Real Estate

What You Should Know when Forming Your Own Rock Band, Part 1

Did you know that forming a rock band is almost the same as any other entrepreneurship venture? Throughout my career as an artist, I have developed many connections in the music world, and have been fortunate to see the process of forming a rock band, from beginning to end.

What I noticed, was that many of the steps followed, were either the same creative process for any other artist, or the same failure-proof procedures that succesful entrepreneurs have followed and perfected.

Let’s talk about the creative process. Forming a rock band is not about immediatly creating the hit single or the bestselling album that will put your name in the history books. As with any other venture, it is about putting the foundation, the first bricks, the basis of your entire adventure. In this case, you must begin with identifying your sound, your influences and abilities, and defining what it is exactly that will make you stand out in the genre of music. It might also be a good idea, while you are at it, to make a clear list of who you do not want to become, what kind of music you would never play or listen to, and your weaknesses.

Second, develop a support system, or a team. Whether or not they are your playmates, or even if they have no idea about music, your support team is almost as important as who you will be playing with… why? Because you will run to them crying when it all goes bad. Simple as that. Developing a support system will give you a base to create your project, and they will serve as mentors and advisors throughout the process of your band’s creation.

Third, find your sound. If you already know how to play an instrument, then grab a recorder and start fooling around with some notes. Make some samples. Record some mp3s. Don’t be afraid to hear your own voice on a recording, with today’s technology it can be modified and beautified… however, if you already know that your voice could be improved, sign up for some classes… learn another instrument… read about other musicians, and how they started too.

Once you have created a few demos of what it is that you want, think of a name for your project, and the position that you wll be filling in your band. Will you be the frontman/frontwoman? Will you be the manager? Who will take care of the bookings? Are you looking for collaborative sounds? Are you willing to play other people’s songs, or just your compositions?

Create a “Media Kit” of sorts. Just google that word and you’ll find plenty of samples. Yes, your basic contact info, a picture won’t hurt… a little bio that states who you are, what you do, and why you should keep going. It doens’t have to be absolutely serious, but show some credibility. Add a CD with your demos, and a 2 paragraph description of your band. This will all serve as a proposal. Make a list of who you are looking for, what you are looking for, and how others can support you, and give it to your support system (don’t forget to spellcheck!). Drop it off at bars, local libraries, music stores and caf├ęs, and places where you know that other music fiends gather.

Why Write a Business Plan?

Entrepreneurs who invest time and effort in writing a business plan are six times more likely to succeed, according to the US Small Business Administration (SBA).

“The bottom line is: if you are actively starting a business, do a business plan.” This is the perhaps blindingly obvious conclusion of research by the SBA published in 2008. Every year 7% of the US working population are engaged in some sort of entrepreneurial activity, setting up new business. They might have lots of great ideas and good intentions, but many of these ventures are never realized. The vast majority of those which founder lacked any form of formalized business plan.

Preparing a business plan seems like hard work, and it might feel like a poor investment of time. Many are written begrudgingly for the sole purpose of satisfying a bank or investors, but the process of putting a plan together go far beyond satisfying the demands of those holding the purse-strings.

A good business plan will define the commercial or other objectives of the venture and preparing it should shine a spotlight on the major issues that need to be addressed.

We tend to have a natural inclination to be over-optimistic about the potential of new ideas; it’s easy to imagine lots of satisfied customers and the dollars rolling in. Unfortunately, as experienced entrepreneurs know, over half of all new enterprises fail within their first five years and while the reasons are varied, the process of building a well-considered business plan will have identified and dealt with the most obvious ones.

A good business plan will provide answers to the following questions:

– what is the objective of the venture?

– what is the product being offered?

– how will this product be marketed?

– what are sales expected be in the first month/first year?

– how much does the product cost to make or buy, and what are the other overheads of setting up and running the venture?

– when will the venture start to turn a profit and how much profit will be made?

There are many books and website full of advice on how to prepare a business plan. In the US the SBA provides a wealth of resources, and in the UK the Business Link website is packed with relevant information and guides.

No one, other than the extremely foolhardy, sets out on a journey without having a good idea of where they want to get to. This applies just as much in business as in any other area of life. The process of preparing a business plan helps the entrepreneur to define where they want to go, to turn that ‘good idea’ into a viable commercial opportunity.

Without a good business plan the risk of getting lost along the way are much higher. The plan does not guarantee a successful business, but as the SBA research also discovered, time and energy invested in the plan was never detrimental to the business.

Real Estate Training for Newbie Investors

Real estate training is an integral part of becoming a successful real estate investor. A wide variety of investment courses are available. Many take place in a classroom setting while others are presented through correspondence courses; allowing education to occur in the comfort and privacy of home.

The majority of real estate training classes focus on buying and selling investment properties. Niche courses can include purchasing commercial real estate such as retail shopping outlets and raw land, investing in residential real estate, or learning how to invest in cash flow real estate notes.

 

Real estate financing and negotiation techniques are popular continuing education courses. These courses teach investors how to obtain the highest dollar for their property holdings. Other popular real estate training courses include real estate law and property management.

 

With the constant flow of bank foreclosures many realtors offer seminars focused on buying distressed real estate. These types of training seminars usually consist of one or two day seminars which teach real estate investors the advantages and disadvantages of buying foreclosed, short sale and bank owned homes.

 

The type of real estate training depends on investment goals. Newbie investors who want to learn how to buy rental homes can usually obtain necessary information through correspondence courses. Investors who want to make real estate investing their career can achieve their goals by enrolling in business and investment courses offered through accredited schools.

 

The Internet is a great place to locate real estate programs and schools. Libraries are another excellent resource for gathering knowledge about the various types of real estate investments. Most libraries provide real estate seminars presented on DVDs at no charge. Although some courses might be outdated, they can contain valuable information and resources for novice real estate investors.

 

It is important to conduct research before paying tuition to attend real estate training seminars. It is easy to publish a website and claim to be an investment professional. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been filed, or check popular scam reporting sites such as Scam.com or RipOffReport.com.

 

Real estate training programs can consist of one- or two-day seminars or as complex as two or more years of educational training. In order to determine what type of education is required, take time to research the various real estate fields. Some of the more popular niches include house flipping, rental properties, property management, real estate agent, mortgage broker and private real estate investor.

 

Talk with other real estate professionals and ask where they obtained their training. Contact local realtors and inquire about courses or seminars they offer or recommend. Review the Classifieds section of local and national newspapers to locate real estate training seminars.

 

Real estate investing offers many opportunities to earn profits. With proper real estate coaching and training, investors can generate income in any market or economic condition.

Determining Property Values when Flipping Real Estate

When you are flipping real estate, one of the hardest and most important things you must do is accurately estimate the value of various properties. You need to be able to look at a property and determine how much it will sell for when it’s fixed up. From that, you can come up with the price you are willing to pay for the property.

Real estate values vary greatly from one area of the country to another, so no Internet article can tell you how much a house is worth. There can even be significant differences in price between two houses that are right across the street from each other.

 

One of the biggest things that can impact the value of a home is the school district that it’s located in. A house that is in a good school district will be worth more than one in a poor district, even if they are right next door to each other. Property values are also affected by things like crime rates, the way the neighborhood looks and the average wages in the area.

 

The best way to get an accurate determination of the value of a house is to look at comps. If you have a real estate agent that you work with, you should be able to get these from the agent. Comps are listings of comparable properties that have sold recently. In order to provide an accurate picture of the value of the home, the comps used must not have any differences that would have a significant impact on the price.

 

When you start out flipping real estate, it is a good idea to have a couple of contractors inspect the home before you make an offer and give you an estimate for the repairs. Once you have done this for awhile, you will be able to make your own estimates. If you are buying a fixer-upper, you need to allow room for at least $25,000 in profit. This might seem like a lot, but if you missed something when you did your inspection, it could eat up a big chunk of that to pay for the extra repairs.

 

If you are going to turn around and sell the property to another investor without fixing it first, you will need to lower your offer price by the amount you want to make on the flip. For example, if the house will be worth $80,000 and it needs $20,000 in repairs, you could offer up to $35,000 if you were fixing it yourself. However, if you’re flipping it to another investor, he will not want to pay more than $35,000. In fact, he might use a different formula than you do and need to get it even cheaper. You need to take this into account when making an offer for a property you plan to flip as-is.

 

If you follow these guidelines for determining property values, you will be well on your way to a successful career as a real estate investor. Remember, the amount of money you make on a deal depends on buying it for the right price. If you pay too much for a property, you won’t make the profit you expected. Worse yet, you could end up losing money.

 

Want real flexibility to flip nearly ANY deal you want to do, including profitable pre-foreclosure deals? Want access to transactional funding? You can get all these crucial resources by going here Flipping Real Estate.

Buying a Condominium or a House: Factors to Consider

In this current difficult real estate market, if you are able to afford and/or secure a loan for any type of dwelling, congratulations (good for you)! If you are in the process of determining whether to buy a condominium or a house, there are several factors to consider.

One of the more obvious considerations is whether or not the place you are looking for will be for a family, a place for you and your spouse or partner, or maybe just you yourself. In other words, how many people will be occupying the living space? In general, large families need homes with several rooms, and this is not something you are going to get in a condo. If you are a family unit of 3 to 4 people or more, then most people want the comfort, security and space of a single family unit — a separate, stand-alone house. Condos are not really designed for families with more than one or two children, in most cases.

 

If there are children, a house will provide the room and privacy you need. You need bathrooms, plural, as well as a yard, somewhere with room for family activities. (If you are looking for a home with a swimming pool, this type of amenity will cost less in a condominium, however.)

 

Cost will determine to a great extent the type of dwelling you are looking for, and cost will be one of the major determining factors in your purchase decisions.

 

What are some of the differences between ownership in a condominium and a home?

 

A condominium is like an apartment. There are several condo units in one building, just as there are several living units in an apartment building, with common areas such as lobbies and courtyards shared by residents. However, if you live in a condominium, you are the owner of the unit you are living in, not a renter.

 

There is give-and-take when you live in a condo. Some of the advantages of buying a condo vs. buying a home have to do with maintenance of the property. You are not required, in general, to do maintenance on your unit yourself if you live in a condominium complex. Major maintenance jobs are done by someone else, a hired handyman or plumber, for example. Types of maintenance chores done for you in a condominium can include keeping up a yard or maintaining common areas shared by the residents of the complex. (You still, however, must pay for the maintenance work that is done, usually through monthly fees you pay to a Home Ownership Association.)

 

If you like living where there are other people close by, this you will get in a condo. One issue to consider is the fact that, because many condominium complexes are gated communities, they are easier to keep secure than individual homes. Another practical security issue is the fact that, like an apartment, there are more people around to observe and keep an eye on the property.

 

Some condos have amenities such as pools and saunas that you might not be able to afford if you were buying a home. If the condominium complex is new, you will have similar amenities to a newer family home, but at a lower cost. With a condominium, you can enjoy many amenities, including such things as tennis courts or fitness training centers, that would be significantly more costly if you tried to add them on to your home, or purchased a home with these types of amenities already included.

 

One of the primary drawbacks to living in a condo as opposed to a home is the lack of privacy. Most condos are built with a “common” wall, a wall that is shared by the owner in the unit next to you. A single home, on the other hand, is a world unto itself. Private. As with an apartment, if you live in a condo development, you are living very close to your neighbors!

 

Parking can be an issue also in condo/townhome living, more people with more cars in a smaller space. However, condo ownership means you will also have your own designated parking area, in most situations.

 

Investment considerations are also a very significant factor in making your decision, whether or not to buy a condo or a house. Condos will never have the same appreciation potential as individual homes. This is a fact of life in the real estate market, and a very important point to keep in mind if you are deciding whether or not to purchase a condo or home. In most cases, a house is going to go up in value and be worth more when you want to sell than a condo.

 

Another drawback with condos is the fact that you are restricted in certain ways that you would not be if you were a homeowner. Most condos require you to be a member of a central Home Owners Association (HOA). The HOA determines certain aspects of what is required by all those living in the condo complex. In other words, there are rules that must be abided by in a condo. Maybe you don’t agree with the code as prescribed by the HOA, another thing to consider if you are thinking about a condo. HOA ownership usually involves monthly fees, something that you would not pay in your own home.

 

Condominium ownership has increased in purchase demand as the baby boomer generation is reaching retirement age. Husbands and wives whose children have “left the nest” do not necessarily need all of the space of a single family home anymore as the children grow up and leave home. If you are someone who enjoys living in the city, in an urban setting, then buying and living in a condo may be the way to go. Ultimately, the decision to buy a home or condo has to do with your own personal needs, along with the needs of other people who will be living with you. It is an individual decision.

 

Sources:

 

Should I Buy a Condo or House?www.buy-and-sell-house-fast.com/buy-house/buy-a-condo.shtml (accessed November 9, 2009)

 

Udy, Lisa. 2009. What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Buying a Condominium?http://ezinearticles.com (accessed November 9, 2009)

How to Buy an Older House in San Francisco Bay Area

As we searched for our first home in the Bay Area, we fell in love with older homes, ranging from the 19th century Victorians, the Bungalows of the 1920s-1930, to the Eichler homes of the 1950s. An older home has much more characters than a cookie-cutter planned development unit (PDU). However, it often has a lot of issues. Our search went on for a year. We’ve got in contract twice. Each time we had to cancel the contract due to $100000-$150000 needed for repairing the house.Through the process, we learned quite a few lessons and would like to share with other first-time home buyers.

One of the major concerns with older homes is the foundation. Most real estate agents would recommend you to stay away from brick foundations. Brick foundation is typically the original foundation. It has been with the house since it was built. Most brick foundations will need to be replaced at some point. It also significantly affect the resale value of the property. The cost of replacing brick foundation ranges from $100,000 to $150,000, depending on the size of the house.

 

Perimeter concrete foundation is another type of foundation that you often finds in older homes. It is important that you check the quality of the foundation. If the house has a crawlspace, I typically crawled down and used a screw-driver to poke at the foundation. Bring a screw-driver and a flash-flight on your second tour of the home before making the offer. Ask the seller for permission to get in the crawl space. If you see the concrete is highly porous or crumbles when you poke at it, it is the sign that the foundation might need to be replaced very soon.

If you see efflorescence (which is a white powdery deposit) on the concrete, or moisture in the crawl space, there might be an indication of improper grading or too much water in the foundation during rain seasons. Often a termite inspector or a home inspector will be able to tell you whether the foundation is still servicable and what you might need to do for repair or upgrade in the near future. For more information on foundation issues in older homes, please check out http://www.stlouisfoundationrepair.com/home-buying-foundation-problems.htm .

 

In most older homes, the foundations are not anchored or earthquake retrofited. If you are buying a home that has not been retrofitted, you may plan to do it in the near future to reduce damages to the structure of the house during earthquake.

 

If you plan to buy a house close to an earthquake fault line, you might need to check whether the property is in an active landslide zone. For instance, for a property in Berkeley or Oakland Hills, you may want to check Alan Kropp Landslide map at http://www.akropp.com/resources . If the property is indeed in an active landslide zone, you might want to bring in a structural engineer to access landslide risk and the stability of the structure. I have seen several multi-million-dollar properties ended up selling for $200,000-300,000 due to landslide issues.

 

You can check for what has been done on a property by checking its permit history. For instance, if you are buying in City of Alameda, you can check for permit history at http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/services/permit_history.html . You can do the same thing for a Berkeley property at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/gis/PPP/ . Most cities keep a database of the permits requested for a property. Some might be dated back to the 1950s.

 

The permit history can tell you a lot about the property, for instance, when the last time the roof was replaced or when the concrete foundation was put it. If you find out that the foundation was earthquake retrofited 5 years ago, it is very likely that the foundation is in a good shape. You can also check whether the electrical system has been upgraded through the permit history.

 

Another way of checking whether the electrical system has been upgraded is to check whether the outlets have two holes or three holes. If the outlets have only two holes, it is very likely that you are dealing with an out-of-date electrical system. It will take $8000-15000 to fully upgrade the electrical system in a 3 bedroom – 2 bath.

 

If the furnace is old, it is most likely that the ducts have asbestos. Removal of asbestos may cost up to $3000-$5000.

 

You should also check whethe the chimney is vertical or not. Some chimneys of older homes tend to lean due to exposure to wind/rain. Such chimney might be unstable and hazardous to your family and neighbors.

 

Good luck and we hope that this short guide will help you to navigate the complex process of buying an older home in the Bay Area.

 

References:

 

1) Permit history of City of Alameda, http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/services/permit_history.html

2) Buying a home with foundation issues, http://www.stlouisfoundationrepair.com/home-buying-foundation-problems.htm

3) Electrical upgrades, http://www.energy.gov/applianceselectronics.htm

 

4) Berkeley permit history, http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/gis/PPP/

5) Alan Kropp landslide map, http://www.akropp.com/resources

Guide to Rent a House Without Using a Real Estate Agent

Renting a property can be a daunting task. There are so many questions to be answered. How do you pick the right tenant? How do you know if this person will pay the rent and on time? Do you hire a Realtor to market and help you screen a tenant? Hiring a Realtor is the easy way to rent a property. However, if you do not have the money to pay the Realtor, you will have to do it yourself. Here are a few tips to help you market your property and choose a good tenant.

Prepare the property. A clean well maintained property will always rent for more money and faster than one that is dirty and unkempt. If budget permits, paint the interior with a neutral colored paint. Shampoo the carpets or replace if needed.

 

Price the property. Find out what similar properties are renting for in the neighborhood. You can ask a local realtor or look on the internet. Price your property to match your competition. If you are in a hurry price the property below your competition’s price.

 

Place ads. You can always place ads in your local paper. If money is tight, stick to Craigslist. Make sure to list the best features of your property. Make sure to state if you will be charging any fees (like credit check or processing fee). Decide if you will allow pets and say so in the ad. Add pictures whenever possible.

 

Show the property. Whenever you show the property make sure to let people see the whole house. Let them wonder around and view the house at their leisure. Don’t rush your potential tenants. Ask if they have any questions. Make sure to hand them an informational flyer with a picture of the house and a rental application and credit check form.

 

Get the right forms. You can purchase rental and credit application forms from your local office supply store. You can also purchase these forms online. There are websites that cater to landlords. They will sell you the forms and do a background check. Just do a google search for landlord services or tenant background check.

 

Do a background check. You will always want to run a credit check. Do research on how to read a credit report. These days a good credit score is anything above 600. This is part of the background check. You can choose to do an evictions check or a criminal background check. Obviously, the more you check the higher the cost. You can pass on the costs to the potential tenant. Just make sure that you post the fee in the rental ad.

 

Check references. Most people ask for references but few people bother to call and verify the information. Call the current landlord. Ask if he/she has paid the rent on time. Ask if he/she is maintaining the property in decent condition.

 

The interview. Review the information on the rental application. Review the credit report and background check. Ask any questions necessary to clarify any inconsistencies. Ask why they are moving. Clarify when they want to move in.

 

Drafting the lease. You can buy a general property lease from your office supply store. You can also purchase a lease online. Fill out the lease and sign. I recommend that you insist on collecting the deposit and first months rent in certified funds (bank check or money order). Make sure you and the tenant understand everything that is on the lease.

 

Make sure to check if you need a rental license and lead paint laws.

How to Get a Lender to Accept Your Real Estate Short Sale

In this unstable economy, real estate is plummeting and people are losing their homes left and right. What does this mean for the average real estate investor? Money! Not only can an investor help a homeowner in distress, but he or she can pocket some money as well. Sounds great, but there is the pesky little obstacle of getting the lender to agree to accept a lower price than what the homeowner actually owes!

The first step you need to take is to determine what the Fair Market Value of the home is. You can do this by researching recently sold comparable homes. What did they sell for? The average of these “comps” is your Fair Market Value, or FMV. You will need access to the MLS for pulling comps. You can easily enlist the help of a Realtor friend. Be sure your comps are very similar to your investment property in size, location, age and condition. You don’t want the lender to have any reason to refute your comps.

 

After you have 6 comps available, you will need to find the “average.” The easiest way to do this is to throw out the highest and lowest number and average the remaining four to get your price.

 

Next, you need to compute the “After Repair Value” or ARV. This is the value of the home after all repairs have been completed. You can find average repair costs by using the help of a GC or carpenter. There are also many software programs out there that will help you make a spreadsheet of costs.

 

You need to keep in mind that the final BPO or Broker’s Price Opinion is what really sways the lender. It is usually written by a well-known BPO specialist in the community, someone who knows the market very well and knows how to find the value of a home with a high accuracy rate. That person will sometimes simply drive by the property, or go inspect the inside.

 

With short sales, the investor will low-ball the home to get a short sale started with the lender. He or she will offer maybe 60% of the FMV or ARV of the home. Just because a home is headed toward foreclosure, it doesn’t mean that it is necessarily a great investment. You need to look out for properties that need repairs, have more than one mortgage, have liens, and have homeowners who cannot afford the payments. The last one is very important. Banks will work with people who are genuinely in financial distress. Please don’t waste your time on homeowners who simply do not want to pay or are using the money for things like vacations and other frivolous expenses.

 

You can either look for nice looking homes, homes with need of minor repairs, or downright damaged homes. Each type has its pros and cons. One factor that seriously helps or harms your ability to get a short sale through is the type of financing a home has. Conventional loans are the best, as they are flexible and willing to work with short sale investors. FHA and other government backed loans are very difficult to work with, as they have set requirements that are hard to meet.

 

As long as you follow this basic advice, you should have no problem sorting out the goods deals from the bad.

Rent to Own Your Home

Renting to Own your own home is a dream for many tenants. It’s not a mystery and, for most tenants, it’s doable with a little planning. And, with any contract, it’s a good idea to get legal advice before you sign something.

The basic agreement is what’s usually known as a “Lease-Option”; that is, you have a Lease for the current use of the property and an Option to purchase it at a later date at a set price. The tricky part is setting the price now for the future purchase.

 

One way to look at this is to ask who’s risking what? Essentially, a Lease Option is a bet. In a Lease-Option, Landlords are betting that the market will go stay the same or go down in the future, and that by setting the price now, they will get more money than they would if they sold the house later. Tenants are betting the opposite: that, in the term of the agreement, the market will go up and that they’d have to pay more for the same house later on than if they get the price locked in now.

 

Leases are about setting the price of the use of the property for a determined period of time, and paying that amount in monthly installments, starting with the first month and ending with the last month of the lease. A Lease-Option is that and more: the most common variation that I’ve seen in nearly 20 years as an Attorney and Real Estate Broker is an add-on arrangement that, in broad terms, (1) sets the price for the future sale of the property; and (2) sets the date for the purchase to take place; and (3) determines the downpayment, which is then usually divided into monthly installments over the life of the lease that are then added on to the rent paid now. Is it more complicated than that? Yes, and this article is only an outline to get you started.

 

Before you enter into a Lease (or any other contract), you need to think about what you want and what you are willing to pay (i.e., risk) to get what you want. A simple way to start is to make a chart for yourself to help you see what you want. Take a blank piece of paper. Draw a line across the top of the paper so that you can write a few lines above it; then draw a vertical line down the center of the page. On the top left side, write; ” what” and the top right side, write: “how much.” In the column under ‘what’, start making notes about where you want to live; what kind of house you’d like to buy; what features you’d like to have and so on. On the right column under “how much”; either write in how much money you’d be willing to spend today for that or, if you don’t know right now, simply put in ‘$” for the minimum you’d spend and $$ or more $$$$’s if you’d be willing to spend more for that. You get the idea. Then, go back and number down the left side of the page the items you’ve listed in the order of their importance to you. The point of this very simple exercise is for what you want to appear to you, even if you hadn’t really thought about it that way before.

 

So, once you know what you want, you can begin to bargain for it, knowing that the more important it is to you, generally speaking, the more you’re going to be willing to pay for it. Another thing to know is, even though you may have a verbal agreement with your landlord based on your being a “month to month tenant” without a current lease, any agreement that will last longer than a year will have to be in writing to be enforceable in court if anything goes wrong. All investments – whether it’s a lease, or an agreement to buy, or stocks etc. – have an element of risk which is why you need to get it all in writing before you sign anything or spend any money.

 

How and for how much you set the price is between you and the landlord/seller based on many factors including how much risk each side wants to take. There are many methods to determining price. The internet is a wonderful resource tool plus a competent local Realtor can help you by explaining what the current prices to similar properties are and why knowing what the “comparables” are is important to you in setting the purchase price.

 

Getting what you want means that you know what you want and what you don’t want. Getting what you want your way means having control over what you agree to. No one can – or should – do that for you. It’s your money.

Dealing with Real Estate Agents

Each time I buy or sell a house, I have to deal with real estate agents. There is no real way to avoid this. When I’m selling, I have to deal with one to sell my place and many more who show my home to prospective buyers. When I’m buying a house, I again have one who shows me the houses I’m interested in buying plus all of the ones who have the houses listed that I want to buy. When I’m selling my house, I have to select a real estate agent. Many questions come to mind. Do I choose the one I dealt with last? The one who helped me buy this place? Do I find someone new? Do I search for a real estate agent who is cheaper, that is, who doesn’t charge the full 7 percent commission? Do I throw an arrow at a picture and choose the unlucky sap that I pierce? Choosing a real estate agent is as bothersome as figuring out how to get a Hobart Handler 190 MIG welder started up.

This has been a dilemma and it’s hard! I really have a problem with paying such a high commission. And when you’re the seller is when you pay the commission. The last time I sold a house, I chose a real estate agent I’d used before because he charged less than the 7 percent. Granted the 7 percent commission is split between the seller’s (my) real estate agent and the buyer’s real estate agent but still. I think a $7,000 fee when selling a $100,000 house is a boatload of money! I get angry when I think about this money that I lose so I simply choose to not think about it. It gets me nowhere after all. So I just pull a Scarlett O’Hara and think to myself “I’ll think about that tomorrow.” I could get my real estate license and save (or keep) my portion of the commission. I could have saved thousands of dollars over the years. Could-a should-a would-a.

When I’m buying a home, I have to choose someone who I want to sit in a car with and drive around looking at places that I frankly, will probably make fun of to a degree. “Did you see all of that crap stacked in the bathtub? Do they ever bathe?” Or “I really liked that condo but why would anyone paint a kitchen orange?” To which the real estate agent, defender of all decorating mishaps, might say “Oh, paint is cheap. You can always paint it!” Seriously, having to watch my tongue while viewing houses in the presence of a real estate agent, especially a prissy woman or a man who never says a negative thing, just adds to the stress of buying. And house hunting is stressful. For one thing, it’s a huge purchase. I take longer to pick out a good pair of shoes.

I try them on, walk around the store, look at my feet from all angels in those little tilted mirrors, feel my big toe, generally makes sure I can live with these things that cost, oh, around fifty to one-hundred dollars. But with a house, I walk in, make mental judgments about the throw pillows on the couch, wonder if they have a nice liquor assortment, open the medicine cabinets (to see how much room there is, not to snoop! Never to snoop!), and basically kick the tires like it’s a Big Wheels I’m buying. Why can’t we spend the night like on that one HGTV show? Take a shower and see if we really like that feature? Sit at the table in the morning and listen to the neighborhood waking up? But I have an idea that the real estate agents I’ve dealt with in the past would tell me I’m welcome to drive over in the morning to check all this out. “Just sit in your car. That’s a good idea. You’ll see what it’s like. Now, would you like to make an offer on this place we just spend ten minutes in?”