2014 Year end review #694

#694 in a series of true experiences in real estate

As 2014 draws to a close, all board members and officers of Tarpoff & Talbert Ltd were present for the annual review – all two of us. Chairman and CEO Anet said that we’d had a good year, and I agreed. The economy has picked up in many sectors; our year in real estate in the Berkeley area was solid and consistent with our 2014 goals.

But we choose to do real estate differently than many and that no doubt made for more stable results. We work with more sellers than buyers and we make each listing our concentrated project: prepping and marketing, showing and selling one at a time. We limit the number of clients we take on in order to wholeheartedly commit ourselves to each one.

Often we first talk to people who want to sell months ahead of time while they are figuring where they’ll be moving and then getting there, or, in the case of estates, they need time for clearing and distributing contents. Many times the sellers moved out and handed us the keys. We took over the entire job from cleaning out the garage to making sure the utilities were changed to new owners at the end.

With a list of our sales and clients in front of us, we talked at our annual meeting about how satisfying this year has been. We enjoyed going to work every single day. We met wonderful people, we made a difference, we made a living.

We faced a new challenge with two clients who wanted to sell their houses without public exposure. No MLS, no open houses, no signs, no lock boxes. After much discussion about the possibility of their selling for less than if they allowed us to do our full-throated marketing, each asked us to give it a try. After much thought and planning, we contacted a select list of the best, smartest and most likely agents who potentially had buyers for each of these listings. Happily, both houses sold with multiple offers.

All of our other listings in 2014 were vacant. We were responsible for clearing belongings from a third of them. Some were painted and wood floors were refinished. One got half a dozen new wooden windows (gorgeous!), one had earthquake retrofit work, a new retaining wall and a water heater. Several had roof maintenance to extend the life of their roofs. And, in one case, because of lack of time and a difficult water line repair, all we had done was good cleaning, garden pruning and best staging, leaving other fixes to the new owners.

Some listings had sewer laterals replaced and energy work done. In order to appeal to the widest number of buyers and their lenders, termite work was completed in some cases. Every penny spent was considered. We asked ourselves each time we bought anything why we were doing it. We found the best quality goods and workmanship at good prices keeping in mind always that people buy houses because they fall in love and/or the price is right.

Everyone likes of course houses that are in good repair with systems that will deliver water and heat and keep them dry. They are also attracted by clean and clear, paint in pleasing colors, good floors and furnishings that tell how the house can look once they move in. Over and over again we thought through overall effect of changes and additions we made – add a half bath to a detached studio that already had a sewer line? How important? What will it cost?

Every listing we had this year drew multiple offers and all sold for more than list price. 2014 in our market area was very hard on buyers. Half of our sales were all cash, closing escrow in approximately 10 days. Some cash came from family money while others had sold their previous homes.

Half of our listings were purchased by first-time home buyers. These buyers got loans with 1 getting an FHA loan. Fortunately, the buyers we represented had all cash and were successful in this highly competitive market. One got his dream home at a price lower than asking, a house that had grown stale because it was listed too high by an out of area agent.

Seventy-five percent of our sellers stayed in California, with the rest moving to other states; most moved to be near children or grandchildren. Every client, buyers and sellers, were completely overjoyed. That’s something!

We’re talking to several sellers about when/where they will live next. 2015 is going to be another amazing year in Bay Area real estate. Meeting adjourned.

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