laura, what are you seeing out there on the streets in terms of inventory, pricing, and respective bargaining power between buyers and sellers? Has the tide really shifted back to sellers?

A: (Lara Gordon) Yes—in a very big way. When sellers have 5-10 offers to choose from, which is typical for most listings in Cambridge & Somerville right now, they are really setting the terms, and some buyers are willing to accommodate just about any request they make, from waiving the inspection to offering a sale-and-lease-back if the seller needs time to find a new place. My listing at 27 Osgood Street, Unit 7 in Somerville (pictures to the right) is a good example — 6 bids.

Q:  Lara, I’m hearing about bidding wars on well-priced, good condition properties. What are you seeing out there, and what’s your best advice on getting that winning bid?

A: (Lara Gordon) I always tell my buyer clients this: if you know you’re going into a multiple offer situation, you should put your best foot forward from the start. Some people feel nervous about coming in high on their offer, thinking they need to leave some room to come up during negotiations, but that is a mistake. If a seller receives one offer that is significantly stronger than the others, they may well accept it without going back for a “best and final” round.

lr-mls

And again, price is just one aspect of the offer, so have a good pre-approval from a respected lender, do the best you can with the downpayment, be willing to work with sellers’ preferred dates, and make sure your agent is “selling” you as a knowledgeable buyer, reasonable to deal with, and committed to seeing the transaction through.

Q:  What do buyers need to do in terms of making their best and most competitive offer? Are we back to buyer’s writing a personal appeal to sellers and that sort of thing? 

A: (Lara Gordon) Some buyers do write letters to sellers, but it’s the list agent’s job to keep them focused on the strengths of the respective offers, so an emotional appeal really only gets a buyer so far. Buyers really need to put their best foot forward. This starts with price, downpayment, a solid pre-approval from a respected lender, tight contingency dates and as much as possible accommodating the sellers’ preferred timeframe for closing. Beyond that, list agents and sellers are looking for a deal that will proceed smoothly and will “stick” through closing, so buyers’ agents really need to “sell” their clients as educated on the market, realistic about the home inspection and committed to seeing the deal through.

Q:  Brian, I hear that buyers are coming to you at all hours and weekends for pre-approvals. When buyers come to you for mortgage approval, what sort of documentation should they have ready to go and how quickly can you close loans these days?

ex-mlsA: (Cavanaugh). Well, I’ll start off by staying that the pendulum has definitely swung around. When the market favored buyers, you would go look for houses, get an offer accepted then go to your mortgage banker for an approval. Now it’s the other way around. You need a mortgager approval in hand when you are out looking for homes. And that means from the start you need a very firm grasp on exactly what you can afford, how much to put down, etc. You need to work with a mortgage banker with a strong grasp of Fannie and Freddie guidelines.

As for the paperwork, you need 2 years of tax return and W2’s, 30 days of pay-stubs, one year of bank statements, statements for your 401ks, IRAs, and investment accounts. A lot of first time buyers use gifts of downpayment from their parents, which are particularly tricky. I tell them to get those monies into your account ASAP. You will need a gift letter executed by all parties involved and verification of funds.

Currently, we can close a single family loan in 45 days, and a condo purchase in about 60 days, since condo mortgages require more extensive FNMA approval.

Q:  How much are sellers looking at buyers’ financing? Are cash buyers winning out over financed buyers? What are the ways to ensure a seller that a financed buyer is of no greater risk that a cash buyer?

A: (Lara Gordon) Cash is definitely an advantage in that it takes one element of risk out of the equation. For sellers in a rush to close, a cash deal is also appealing because it can close a lot faster than when a lender is involved. But if timing isn’t a big deal and there are good comps for the property, there’s no reason a seller shouldn’t consider a good offer from a buyer who will finance. Of course, the size of the downpayment has become increasingly important as bidding wars drive prices up and appraisals become a concern.

Q: How are you dealing with contingencies in a seller’s market? Are buyers waiving inspection or even financing?
A: (Lara Gordon) There are certainly buyers out there waiving both financing and inspection contingencies, but it’s not always a good idea. While it’s fine for buyers to waive the financing contingency if they’re prepared to pay cash, I personally, would never advise someone to forego a home inspection. The key is to approach it as educational and a way out in case of a major issue, and not as a tool for renegotiating the price.

A: (Vetstein) I’m going to weigh in on this topic as it deals with legal issues. I would STRONGLY advise a financed buyer to resist the temptation to waive the financing contingency in the hope that it will make an offer more attractive. In this day and age of strict underwriting and frequent delays, this is simply a recipe for losing your deposit. I don’t care if a handful of lenders have told you that your file is a slam dunk — you could get laid off a few weeks before close and you’d be DOA for the closing. Same goes for the inspection contingency. Sellers know that buyers want to check the home’s bones beforehand. Trust me, it will cost you a lot more money down the line if you wind up buying equivalent of the “Money Pit.” Tightening the deadlines, that’s fine. Waiving them, that’s just asinine.

A: (Cavanaugh) I would echo Rich’s sentiments. In this day and age of tight lending guidelines, I would hate to see a buyer lose his deposit because he was under the assumption that he could qualify for a mortgage he really couldn’t qualify for. Again, talk to your mortgage banker before you make the offer.

Q: Last question guys. I always recommend that my buyers use a Realtor. But please tell the readers exactly why having a Realtor can greatly increase your chances of succeeding in a seller’s market?

A: (Lara Gordon) I’m glad you asked this question, Rich, because some people think that they will do better if they go directly to the list agent, but given the nature of the market right now, it just doesn’t make sense to try to go it alone.

A: (Cavanaugh). When my borrower works with a Realtor, it always makes the transaction run smoothly. I operate under a “team” concept with the agents, so I’m used to constant contact with both the buyer and listing agent to ensure we get access for the appraisal and all the documentation in place for the loan commitment and closing. When there’s a team of professionals involved in a transaction, it’s a win-win for everyone.

A: (Vetstein) A low inventory/seller’s market is precisely why you want a Realtor who knows the market inside out and can be your salesperson/spokesperson on your side. In a market where perception is everything, I think it’s fair to say that a listing agent/seller will take you more seriously if you are working with a top notch Realtor, rather than sauntering solo into an open house in your Bean duck boots. Not to mention that the buyer does not typically pay an agent commission in Massachusetts. Also, selfishly, working with a client with a Realtor is less stressful for the attorney.

Q: Lara and Brian, any final words of wisdom as we head full bore into the busy spring market?

A: (Lara Gordon) I guess I’d just like to acknowledge that this is a tough market for buyers, and I totally understand the stress and frustration many people are feeling. In an ideal world, you’d find a great house, take some time to think things over, maybe visit a few times, then make a fair offer in a non-competitive situation, and you’d have a new home. But buyers need to accept the reality of the market we’re in: we’ve got low inventory and high demand, and you won’t necessarily get the first house you bid on. Maybe not even the second or third. But if you are qualified financially, have realistic expectations, are patient and persistent, and know how to play the game, you will ultimately find a home.

A: (Cavanaugh). I would urge would-be buyers to talk to a mortgage banker as early as possible in the process. We still have near all time mortgage interest rates. Affordability may never be as good as now, so hang in there in terms of bidding wars and a seller’s market. RMS Mortgage is well known brand and people either know me by reputation or have worked with me. So you have some instant credibility with the listing agent who can vouch for a smooth and successful transaction, and that’s very important in this seller’s market.

Thank you to Brian Cavanaugh and Lara Gordon for a great round-table discussion! Lara can be reached at lara.gordon@nemoves.com or 617-245-3939. Lara blogs at Cambridegville. Brian can be reached at brian.cavanaugh@rmsmortgage.com and 617-771-5021. Brian blogs at Smarterborrowing.com.

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redfin-logo-tag-webControversial New Internet Practice Raises Confidentiality Concerns & Realtor® Scorn

The internet based real estate brokerage company, Redfin, is now arming buyers and sellers with insight into the negotiations that take place when the firm’s clients submit winning — and losing — offers to buy a home. On its heavily trafficked website, the Seattle-based brokerage is now displaying “Offer Insights” detailing intimate details of negotiations surrounding offers that Redfin agents submit on listings. Redfin claims that buyers can opt out of the program, and no addresses are revealed before closing. (But, addresses are shown for sold properties).

Here is an example for two properties in Quincy, one where an offer was accepted and one where it was rejected:

redfin offer insights copy

Confidentiality & Ethical Concerns?

From a strategic and marketing perspective, this new idea is certainly creative, as it gives Redfin agents and their potential clients a competitive advantage over other agents and aids in providing transparency in the marketplace. However, posting details about private contractual negotiations raises some thorny legal and ethical concerns, and many non-Redfin listing agents are crying foul.

Some Realtors assert that the details of offer negotiations are private and confidential, and therefore, cannot be disclosed without the consent of all parties to the transaction, especially the seller. I don’t necessarily buy into that. I’m not aware of any legal confidentiality protection given to private contract negotiations — indeed they are 100% discoverable in litigation, at least in Massachusetts. A buyer and seller are in an adversarial position, so there is no special legal relationship between them warranting a duty to keep negotiations private.

I can see why a seller would be very upset to find out that the juicy details of negotiations are posted on the internet for the world to see. A seller may certainly want to know this before entertaining a Redfin offer. Moreover, a seller (and a creative attorney) could manufacture a tortious interference claim if a Redfin Offer Insight proves to interfere with a potential deal with another party. That’s a lawsuit for another day…

MLS Rules and NAR Code of Ethics

Some Realtors say that the Redfin practice violates Multiple Listing Service rules and the NAR Code of Ethics. Multiple listing services have rules for commenting on sites which contain MLS information. A seller may instruct her listing agent to disallow public comments on listings. A Redfin buyer’s agent could be in violation of MLS rules if he leaves remarks about the house or negotiation, according to some non-Redfin agents. It will be up to the particular MLS to enforce its own rules against agents; they have no legal effect per se.

The National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics prohibits Realtors from using confidential information of clients for the Realtor’s advantage or the advantage of third parties unless the clients consent after full disclosure. The catch is that “confidential information” is defined as whatever state law says is confidential.  As I said earlier, private contract negotiations are not legally confidential in Mass., so I’m doubtful this would apply.

In sum, the Redfin Offer Insight feature may well be legal, but tight-walks through the ethical rules governing MLS’s and Realtors. As long as they don’t disclose names or property addresses until the deal closes, I think it’s ok legally (in Massachusetts), and I do appreciate giving buyers as much market information as possible. On the flip side, it may put non-Redfin listing agents at a competitive disadvantage. Maybe that’s why they are crying foul?

Agents, what are your thoughts? Post your comments below.

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RDV-profile-picture-larger-150x150.jpgRichard D. Vetstein, Esq. is a nationally recognized real estate attorney who writes frequently about legal issues facing the real estate industry. He can be reached at info@vetsteinlawgroup.com.

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I thought it would be a good idea to list my Top 10 favorite websites, blogs and other internet sites for real estate. These include law blogs, local and national real estate sites, and even marketing blogs. Feel free to bookmark this post!

1.  HousingWire

This is one of the best national sites for staying up to date on current real estate economic data, mortgage trends, Fed policy, and regulations.

2. Wall Street Journal Developments

You can’t go wrong with the Wall Street Journal, right? Some of the best real estate reporters and commentators contribute to this site. A must read on your Google Reader list.

3. Massachusetts Land Records

This is the main portal into the vast majority of the Massachusetts Registries of Deeds. From here you can look up the deeds, mortgages and liens on virtually any property in the state. If you need a guide to searching the online registry of deeds and a full listing of every registry, read this post.

4. Charles Gate Realty’s Boston Real Estate Blog

I really love this frequently updated blog by the team of tech savvy agents at Charles Gate Realty. It’s also a great resource for rentals which is often ignored in the blogosphere.

5. Agent Genius

An online real estate magazine with a robust editorial staff, covering a wide range of topics, including tech and social media, business news, and also good op-ed pieces.

6. (tie)

SmarterBorrowing.com

Maintained by well-known mortgage banker, Brian Cavanaugh of RMS Mortgage, this is one of the best mortgage lending blogs out there, frequently updated with current news on the mortgage market.

The Massachusetts Mortgage Blog

Written by the extremely knowledgeable David Gaffin of Greenpark Mortgage.

7. Boston.com Real Estate Now Blog

This is Boston.com’s popular real estate blog managed by buyer’s agent, Rona Fishman, and reporter/writer Scott Van Voorhis. The blog has a very active group of trolls commenters who frequently stir up lively debate. Disclaimer: I contribute a weekly post to this blog.

8. Massachusetts Land Use Monitor

The very experienced group of attorneys at the venerable real estate firm of Rackemann, Sawyer are one of the few large firms who blog, and thankfully they do, because they have a wealth of knowledge and information to share. The blog is managed by Donald Pinto, who’s one of the best real estate attorneys in the Commonwealth and a really good guy.

9. Centers & Squares

Real estate agent bloggers and wanna-be’s, pay close attention. This is how you blog. This is a great and frequently updated blog all about “the city squares of Cambridge, Somerville and Medford and the town centers of Arlington, Watertown and Belmont.” Written by Elizabeth Bolton, Realtor.

10. Inman Next Agent

Must read for keeping up with the latest in real estate technology, marketing, and social media. Contributors includes the well-known social media evangelists, Chris Smith and Katie Lance.

Honorable Mentions

Cambridgeville

Another standout blog from the Cambridge-Somerville area. Realtor Lara Gordon is a smart, witty writer who keeps her blog frequently updated with urban gems such as the worst places for bike crashes (Harvard Square, of course!), the Somerville Foodie Crawl, and her own photos of the new Charlestown-Cambridge footbridge (I wish more agents did this).

Living in Sudbury

Formerly a global marketing guru at ESPN, Realtor Gabrielle Daniels is the epitome of sass and sharp real estate writing. OMG, you must read her post, Translating Real Estate Ads: 101. Some Descriptions Will Have You ROFL.

Western Mass Living

Our sole entry west of I-495, Lesley Lambert has been blogging and tweeting forever, mixing posts about the Berkshire County lifestyle with a peek into her personal “Dancing Queen” passion.

Curbed Boston

This is a nationally syndicated blog with a local feel. Recent posts include the opening of Southie’s Gate of Heaven Gym, a new Mexican joint in Brookline and new fixer-upper in Inman Square.

Well, that’s my list. Feel free to add your favorite sites to the comments, and we can expand this list!

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Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is a Massachusetts real estate attorney who is passionate about staying up to date on real estate issues, nationally, regionally and locally.

 

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My kids (ages 9 and 6) are really into Halloween this year, convincing me into spending over $100 on laughing tombstones, zombies and other decorations at iParty over the weekend. I love Halloween, and enjoy when people go all out on decorating their homes.

But what if your house is truly haunted? Or you are a broker trying to sell a home which may have a paranormal past, like the scene of a murder of suicide? How can you protect yourself from buying a haunted house?

In Massachusetts there’s a law for that! Seriously….

Under Massachusetts law, real estate brokers and sellers are under no legal obligation to disclose that a property was the site of a felony, suicide or homicide, or has been the site of an alleged “parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon,” i.e., a haunted house.

Here is the law, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93, section 114:

The fact or suspicion that real property may be or is psychologically impacted shall not be deemed to be a material fact required to be disclosed in a real estate transaction. “Psychologically impacted” shall mean an impact being the result of facts or suspicions including, but not limited to, the following:

(b) that the real property was the site of a felony, suicide or homicide; and

(c) that the real property has been the site of an alleged parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon.

No cause of action shall arise or be maintained against a seller or lessor of real property or a real estate broker or salesman, by statute or at common law, for failure to disclose to a buyer or tenant that the real property is or was psychologically impacted.


Thus, real estate agents have no legal duty to inform buyers that a house has a paranormal past. (I’m sure some agents would so inform their buyers, but legally buyers are on their own to discover these types of stigmas).

Of course in this digital era, an easy way to determine whether a house is truly “haunted” is to Google the property address and the last few prior owners and see what comes up. If there was a murder or suicide–or even ghosts– it should reveal itself. Of course you can always hire Ghostbusters.

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Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is a Massachusetts real estate attorney. He is debating between dressing up as Darth Vader or the Pirate Jack Sparrow this Halloween.

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Are There Liability Concerns For Accepting Back Up Offers?

My colleague Rona Fischman at the Boston.com Real Estate Now Blog had an intriguing question on the legalities surrounding accepting back-up offers. This question is especially timely with the rise of bidding wars in the Greater Boston real estate market. Rona asks:

I have been told that a back up offer cannot be presented to a seller because it is inducement to interfere with a contract in place (the accepted offer.) I have also been told that a back up offer must be presented, forthwith, like any other offer. Since I never list property, I don’t know which one is true. Can you give a legal and practical explanation for the blog?

Answer:  I do not believe that merely soliciting and presenting a back-up offer can give rise to a legal claim for interference with contractual relations as long as the seller does not break the existing contract with the buyer. Moreover, I believe that real estate agents have a legal and ethical obligation to present to their seller clients all offers made on the property, but it is the seller’s preference whether or not to solicit back up offers once he has already accepted an offer.

What Is a Back-Up Offer?

For those who do not know, a back-up offer is an offer made after the seller has already accepted and signed an offer to purchase with a buyer, in the hopes that the first offer will fall through and the seller will select the back-up offer. It is the seller’s decision whether to accept back-up offers at all. Back-up offers are common in bidding wars where there is frenzied competition for a well-priced property. Most buyers who submit a back-up offer will continue with their home search because the probability that their back-up offer is ultimately accepted is usually a long-shot.

Unlawful Interference with Contract?

Rona is worried that accepting back-up offers could expose an agent to liability for interfering with an existing contract. I don’t think she has much to worry about unless the seller tries to cancel the existing deal without legal right.

In the real estate context, the requirements to make out a valid claim for unlawful “interference with contractual relations” are the following:

  • There must be an accepted and signed offer to purchase between the buyer and seller which is sufficient to form an enforceable contract under Massachusetts law;
  • The competing buyer (making the back-up offer) must have knowledge of the contract;
  • The competing buyer must have intentionally induced or persuaded the seller not to perform its contractual obligations, i.e, not proceed with the transaction;
  • The interference was improper in motive or means; and
  • The plaintiff was legally harmed.

Under this legal definition, there is liability only where the seller unlawfully breaks the existing offer/contract with the first buyer. As a general matter, merely submitting a back-up offer (and not formally accepting it) will not support a legal claim because there has been no breach of the first contract.

A thornier question is what happens if the seller tries to wriggle his way out of the first offer in favor of a better offer? Those are the situations which often result in litigation and the filing of a lis pendens. I would advise any seller and their agent to consult an attorney before they try to break an offer or purchase and sale agreement with a buyer. On the other hand, if a buyer loses his financing and cannot proceed with the transaction, and therefore has defaulted on his contractual obligations, then it may be clear to accept a back up offer. It is always the prudent course to obtain a release and waiver from the first buyer before dealing with a back-up offer. I cannot stress this enough.

What Are Realtors’ Legal & Ethical Duties With Back-up Offers?

There are no specific legal rules surrounding back-up offers. The regulations governing real estate agents in Massachusetts provide that “All offers submitted to brokers or salespeople to purchase or rent real property that they have a right to sell or rent shall be conveyed forthwith to the owner of such real property.” If a listing agent is a Realtor©, they have an additional ethical obligation to “continue to submit to the seller all offers and counter-offers until closing … unless the seller has waived this obligation in writing.”

Back-up offers are on a slightly different footing than offers made while the property is still actively listed. I would say that if a prospective buyer makes an unsolicited back-up offer, that offer must be conveyed to the seller regardless of whether or not she has decided to accept back-up offers. The agent should not make the decision to decline an offer for the client. The seller may, of course, decide to not solicit back-up offers or to solicit them. Such a decision should be noted on the MLS. It’s always the client’s prerogative to solicit back-up offers. For agents, the safe practice is always to convey any offer which comes in, and to have the seller state in writing that she is refusing to accept back-up offers.

If you have any “war stories,” questions, or comments, please post them in the comment section below.

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Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts real estate attorney. They can be reached by email at info@vetsteinlawgroup.com or 508-620-5352.

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I cannot believe I’m writing this post, but yes it’s true, the real estate market in Greater Boston, Massachusetts has now come full circle and bidding wars are back. Don’t believe me? Just read this Boston Globe article from today.

Now that bidding wars are back, buyers and sellers have questions, so we’ll try to answer them here. I’ve also asked a few local real estate agents to offer their expertise as well.

What Are The Legal Issues Surrounding Bidding Wars?

A bidding war arises when there are several competing offers for a listing at the same time. There are really no hard and fast legal rules with bidding wars. Contrary to popular belief, a private seller in Massachusetts is not legally obligated to accept the highest offer made during a bidding war. A seller can be as financial prudent or as irrationally arbitrary as she wants in deciding which offer to accept. A seller may decide to forgo the highest offer in favor of a lower offer due such factors as the financial strength of the buyer (i.e., a cash buyer), because the buyer waived inspections, or simply because the buyer wrote the sellers a lovely letter about how wonderful their home is! (Read on for one agent’s advice on letter writing).

Legally, an offer is simply an invitation to negotiate, and provides a buyer with zero legal rights to the property. An offer does not create a legally enforceable contract — unless it is accepted and signed by the seller.

For real estate agents involved in bidding wars, they have an ethical and fiduciary duty to get the highest and best offer for their sellers. There is nothing illegal about a seller or their agent creating a bidding war, so as to pit one bidder against each other. A listing agent is doing a good job for their client in creating such a market for a property. Ethically, a real estate agent must be truthful and honest when communicating with all prospective buyers and cannot make any material misrepresentations, such as lie about an offering price. Agents must present all offers to their clients, however, the ultimate decision to accept an offer always remains with the seller.

There are different ways to manage a bidding war, and again, there are no special legalities for it. Some agents will set a date by which all preliminary bids have to be in. If there are only two bidders, an agent can go back to the lowest bidder and ask if he or she would like to re-bid. An agent can continue that process until one of the bidders backs out. If there are more than two bidders, some agents will set a second round of bidding with a minimum price of the highest bid in the preliminary round. If no one bids in the second round, the agent can return to that high bid. Bidding wars are fast moving, so buyers need to be able to react quickly.

Generally, disgruntled buyers who lose out on bidding wars do not have a legal leg to stand on — unless their offer was accepted and signed by the seller or there is clear proof an agent lied about something important. That is why making your offer stand out in a bidding war is so important.

Buyers: How To Make Your Offer Stand Out In A Crowd

In a bidding war, buyers ask how can they maximize their chance to be the offer the seller accepts? Gabrielle Daniels, of Coldwell Banker Sudbury, offers this great advice on her blog, LiveInSudburyMa.com:

  • Make your offer STRONG. If you know that there are other offers on the property, make your offer financially strong as possible. If you believe the house is worth asking price, offer asking price. Forget about the TV shows that tell you to offer 90 percent of asking. That is ridiculous – UNLESS that is what the house is worth. Every situation is different. Every house is worth something different. There are no “general rules” about what to offer.
  • Be prepared. Have your pre-approval ready. Sign all of the paperwork related to the offer (seller’s disclosure, lead paint transfer, etc.) Write a check, leave a check with your agent. It is better than a faxed copy of the check. Don’t leave any loose ends.
  • Show some love to the house (and the seller). Write a letter to the sellers, tell them why you love the house and why you are the best buyer for the house. Sure, this is a business transaction, but it is one of the most personal business transactions in which you will be involved. Your real estate agent should be able to help you with this.

For more great tips for buyers involved in a bidding war, read Gabrielle’s post, Multiple Thoughts On Multiple Offers.

Sellers, How Can You Take Advantage of Bidding Wars

For sellers in a bidding war market, it all comes down to pricing, as Heidi Zizza of mdm Realty in Framingham explains on her blog, MetrowestHomesandLife.com:

I had a house listing in Natick this past year. The house valued out to around $620,000. We could have gone to market at $629,900 or $639,900 and had many showings that eventually would land us an offer around $610,000 or so. We figured that at that price it would take the average days on market which was (if memory serves correctly) close to 90 days. We decided to go to market at $599,900. The house got so much attention we had a HUGE turnout at the first showing/Open House and had 4 offers by that evening all competing and all over asking. The highest bid was $620,000 and we sold the property in one day. You too can do the same thing. Market your house at a price that is so attractive you will be best in show. Your buyers will let you know it, and you will definitely get an offer, maybe even several!

For those of us in the real estate business who have weathered the storm of the last 4-5 years, this is “all good” as we say! The more bidding wars, the better!

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Richard D. Vetstein, Esq. is an experienced Massachusetts real estate attorney. They can be reached by email at info@vetsteinlawgroup.com or 508-620-5352.

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Sheppard v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Boston: Appeals Court Overturns Variances, But Does Not Order Tear-Down Of South Boston Rehab Project

Disabled Southie homeowner Robert McGarrell wanted to improve his living situation. McGarrell, who suffered chronic emphysema, planned to rehab his dilapidated bungalow style house with a new townhouse style open floor plan enabling him to get around better with his oxygen tank. After discovering that the foundation was crumbling, he had no choice but to do a full gut rehab.

Abutter Alison Sheppard complained about the perceived impacts of the new house. The front of the new home was 4 feet closer to the front property line, and it extended approximately 4 feet deeper into the lot, bringing it closer to Sheppard’s three-decker house. The proposed house was also larger in mass, having a full second story (under a flat roof) over virtually its entire footprint (with a basement floor opening up to the back yard, as before).

In 1998, McGarrell went to the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals and they told him he needed 5 variances. After revising his design to address some of Sheppard’s concerns, the board granted the variances. Unhappy, Ms. Sheppard appealed to Superior Court.

Approval of Variances Always At Risk of Appeal

The result of this case will not surprise anyone who has experience with Boston zoning and permitting. The Boston Zoning Board of Appeals can be fairly liberal in doling out variances, however, the law says they should be rarely granted only in unique circumstances. I would say 80% of all variances issued by the board are susceptible to reversal on appeal, and the Appeals Court ruled McGarrell’s variances were no different.

The City of Boston has its own special zoning code which is both similar and different from the state-wide zoning code known as Chapter 40A. To obtain a variance, a Boston applicant must show 3 things:

  • Special and peculiar circumstances or conditions of the land or building such as exceptional narrowness, shallowness,  shape of the lot, or exceptional topographical conditions, and that failing to grant zoning relief would deprive the applicant of the reasonable use of such land or structure;
  • For reasons of practical difficulty and demonstrable and substantial hardship, the granting of the variance is necessary for the reasonable use of the land or structure and that the variance is the minimum variance that will accomplish this purpose;
  • Granting of the variance will be in harmony with the general purpose and intent of the zoning code, and will not be injurious to the neighborhood or otherwise detrimental to the public welfare.

The Appeals Court ruled that neither McGarrell’s rectangular lot nor dilapidated home was peculiar in any way to those in the neighborhood. The Court also held that McGarrell could have constructed a smaller home on the existing footprint, and that he could not expand his home vertically “as of right.”

Remedy: Second Chance

For McGarrell, the court left the door open for his new home to stand. Usually, in the case of construction built at the risk of permits being overturned, the court will order the new structure torn down, as in the recently publicized Marblehead mansion. Since the board supported McGarrell’s improvement of a dilapidated structure, the court allowed McGarrell to proceed on an alternative path under another section of the zoning code. The case will go back to the board for further findings, and this 14 year legal odyssey will go on.

Lesson: Get Neighborhood Support Early

The lesson here, as with any Boston zoning matter, is to get the support of the abutters and neighbors as early in the process as possible. Sometimes it’s not always possible, so you have to litigate.

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Richard D. Vetstein is an experienced Boston zoning, variance and permitting attorney who has substantial experience with variance and special permit applications before the City of Boston Zoning Board of Appeals and in Superior Court. Please contact him via email (info@vetsteinlawgroup.com) or tel: 508-620-5352.

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The CRS Crew at MAR Conference

We are going to be sponsoring two great real estate events in October. Here are the details.

Massachusetts Association of Realtors (MAR) Annual Conference
October 18-19, 2011
DCU Center, Worcester
Click here for the program schedule

Inman Agent Reboot Conference–Boston
October 26, 2011
Hynes Convention Center, Boston
Click here for program schedule

Hope to you see at these two events!

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[VIDEO] A Little More About Me…

by Rich Vetstein on September 22, 2011 · 0 comments

in Real Estate Marketing

Hey there. I recently had an opportunity to shoot a video about myself and my philosophy. I’d like to share it with you. I’m not the best in front of the camera, but I’m working on it. Video is quickly replacing the written word. Of course, as you know, writing and blogging is much more comfortable for me than being all “Hollywood.”

The video director asked me what makes me different than other real estate attorneys? Well first, I grew up around real estate, tagging along with my mom to open houses. She was a Realtor in the Metrowest Mass. area for 25 years. I did my homework at her realty office when MLS printed off a dot matrix printer. I knew what a “P&S” agreement was at age 8. Real estate is in my blood.

Second, I’m what I like to call “ultra-responsive.” Real estate is a 24/7 business, and the attorney who doesn’t get that, well, doesn’t get it. I’m available whenever my Realtors, loan officers and clients need me — via text, email, phone, fax, even Facebook and Twitter.

I love what I do. Everyday I get to help people buy, sell, finance and resolve disputes involving their real estate. It’s incredibly rewarding. One day I’ll help a young couple with a baby purchase their first home. Another day I’ll navigate a client through the complex Massachusetts court system. I also help folks start new businesses, counsel them on employment issues, and other legal stuff for small businesses like mine.

If you like this video and want one for yourself, shoot me an email. I’m very friendly with the gentleman who owns the video company.

Here is the YouTube link to the video.

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Social media and blogging is a foundation of my marketing plan. It’s been so successful for me that I have always tried to share the benefits with my referral partners — real estate agents and mortgage professionals. Along with my law partner Marc Canner, we started a company dedicated to assisting real estate agents with their own social media. We named the company, HubConnected–a little play on Boston and the theory that social media should be the “hub” of any agent’s marketing platform.

We just shot a new professional promotional video featuring some of our most successful agent-bloggers:

The blogs have been incredibly worthwhile for these agents as well as for the other 20+ other agents in our blogging network. One agent generated $8 Million in new sales revenue last year alone from her blog!

If you are interested in starting a blog or custom Facebook page, please contact Heather Allen at HubConnected (hallen@hubconnected.com) for more information.

I’m always around to bounce ideas off of too! Good luck and keep on truckin’!

Here is the YouTube link to the video.

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Richard Vetstein is a social media expert for HubConnected LLC, in addition to being a nationally recognized real estate attorney. Rich was recently selected as a nominee for Inman News’ 100 Most Influential in Real Estate. Rich was a recent speaker at the Social E Conference in Newport, RI sponsored by the Warren Group/Banker & Tradesman.

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This is a summary of a recent presentation given by Jon Ufland and Chuck Silverston of Prudential Unlimited Realty, Attorneys Richard Vetstein & Marc Canner of TitleHub Closing Services, and Mark Maiocca of Mortgage Network.

Selling & Buying Simultaneously

Many home buyers today still need to sell their current homes and use the sale proceeds for their next purchase. Often, there is a closing in the morning on the “sell,” and a closing in the afternoon on the “buy.” This is called a “piggyback” or “back to back” sale.

Back in the boom days, we were doing piggyback transactions all the time, and lenders were able to offer special programs, like bridge loans, to facilitate these back to back transactions. The days of bridge loans, no-docs, and 100% financing may be over, according to Mortgage Network’s Mark Maoicca, but piggyback transactions are still going on, but in a changed market.

There are numerous factors and variables to consider when doing a piggyback transaction, from a legal, financial/lending and marketing perspective.  There can be at least 11 different people involved – buyer, seller, 2 agents, up to 3 attorneys, loan officer, appraiser, home inspector and contractor.

Sales/Marketing

There are a number of considerations on the sale/marketing side according to Jon Ufland and Chuck Silverton of Prudential Unlimited Realty. When to put your home on the market so as to ensure a quick sale? Statistics show that the most sales activity in the Greater Boston area occurs in March, April and May, with families trying to get settled before the summer and back to school season ends. December through February is the dead zone. Getting a pre-sale home inspection and comparable market analysis before putting your home on the market are two good tips suggested by Jon and Chuck.

Lending

According to Mark, lenders are no longer offering bridge loans or 100% financing, which helped cash strapped sellers to close on their new purchases. Also, home equity lines are tougher to qualify for. No income verification and stated income loans are just about long gone for the recently self-employed. Mark also says that the days of “washing the rent” on income properties is over. You need a 2 year history of rental income for qualification purposes. You also need to factor in the required real estate tax and insurance escrow reserve in your mortgage payment affordability analysis.

Bottom line, confer with your loan officer and financial planner as early as possible in the process before putting your house on the market! Get those financial ducks lined up before….

Coordination & Control

The piggyback transaction works best when one person takes on the role of “project manager.” It’s usually your real estate agent or attorney. Communication and coordination is the recipe for a successful piggyback transaction.

On the legal side, the overriding goal is to keep your buyer’s feet to the proverbial coals on the sale while protecting your deposit on the buy. It may seem like common sense, but it’s best to hire the same attorney to handle both transactions. An experienced attorney will line up the two mortgage contingency deadlines so that your buyer will obtain a firm loan commitment as soon as possible (with no contingencies, especially the sale of other property), and you have sufficient time on your purchase to get your own firm commitment while protecting yourself from any worst case scenarios like job loss, defective title, etc. The attorney should always be on top of these important deadlines so he or she can ask for extensions and otherwise exercise any opt out rights. Failure to do that can result in the loss of your deposit. Delays are common today in the tighter lending environment.

The Big Day

As the closing day approaches, everyone gets into high gear, with the agents coordinating smoke certs and pre-closing walk-throughs, the attorneys drafting preliminary HUDs, deeds, and coordinating wires, and loan officers sending closing packages. Speaking of wires, your attorney should be able to coordinate a wire of your sale proceeds into the IOLTA account of the purchase closing attorney, so you have good funds to close.

The closing day is about as hectic as you can get. I suggesting giving your attorney a power of attorney so he or an associate can attend the closing on the sale, get on record, coordinate the funds, and you can deal with moving and attending the purchase closing in the afternoon.

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Jon, Chuck, Marc, Rich and Mark have all worked together as a team on piggyback transactions. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need expert assistance.

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Agent Reboot Boston Conference Recap

I’m thrilled to be writing the guest post for the Inman Future of Real Estate Marketing Blog highlighting the Agent Reboot Conference in Boston held yesterday on October 13, 2010. From the buzz surrounding the conference here at the Hynes Convention Center, it’s clear that Boston area agents are embracing the power of social media, and that Boston is well on its way to becoming the next “Hub” for social media savvy agents!

Click here for a full recap of the Inman Agent Reboot Social Media Conference.

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We here at the Blog, through our new company, HubConnected, are proud to be a sponsor of the Inman News Agent Reboot Conference coming to Boston, Hynes Convention Center on October 13th! We’ll be there with a slew of social media savvy realtors from around Greater Boston, some of whom are already part of the growing HubConnected network!

Click here to find out more information about the Agent Reboot Conference–Boston. If you are interested in attending, let us know, and we’ll reserve you a space! It’s only $99.

Here is the agenda:

Must-Have Tools for the Agent with Mobile Mojo (Part 1) Get the lowdown on 10 leading cutting-edge technologies that will help you “reboot” the way you do business.

  • Presented by: Chris Smith, Co-Creator, Tech Savvy Agents, @techsavvyagent

From Clicks to Closings: Turning Your Online Marketing Strategy into a Lead Machine. Video, virtual tours, single property websites – there are dozens of options for marketing properties online. Not all methods are created equal though. Find out which ones will keep your pipeline of prospects full, while saving you time and money.

Panelists:

  • Kerm Foltz, VP of Sales, Market Leader, @market_leader

Mastering Social Media to Expand Your Reach Online. Learn how to develop a comprehensive social networking strategy to grow your sphere of influence. Agent Reboot’s experts will help you sharpen your online marketing skills with proven best practices for using Facebook, Twitter and other online services. Win friends, influence people, and increase sales!

Panelists:

  • David Black, CVO, SocialMadeSimple, @socialmadesimpl
  • Andrea Geller, Hot Property Chicago – Sudler Sotheby’s International Realty, @andrearealtor
  • Greg Meyer, Customer Experience Manager, Gist, @gist

Lifestyle Branding: Why it Matters. The traditional branding strategies used by the real estate profession no longer work. Connecting with today’s consumer is a whole new adventure. The last 8 years have changed the expectations of home buyers and sellers. Learn why life style branding is critical to your success moving forward.

  • Presented by: Sherry Chris, CEO, Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate @BHGRE_Sherry

Case Study: Managing Reputation and Content on the Web. Two experts will walk you through their journey towards a progressive Web strategy using social media. They’ll share lessons learned, offer tips, and show you the results of their efforts. Learn how to do it from people who have done it.

  • Presented by: Todd Carpenter, Social Media Manager, National Association of REALTORS®, @tcar

Grow Your Online Presence Presented by Zillow.com

  • Presented by: Michael Botefuhr, Manager, Partner Relations, Zillow.com, @MVBotefuhr

3 Secrets For Turning Internet Leads Into Transactions

  • Presented by: Daniel Rothamel, Founder of RealEstateZebra.com, @realestatezebra

Maximum Exposure: Publicizing Your ListingsMake sure your listings appear everywhere potential buyers are looking. Discover easy methods for syndicating listings across the Web to spread the word about your properties, and get simple tips for tracking results.

Panelists:

  • Charlie Engel, Vice President of Sales – Real Estate, Oodle, Inc, @oodle_RE
  • Chris Smith, Co-Creator, Tech Savvy Agents, @techsavvyagent

Must-Have Tools for the Agent with Mobile Mojo (Part 2). Get the lowdown on 20 MORE leading edge technologies that will help you “reboot” the way you do business.

  • Presented by: Chris Smith, Co-Creator, Tech Savvy Agents, @techsavvyagent

5 Rockin’ Reasons to Scrap Your Static Website and Go WordPress!

  • Presented by: Daniel Rothamel, Founder of RealEstateZebra.com, @realestatezebra

Going Local: What Does It Take to Win in Boston Real Estate?It’s no secret that the industry has had its share of ups and downs in the last year. So, what lies ahead? Hear from leading real estate professionals who are navigating the changing landscape, and find out what steps you should be taking to ensure success in the future.

Panelists:

  • John D’Ambrogio, VP Director of Strategic Development, Baird & Warner
  • Matt Dollinger, VP Company Solutions, @properties, @mattdollinger
  • Andrea Geller, Hot Property Chicago – Sudler Sotheby’s International Realty, @andrearealtor

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My partner, Marc Canner, and I just returned from the Agent Reboot Conference in Las Vegas where we were promoting our new Real Estate Social Media company, HubConnected (click for more information). We learned a lot of new information about social media for real estate agents. But what really struck home was how horrible the Las Vegas, NV real estate market is, and how lucky we are to be based in Massachusetts.

How bad is the Las Vegas real estate market? Check out these stats:

Las Vegas home values have plummeted from a high of $294,000 in 2006 to $121,000 in July 2010. That’s a 59% drop.

Meanwhile, the foreclosure rates are still off the charts, comparatively. In the last month alone, approximately 13,000 Nevada  houses and condo units received a foreclosure notice, and that’s down 13.9% from the same six-month period last year. Extrapolating, that’s roughly 156,000 foreclosure for the last 12 months! Mind blowing numbers…

The Massachusetts Real Estate Market

As the above graph indicates, the Massachusetts real estate market is now officially in recovery mode, gaining from the lows of 2009.

By contrast, only about 4,100 Massachusetts homes received a foreclosure notice last month. What makes this data really amazing is that the Nevada population is around 2.6 Million, while Massachusetts is triple that at 6.5 Million.

That’s why Nevada has been the #1 state for foreclosures for 3 years running, where a whopping 1 in 84 households are in default or foreclosure. And that’s why the Las Vegas real estate market is all about foreclosure, REO properties and short sales. Thankfully, that’s not so here in Massachusetts.

So, the lesson from Las Vegas is that we Bay Staters actually have a lot to be thankful for here. It could be a lot worse. And hopefully, when it comes to real estate, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!

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I had the pleasure of sitting down for a 1 hour radio interview on real estate law for Money Matters Radio. The podcasts for the show are below. (They are 30 minutes each, so be advised). The hour went by so fast!

There was a funny thing that happened during the interview. My dad was listening, and he texted me during the show, which buzzed my Iphone in my pocket. During a break, I told the host about my dad’s text, and then the host made sure he said “Hi” to my dad over the air. It was pretty funny. Well, without further adieu:

Click this link for Rich Vetstein’s Money Matters Radio Interview on Massachusetts Real Estate Law (Part 1). Topics: The Closing Process, Title Examinations, Title Insurance, Homeowners & Condo Insurance.

Click the link for Part 2 of the Interview. Topics: Real Estate Litigation, Foreclosures, and Short Sales.

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It’s been a year since we launched this Blog in its current form, and it’s been an amazing year. I remember getting giddy over 30 hits in one day; now we get thousands. Good times.

The fun part about having a Blog is analyzing the statistics, which can be a bit addicting, like when I used to play Strat-O-Matic baseball at overnight camp. So here are some stats crunching from the last year:

  • 274,873 total page views
  • Busiest month: April 2010: 49,145 page views. See below for why.
  • Busiest day: April 15, 2010–4,500 hits. This was tax day, and most people were searching about the Mass. flooding tax extension.
  • 2.9 average pages per visit
  • 20% bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who leave the site after only one page visit–the lower, the better)
  • 2:24: average time on site (shows you only have a limited attention span for readers–keep posts short and to the point).
  • 83% of visitors are new to the Blog
  • 79% of traffic came from search engines; remaining 21% came from link referrals (Facebook, Twitter) and direct traffic
  • Visitors came from as far away as Australia, Brazil, China (got around the censors), India, and Malaysia.

Top Posts For The Year

  1. New Strict FHA Condo Lending Rules Sure To Chill Sales
  2. The Catch 22 Impact Of The New Fannie Mae Condo Rules
  3. There’s Nothing Standard About the Massachusetts Standard Purchase & Sale Agreement
  4. Short Sales Get Boost From Obama Treasury Guidelines

Blog Platform: WordPress; Theme: Thesis

But Have You Generated Business From Blogging?

Of course, the million dollar question is whether blogging has resulted in leads and business. Without divulging actual numbers, I can say emphatically HELL YEAH! In fact, I estimate that leads generating from this Blog account for at least 40% of all new business development for my firm, the Vetstein Law Group, and to our sister company, TitleHub Closing Services.

It’s an investment in time mostly, but I love to write, I’m a bit of a techie, and I love learning about new things in my industry. If that appeals to you, consider starting a blog, like many of my Realtor and attorney friends have done or are considering now. Plus, the real estate business is very much oriented to online marketing and social media.

I can help you get going.

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This is another post in our ongoing series on Social Media For Real Estate Professionals. We are now providing Social Media Solutions for real estate agents, mortgage brokers and other real estate professionals through our affiliated company, HubConnected LLC. Please contact us for more info.

A hyper-local real estate blog is a blog targeted at a single town, city, neighborhood, or even a subdivision/gated community. By focusing on, and providing content for, one (and only one) geographic area, a hyper local real estate blog can outperform a more broadly targeted website/blog for lead generation and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Why Hyper-Local Blogs Work For Real Estate

The real estate market is extremely saturated with agents who all have static websites and blogs which appeal more to the masses. Using a hyperlocal strategy can help set an agent apart from the sea of agents that are just blogging generally and don’t have a focused SEO strategy.

Today, consumers using search engines are increasingly searching for hyper-local, specific search terms, such as “Brookline, MA places to eat shop” or “Needham MA tennis courts”. A hyper-local blog, if properly managed, can rank high for these hyper-local search terms, even above the restaurants, stores or tennis facilities the consumer was originally searching for. If the consumer clicks on your hyper-local blog, and a trust relationship is created, BINGO, you’re in business and have created a relationship that may result in a lead or referral.

Finally, hyper-local blogging helps build relationships with not only potential buyers and sellers, but other members of the local business community that might provide referrals and other business opportunities. A hyper-local blogger can write restaurant reviews, promote referral partners, the schools, road construction, you name it. A hyper-local real estate blogger can quickly become THE local expert about their community–and that’s exactly where a real estate agent wants to be.

If you are interested in learning more about hyper local blogging, a good place to get started is at HyperLocalBlogger.com.

Here is an example of a hyper local blog for Glendale, CA. The Realtor, Kendyl Young, does an innovative series called 365 Things To Do in Glendale, CA where she posts something every day of the year.

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A Special Guest Post By Gabrielle Daniels Brennan, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Sudbury, MA. Check out her Blog, Living in Sudbury www.liveinsudburyma.com!

Similar to the obsession over Massachusetts real estate and addiction to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is our addiction to The Bachelor / The Bachelorette TV series. Many of us really didn’t want to admit that we were glued to the TV/DVR on Monday nights, or that we conveniently didn’t want to make plans, for fear of missing this show. For those who have much better things to do than to watch, the series revolves around a single bachelor or bachelorette (deemed eligible) and a pool of romantic interests (typically 25). The Bachelor/Bachelorette then go through a *grueling* series of dates with the pool of potential mates, weekly-elimination style, with the winner getting the “final rose” and possibly a marriage proposal.

As a busy Metrowest Massachusetts Realtor and an admitted fan of the show, I can attest that the process that each Bachelor and Bachelorette go through to find *true love* can be easily translated to the real estate home buying and selling process.

Buying & Selling Real Estate Is A Lot Like Matchmaking

Buying and selling a house is serious business. For most, you are buying or selling your largest single asset. In addition to needing data and supporting information to make a sound business decision, there is tremendous emotion that goes into the process. Getting married is more serious (well, to some), but the process is comparable. At the end of the day, if you have grown out of a house, you can sell it. Not as easy in a marriage.

There are so many commonalities between matching Bachelors/Bachelorettes and Home Buyers/Sellers. There is no such thing as a “typical” transaction/relationship. When representing either side, it’s so important to understand the people and what makes each person tick. On the Bachelor, the first night cocktail party actually makes a lot of sense from a home buying perspective. So often, on the first day out with a Realtor, a home buyer will see everything that fits the criteria “on paper” that they think they want in a house. Just because you want a 4 bedroom/2.5 bath Colonial, doesn’t mean you will like all of them. Many get eliminated from consideration on the first day. Unlike the show’s host, Chris Harrison, my job is to understand why you eliminated specific suitors and to make sure that you aren’t introduced to any more!

The Bachelor/Bachelorette Desperately Need A Real Estate Agent!

Jake & Vienna, (c) ABC, The Bachelor

If The Bachelor or The Bachelorette producers are truly serious about helping its “star” find love, I think that Host Chris Harrison should behave more like a Buyer’s Agent during the next season of The Bachelor. For those of you who already appreciate and understand the true value of Buyer’s representation, you are one step ahead. For those of you who think you are getting “a deal” without Agent representation, I have 3 words for you: Jake and Vienna.

Last season’s Bachelor, Jake, had no help. Vienna, his now former fiancée, was the pretty house with the nice big kitchen and partially finished basement. She is the house that is lived in, a house that is ready for you to entertain in. But there isn’t much upstairs. Bedrooms are small, possibly mold in the attic, the poor quality roof needs to be reshingled every few years, ice dams in the winter, and the garage door doesn’t close (catch my drift?).  As soon as the season ended, so did they.

If, like a Real Estate Agent, Chris Harrison were acting in the best interest of the Bachelor/Bachelorettes, it would have been his responsibility to not only introduce the Bachelor/ette to the appropriate suitors matching their needs, but to:

  1. Assess the TRUE value of each suitor (house)
  2. Give the Bachelor/ette some history about the suitor and the suitors’ family (neighborhood/community)
  3. Provide information that would reveal any work that has been done to the house, before it came on the market, along with permits, etc.
  4. Work with the Bachelor/ette on their financing – will they be able to afford their choice? What will it cost to maintain the relationship?
  5. Disclose any and all research about their history. If any liens (restraining orders) are in effect, this would be important to know
  6. Very importantly – negotiate EVERYTHING on behalf of the Bachelor/ette
  7. Manage the home inspection (home visits) – make sure the Bachelor/ette is asking the right questions
  8. Make sure that everything proceeds smoothly prior to and at the closing (Fantasy Suite and beyond…)

Getting That Final Rose (The Keys)

Ali & Roberto, (c) ABC, The Bachelorette

Bottom line is that your Real Estate Agent is there to guard and protect your real estate purchase and your wallet. We want you to be as sure about your decision as Ali seems to be with this season’s winner, Roberto. We aren’t here to tell you how to decorate or to follow you around a house like the helicopter date in Bora Bora. We are here to guide you, to tell you if we feel you are making a mistake (Jake and Vienna). To negotiate for you. To point out the big issues that we see while you are ogling the gorgeous marble in the master bath (Ed & Jillian). If you want someone to agree with everything you are doing, bring your BFF along. It could be the most dramatic home purchase process ever or it could be truly enjoyable and exciting (Trista and Ryan).

When buying a home, you don’t want to make a mistake. You don’t want to second-guess anything (Jason & Molly). As Real Estate professionals, it’s our preference that you don’t show up on the cover of US Weekly in tears (or the equivalent). If you decide to buy or sell on your own, don’t come crying to us “After the Closing” when you realize that you overpaid for the house that has taken 3 years to sell or that your Buyer couldn’t get their financing and now you can’t close on your purchase (Brad Womack). We would rather be handing you the final rose at your closing.

Gabrielle Daniels Brennan, Tel: 617-320-8150 Email: gabrielle.daniels@nemoves.com

Sudbury Wayland MA Real Estate

Carole Daniels & Gabrielle Daniels Brennan

The Team of Daniels and Daniels

Carole Daniels and Gabrielle Daniels Brennan are the #1 real estate team in Sudbury. As a top producing, award winning Mother/Daughter team, Carole offers over 31 years of successful Real Estate Sales and Marketing experience. Daniels and Daniels are #30 in New England and within the top 1% of Agents internationally. Gabrielle and Carole have been a team for 7 years. Prior to Real Estate, Gabrielle spent over a decade in sports and event marketing for ESPN, The Olympics, Coca-Cola, Arby’s and NIKE.  They work 24/7 for their clients and love what they do. For more information go to: www.liveinsudburyma.com.

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