Episode 7 – Home Buying Advice & Tips from Ben Clark in Salt Lake City Utah
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 00:10
I’m happy to have our next guest with us for Listen Up Home Buyers. He is the former president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents and the owner of Home Buyer Representation, Inc. in Salt Lake City. Welcome Ben Clark.
Ben Clark 00:25
Victoria Ray Henderson 00:26
Ben I’m so glad you could be here. I want to hear how things work for Exclusive Buyer Agency in the Salt Lake City area. It’s January 2020. What’s the market like in Salt Lake City?
Ben Clark 00:37
The market in Salt Lake City is still hot. You would expect– We did actually have a little bit of a slowdown at the beginning of winter. But it started to heat up again already. We’re here in January and we’ve got clients who are competing with multiple offers on some properties and inventories at a low especially for existing homes. Building is going crazy, a lot of people are moving to Salt Lake and they’re not able to build homes fast enough for the number of households that are being created locally and for again, those that are in migrating into the state.
Victoria Ray Henderson 01:11
I’m looking at a map as I’m talking to you and it’s just so incredibly beautiful. You have the Great Salt Lake, obviously, you’ve got these incredible mountains everywhere. Besides the great outdoors, what’s bringing people to Salt Lake City?
Ben Clark 01:27
Jobs is one of the things. Our economy’s one of the best in the country and it’s attracting a lot of the businesses and the young entrepreneurs and the Tech industry and you’ve got a lot of people who like to move out here because there are good jobs and there’s also a lot of like you said the outdoor lifestyle now.
Just so nobody misunderstands, the Salt Lake is not beachfront like you would imagine others but we do have other lakes around Utah Lake and we’ve got number of reservoirs and places to go skiing and fishing and some manmade lakes where you can take out your canoes and things like that.
Victoria Ray Henderson 02:10
Yes, so that beautiful body of water is not a place where a lot of people hang out.
Ben Clark 02:14
Victoria Ray Henderson 02:15
Right. Ben, talk to me a little bit about with the market the way it is, talk to me a little bit about first, how you protect Home Buyers in the market that you’re in right now? And we’re– Frankly, we’re experiencing the same thing in Washington, DC. It’s just incredibly busy and very competitive. But how you protect but also the steps that you go through when you sit down with somebody the first time that they come across your eight year old brokerage? What’s it like to work with you?
Ben Clark 02:47
Well, our business model is unique and it’s geared around helping a buyer specifically have the best transaction and get the best results and one of the first steps that we can do for our clients has helped them understand the current state of the market. It’s not always a hot seller’s market and help them understand what the current state of the market is, help them understand about how many offers they might need to make on a home before they get a contract so that they’re comfortable with how that’s going, help them understand what the actual inventory status is.
And we mentioned that there is what appears to be and there actually is, inventory is low, but it’s not quite as low as what the active homes on the market are. If you look back at homes that have been on the market, in the last two months that are under contract or sold, there’s quite a few more typically that fit a client’s criteria and so helping them understand what’s actually going on, and not just what they hear from friends and other agents and what’s in the news and such.
Victoria Ray Henderson 03:53
Could you talk to me a little bit more about what you just said, not just what’s on the market but what’s been happening a month or two before, push that out a little bit for me?
Ben Clark 04:04
If I sit down with a client and we put in their criteria and it turns out that there’s only six or eight homes that fit their criteria, we want to find out are there only six or eight homes or if in the last two months there have been 40 other homes that fit their criteria? We can feel more comfortable that more stuff is coming. If there’s only six or eight on the market, and there’s only eight or 12 total in the last couple months, we know that there’s not much more likely to be coming on and we just helps them understand whether or not they should be nervous about the quantity of what’s currently available today or if they can feel comfortable knowing that gee there’s not a lot at this exact time but there will be more that’s constantly coming on the market that fits their criteria.
Victoria Ray Henderson 04:53
When you’re talking about criteria, one of the things that happens with a lot of buyers who have not purchased homes in the Washington DC area is they will come here and say, I need a two car garage and if you are anywhere close to Washington DC, you are paying a premium if you can find one at all. It just– It isn’t a real common thing closer in to the city and having said that you can find buildings and condo buildings and so forth that will have a garage. But that’s one of the first things that we try to work with if they have to shape and change their criteria. What are some of the things that might be tossed out if somebody isn’t finding what they’re looking for in Salt Lake?
Ben Clark 05:37
Primarily, the reason that we end up with very few homes is, number one, their criteria may be not matching with reality, they may want something in a price range that that type of home just doesn’t fit.
Victoria Ray Henderson 05:48
Ben Clark 05:52
Or they may want new construction in an area that was all built out 50 years ago, we just don’t.
Victoria Ray Henderson 05:58
Ben Clark 05:59
Yes. We need to find out if they’re unrealistic, if it’s not that but we’re still just– There’s just not very much on the market.
Victoria Ray Henderson 06:06
Ben Clark 06:07
A lot of people who own especially existing homes are happy to stay put right now. They got in when interest rates were low, appreciation is on the rise, and they’re not interested in moving, they’re just going to sit there. You don’t have a lot of inventory for existing homes and if that’s the case, it’s just a matter of can we wait long enough based on how often homes are coming on the market? Or would we consider changing at some things? And this is I think what you were alluding to. You may change the price range but that’s obviously not what we want to do if we’re already set with that.
Victoria Ray Henderson 06:43
Ben Clark 06:43
But we could change the number of bedrooms or bathrooms, a lot of homes in Utah have basements and whether you may have a client that wants a four bedroom home but they can get into a three bedroom, two bath home with an unfinished basement where they could finish the space in the basement.
Victoria Ray Henderson 06:46
Got you. Yes.
Ben Clark 06:57
Or lot size is something we can play around with. A lot of the newer construction or at least in the last 10 or 15 years have been larger homes. But on smaller lots and a lot of the newer home buyers or home owners don’t necessarily need a quarter acre anymore or a third acre, they’re happy to– If they’re both working to have a home where they’ve got space for a pet to run around and kids to play ball but it doesn’t have to be huge.
Victoria Ray Henderson 07:28
Ben Clark 07:30
Other square footage, we can play around with the size of the home. Anything that’s got some sort of a quantitative figure attached to it, we can expand and contract those.
Victoria Ray Henderson 07:41
We have programs in Baltimore and in Washington DC for first time home buyers. Different kinds of programs that will encourage people to either live in the city or they’ll give them– If they take a class, they can maybe not put so much down on a home. Do you have programs like that in Salt Lake?
Ben Clark 07:59
We do. What we run into a lot here is a lot of our clients do have decent incomes and so because the median house price in Salt Lake County right now is 381,000. The income limitations on a lot of the first time buyer programs essentially makes they can’t buy anything.
Victoria Ray Henderson 08:05
Ben Clark 08:05
If they can afford to buy a $300,000 home, they make too much to qualify for the first time buyer program.
Victoria Ray Henderson 08:26
Ben Clark 08:27
I don’t know if that’s going to correct itself over time. But right now, even some homes are listed by these community development, redevelopment, nonprofits, and they put them on the market and they’re putting them on the market at a price where if you qualify to buy it, you can’t really get in. The one exception to that is the larger your family size. If you’ve got a couple with five or six kids, then their income can be higher and they may be able to squeeze into some of those properties if they’ve got a larger family size but.
Victoria Ray Henderson 08:59
Ben Clark 08:59
If you’re a first time buyer and it’s as an individual or a couple and they don’t have children or don’t have very many children, most likely they make more than they would need in order to qualify for the assistance.
Victoria Ray Henderson 09:17
If I’m coming to you and I have never purchased a home or I haven’t purchased one and 15-20 years, what’s the first thing that I need to know when I’m sitting down to make that purchase and to start the home search?
Ben Clark 09:30
Yes, the most important thing that I believe in is representation. That’s our business model is to make sure that the clients represented and I think that buyers need to understand that if they’re going to go out and start going into model homes with builders or if they’re going into open houses or if they’re looking at homes that are listed, that if they care about being represented and about getting the best outcome then they should really be focused more on trying to find a good buyer’s agent to represent them and preferably, like you said, an exclusive buyer agent who would always have their best interests in mind.
Victoria Ray Henderson 10:07
I remember when I was very much of a rookie, buying my first house and I guess I just didn’t even understand representation. I didn’t understand that there was a selling side and there was a listing side and for people that come to you that raw, there’s a bigger learning curve for that buyer.
Ben Clark 10:27
There is just because they don’t know what they don’t know.
Victoria Ray Henderson 10:30
That’s exactly right. Yes.
Ben Clark 10:32
Primarily, the clients who find me and we have a lot of them are very well– They’re savvy. They’re professionals, they’re doctors, they’re pilots, even I help attorneys and research scientists, people in the tech industry, professors, computer programmers. I mean I help anybody across the board. I’ve got school teachers and diesel mechanics and people who work in nonprofit industries.
But essentially, most of the clients who find Exclusive Buyer Agency are savvy people who do research and they can do that on Google and what have you, they listening to podcasts such as yours and when they’re exposed to the idea, it makes sense. You’re going to have a better experience and a better outcome with somebody who is on your side and is giving you factual information and can help you understand the process that you’re about to go through.
Even if you’ve already done it before without representation or by working through the builder’s agent or seller’s agent, you’re going to have a better outcome with somebody on your side looking out for you.
Victoria Ray Henderson 11:38
Yes, that’s for sure. When you are going through the home inspection, what are some of the common things that you see that are coming up in houses in the Salt Lake City area?
Ben Clark 11:49
Yes, every house has some deferred maintenance. I mean, it’s funny, we chuckle about it. I mean, the things that come up on most home inspections that are minor are primarily cosmetic but sometimes they’re important. I see a lot of trim around doors here because we get the summer in the winter and freeze on the [unintelligible]. You got a lot of peeling paint around doorways, you’ve got sometimes– In the older homes, you’ve got inferior roofing systems where they’re missing some shingles, or the flashings weren’t done correctly, that also occurs with stucco. When it first came to Utah wasn’t necessarily installed correctly. We get a lot of the window seals that are have caught– Have failed over the years and energy efficiency issues. That’s across the board, Home Inspections will find plumbing, electrical, all kinds of inferior systems, incorrectly installed systems, and things home owner Do It Yourself fixes that they’re improper and unsafe a lot of the time.
Victoria Ray Henderson 12:49
Those are always interesting to come across. When the hairy home owner who, ‘Hey, it’s always worked for me’ and you get in there and it’s a fire hazard.
Ben Clark 12:56
Victoria Ray Henderson 12:57
And they’re lucky it hasn’t burned down. Are termites a big issue?
Ben Clark 13:01
Not typically, they can be– They do exist in Utah but because of our winter for the most part, they’re actually in a little bit higher in the foothills where you’ve got a lot of exterior wood and pine needles and stacks of firewood from in some of the older homes and just ground cover and leaves and places where they can remain warm in the winter. Down in the valley, not so much but we do– Our home inspectors typically look for signs of termites and I have seen them come up on a number of homes but pretty rare in Utah actually to have a termite infestation or a problem they– Even homes where they have existed, they’re pretty migratory in Utah, they’ll come in, they’ll do some stuff and move on. But certainly you want to get taken care of if it’s caused any sort of structural damage or [inaudible 00:13:52].
Victoria Ray Henderson 13:51
Oh, for sure. What are some of the bigger critters that would cause problems? I guess not just in the city but in the outer communities and suburbs of Salt Lake. I mean, it looks like you could really have some wildlife.
Ben Clark 14:05
Yes, you come across a deer and things and a lot of people like that. You come across the deer in neighborhoods. You come across sometimes even cougars and mountain lions and things like that. There are shoot I’m trying to think of rats by Hogle Zoo. There’s some communities where when they spray for other types of pests, the rats go running through the neighborhood and it’s a once a year thing and people laugh about it and make fun of it.
Victoria Ray Henderson 14:33
Running with the rats.
Ben Clark 14:35
That’s right. We talked to some neighbors and they said, hey this is what happens and if you’re really concerned get a cat but everyone just laughs it off. But yes, I mean for the most part pests– Issues with pests. It’s pretty rare to see issues with pests but I have seen mice, I have seen bees, I’ve seen [inaudible 14:56] or attics full of bees and things like that. But for the most part, we’re a pretty dry, arid community and so we don’t see a lot of mold issues unless you have a constant source of water. It’s a pretty nice place to live as far as that– The biggest issues that we see with inspections are primarily, like you said, either incorrectly done the first time or incorrectly done the second time by a home owner or just deferred maintenance things that should be kept up on a regular basis that have been just ignored completely.
Victoria Ray Henderson 15:28
Yes and when you had mentioned that you serve a lot of different kinds of buyers, what is bringing people to Salt Lake City that, people who are not from that area what’s bringing them there to work and to live?
Ben Clark 15:40
Yes, a lot of people who relocate to the state are coming for jobs. We’ve got the tech industry and the hospitals and the universities and the aerospace and the airlines and there’s a lot of opportunities in the military, transportation and I mean, shipping and warehousing and things like that we’re in the center of the West.
Victoria Ray Henderson 16:02
Ben Clark 16:02
And a lot of that brings people out here, you also have a lot of people who came to school here and find jobs here, a lot of startup companies that come from college graduates here, you have– I mean, it’s across the board, a lot of people relocate here to be closer to family. A lot of people relocate here for the summer and winter Mountain Sports and the outdoors. We get all four seasons, it’s an attractive place to live.
Victoria Ray Henderson 16:28
Yes, it really– It’s beautiful. I mean, there’s no doubt about it. Talking about working with your home buyers, can you walk me through the process? I’ve come into your office, I’ve got 20% to put down on a home. What’s next?
Ben Clark 16:42
Well, everything again, that we do is going to be what’s in the buyers best interest. We’re going to educate you about the current condition of the market, we’re going to find out what you’re looking for, we’re going to sit down together and look at homes on the multiple listing service and see again, tweaking that search criteria.
Potentially, if you’re relocating to the area, discussing other areas that might get you more bang for your buck or it might be closer to your work or discussing all the pros and cons of your home search. Once we get that together, we’re going to have that go out to you as immediately when homes get listed, we can now notify you by email and you can look at those and save favorites and rank them and make notes to us and ask us questions that we can respond to.
When we get a list of homes together. We’ll go out on a regular basis. I like to show clients a lot of homes, I like to get them with their feet on the ground in the door, looking at the types of homes they can buy. I feel it prepares them better to make a good decision. When the home that they want to buy comes up, they’ve seen a lot of comparatively priced homes and what– They know that it’s a good deal because they’ve experienced firsthand being in the other options that are available to them.
Victoria Ray Henderson 17:55
What’s the highest number of people rather houses that you’ve seen on the tour?
Ben Clark 18:01
I believe I’ve shown 28 homes in one day.
Victoria Ray Henderson 18:04
No, you’ve got me beat. I thought I was going to beat you. I did 16.
Ben Clark 18:08
Victoria Ray Henderson 18:09
Oh my gosh, Ben.
Ben Clark 18:09
I don’t want to encourage buyers to come to me thinking hey, I’ll show him 28 homes in a day. It’s client specific. If you’re local, we’ll get out and we’ll see. If your geographic area is tight, we can typically see four or five homes in an hour. That was the next phase. Once you’ve– Instead of me previewing homes, I like to bring the client along to what they would normally call previewing homes, I call it speed dating. We’re just going in the house. Does it fit, does it not?
Victoria Ray Henderson 18:40
Ben Clark 18:40
Moving on to the next on. I feel– Then I overlap the appointments in such a way that if we keep moving quickly, everything’s fine. If we find a house that we really want to spend some more time on, it doesn’t throw us off schedule.
Victoria Ray Henderson 18:54
That’s great. Wow, 28. I’m still getting my head wrapped around that. That is crazy. I guess you’re taking notes and because at that point, everything is starting to run together if you don’t take notes.
Ben Clark 19:05
I again, I have to prepare– The biggest key is to prepare people. If they come to town, and they’re going to be– If they’ve got a notebook and four pages of notes and checkboxes for every house, that’s fine but we’re probably going to need to see fewer homes. I explained to them the different ways to do it and I let them choose. Most people like the speed dating methods. Again, we’re not trying to find the home that day. It’s just that they only have a short time. They may be flying in on Saturday morning. They’re leaving Saturday night and they’re buying a home and we’re going to do whatever’s in their best interest.
The purpose of showing a lot of homes in a small time period isn’t to necessarily find the one. But a lot of times that’s the first step is let’s try and narrow down what the criteria? Are we on the right track? And we’re going in and we’re just throwing stuff away. We’re not taking notes on stuff we wouldn’t buy.
Victoria Ray Henderson 19:56
Ben Clark 19:56
If that’s something we consider and you run into both types of clients. You run into clients who would buy anything
Victoria Ray Henderson 20:02
Ben Clark 20:03
It’s just– They’re just easy to please and then you run into clients where you may show them 20 homes and they don’t like any of that and then you have to reevaluate your criteria. In both ways, on the one hand you may be telling clients, hey let’s tighten this down so you’re getting a better home for your money. Because you’d buy anything, let’s try and get you the best home possible and on the other hand, you don’t like anything. What can we do? Can we move location? Can we resize those things that we talked about?
Victoria Ray Henderson 20:29
Right. It’s funny because I’ve had the same experience. I have– We have a lot of military clients coming in, of course, in this area, the Pentagon and all the military bases. We’ve helped people find a home in a weekend and because it’s– My husband and I, sometimes if we’re downtown, he’ll just drive us up like a driver to the front of the building, we run up, we run down, we go to the next spot, run up, run down. Don’t worry about parking and that is a really effective and quick way to see things. But we do take notes, because I tend to forget, was that the blue bathroom or was that the pink bathroom? With 28 nicknames.
Ben Clark 21:06
With 28 nicknames for the houses.
Victoria Ray Henderson 21:08
That’s great. You talked about a lot of construction coming up in the Salt Lake City area, is there a lot of new construction and how do you guide your clients through that?
Ben Clark 21:17
There is a lot of new construction. One of the important things people need to know, if they’re considering new construction is that the agent that works for the builder works for the builder and you really want to make sure that if you’re purchasing from a builder that you have somebody on your side who’s working for you. There’s a lot of intricacies in a new construction process. You want to make sure that you’re getting the proper inspections, you want to make sure that anything that their agent says is included, is included in the paperwork, always get it in writing. If it’s not in writing their contracts, they typically all use different contracts. It’s nice to have somebody who’s familiar with those, reviewing them on your behalf and making you aware of what you should be aware of or what you might be want to be made aware of. A lot of new construction communities have HOAs and you’ll want to consider all the factors that are involved with an HOA and then again, just to be with you throughout that construction process to make sure that they’re building the home the way you want them to and the way they’re contractually obligated to and taking your side, if they’re not doing something right to help make sure that the builder completes what they’ve said they would do in a timely fashion.
Victoria Ray Henderson 22:32
Holding their feet to the fire through the process.
Ben Clark 22:35
Victoria Ray Henderson 22:35
In a nice way.
Ben Clark 22:37
I’m in a neighborhood of new construction and a lot of my neighbors who didn’t use agents. It’s been over a year and they still have issues that hasn’t completed because it’s a newer builder in town and they’re on to their next subdivision and they’re unfortunately, with in those situations if you bought new construction and you didn’t have an eight an agent, you really need to be a squeaky wheel. Whereas if you have representation, your agent can go to bat and I think– My experience is that if you have an agent, then you’re going to get things taken care of better than if you’re just on your own.
Victoria Ray Henderson 23:12
Yes. You have an advocate, that’s for sure. Real quickly, I just wanted to mention that with what you were talking about reminds me of procuring cause and that is something that I think everybody across the country needs to know about. Can you just real quickly define what that is?
Ben Clark 23:28
Yes, so procuring cause is essentially an outdated scenario or arrangement within the real estate community back from the day when all agents represented the seller only. It essentially was a way to determine which agent was owed the buyer agent or the half of the Commission. There was a buyer agent at the time.
Victoria Ray Henderson 23:51
Ben Clark 23:52
That’s exactly right and that actually is true as well for some open houses. If they if they can prove that they brought you in, and you turn around and go back to your agent and say, Oh, I’d like to write a contract on that. If you’re there, that can be a sticky point for what they can claim to have procuring cause and I say this because it happened, unfortunately, to an office mate of mine. So yeah, it’s an old one, but it’s one that can catch people up
Victoria Ray Henderson 24:17
That’s exactly right and that actually is true as well for some open houses. If they can prove that they brought you in and you turn around and go back to your agent and say, Oh, I’d like to write a contract on that. That can be a sticky point for what they can claim to have procuring cause and I say this because it happened, unfortunately, to an office mate of mine. It’s an old one, but it’s one that can catch people up.
Ben Clark 24:43
To value having representation– Professional representation on your site in the real estate transaction. You’ll want to hire an agent and you’ll want to make sure that either they’re with you when you go through those model homes or that they’ve at least communicated to the builders that you are their client. I actually have a little card that they can take to the builder that says, our agent sent us here and you are unwilling to pay our agent, then we’ll bring him with us. But if you allow us to see the home, essentially you’re agreeing to.
Victoria Ray Henderson 25:15
Ben Clark 25:16
That we can’t– We’re not giving up our right to representation by walking through the model which essentially a lot of people give up that right unknowingly because they just don’t know about this.
Victoria Ray Henderson 25:25
That’s a perfect point. I mean, that is exactly right. They don’t know what they don’t know. Yes and listen, Ben, thank you so much for joining me. He is the former president of the National Association of exclusive buyer agents, and the owner of Home Buyer Representation, Inc. Benjamin Clark. Thank you so much for joining me here on Listen Up Home Buyers.
Ben Clark 25:45
Thank you. I look forward to seeing you next week. The neighbor conference.
Victoria Ray Henderson 25:49
Yes, can’t wait to see in Scottsdale.
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