The Site Has Moved!

17 07 2010

I just wanted to let everyone know that the Real Estate Realities site has moved!

The URL has always been http://www.therebelbroker.com. That is still true. However, it now points to a different website!

There will be no more posts on this site! So if you subscribed to the RSS feed at this site, you will want to head over to http://www.therebelbroker.com and reconnect via the new RSS feed.

Feel free to contact Robert if you have any questions.





A must have for any buyer, seller or investor.

27 06 2010

realtor.com App IconEvery once in a while, something comes along that can completely change/improve/evolve how things get done. In the world of real estate, the Realtor.com application just might be that big of a deal.

Right now, this application is only available for the iPhone. I would guess that the folks over at realtor.com are working on versions for other devices, but for now, only the iPhone community will be able to use this amazing tool.

The bottom line is that this application identified the basics of what it needs to do and they focused on doing those things right.

Realtor.com App Front Page

Once you have downloaded and installed the application, give that cute little icon a tap and you will be greeted by the screen shown above. From here you can get to all the useful features. Lets get down and dirty with what this application has to offer.

Check out the local homes for sale.

Nearby Homes For Sale Screen

You can check out just homes within a range you define or you can enter a completely different part of the country. By far, the most useful mode for finding properties is to simply let it detect your location, then give it a range and let the search engine go to town. Note that once the results come back, you can check them out in list mode, map mode or satellite mode.

The data you get is every bit as complete as you get from the realtor.com website. In fact, I would make the case that the interface, information and format is even better than what you get from their website. However, if you are using the website, the application lets you use the same account for both the website and the application. This way, your favorites and searches all get linked to the same place. A huge time saver when you are looking through lots of available properties and trying to filter out the ones that just do not interest you.

Once you drill down to the details of the property, you have a variety of options that make the tool even more useful. First, there is a notes area that allows you to make specific comments about a property listed for sale. Maybe you want to note why it is not for you or what features made it most attractive. This is great information to keep. Once you select an agent to work with, that is exactly the kind of information they can use to only show you homes that meet your needs. The property detail screen will also give you the ability to map the property or get directions to it from where you are right now. You can also save the property to your favorites if you decide it just might be for you.

Map view of found properties

The listing information page will also give you all the photos and details that you would expect from the full web interface at realtor.com. There is really only one bit of information that is missing in the iPhone app that is available on the website. That is local school information. I would hope that in a future version, they include the same school rating information in the iPhone application that they do on the website. For now, this is a small shortcoming in a tool that gets everything else right when it comes to finding properties.

Frankly, buyers, sellers and investors should all be making use of this part of the application. The use for buyers and investors should be clear. However, we are still in a buyers market and sellers need to be aware of what buyers are seeing in this competitive market. A seller should check in with this application every week or so and see what is up with the competition – you can bet that is what the buyers are doing.  By being aware of what is up for sale in the area around your home for sale, you will be better able to adapt to the local market so that you can be the one that ends up getting sold. The best part is that this tool puts this information in the palm of your hands with little or no effort. It is as simply as standing in your living room and hitting the button to find nearby homes for sale!

View a list of nearby open houses.

This will give you a list of homes with scheduled upcoming open houses. Just a tip on this one, don’t just look at the list and head on over. The list will show you all upcoming open houses, not just ones going on today or this weekend. I have already had one buyer head on over to a house that showed up on the open house list only to discover that the open house was a week away. This a great feature, but it is just crying out for a “Today Only” button to let buyers easily find properties while they are out on a Saturday or Sunday trying to get a feel for what is on the market in a given area.

The Bottom Line

This has simply become the most powerful tool in the arsenal of anyone who wants to be able to easily access information on homes that are listed for sale in the Multiple Listing Service. While there are a ton of tools out there, realtor.com is THE source for information on homes in the MLS. All the other tools out there may have some of the homes for sale information, but for the most part, they can only have a part of what is listed by realtor.com.

As a Real Estate Broker and Investor myself, this has revolutionized how I search for properties.

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Kick-Ass! The movie… not the exclamation.

2 06 2010
Kick Ass Movie Poster

It really does... Kick Ass I mean.

Clint Eastwood. For my generation, when you think about ass kickers, you mentally go there first I think. Maybe you also lean toward John Wayne or Chuck Norris.

It is time for you to clear out a few brain cells to make room for a new default/goto  ass kicker. But guess what? When this movie is over, it will not be the character that this film is named after. We start out with your typical high school kid who wonders why nobody has ever tried being a super hero.

We get to watch him make his way through becoming a super hero while being escorted by witty writing, great directing and tight editing. Your going to enjoy the ride and if you are like me, leave with a whole new appreciation for what action is all about.

The film is graphic in its violence. You are not going to want to take the kiddies to this one. If you are even thinking about it, watch it yourself first. I did, thinking that I could take my three boys and decided they were not quite ready at the ages of 9 and 10.

Many of the typical hollywood storyline cliches are present. Good guy getting the girl, if not in a slightly original way. Bad guy getting his just deserts, etc. You are not going to see a truly original plot line, but you are going to see one character in this movie really make an impression. That character is:

Yes, an 11 year old girl has replaced Clint Eastwood in my mind.

I know it sounds nuts, but the Hit Girl character has replaced guys like Clint Eastwood in my mind when it comes to total butt kickers. Aside from the moves, this girl inherits the crown from old Clint through the way she delivers a line and her ability to grimace bad assidly. Picture in your mind that moment when Clint says “So, do you feel lucky?  Punk.” now morph that into being slapped across the face of an 11 year old girl. Yeah, I know, it’s shocking. In all honesty, that is where I was as I was walking out of the theater.

So head on out and let this one seap into your brain stem sometime soon. Just make sure and clear some space up there for who the the ultimate butt kicker is, your going to need it.





Impact of Real Estate Wholesalers

22 05 2010

In a recent article published in the Christian Science Monitor, there were some concerns expressed about the effect of  “Real Estate Wholesalers”.

What is a real estate wholesaler?

The article from the Christian Science Monitor describes them as:

“…[someone] who quickly flips homes to a new buyer, usually an investor, for a profit ranging from a couple of thousand dollars to $10,000.”

That definition is basically correct. However, it underestimates the skills that this wholesaler brings to the market place. There are very few people that are good at everything. There are some folks that are fantastic at spotting the great deals and there are others that are great at taking a property like that and making it something worth more. Many investors who are good at turning a rundown property into something more desirable are not as adept at tracking down appropriate properties. In some cases, they simply do not have the time to go through the process of tracking them down. This is where the wholesaler often comes in.

Wholesalers and investors establish relationships and each begins to learn who the players are in both worlds.

The wholesalers gets paid for their skill at finding the right property and the investor takes a property that is unlikely to sell due to its condition and makes it one that is more appealing to buyers and therefore can sell for more than what the investor paid for it in aquisition and improvement costs.

Wholesaler Risks

After reading their article on Wholesaling, you may just want to give it a try yourself!

After all, it sounds like these guys are making a nice chunk of change and not doing any real work. Not quite. First, there is a HUGE cottage industry in “Get Rich Quick” schemes relating to wholesaling. Just do a google search on the term to see what I mean.

The truth is that a wholesaler is often the best example of putting their money where their mouth is. In order to really get those properties, they have to pay all cash. Todays loan climate simply makes that part of the deal. What if the wholesaler is wrong? What if the property is not as desirable to investors as they think? While the linked article seems to want to make it sound like profiteering, these folks are definitely taking a risk.

Finally, investors are cagey about wholesalers. Investors like to put together a team they work with regularly, so an investor and wholesaler need to build a relationship where each trusts the others abilities.

The only investors I have come across that use wholesalers are the ones that are working on multiple properties at any given time and simply do not have the time to find that next investment. They use wholesalers they have had a long relationship with. To imply that a good wholesaler is not offering a service for which they should be compensated is to reveal that you really don’t know that much about real estate investing.

So what’s the problem?

The Christian Science Monitor tries to walk the line. It gets the argument about half right. It points out that these folks get distressed properties into the hands of people that can restore them quickly. It then goes on to try and imply that this is bad for lower-income and affordable housing groups.

I would disagree to the point that getting rundown homes into the hands of low income folks tends to result in sustained rundown housing. Most low income families simply do not have the funds to make the improvements that investors do. Investors are also in the position to make the improvements the most cheaply. The end result is a home that is in better shape and more move in ready so that lower income families will have less of a burden in maintaining the home in the long term.

The case trying to be made here is that somehow things would be better for lower income families if wholesalers were not buying these homes. I don’t share that opinion. For each home that an investor gets via a wholesaler in a neighborhood, the value of the other homes in that neighborhood will increase, bolster a sense of pride of ownership and allow residents of the entire neighborhood to benefit from the improvements.

Given all the aspects in play here, there is a greater long term benefit to everyone involved, including low income families, to wholesalers and investors playing their part in these neighborhoods.

Much Ado About Nothing?

Depending on where you are located, the percentage of homes that are purchased by investors can range from 15 – 25%. According to the Sacramento Business Journal, more than 25% of homebuyers now are investors. This same article goes on to state that,

“…most [buyers] are not looking to sell quickly but instead will rent homes until real estate begins to appreciate…”

Using Sacramento as an example, an area where foreclosures are high and investors are drawn, gives us what this article would likely consider the place where this would occur most. However, the reality does not indicate this.

In addition, we would have to look at what percentage of these investor buyers are using a wholesaler. Most investors, in my experience, do not use wholesalers. In my 20 years of real estate experience, I would have to say that less than 5% of the investors I have worked with make use of a wholesaler. However, even if we assume my first hand experience does not represent the norm and assume that half of all investors use wholesalers, this would mean that in an investor dominated marketplace like Sacramento, only 12% of all sales have a wholesaler involved.

For most parts of the country, that number will probably be closer to 7 or 8% – if we continue to assume half of all investors use wholesalers. That low number hardly seems like something likely to shift markets or freeze out anyone looking to buy – regardless of income level.

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California calls ‘Dibs’ on Christie

17 05 2010

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey (Future Governor of Califonia - Cuz we have dibs)

I, Robert Whitelaw (AKA: The RebelBroker), on behalf of the once great state of California, do hereby offically declare the time honored tradition of “Dibs” on Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey.

That’s right, we get him next! While his opponents seem distracted by his girth, his policies seem to be showing him to be the most politically svelte guy in all of New Jersey politics.

California seems determined to plug their ears and cry out “Nananananana” whenever someone points out that cutting spending is the only real way to solve a spending problem. Like the federal government, California seems to think that simply taxing more will get them more money. Sadly, history tells us that you hit a point where even if you increase taxes, you actually bring in less money. We need Christie or his clone to start taking the same stand here in the (Now less than) Golden State.

After this bit of interaction with the press, you may want Gov. Christie for your own state:

When was the last time you heard a politician talk like that? Of course, only time will tell if Gov. Christies actions match his words, but so far, he has been batting 1000. As reported recently by The New York Times, Christie has followed through on his promise to bring down the spending. His latest budget only brings spending down by 5% but still manages to upset all the usual suspects including teachers, unions, Democrats, etc.

Christie did violate a promise he made regarding the suspension of a property tax rebate program. In my book, promises should matter. Instead, is is proposing that, as quoted from the  New Jersey Newsroom”

Christie will propose converting the money property owners and some renters would have received into direct credits on their tax bills. Some seniors may still receive rebates.

So I suppose that an argument can be made that he lived up to the spirit of his promise by at least keeping some version of the rebate alive.

He also proposed a law limiting how much property taxes can be increased – an idea that will force future budget makers to be more limited in their spending ways.

There is plenty of time to see where Christie takes his administration, he is only 8 weeks into his Governorship. I cannot help but think that he is on the right track, a track that other states in trouble could learn something from.





Kagan: Liked her as solicitor general, MUST love her for Supreme Court

13 05 2010

Or so says Harry Reid (D-Nev). I am not a big fan of Harry Reid. Some of the things that come out of that mans mouth just don’t make much sense when you actually have your brain engaged. Here are a few of my favorite gems:

On Iraq: “The War Is Lost”

On Obama: a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one’

On Job Loss: “Today is a BIG day in America.  Only 36 thousand people lost their jobs today, which is REALLY GOOD…”

Sadly, the stupidity does not end there. Like the time he voted against his own health care bill… twice.

I LOVE this one. Here, Uncle Harry tries to explain how taxes are voluntary. Get comfortable and prepare for one of lifes most amazing intellectual train wrecks.

While there are plenty of examples left to share, lets get to Harrys most recent act of intellectual crash and burn. With President Obamas recent selection of Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, Mr. Reid had some sage wisdom to offer to any potential opposition to this appointment.

According the the website The Hill, Harry Reid said that since Ms. Kagan was already approved for her position as Solicitor General last year, all those who supported that appointment should approve her appointment to the Supreme Court. So according to good old Harry, the same level of scrutiny and questioning applied to someone applying for Solicitor General should apply to someone applying for the job of Supreme Court Justice. Sure, that makes sense. Aside from the fact that a Supreme Court Justice is appointed FOR LIFE and that in this position will fundamentally effect the legal fabric of the entire nation for generations, there is really no difference at all.

As Solicitor General, she can be fired at any time by the President and is likely to be replaced when a new president is elected. The idea that there is ANY equivalence between a Supreme Court Justice or the Solicitor General in terms of how much scrutiny they should get in order to get the job is the worst kind of intellectual bankruptcy that Harry Reid has become the poster child for.

Ms. Kagan SHOULD and MUST face the kind of rigorous scrutiny that we would  reserve for only the most important positions in the nation – since Supreme Court Justice fits that bill!

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Podcast Change Over Is Complete!

10 05 2010

As of today, the change over is complete!

For those of you accessing the podcast via iTunes, you will no longer see any of the old podcasts. If you would like to take a look at the archives of all older podcasts, you will find them here.

That archive should remain available for the time being. Feel free to listen in any time!

While I will continue to strive to do the show at the same time each Saturday morning, I am finding that there will need to be some flexibility in the start of the show from time to time. This weekend is going to be a busy one, so the show will be starting at 8AM pacific instead of the 10AM time I have been shooting for. If you are up… why not take a listen or even call in!

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