Episode 17 – Women in NAEBA on Listen Up Home Buyers


Introduction 00:00

This is Listen up Home Buyers The only podcast offering Home Buying advice and tips from true buyer agents and now here’s your host, Victoria Ray Henderson.

Victoria Ray Henderson 00:09

Thank you for joining me for Listen up Home Buyers. I’m really excited today to talk to some of my fellow members in the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents. These ladies have taken time out of a really busy crazy spring market to share their experience and their wisdom with everyone about how they’re helping first time Home Buyers and how we’re all trying to navigate this really difficult spring market of 2021. I’m Victoria Ray Henderson. I’m a broker with the buyer brokerage in McLean, Virginia. I have the pleasure of having Charlotte Lemon join me. She is one of a few Exclusive Buyer Agents in the greater Charleston South Carolina area. She’s been practicing Exclusive Buyer Agency for 25 years with a real buyer’s agents. So welcome, Charlotte.

Charlotte Lemon 00:56

Thank you.

Victoria Ray Henderson 00:56

You’re welcome. Rona, broker-owner of 4 Buyers’ Real Estate in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Victoria Ray Henderson 01:03

Thank you, Rona, for joining us and we have Nikolina Lecic, the broker owner of Exclusive Buyers Real Estate in Rochester, Minnesota. Welcome so much. Thank you for joining me.

Nikolina Lecic 01:19

Thank you. Absolutely.

Victoria Ray Henderson 01:21

So Nikolina, I think we’d start with you. You in Minnesota right now, spring of 2021. What’s happening with your market? And how are you helping first time Home Buyers?

Nikolina Lecic 01:33

No thanks, Victoria. Those are really interesting questions and challenging times for the buyers. We are experiencing as many of you, multiple offer situations, we have very low inventory. The buyers are just — as soon as the house comes on the market, they jump on it. The listing agents wait about 2,3 days, and so they can collect as many offers as they can and even what they’ve started recently to do is also allow overlap of showings. So they can show other buyers that there is a commotion that everybody wants this house and basically the houses are selling 10%, 15% above the asking price and that’s the reality, it takes some time for new buyers to catch up. When they just start to look, it’s almost impossible for them to get the house, they will probably miss about 4 to 5 houses within over the day, right until they really understand the market and realize that they really want specific house, they really need to be high on it and more than likely also declined inspections, and even be willing to cover the difference between appraisal and offer price, which is something that I don’t advise the buyers to do, I don’t ever suggest to go that route. But the competition is going good. So that’s what we are against.

Victoria Ray Henderson 03:06

We hear you, Rona and Charlotte, just jump in. Obviously you’ve been having similar experiences.

Rona Fischman 03:13

Yeah, we’re both making those spaces, aren’t we? Charlotte?

Victoria Ray Henderson 03:17

Do you want to go first?

Charlotte Lemon 03:20

Absolutely yes, I completely agree with Nikolina and that not only are their 8 to 11 offers already on the table when we can do it when we can put in our own. But it is very difficult in our market here in Charleston, yes, we have a lot of buyers and not enough inventory, just like we’ve been saying in this call and for the last couple of years. But with Conde Nast getting behind the idea that Charleston is the number one place to live in the nation. Sometimes, for instance, last week, we had a house that was listed at $950,000, the buyer ended up offering a million which to your point is overpriced, because even at $950 it wasn’t priced properly. So the buyer came in and the agent actually stipulated that there were 100 buyers looking at that house for sale— 100 buyers looking at one house, I mean, it is crazy and the only thing that I can say is that I really hope the appraisers will start doing a better job of appraising houses properly so that we can bring these prices down but the frenzy exists and I don’t know when it’s going to end.

Rona Fischman 04:42

Yes, and I think the biggest part for us as exclusive buyer agents is we care about what the buyers are experiencing and therefore they’re asking us when is this going to end? And it’s sort of I can be a little facetious and say, “I really don’t know this is the first global pandemic I’ve worked through”. So some of what we’re dealing with is the global pandemic, what we’re seeing is that people who might have put their house on the market this spring, are living in their house, and they don’t want 100 buyers going through it and then breathing the air

Victoria Ray Henderson 05:21

Makes sense… Makes total…. [Crosstalk]

Rona Fischman 05:24

We don’t know when sellers are going to have the confidence to allow the buyers in and that creates a position where people who have houses that are too big for them, aren’t selling them and therefore the people who want to move out of the cities into the suburbs into the bigger houses can’t get in there and then some of those people who are going from the bigger houses back into the city, and I’m around Boston, so not only Boston, but when I say city, I’m also talking about Cambridge, and Somerville and Brookline, and some of these small residential cities right outside of Boston– Compared to when I’m saying suburbs, I’m talking about Wellesley, and Newton and places that have, you know, lawns, and parks, and right, more suburban areas.

So we’ve got this log jam and the fact is log jam before we had the pandemic and the pandemic has just made it worse, their lease and we’re working with them about that and we’re also working with them to say, maybe this is the time to not buy your dream home, but buy something that you can keep as an investment property.

So by what will serve you now, when you have a baby, and you’re planning, you have a hypothetical second child, so until your second child and your baby are in school, you could be in something that’s rentable, and then get ready to get your dream house when things are more normal. That’s another alternative. But we’re dealing with a lot of desperation and our job is to keep our heads that it’s not the end of the world to not buy this year. It’s not the end of the world to pay 5000 more than it seems like you should be paying. But it’s our job to tell you what it seems like you should be paying.

Given the competition, given what is sold even what is under agreement that’s about to close. We have that information we can tell them and if the asking price started out $50,000 below what it was worth. If you’re paying $75,000 above asking price, you’re not paying that much over market value and talking about market value, talking about a sensible purchase is what they’re asking of us in the middle of a global pandemic.

Victoria Ray Henderson 07:53

Right. I mean, in a sense, I feel the job is almost like a gatekeeper. But a protector kind of a buffer for our buyers. The one of the things that we experienced, and I know Rona, you’ve got this where you live, and I’m not sure about Minnesota and the vacation area in South Carolina. But what we have is we’ve got two metropolitan areas, Baltimore and Washington and in between them, everything has been filled in and some of it is more suburban and some is country, and then we go all the way to the Chesapeake Bay, where there’s Annapolis and waterfront property and all that.

So we have a huge area to cover and so when we are looking at market conditions, one area is very different than another. So believe it or not, two months ago, we were able to get a seller subsidy, which for those who aren’t familiar with that, that is when the seller contributes to help the buyer pay their closing costs. We were able to get that for a buyer in Edgewater, Maryland, which is closer to the bay and wasn’t obviously any competition. But my point of bringing this up is when I brought it to the lender, he’s like, I’m sorry, what is this? What?

Victoria Ray Henderson 09:04

So we did that but then then you get closer to Washington DC and we’re one of 19 just like you guys, we’re one of 25, it’s insane. And, you know, there are people who are paying all cash over a million dollars as you mentioned, Charlotte.

Nikolina Lecic 09:22

In Rochester, it’s really Mayo Clinic [phonetic 09:24] is the biggest employer and many people think that residents that are coming or driving the market, which in my opinion, in my experience, I think it’s usually equal exchange or residents that are coming and those that are leaving. It’s mostly people in Rochester and right now we have lots of renters that were able to save some money and because of the rates, mortgage rates, things are very low.

They want to buy, they want to become the owners and they want to invest in their own property, but they are entering the market there very challenging times as we all saying, and just like Rona, I always just tell them, do you really have to have it right now? Are you and some of my buyers right now are really on month to month rent, which really gives them flexibility and give them a little bit pause not to go really very high on the price when they are writing an offer and I think they seem to understand what’s going on but like I mentioned in the beginning, they will notice few houses before they will settle on a specific one that they really like, and they are willing to be higher than they usually are. But what we are building in Rochester are majority of these buildings are for senior citizens, and they are not really condominiums. They were townhomes. They are really rental places and I just don’t know why they are building those in large numbers versus condominiums. We only have a few downtown condos in Rochester that were built at the end of 70s, maybe 69, one of the buildings, and they don’t require lots of maintenance, the association fee is high. But these units right now they seem to be sitting on the market, I just got buyer for one of the units, we were able to reduce the price a little bit but the rest is just really mind after going fast.

Victoria Ray Henderson 11:37

I’m seeing very similar things in the Boston Market and literally just touched on something that’s that’s sort of important. Not only is the inventory depressed, because of the people not being able to sell because of COVID. But also, the demand is increased for two reasons, the low interest rates is really a piece of it and the other one is we spent a year in our houses, struggling against not having a home office or struggling against not having sound privacy, or struggling against not having outdoor space and people are really good and sick and tired of where they live and therefore there’s anxiety about getting out of it and therefore the places that are not a good place to spend a pandemic are somewhat softer.

Now we are getting some deals there, condos that have no balconies, one bedroom apartments — one bedroom condos, things like that. Any place where you can get something bigger, with outdoor space for the same price. The things that don’t have outdoor space, or only have one bedroom or sometimes two bedrooms are somewhat depressed and somewhat softer and it all makes sense. But it’s making the life of a buyer broker hard and it’s hard because it’s making the life of all our buyers are really hard. Yeah.

Victoria Ray Henderson 13:13

So let’s go around Charlotte, let’s start with you. Have you had any recent strategies that have worked for your buyers, and when you describe them, you know, talk to us like you were talking to a first time homebuyer because this is what we’re going to hopefully be able to do is educate some buyers who are watching.

Charlotte Lemon 13:35

Well Nikolina touched on it earlier when she was saying that because there are so many offers on the table when we put in an offer. We are missing out on those typical things we educate our buyers to get within the contract a home warranty, believe it or not, that’s no longer offered and it was pretty much very typical and normal in our area, we also tend to always get the transfer of the termite warranty in the buyers name at closing and now again, because contracts have to be so clean and so simplified just to get a look. We’re removing that as well.

Now we can always pay the transfer fee and get and under transfer fee is typically $150 to maybe $300 and a home warranty is probably $700. But the bottom line is as we educate our clients that our buyers typically the home warranty, the termite warranty and sometimes closing costs which now are almost impossible but thankfully I have found a couple of clients this year where we have found the ideal house whether it was a for sale by owner or in what Rona mentioned is a softer area and we’ve been able to get on not just repair costs to remove 1000s from the price, but also a few other items, which has been very helpful. So at the closing table, my client will be paying for the home warranty and the transfer themselves that at least we got a reduction on the price in order to do that. But as far as I mean, we’ve all talked about when is this going to end my clients, unfortunately, that I have been dealing with currently, I’ve got a few coming in this month, and next that don’t need to buy until later in the summer or fall. But for right now, all of my clients need to purchase now.

So I am doing a lot of virtual tours and walking through houses with my clients. I always stress how much you want the house because I cannot predict what another buyer is going to offer. I have started asking listing agents more about the offers that are on the table so that we can craft our offer better to the sellers’ expectations. The number one expectation of a seller is not having to rush to get out of the house. So knowing exactly what would be an ideal timeframe for them seems to be very important. We also offer up a little bit more earnest money. I don’t know why that seems to help. But for the last several years I’ve been doing that.

Victoria Ray Henderson 16:28

Can you touch on what earnest money is just for people listening who don’t know?

Charlotte Lemon 16:32

Earnest money typically in my market, and I have learned it is different in other markets. If you’re looking at a $500,000 house that’s up to $599, we typically will put down $5,000 in earnest money to be put in escrow and that pretty much is the reservation like, I like to call it for my clients that are first time Home Buyers that they’re going to be buying the house. You don’t have to have escrow in South Carolina when you put a contract on a house, but it is typical that you do. Now in the scenario I was just talking about my clients are putting nine and 10,000 in escrow now. Of course, it’s all coming back to them. Yes, the listing agent deposits that money, but it’s credited to the buyer. So it’s not like we’re giving them this money. It was just more or less simplified a reservation to purchase the home but it seems to be working.

Victoria Ray Henderson 17:22

Yes, I want to make it clear to anybody who doesn’t know what that is and I think it’s in all of our areas, it goes towards your closing costs.

Nikolina Lecic 17:29


Victoria Ray Henderson 17:30

So, I equate it with the flashy ring that a woman will wear at a party. You know, it gets a lot of attention. But nobody is going to get their hands on it. It’s hers. She’s going to have that ring when she leaves the party, if that makes sense. In other words, you know, just the protection of the earnest money deposit is incredibly important in the whole transaction for sure.

Charlotte Lemon 17:55

Yes, and that was also changed in our area in 2021 and it’s not required, but it is a better protection for the buyer. As of 2021, I have learned to make sure you hire an attorney and the attorney holds the escrow or the earnest money deposit, and we’re wiring things now. So that’s an extra protection to make sure that my client hires their own attorney and that attorney provides them with the wiring instructions and holds the escrow and from what I understand the purpose for that says our attorneys here in South Carolina who write our offers, is that it enables the escrow to be freed up and returned to the buyer with more haste and less strings attached than if it were held by the listing agency.

Victoria Ray Henderson 18:48

Say Rona, let’s hear what you have to say.

Victoria Ray Henderson 18:50

Well, a couple things. One is in our market in the Boston Market, the earnest money, there’s we have two contracts. So the first contract is an offer, which is contingent on the home inspection and then the purchase and sales agreement is the longer agreement with the quality of the title and lots of legal things in it. Interesting and that’s usually 5% of the purchase price and the money does not go to closing costs it goes to the purchase funds in our market, so it’s slightly different. So, I wanted to mention that.

Victoria Ray Henderson 19:26

Of course we’re Massachusetts we do things differently.

Rona Fischman 19:29

It’s just how it is. But some of the other things that have really been working to cost the buyer nothing that I wanted to make sure we got in because our time is short here is first of all the philosophy of negotiation starts with ‘Hello’ is really important. Teaching I we talked to our buyers about as soon as you walk in the door. If there’s a listing agent there, you’re on stage. You want to show that you are likable, agreeable, sensible, easygoing, blah, blah, blah, if you have questions, don’t appear anxious about them, or just give them all to me and let me call later and that opens the door to; these are the best buyers in the world. So what I say is the sellers, clean the house, they put flowers on the table, they open up all the windows, they change the curtains, and they pack, they stage the house. I’m staging you.

Victoria Ray Henderson 20:33

I like that.

Rona Fischman 20:34

And so you’re staging by what their demeanor is, when they’re around the listing agent, how the offer looks, we have a reputation for getting all the pieces of all the things the seller wants to see, to check off for their managers in their offices. So if they have a seller’s description of property goes with the offer that it’s already signed and taken care of. We’ve had lenders who have called the listing agent and said, “My borrower, Jan and Bill Smithers (I just made up that name) are putting in an offer for 1, 2, 3 Jones street, and I wanted to let you know, I have already pre approved them, I have already run this past the underwriter in my office, there is nothing that’s going to go wrong with this” and that has gotten us– Offers accepted.

When the two offers sitting there are the same or very close to the same because the agents in the area know us, and they know we bring a better buyer. If it’s toe to toe, we’re winning and that doesn’t cost your clients a penny and it’s so important.

Victoria Ray Henderson 21:59

A large part of it is your reputation as an exclusive buyer’s agent and one of the things that I know we do, I am always working on that relationship with the listing agent, never compromising the buyer, as I’m doing that, of course, as we all would never do. But making sure I asked questions like, so what is it that they your sellers need, would they possibly need a rent back? I had one agent not put that in the detail of the description and the multiple listing service and then she said, “Well, you know, they do, they would need to read back”. So of course, we added that into our contract. Of course that made us ahead of everyone else just by having that communication, Nikolina what would you like to add?

Nikolina Lecic 22:43

It’s going to interesting listening to Rona because our buyers never meet sellers, they never meet the listing agent, we have a log boxes, we have private time, unless like I mentioned in the beginning, they allow overlap of showings, then the only people we meet are other buyers competition. But in reality, we usually do give earnest money and usually about 1% of the purchase price is just saying we are really interested in your home. However, if the buyers decide to cancel Purchase Agreement at any point past the inspection contingency, they will more than likely lose this money, regardless who holds it either Title Company or the listing agent.

Victoria Ray Henderson 23:29

Say that one more time?

Nikolina Lecic 23:30

Yes. So in regards to earnest money, if the buyers for any reason decide to cancel Purchase Agreement after the inspection convenience time, they will more than likely lose it and I explained this to the buyers upfront. So they know what they are facing in case that there is a situation that they need to cancel the agreement, they will forego the earnest money.

So they are aware of that and it really depends, I think each situation with the buyer is a story on its own. It really depends how we approach based on how much experience they had in the past, especially in this market right now. So my communication with them is really very straightforward. I look for anything and everything I can find in a house that it’s could go wrong, doesn’t look right. Because if they do decide to go for a house and decline inspection, at least we noticed these things that could be a problem in the future for that and then based on this, on the pricing, the comparable sales in the area, we decide what seems and I always tell my buyers just go with your gut feeling.

We can control other buyers, how much this house means to you. That’s what you need to get what your goal is supposed to be because we can compete with everybody else. You are just your own competition. Think what it means to you and how high you are willing and it is, again, based on the experience we’ve had so far. That’s why I said they will probably lose 4 or 5 houses in this market. Before we will get one but we are there, we are getting some and we are planning away in this market too. So I want to really lift buyers up, I always try to encourage them, I just tell them, there is no house waiting for you. We just need to find it and be every patient, just be patient, and it’s going to happen.

Victoria Ray Henderson 25:31

Something that I wanted to mention, because I haven’t heard any of you mentioned this, we do something called the pre contract home inspection. Does anyone do that?

Victoria Ray Henderson 25:39


Rona Fischman 25:42

Our business model, our contract with our buyers say you have to have a home inspection, we just know the home inspectors know more than we do and we’re able to do pre contract home inspections, we don’t do them that much. Because you’re spending money on a property that you don’t have any leverage to have yet. So it’s tough but we’ve done a few we’re about 50/50 with getting the offer accepted.

Victoria Ray Henderson 26:14

And naturally, it makes it more competitive because the seller doesn’t have to worry about you, as the buyer coming back and negotiating any [crosstalk 26:22]. We’ve actually, we’re doing our 4th one today this week and we have had it work for us because we want our buyers to be informed about the house, we want them to know what’s wrong and we also want to make sure that they understand what they’re getting into one of our pre contract home inspections. Our home inspector went on into the crawlspace, this is not a small man, I don’t know how he got in there. I was in there after him, taking video and he’s crawling around in there came out we both were not moving ahead.

Victoria Ray Henderson 26:55

I told him I was going to write a blog called The Scary, What— the demons in the crawl space or I can’t remember now what I said, but it is just got worse and worse and worse and I’m like, yes, we’re not going to say that you should move ahead with this buried oil tank, abandoned electrical wiring thing that had been recalled. I mean, it was just dead mouse. Not that matter but I think it was just like one bad thing after another and I was like, Oh, we got to get out of here. Is anyone have anything you’d like to share here and Nikolina?

Nikolina Lecic 27:29

Before I mentioned some quick jumping on — some of these agents allow only 15 minutes in the the house. So there is no way they would allow us to bring inspector I mean, unless you know somebody or who is willing just the walkthrough with you and maybe can point to things that you’re not seeing. Other than that, that is just almost impossible in this market to do and plus the buyers wouldn’t be willing to pay 350 for any kinds of inspection beforehand, if they are not sure that they’re getting it. That’s why it’s usually done after the contract is signed and many times you are right now, buyers are declining of just in order to have a higher chance of getting across.

Rona Fischman 28:09

And I think all our markets are different in that way.

Charlotte Lemon 28:13

I have a question I would love to hear your all comments regarding because only once and all these years in real estate did this happen and it was that my buyers wanted to write a letter to the seller and the only time this has happened until this year was probably 15 or 18 years ago and it was a client who had a handicapped child that was moving into a home where there was a handicapped child. So it was perfect and my clients were very eager to write the letter to let them know how perfect their house was for them for that reason for their child. And, yes, we ended up getting that house. But this year to my shock, I have had clients coming out of Chicago, in Colorado, who wanted to write letters, and I have been reading articles that it’s not a good idea. But both of those clients, we were able to get the house and I don’t know if it was more to do with the letters, or that we did our homework ahead of time and we knew what we were getting into. I don’t know. But if that’s something that y’all do in your markets,

Victoria Ray Henderson 29:31

Rona, you want to start.

Rona Fischman 29:32

I have been using those letters since I started as an EBA [phonetic 29:36], which is almost 30 years ago and they are effective when they’re effective and they’re a neutral when they’re not and what’s important about it is, that it’s pretty easy to violate fair housing rules. So it’s becoming a thing for the listing agents, so the agents that are representing the sellers are afraid of being accused of discriminating. If the buyer says they’re specifically not in a protected class. So, back to the Smithers that I made up before. “I’m Jill and Bert Smithers, we’re white Christian, heterosexual people with two children”. Now, they don’t say that but if they have a picture of a man and a woman and two children and a dog, they have basically said that if those people are white, that’s right, and we want this place because it’s around the corner from our church, and you can’t do that and if you avoid doing that, they’re very effective, and what you want to do with those letters is answer the questions that the sellers really want to know. You’re good, decent people who pay your bills, you’re pre-approved. You want to be a member of that community, and you appreciate the house they’re selling.

Victoria Ray Henderson 31:05

Right. Very good points.

Charlotte Lemon 31:08

Absolutely good point.

Victoria Ray Henderson 31:10


Nikolina Lecic 31:11

Yes, I recently also had two buyers that wanted, I mentioned these letters to them. But those two buyers really came on their own with the letters and my basically challenge with these letters is the fact that I don’t know if these agents present them to the sellers, because they want to keep emotions out of the transaction and they might present them after the fact. But I think they are looking for the bottom dollar amount, what they are getting for the house, what seems to be the best deal for the seller, and they don’t want to get emotions involved and that’s why we didn’t get those two houses with my buyers and it seems like even though when I read the letters, I told them, I would sell them my own house. That’s the fact that I told them, I don’t know if these letters are going to end in the hands of the sellers.

Rona Fischman 32:10

And I actually went to a— that’s where I raised my hand second ago, I went to a webinar with counsel from NAR recently, and whenever you go to something within NAR, we all know this, but the buyers listening to us don’t, when you go to a training with the National Association of Realtors, they’re talking to listing agents and we don’t count.

Now they’re talking to the listing agents and they’re saying, Listing Agents! It is against the law for you to take that letter and not give it to your seller and if you don’t want to give it to your seller, you have to have a written statement from your seller, saying that, “They do not want to see personal information about the buyers and they want to pay attention to the dollars and cents”. So that’s what NAR is telling the listing agent. So we’ll see how it plays out whether listing agents are going to listen and how that will play out over the next couple of years.

Victoria Ray Henderson 33:11

Thank you for bringing that up. Because that is– this whole thing about the letters encompasses something very, very important and that is that the issue of fair housing. So one thing that we’ve worked on is telling people that you will continue filling their bird feeders and taking care of their garden. I think we went on that. If somebody told me they were going to continue to feed the squirrels and the bird because I do that every day.

Rona Fischman 33:37

We want on one that said, because they had a map of the garden, like what was planted where and we specifically asked for the map and that’s what got us the place. So that doesn’t violate any fair housing rules and by the way, April is fair housing month. It should be up on your websites, it should be part of what you’re talking about, because fair housing is not only the law of the land, but it’s excellent business.

Victoria Ray Henderson 34:08

It is… It truly is. You guys have been great. I’m so, so glad you joined me this afternoon. I’ve been looking forward to it and just to recap, we’ve been speaking with Charlotte Lemmon, she’s in Charleston, South Carolina. She has been an Exclusive Buyer Agent with the Real Buyer’s Agent for 25 years. Rona Fishman, an excellent blogger, I’m a huge fan. She is the broker owner of 4 buyers Real Estate in Cambridge, Massachusetts, serves the entire Boston area and then Nikolina Lecic, the broker owner of Exclusive Buyers Real Estate LLC in Rochester, Minnesota.

Victoria Ray Henderson 34:43

Thank you ladies so much for joining me on Listen up Home Buyers. It has been a pleasure.

Rona Fischman 34:48

Thank you.

Victoria Ray Henderson 34:49

Lovely to see you.

Speaker 34:50

You’ve been listening to Listen up Home Buyers. The only podcast offering Home Buying advice and tips from true buyer agents.

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