Finding The Right Agent

When we purchased our first home (a two bedroom town home in Kirkland) we had a horrific experience with a realtor. We purchased the home using the seller’s realtor to save money thinking that it didn’t matter who we used. We were young and stupid to say the least. The realtor tried pulling some pretty shady things, wasn’t responsive to calls or emails and even his broker was terrible. Worst of all it was our first time buying a property and we had no idea what we were really doing. We didn’t understand the paperwork or the process. But it was back in 2005 and the real estate market was booming and things were selling fast. We did whatever we needed to in order to buy the house.

Immediately afterwards though I took a real estate course from a local community college. I learned so much in those 3 months of classes. It walked me through everything I needed to know about the home buying/selling process. At the end of it I could have even taken the test to become a licensed real estate agent!

Then in 2006 when we sold our town home and bought our current home in Sammamish I felt much more at ease and educated with the home buying process. That said, we still didn’t personally know any agents so we went to plenty of open houses and searched for an agent as well as a new home. And we were so very thrilled with who we ended up using. They actually found us our home and we purchased it without it ever being on the market!

Let me vent a little about real estate agents though…I have a hard time justifying an agents commission if all they do is show you a home and help you fill in the paperwork. I just don’t think that in today’s tech/information driven world with everything at our fingertips including listings, home photos, past sales and estimated vales from websites such as http://www.redfin.com and http://www.zillow.com that realtors are actually earning the commission that they’re getting if all they’re doing is filling out paperwork for you. I hardly think that on a $500,000 home that an agent deserves a 3% fee of $15,000! And that’s just for a buyers agent…the selling agent gets another $15,000! I do understand there’s some work involved, but I can’t imagine getting that much money for doing one transaction at work.

That all said, I do think that some real estate agents are worth their weight in gold. Take for example the agent we used to buy our Sammamish home. They searched out, contacted homeowners in Sammamish who’s homes they knew we’d like, and sold us our home without it being on the market. That was definitely worth their commission!

Now to our current land buying. It is an absolute MUST to have an agent who understands purchasing land and deals strictly with land transactions. We hired Lance “The Landman” Woodruff from Windermere (lancewoodruff.withwre.com) to be our agent and it has paid off in spades. Lance, having been in the business for more than 20 years, has a lot of knowledge under his belt and a lot of key contacts in the area. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts how he knows exactly what to do and who to contact. It’s been invaluable. For starters, Lance wrote a letter of his qualifications and submitted it with our offer. This made our offer stronger than others since we had a fast close and it proved that we have the expertise to get it done that fast. Lance also pulled all of the County records for us, set up meetings with the correct critical area reviewers at the County, had a septic designer on site within days (not months) and found the wetland biologist who did the original study. Absolutely amazing! All of that in about 3 weeks! Lance’s knowledge of site feasibility is so fantastic too. He guided us through the process with ease and gave us some real dollar values for what things will cost to develop the land.

I have been working with Lance for the past few years looking at properties as they would come on the market, and one of the most amazing things about him is his honesty. Lance would tell us like it is, without sugar-coating anything. If a property was too wet and likely wouldn’t perc, he would tell us. If the property was too restricted by easements, setbacks, buffers, he would be honest up front and let us know. He would say things like, “for what you’re looking for, you should hold out, something better will come along.” I really respect and admire that about him. Lance was never looking for the quick sale, to earn his commission. He truly cared about the property we found being the perfect fit for our home.

In the end, Lance was the perfect fit for us, and if we were to do it all over again, I would use him in a heartbeat! And I would highly recommend him to anyone looking to purchase land in the Seattle area.

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Trespassers

So what’s our first step now that we own our own piece of land? Two things actually, 1) putting up a “Private Property, No Trespassing” sign, and 2) calling our State Farm agent.

Did you know that without a “no trespassing” sign you could actually lose your land to trespassers? I learned this in the real estate course that I took a few years back. If someone were to trespass and occupy your land for long enough, they could take your land through what’s known as “adverse possession”. Although all states are different, in Washington State a person would need to occupy the land for 10 years and then it would become theirs. Of course they need to meet some criteria and hire a lawyer but ultimately you could lose the land that you just purchased! We’re going to be starting the home building research/process right away, and the land will not sit vacant for the next 10 years, but it’s always good to be aware of the laws in your state and do what you can to prevent against anything happening. Also, if someone to trespass onto our property and not leave, in order for law enforcement to require them to leave, the sign needs to be posted near the entrance to the property. We’re planning on visiting/inspecting our land frequently to make sure that we don’t have any unwanted “guests” lingering around.

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The second thing on my list was to call State Farm – where we have our home owner’s insurance. I wanted to see what we needed to do in case if someone were to trespass on our land and accidentally injure themselves. Do we need a separate insurance policy to cover the land? And the answer was an easy “no”. Our current homeowner’s liability policy covers the land, and additionally we have an umbrella policy whose coverage extends onto the land as well. This may not be the case for all home insurance policies, so be sure to check in with your agent to find out if land is or isn’t covered.