General Musings

Random non-real estate related post

Nothing real estate related here at all. Just found a cool new blog that I added to my feed reader, called JetHead: The World from 30,000 feet at 500 mph.

JetHead is over at and it's the periodic musings of a commercial airline pilot. He flies a 737.
I’m typical of the major airline pilot: seven years as an Air Force pilot flying worldwide, twenty-five plus years in [American Airlines] cockpits, captain since 1991, and many, many thousands of pilot-in-command hours with the commensurate number of take-off and landings to match. Like all of our cockpit crews, “this ain’t my first rodeo.”

My favorite post so far is the one called Fearful Flyers: What Not to Worry About. JetHead goes into great detail about the safety engineering on big commercial jets ....and then throws out this little chuckler:
Your jet is designed to endure a shaking like Charro on crack and still go about its business. Although I’ve never asked a nervous flyer because I’m trying to calm them, not piss them off, if you are a white knuckle flyer, do you worry about your car falling apart whenever you cross railroad tracks? Probably not–even though your car is NOT designed with the stress tolerances of our jet. Just something to think about.

Some of his posts are technical, like comparing the old MacDonnel-Douglas MD80 to the brand new Boeing 737-800. But some are "sketch of life" type posts, like extra-odd people he finds in the airports during the Christmas holidays.

Now, at the airport, odd stuff is a given. That’s because odd people still have very little time and so must go by air, I suppose, to share their weirdness with family and friends.

Plus JetHead has beautiful photos of his time in-flight. Cruise on over and see if you like what has to offer. Or check out our blogroll of interesting and useful blogs about real estate, life, tech & geeky stuff, and other stuff like design.  Enjoy!

Disclaimer: post author did not receive anything of value in return for writing this review. This blog does not currently publish paid/sponsored reviews of anything.

Social media changed us in 2010

I got the coolest email today from LinkedIn, to which I belong. They sent me an email with the subject “Heather, 8 of your connections changed jobs in 2010” and it came with the following link/photo:

linked in icon for what 2010 brought

Isn’t that cool?

First, what an awesome way for LinkedIn to get in front of their ‘customers’. Brilliant email marketing idea! Note to self: adapt this for my own use.

Second, I already knew about 7 of the 8. But what I find amazing is that I was aware of 50% of these job changes solely because I’m involved in social media.

We all  know the jokes about being glued to our smart phones. We’ve seen people who can’t get off their phone at the gym, who shout “I might lose you” when they enter the elevator. And that guy who’s texting during his son’s soccer game is so well known he’s got his own commercial! Phoenix banned texting while driving over 2 years ago. Tweeting is an international phenomenon and Facebook has 100 million users.

I admit: sometimes I’m overwhelmed by Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

But this little email from LinkedIn made me realize that no matter how behind the tech-geek curve I feel, and no matter how many days I wake up and resolve to “do better” at keeping up with the fire-hose of information spewing out of my BlackBerry, social media has really changed my life

Overall, I think it’s a net-positive change.

You could argue that social media is making us all behave more like we have ADD. And it’s probably true that social media is making our “friendships” more shallow.

But really, how deep a friendship do I need to cultivate with 3 people I used to work with, 1 of whom lives and works 3,000 miles away? And how involved do I need to be in daily life of the sister of one of my best friends? Not very.

But it’s awfully nice to keep in touch with these people. To know when they get a promotion, or start planning a wedding, or have a baby or grandkid. It’s nice to be able to shoot them each an individual Tweet or IM to say “hey, good for you! thanks for sharing.”

Image ID 1100360 by Stock Exchange user spartsamIt’s kind of like waving at an acquaintance from across a crowded party. I don’t imagine these folks expect more than that from me. And I don’t expect more than that from them. I just think it’s nice to have the chance to smile and wave, and wish somebody well across the virtual social media cocktail party.

Want to share waves with me across the social media landscape? You can find me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, on the political blog written by my alter-ego the PoliticalB!tch, and finally on the bookclub website I run.

Lease Purchase, Rent to Own

Rent to own and lease-purchase agreements are cropping up in the Greater Phoenix real estate world these days. They’re a natural result of the continuing tight credit market.

Lease-purchase and rent to own are essentially the same things.  A lease with a purchase option is almost the same, just with more complicated legalese thrown in there.

We don’t typically assist folks with leases that turn into purchases, no matter what the terms. We feel strongly that you really should hire a lawyer if you’re going to do anything that involves renting a house now and buying it in the future.

Here’s some brief thoughts on the situation; I took these from a quick email I sent out earlier today to some friends of ours.

Rent to owns (lease-purchase and lease-purchase options) are usually a little tricky --

  • does tenant pay a little extra each month towards down payment?
  • or does the tenant pay a lump sum amount now? (usually several thousand dollars!)
  • if so, who's bank account “gets” the deposit(s)? does that money earn interest? for whom?
  • under what circumstances are extra payments refundable?
  • what happens to that extra deposits/payments if the rent is late a day or two? if it’s late several weeks?
  • do you value the purchase price of the home now or in several years when the purchase happens?
  • do you get an appraiser? who pays for the appraiser?
  • what if the appraisal comes in lower than the agreed-on purchase price?
  • what if either side changes their mind between now and the purchase?

As you can see, there are a lot of questions. We recommend you hire a real estate attorney to help you figure out the answers. Call or email us, we know several excellent Greater Phoenix attorneys!

Fun with FICO

Isn't this a set of interesting statistics?

In 2005, 46% of consumers who opened a new mortgage had a FICO score less than 700. In 2008 this percentage had dropped to 25% . Fair Isaac (creators of the FICO score) reports that borrowers in the Northeast continually present the least amount of default risk nationally for real estate loans.

It's good news that creditworthiness increased in the last few years. I know someone who actually got a mortgage offer in the mail for their dog in 2005. Their dog! <le sigh>

It's pretty common wisdom that the foreclosure rates need to fall in order for a real recovery in real estate to happen. Maybe the 2008 and beyond buyers who were more creditworthy won't default on their mortgages and we're near the light at the end of the tunnel. On the other hand, if the dismal unemployment rate continues, that'll mean more foreclosures and more uncertainty in the market.

Wishing I had a crystal ball. . . .

(stats provided by Rob Chrisman of Mortgage News Daily)

Real Estate Funnies

Sometimes my job makes me giggle. Today was one of those days.

Received a fax today from a seller’s agent in response to an offer my buyers clients made.

List Price $695,000                                Buyer’s Offer $660,000

Note: Sold comps in the past 60 days are $685,000 and $669,000 with a recent low of $625,000 and a recent high of $715,000. I sent copies of those comps with the buyer’s offer, explaining how they’d compared the Seller’s house to each of the sold homes.

Seller’s Counter: $690,000 and a note that says “Bank of America appraised it in January of this year at $810,000. Would you like a copy?”

Would I like a copy?!?  Um, no. If you really thought your house was worth $810,000 you’d have listed it at $810,000.  And it would have sold. But you listed it at $695,000, and we all know you're not leaving $115,000 on the table out of the goodness of your heart.

We all know the house isn't worth $810,000. The question is, is it worth the $660,000 we offered?

Dear Mr. Seller,

While you might hope your house is worth $695,000, we all (should) know that non-bank owned homes in this price range are still a buyer's market. We offered 93% of your asking price. You countered us at 99.3% of your asking price. We'll come up a little bit more. But you’re going to have to do better than dropping $5,000, or you’re going to have to wait for another set of buyers to come along.



PS - Our Realtor has a letter from a book agent who says he can get her a $250,000 advance on a book deal for her blog. Would you like a copy?

But It's A Dry Heat

"It's a dry heat" is a ubiquitous phrase in Phoenix every summer. Like most stereotypes, it's ever present because it's true.

To a point.

"It's a dry heat" works for me personally up to about 103 or 104. After that, it just feels hot no matter what, and my stock reply to "dry heat" is ususally, "Yeah, so's my oven."

On the other hand, late spring and early summer evenings are some of my favorite things. One truth about dry heat - at least in metro Phoenix - is that as soon as the sun sets the temperature drops quickly and noticeably.

Last night as I drove home from dinner with Dad on his Day, my car displayed 92 degrees at 9:00pm. I rolled down the car windows and popped the moonroof and it was one of the most pleasant drives I've had in quite a while.

the shrinking middle class

I was talking with my neighbor last night about the current state of the market/economy (as if anybody talks about anything else nowadays).  He made a comment I found interesting:

"Half the people we know are losing their homes and cars, and the other half are buying up property for $60,000 a home.  We feel fortunate that my job is secure and we haven't had any negative effects from the current economy, but we don't understand how all these people had that much cash lying around to buy cheap property...?!"

My guess is that most people out there are like my neighbor; you just never hear anybody talking about things being "ok" - it makes for a pretty boring story to tell your friends!

You hear sad stories about people getting laid off or losing their home, and you hear success stories about people buying great investments.  Makes for a more interesting conversation (and news report).

Your ready for the middle class's return to prominence Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Rainbows and Sunshine

Today I'm attending an MLS sponsored real estate technology fair, and running into a lot of colleagues I haven't seen in a while, as you usually do at these industry seminars.

One Jonathan Dalton jokingly told me I've sounded waaaay too negative here on The Phoenix Agents lately.  It was meant as a joke and taken as such. But on the other hand, I'm extremely optimistic by nature, so it made me think.

So for the near future, it's rainbows and sunshine for me.


On that note, today I heard a presenter for the Cromford Report say that Phoenix area pricing hit "recovery" levels on April 6, 2009.  The Phoenix Agents will post charts in the coming days, to show our readers what I saw today that convinced me that Cromford is almost certainly right.

BTW, if Cromford is right, one of my favorite lenders Shailesh Ghimire called the recovery with amazing accuracy way back in December 2007. Great job Shai!

Triple Digit Phoenix Facts

It looks like today's going to be the first 100 degree day of the year.

In honor of the occasion, I pulled together a list of facts about our hot "but it's a dry heat" city.
Highest Temperatures ever recorded in Phoenix:
122 - June 26, 1990
121 - July 28, 1995
120 - June 25, 1990
118 - 7/16/25, 6/24/29, 7/11/58, 7/4/89, 6/27/90, 6/28/90, and 7/27/95
(Does anyone else remember that week in 1990?  I was driving a car whose a/c was on the fritz!)
Earliest, Latest, and Averages:
Average # of 100 degree days:  89
Most # of 100 degree days:  143 in 1989
Fewest # of 100 degree days:  48 in 1913
Average occurrence of first 100 degree day:  May 13
Earliest first occurrence of 100 degrees:  March 26, 1988
Latest first occurrence of 100 degrees:  July 18, 1913
Average last occurrence of 100 degrees:  September 28
Earliest last occurrence of 100 degrees:  September 2, 1904
Latest last occurrence of 100 degrees:  October 20, 1921
All information provided courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration -
Your crazy enough that he looks forward to summer Realtor,
Chris Butterworth

Must See Homes Now Syndrome

Several times in the past few weeks I’ve been contacted by a potential buyer who found Thompson’s Realty online and wants to see a home they found there.

The email usually looks something like this:
“pls contact me about seeing this home right away”

9 times out of 10 the consumer Must. See. Homes. Now!

Public Service Announcement

Must See Homes Now Syndrome is growing across the Valley, and is particularly virulent in the investor classes and with first time home buyers. Buying a home in a frenzy can be extremely detrimental to your wallet and your well-being. More than that, it wreaks havoc with my schedule and leaves me working 14 hour days, subsisting on trail mix and bottled water.

Here’s the thing. When you call or email it does not trigger a process whereby I run to the Bat Cave, throw on my superhero cape, then sprint out the door and burn rubber getting to where you are so I can show you properties for sale.

Tips for Avoiding This Public Health Nuisance

The Realtors who are still left in the business after the economic carnage that was the Phoenix Real Estate Market in 2007-2008 are left in the business because we’re darn good at what we do.

We know the local market, we know which floor plans sell for a little bit more, we can analyze comps 7 ways to Sunday. We’re negotiation experts and know which documents banks require before they’ll even look at your offer. We’re also part time counselors by necessity, skilled at mending your dashed hopes when you lose a deal or get bad inspection report news.

We Survivor Island Realtors are tech savvy, happy to communicate with you by email, cellphone, Tweet or text. We blog and vlog. Many of us do guest speaker gigs or contribute time to worthy charities. Occasionally we even see our spouses and children.

We Who Remain In Business have got an arsenal of electronic & computer equipment and we know how to use it: digital stills, video tours with audio and music overlays, wireless anywhere access to the MLS and tax record. We’re familiar with Flickr and Dwellicious, Trulia and yes, even Zillow.

In short, the Realtors still working full time are the industry’s first round draft picks. You wouldn’t expect a first round draft pick to sprint to the phone when you call. Don’t expect really excellent Realtors to be available with 15 minutes notice. Expect to make an appointment for tomorrow, or even the next day.

Public Awareness Campaign Tagline

Your lack of prior planning does not create my emergency.

(Borrowed without permission from the IRS. They’re busy just now auditing your 2008 tax return so we don’t think they’ll notice we stole their motto.)

I Am Not Hiding Good Deals!

Recently I’ve had some interactions on the phone with a prospective client who wanted a bargain on Scottsdale condo.

After the end of the final phone conversation with this person, I was left screaming obscenities, whipping towels at the bathroom counters, cursing myself for not being firmer from the get-go, and generally scaring my cat.

Here’s a revelation readers: Realtors are not shop clerks. We do not have a secret stash of really excellent products at knock-down prices tucked away in the back room, waiting especially for you to arrive at your leisure and swoop them up.

  • I am not your personal shopper.

  • I do not have access to secret deals that nobody else knows about.

  • I am not hiding the really screaming good deals from you.

  • I am not trying to be difficult when I explain that the condo you liked when you saw it 4 weeks ago is now sold.

  • I cannot get you a pristine, move in ready property at 60 cents on the dollar. Anywhere.

Finally, if I could get a move-in ready condo at 60 cents on the dollar . . .

I would not sell it to you.

I couldn’t. Why? This property is not for sale. Either the owner already sold it to a friend who recognized a steal when he saw it, or the listing agent hired by the owner bought it immediately instead of listing it in the MLS. Either way, I am not hiding it from you.

Dear prospective client,

We’re breaking up. It’s not me. It’s you.

Sincerely, Realtor.

FedEx drops the ball

My package's saga ended this weekend, capped off by being delivered to the wrong address.  That, along with the lack of customer support or a proactive response, fueled my desire to share the shipper's name with you.  Here's the scorecard:

11 - # of days it took FedEx to deliver a package 300 miles.

6 - # of times I called FedEx to offer my address when their tracking website showed "no address" in the delivery field.  Also the number of times a FedEx representative assured my they were updating the system so my package would find me.

5 - # of times the FedEx representative wondered aloud why the person I spoke with previously wasn't able to save my information & must have not known what they were doing.

3 - # of times the FedEx representative had me hold while he/she called the distribution center to confirm everything was ok.

1 - # of times the FedEx package was mysteriously rerouted to Peoria, ILLINIOS.  Nobody at FedEx was able to explain how/why this happened.

1 - # of times the FedEx representative acted proactively, and after 20 minutes on the phone confirming every detail with me, promised me the package would show up at my door "tomorrow".

1 - # of times the package was dropped off at the front door of my previous house, where I haven't lived for several years!  No signature requested, and left outside during a rainstorm.

0 - # of times FedEx admitted making a mistake, accepted blame, or offered to replace the contents of the package if they were lost or ruined.  (nothing important, just a laptop computer!)

Last week I wrote about The Right Reaction to Being Wrong.  My frustration isn't that FedEx goofed up - they ship millions of packages and are going to goof up occasionally.  I simply cannot believe how they reacted when they goofed up - absolutely unable to fix the problem, blaming anyone and everyone else, and capped it off by dropping a package at an old address (which neither the shipper nor the recipient gave them) in the rain.

Update.  4/11 afternoon.  I spoke with somebody at FedEx about retreiving my package & re-delivering it to my correct address.  She offered to take personal control & responsibility for the delivery, confirming my address and phone number for the umpteenth time.

Update #2.  4/13 morning.  I decided to drive to my old house & see if the owners were home.  They were, and were nice enough to give me my computer.  I then called FedEx back to let them know not to worry about retreiving my package.  Their response?  "Let me confirm your address as OLD ADDRESS and your phone number as OLD PHONE NUMBER."  unbelievable.

Update #3.  4/13 afternoon.  I received a voicemail from Mark Marinowski at FedEx today, letting me know that since the package was delivered to my house, it was not FedEx's responsibility to retrieve it, and that if I wanted it shipped somewhere else I would need to ask the shipper to initiate a re-shipment.  even more unbelievable.

Your wondering what brown can do for him Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

the Right reaction to being Wrong

We've all made mistakes.  goofed up.  dropped the ball.

The real difference is what happens next.

Some people make excuses, blame others, become argumentative, and fall back on "company policy".

These people are short-sighted, and are usually underachievers.

Other people readily admit their mistakes and jump through hoops to fix the error.  They might even offer to share in the blame, even though both parties know full well whose fault it was, and shift the attention to finding a solution rather than dwelling on the problem.

These are your overachievers, and are usually found at the top of the ladder.

I try to be in the 2nd group.  After all, it doesn't matter who made a mistake, since we can't go back in time and do it differently.  All we can do is fix it, and learn from it.

I recently had a laptop computer repaired by the manufacturer, who shipped it back to me.  A MAJOR shipping company has taken 11 days (and counting) to get the package the 300 miles from the computer company to my door.

I call them everyday to see if they have my address on file and whether or not my computer might make it back to me.  (Tuesday, for example, it was in Peoria, ILLINOIS!)  Not one person at the shipping company has gone out of their way to fix the problem and expedite a delivery.  Instead, each person tells me the person I spoke with yesterday must not have known what he was talking about, before rambling on about who's responsible for what, and company policy, and then telling me they'll forward a message to the distribution center.  (which never seems to generate a phone call back to me, or a package delivered to me.)

In the end, a shipment got messed up.  Not a big deal, considering they ship millions of packages.  But how they've handled it speaks volumes, to the point where I'll never use that company again for packages I ship.

Your fed up with excuses and excuse-makers Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Phoenix Visitor Seeking Real Estate Deals?

“I want a great house, a great neighborhood and a great price.”

I hear that at least twice a week lately.

Federal Fair Housing law doesn’t let me talk much about good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods. Without opening myself up for a lawsuit, let me just say this:

Think of your hometown. There are parts of your hometown in which you wouldn’t purchase a home no matter how low the price. Phoenix is no different.

Plan to spend the better part of a day driving past some of the “great deals” you found on the Internet. You’ll save yourself and your Realtor a lot of time and frustration.

“I just want a great deal; I don’t care where it’s located.”

Phoenix is huge. It’s sometimes hard for visitors to realize that Queen Creek and Surprise can easily be 2+ hours apart by car during rush hour. Yet they’re both considered "metro Phoenix” and you’d see nothing but suburban rooftops the entire 2+ hours.

It’s true that you can find shopping, dining and entertainment in just about every corner of the vast Valley. But you’re bound to have personal preferences.

Do the touristy things in various parts of the Valley and find your favorite part of town. Again, you’re saving you and your Realtor time and frustration.

Off and running for the moment, showing homes to some visitors who wisely considered the above, and know exactly where we’ll find their great deal.

Keep It Simple

For about 2 years now I’ve been trying to explain to seller clients why it’s not a good idea to “test the market” with a higher list price. Their logic is “we can always drop the price” or “they can just make an offer.”

The response I have inside my head is, “Are you bleeping INSANE?!?!? This is the worst seller’s market since the Great Depression! There’s blood in the streets and you want to try?! There’s no try!”

Of course I don’t say that out loud.

I mumble one thing or another, stumbling over my efforts not to piss somebody off. And tonight I learned that Bernice Ross (CEO of already wrote a script of the response I should be using:

The logic is simple. When there are hundreds of competing properties and prices are declining, it is in the seller's best interest to do whatever it takes to sell as quickly as possible before prices decline even more.

Thanks Bernice. I’m gonna use that.

a Photo Radar tip

Watch your speed, but PLEASE DON'T STOP!

The cameras are scattered across the Phoenix freeways, and stand as a constant reminder to watch your speed.  However, they don't flash their lights and snap your picture unless you are going 11 miles per hour over the posted speed limit.

Photo Radar on Phoenix freeways

For all the public outcry over the cameras - "big brother" and privacy concerns mostly, I actually don't mind them.

I drive a lot of miles - all over the freeways and at all different times of the day.  And while my average speed has been reduced from about 80 mph down to about 72 mph, I've also noticed a big drop in the number of accidents.  I used to see cars entangled in the median almost daily; now I see that a couple of times a month.  In the end, I get where I'm going faster, even at the slower speed, because there are fewer accident-induced traffic jams.

All that being said, traffic would move even faster if drivers didn't slow down to below the speed limit for every camera they see!  This is my plea to other drivers out there - you can drive 70, 72, even 74 miles per hour and not have a single worry about getting a ticket in the mail.  The cameras are set to flash you at speeds above 75 in a 65 zone  (Loop 101, for example!)  You don't need to slow down to 62...  Please don't slow down to 62!

Personally, I set my cruise control at 72ish and drive, and I've never been flashed by the cameras.  My stress levels have actually decreased as I don't have to worry about speed traps anymore.  I wish more people would do the same.

Your glad to get that off his chest Realtor,

Chris Butterworth