As a successful Boston real estate agent, it always puzzled me how and why some people choose particular Boston real estate agents to sell their homes. For most of us, a real estate purchase is the single largest investment we will ever make in our lives. Still, when it comes time to capitalize on this investment many home sellers are much too casual and have very low standards for the person they choose to handle the sale of their property.I can cite many examples of poor decision making when it comes to home-sellers choosing a real estate agent, but there is one example from my experience that really boggled my mind.I received a call from a woman about six months ago who asked me to do a Comparable Market Analysis (CMA) of her Boston Condo. (I gladly obliged and confirmed a time to meet with her and to tour her property.) The CMA process typically entails an initial tour of the subject property, comprehensive market research to produce a report, and an in-depth, in-person listing presentation. After meeting the client, viewing the property, doing the necessary research and presenting my report, I was certain that this woman would list her property with me. She disclosed to me that she had interviewed five other Boston realtors and that she was “by far” most impressed with my presentation and me. She cited my track record selling Boston real estate and Boston condos, my knowledge of the Boston real estate market, and my professionalism as the reasons she viewed me as the most qualified real estate agent to sell her home. She also disclosed to me that my service charge was identical to the five other agents she interviewed so “price” wasn’t an objection I would have to overcome.After giving her forty-eight hours to review her options (I of course sent her a thank you card for considering my services), I followed up with a phone call to see if she had any outstanding questions. To my surprise she told me that she had decided to list her property with a friend, who is also her hairdresser, and sells real estate part-time in a suburb of Boston. My initial shock came from the fact that she decided to list her property with an out-of-town broker, someone who had very little knowledge of the Boston real estate market. But what really blew me away was her decision to list her property with a friend, who not only had very little total real estate experience, but who works part-time in real estate and had never sold a property before! Her exact words were: “She is a very nice person and I would like to help her jumpstart her real estate career.”At this point she had already made her decision and the last thing I was going to do was to disqualify her friend as a competent real estate agent, so I wished her the best of luck and told her that I would try my best to cooperate with her friend to sell the unit. She thanked me and recognized my professionalism. What I really wanted to ask her was this: If I told you that you had $150,000 to invest, (which is approximately what she stood to profit from the sale of her home), and your friend, who is also your hairdresser, called you and told you that she just started selling stocks part-time and she wanted you to invest your money with her, would you do it?Fortunately, most of the people I have actually posed this question to have thought about it and answered no. Unfortunately, there are too many people who do not think about their real estate investment in these terms and are essentially answering yes! For some unknown reason many people are much too casual when it comes time to sell their real estate investment, when if fact, most people look to the equity they have in their homes to pay for important things like major home improvements and educational expenses while they own their home.It turns out, the woman I used in the example above ended up calling me in a panic after her property sat on the market for six months, overpriced by almost 10%. She had to sell the property within 60 days of calling me as she had been carrying two mortgages for four months and was running out of money. I ended up selling the property three weeks later for a reduced price because the property had become “stale” in the eyes of buyers in the market and she had very little bargaining power when it came to negotiating price.You must have high expectations when choosing your Boston real estate agent and must truly think of your real estate investment as the largest single investment you will ever make in your life. The following is a list of 25 questions that you must ask all of the realtors you interview before choosing one to sell your Boston home:1. Are you a licensed sales person/broker in the state of Massachusetts?2. Do you have a licensed broker in your office?3. How long have you been selling real estate?4. Do you strictly work as a seller’s agent?5. Do you have buyer’s agents working in your office?6. Will you offer compensation to sub-agents, buyer agents, or facilitators, or all?7. What is my liability if you offer compensation to and welcome sub-agents and he or she misrepresents my property?8. Will you ever allow a buyer or another agent to enter my home without you being present?9. Is selling real estate your full-time job?10. How much real estate have you sold in my neighborhood in the past year?11. Can you provide 5 references of people you have sold for in the last year?12. How many listings do you currently have under contract?13. What is the “average days on market” for all of your listings over the past year?14. What is the average ratio of asking price to sales price for the last 10 properties you have listed?15. What differentiates you and your company from your competition?16. How will you arrive at an appropriate suggested asking price for my home?17. How and where will you market my property?18. What is your service fee?19. What services are included in your fee?20. What is the length of your listing contract?21. Is your contract an exclusive listing contract?22. Are your real estate forms in compliance with the laws in Massachusetts?23. What professional real estate organizations do you and your company belong to?24. What is the state of the Boston real estate market? Is this a good time to sell?25. What properties would I be directly competing with if I put my property on the market today?
According to the National Association of Realtors, new-home sales are projected to drop to 464,000 in 2009, down 8.8% from their 2008 mark of 509,000. While real estate experts remain unsure when the real estate downturn will again move positive, equity and non-equity destination clubs both welcome and fear the decrease in luxury real estate prices.Most destination club business models revolve around the clubs’ real estate holdings. Destination clubs typically fall into three rather broad categories: Bond-like MembershipsThe most common destination club model, a member receives a fixed amount when (if) they resign their destination club membership. Members have a fixed amount that they receive at the conclusion of their membership period, generally between 75 percent and 100 percent of the membership deposit they to join the club.Future Value MembershipsThis increasingly popular membership option provides members with a refund based on the ideally higher initial fees a club is charging when a member exits the club. Under this format, members may receive even more than they what they paid in. Although models vary, members typically receive between 70 to 80 percent of the future value of their membership, upon exiting the club.For example, the Solstice Collection currently offers their Signature membership plan for $615,000. Solstice allows their members the option of choosing a traditional bond-like membership plan, as mentioned above, or a future value membership option. A Solstice member electing to take the traditional bond membership option would receive 100 percent of their membership deposit back when resigning from the club. A member who elects the future value option is counting on the club being able to charge more for their membership in the future. If Solstice raises their Signature membership plan to $800,000, a future value member who joined at $615,000 would get 80 percent of the $800,000 membership value when they resigned; a $640,000 refund on their $615,000 initial membership deposit.Equity Membership Most similar to true second home ownership, members are also direct owners of the club’s portfolio of properties. Members enjoy similar access to the club’s properties as the other formats, and when they redeem their membership, they receive an amount that is calculated based on the club’s current real estate holdings. Some equity clubs have a fixed date at which point the club will liquidate its holdings, and return pro rata shares of the proceeds to all member/owners. If the club has made wise real estate investments in burgeoning markets, the member may well receive an amount significantly greater than the amount they invested. If the club’s real estate has not appreciated at all, the amount refunded will probably be similar to the amount paid in. “We’re finding luxury homes up to 30% off in markets that would have sold at market rate just a few years ago,” said Adam Capes, President of Equity Estates, in a recent conversation with The Veras Group. “Our owners/members love that we are acquiring our portfolio of homes in a down real estate market.”Equity Estates, one of the leading firms in this sector of the destination club industry, structures their membership as ownership of an investment fund. Members enjoy luxurious vacation residences and first class service, but are also owners of the fund, which has an anticipated liquidation date in 13 years.While Equity Estates and other destination clubs’ members directly benefit from the club buying homes in a slumping real estate environment, the other destination club models also see benefits from their structure in slower markets.Diversified Real Estate PortfolioWhile the value of one home in one location can vary widely, depending on the local market, destination clubs have a disparate, global portfolio of homes. The diverse locations spread risk across a broader platform, which can be a great benefit to clubs with larger portfolios. While domestic real estate has seen a recent downturn, many international properties have seen record gains. Some international beach properties have posted gains over 230 percent in the past five years. Los Cabos, a destination club mainstay, has enjoyed 17 percent year over year gains during this period, and other areas like the Turks & Caicos have dedicated billions of dollars to tourism development, subsequently strengthening the area’s real estate asset value. While some US and Canadian properties have seen value depreciation, some have seen just the opposite, shielding clubs from drastic regional price variances. Membership Deposit Toward Real Estate Nearly every destination club states how much of its incoming membership deposits are allocated toward real estate acquisition. While many home prices have slid, destination club membership prices have risen. This presents a huge opportunity for forward-thinking clubs.Purchase More Real Estate: If members are contributing more capital as part of their initial purchase decision, the club can purchase additional real estate in advance of their acquisition schedule. This second option not only increases availability, but also allows the club to grow their real estate holdings. By taking a long-term view, destination clubs can maximize profits when they do sell, during more favorable market conditions. This also adds more homes and destinations, allowing for stronger future sales.Purchase Better Real Estate: Every club has a target home value they purchase for their members. If a club typically purchases $4 million residences, they may be able to temporarily increase their buying power, and purchase homes valued at $4.5-$5 million currently. This allows the club to buy homes that are closer to the beach or ski lift, more spacious, and more stunning than their other real estate.Decrease Their Debt Service: While both of the above options strengthen the member’s travel options, a down real estate market can also strengthen the club’s financial security. Members’ deposits are backed by the club’s real estate holdings. Many destination clubs do not purchase their homes outright, but rather incur debt between 40% and 70% of the property value to complete the transaction. If clubs are receiving more membership deposit monies per home, they can increase their down payment and drive down the loan-to-value ratio. This decreased debt improves the club’s balance sheet and thus members’ deposit security.The oldest investment mantra is “buy low, sell high.” The destination club model is predicated on this idea. While lower real estate values temporarily decrease the value of the club’s overall portfolio, it ultimately raises the club’s long term sustainability and produces highly satisfied members.———The Veras Group is the only unbiased destination club news, consulting and brokerage firm. As our client, we accompany your purchase from start to finish: customized reviews of your travel needs, unrestricted access to our expert advisors, insiders’ advice from industry veterans, insightful due diligence support, thorough club comparisons and points of difference, and the best available terms & pricing on your membership, all at no cost to you.