Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Q: I was so surprised to talk to you about buying land and having you be so negative.

I just wanted to buy a little piece of land to hold onto in case I decide to come back to Vashon someday. You lost a sale because now I'm going to work with someone else.

A: You are welcome to work with some other broker or agent, of course. A good percentage of my business has always been land sales and I've worked as a consultant all the way through the building process with many clients. Because of that I want to be sure people are aware of all the limitations and issues of building in rural King County. I also want them to have a firm and realistic understanding of the time and money involved.

It's not at all unusual for a parcel of land to sell every few years as one owner after another comes up against cost issues or building limitations. I don't want that to be the experience of people I work with. Even after disclosing everything I know or can find out about a parcel of land, there can be surprises once the buyers begin their development process.

I always stress to those buying land that they should develop it as soon as possible. Just because you have an approved water system and approved septic design now, does not mean you will get those in the future. I've seen examples of land that even became unbuildable because regulations changed while the owners were not paying attention.

My goal is not to be negative, but rather to be realistic. I have a client right now who will be putting in a much more expensive septic system, a more sophisticated water system, and spending far more on utilities than she would have if she had developed sooner. You should learn all you can about the land and the building process and then develop the property as soon as you can after buying it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Q: I recently retired from a government job.

Even though I get a good pension I'm still in good health and bored. I do volunteer work, of course, but I'd like to make a little money too, not just do "good works". I have friends trying to convince me that I'd be good at real estate. I've looked into the schools and licensing requirements and I've looked at lots of websites to see what training there is. My wife said that I should ask your opinion about it. I'd like to stay here on the Island.

A: Your timing might not be the greatest, I'm afraid. It's common, when there is a hot market, for many people to come pouring into the real estate business looking for a "piece of the action". Currently we have over 60 licensees on the Island. That's for an average of 250 sales a year. As they say, "you do the math".

Many of the agents working on the Island, like elsewhere in the country, are part time. They may do just one or two sales a year. That is extra money for them, of course, but working part time often means they aren't able to keep up with all the changes in the industry. It can mean they never become fully trained to make the best decisions and properly advise their clients.

It can be troubling for their clients who rely on their agent's knowledge and experience to guide them through a transaction. If the agent has little knowledge and even less experience it can cause some serious problems. Also, keep in mind that in our current market you have to be fast and competitive as well as knowledgeable.

It amazes me, after almost 20 years in this business, that there's still always something new to learn. I have years of experience in other businesses, years of training and education in real estate and a master's degree, but I still can't begin to know everything there is to know about real estate. It may look easy, but believe me, it is not. Best of luck.