What does fair housing have to do with it?

People often ask me if this is a good neighborhood or a bad neighborhood. They will state that they want their children to be in a good school, what parent wouldn’t want their child in a good school. Sometimes clients will ask the ethnicity of an area or if the schools in the area are good. They will ask about crime in the area including whether there are any sexual predators living in the area.

Realtors cannot answer these questions due to fair housing laws. Under the Federal Housing Act of 1968, this would be considered steering- Attempting to steer someone into purchasing a home in a particular neighborhood or to steer them away from another neighborhood.

What is a good neighborhood versus a bad neighborhood will differ from person to person. What feels safe to one person may not feel safe to another person.  I always suggest that clients drive the area that they are interested in at night and during the day as well as during the week and on the weekends. In addition, I think they should get out and walk the neighborhood, if you are physically capable of doing so, maybe even talk to a neighbor or two. If you don’t feel comfortable walking the neighborhood, you probably aren’t going to feel comfortable sleeping there at night.  There are websites that will give crime data. Buyers may also wish to ask at the police department for crime statistics in neighborhoods they are interested.

A Realtor cannot state that one school is better than another school, because that is an opinion.  They can say that a certain school is the deaf education school in a certain district, or that a certain school won the last state championship in football, because these are facts. The best way a buyer can determine if a school is perfect is the view the school in person and check out websites.

While I understand buyer’s concerns about the location of the property they are purchasing, I am 100% completely committed to fair housing and equal opportunity for all. I cannot answer subjective questions, because there isn’t a right answer to those questions. My impression of what is safe or good will be different from someone else’s.  I cannot answer questions on ethnicity of a neighborhood, because that might steer someone from feeling welcome in that area.  The answer to these questions is subjective and requires the buyer’s due diligence.

If you are looking for help in buying, selling or investing in real estate, please feel free to contact me at 405-213-2992 or visit my website at www.sandiwalker.com


Do you trust yourself to wake up

I recently read Steve M.R. Covey’s book, “The Speed of Trust. There were many good thoughts in the book but my biggest take away came from the section entitled “Being credible—to yourself and others.”
Covey talks about how he would set his alarm clock for a certain time to get up and then hit the snooze button several times, knowing full well when he set it that he was not going to get up to the alarm. He went on to say that he finally changed the way he performed and determined to wake up when the alarm clock went off no matter how little sleep he got. If he was really tired and knew he would need more sleep he would simply set the alarm for a later time and get up at that time. Hence he did not start off his day with a lie to himself.
After reading this part of the book, I started thinking about how every morning I would hit my own snooze button. But honestly, what was I getting for my extra nine minutes of semi sleep. I was reinforcing in my mind over and over again that I was not going to keep the commitment I had made to myself. As I looked at other commitments in my life like working out, taking time with the family, and other personal aspirations I saw that I would constantly sideline them for other things that I thought were more important.
Hitting a snooze button first thing in the morning might seem normal to most including myself but after reading Covey, I vowed to never hit the snooze bar again. With my new commitment I found that I was ready to make other commitments to myself and others. Now, I get up in the morning and have a healthy breakfast and then work out. I might read or watch the news. It is amazing what you can find time for when you are not hitting the snooze bar a couple three times first thing in the morning.
This is a mindset thing for me. I know that I need to have self-confidence and self-competence or else I will not be able to achieve the high goals that I have set for myself. As silly as waking up on time might seem it is the way I start my day. It is my first successful goal of the day to which I can continue to build.
I have always been good at following through on my commitments to others but not always to myself. It is easier to make excuses about not having enough time for the things I want personally. To push the snooze button on my personal endeavors, but no more.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Self trust is the first secret of success…the essence of heroism.” If I want to be truly successful I need to be personally successful and I need to trust myself in the small things so I will trust myself with my big goals and aspirations.


Good-bye to a Star in my life

This pass month a couple celebrities who have been part of our lives for my entire lifetime have passed away. We love them for their work and feel like we know them because they are on our t.v.s and in our homes. They have made us laugh and cry. Sometimes we wonder how they could have said that—not mincing words or just being mean. Famous as they were they get a lot of t.v press and are memorialized before us for days.
This got me to thinking about the people in my life who were not popular enough to get that sort of send off. It made me think about how they made a difference in my personal life far more than a popular comedian or entertainer. And while I will not deny that I will miss my favorite Mork from Ork, the laughs I received from an entertainer are nowhere as important to me as the love of a Grandparent, friend, or confidant.
One such person, my maternal grandmother passed away more than 10 years ago. She was a shining light in my youth. She taught me so many things. She was witty and hard working. She liked to sew and made me many dresses when I was young. After my parents divorced, my Mom, brother, and I lived with her for a few years. She would cook for us and take us to school, make sure our homework was done, and play games with us. My prize possession to this day is the backgammon board set that she bought me for Christmas one year. It always reminds me of her when I play it.
Here are some of my memories and experiences:
She wanted to learn Spanish and so she would listen to Spanish tapes in her car. I would attempt to learn some words with her as she drove me to school. Since Abuela is the Spanish word for Grandmother, I started calling her that. One day she said, “Sandi, if you are not going to learn the language and speak it, stop calling me Abuela, you look stupid. And so I learn, never do things half way.
My Grandmother loved to garden. She had a big garden in the backyard. It has snails that would eat the leaves on her plants. So my Grandmother said that she would pay us a penny a snail. Such a deal-it was the late 70s and a penny still had a little value. So my brother and I picked lots and lots of snails. She paid us from time to time as we filled our bags. One time I had a few snails (I don’t remember how many but probably 10 or so) I wanted my money. I kept badgering her for the few cents. She finally paid and then told me the job was done. I was fired. I learned patience and timing are good things.
My Grandmother also taught me that you can say almost anything you want if you say it correctly but using words incorrectly can get you in a lot of trouble. My Dad had bought my brother and I a big box of fireworks. Something my Mother would never waste her money on—she was a single mom and let’s face it there were free shows put on by the city. So the fireworks were put up with the promise that we would shoot them off on the 4th. I really don’t remember shooting them off but what I do remember was asking Grandma for the sparklers earlier that day. She said she had looked in the box and there weren’t any. I said, Grandma I know we bought them. They are in the box you didn’t see them. She said are you calling me a liar. I said, Yes. The next thing I knew I was picking myself up from across the room. Then she said, Do you still think I am a liar. I said NO but I think you might be mistaken. I was never good at backing down. She smiled and said we would take another look. We did and the sparklers were in the box. I just took them and left. I learn that you can be correct and still not get the results you want.
I remember the gas embargo and Grandma parking in line to get gas after she sent us to make sure the flag at the station was truly green.
I remember playing cards and backgammon every night after dinner was over and dishes were washed while the tv played the Jokers Wild or Wheel of Fortune. To this day I still love tv game shows and cards, perhaps this is why.
So many other memories of a woman who lost her Mother (she died of a stroke) when she was only 5 years old and was shipped off to her Aunts home in Nebraska to be raised. In the 1920s men just didn’t raise girls without a woman in the home or so I am told. After my parent’s divorce, she helped with many of the daily parenting chores for a time. She was always my cheerleader in my adventures as I grew into adulthood. After attending my first year of college, she suffered a stroke. My Grandmother survived for another 16 years in a wheelchair. I visited with her on the phone and in person. She was able to see all my children before she passed. She is most likely the reason I have always had a soft spot in my heart for children, for my desire to become a foster parent years ago and to always try to help children who are less fortunate. I would like to hope that she is proud of me as she looks down from heaven.
I am grateful I got to know this amazing woman. She passed away in 2003. We had a funeral and many came to pay respects. As I sit and listen to the news talk about the stars that we have lost I think about the star I lost more than a decade ago who embedded into my heart and mind—honestly, integrity, hard work, patience, and love.
I would challenge everyone who reads this to think of a true star in your life and write a memory, tribute of them such as this.


What does the HUD List Price mean?

All HUD properties are foreclosures where the original loan was a FHA loan backed by the government. The properties are owned by the federal government and managed by Housing and Urban Development. These properties come in a variety of conditions but are always sold “as is”. In order to get a list price, HUD hires an appraiser to determine value in “as is” condition. This is done in consideration of a new FHA loan.  If there are certain deficiencies like no carpet, broken windows, plumbing issues and such; the FHA appraiser will determine a value to repair those items.  If the amount is over approximately $5000 then the house will be listed as uninsurable and will not be eligible for a new FHA loan.  The exception would be a FHA 203K loan provided there is no structural issues. If the repair amount is less than about $5000, the appraiser will list those items and require an escrow amount equal to the repairs.

The list price is the FHA appraisal amount. This is important to note, because if the buyer bids above the list price and is obtaining FHA financing, they will need to bring the difference to the table. If the buyer is obtaining conventional of VA financing, then a new appraisal will be ordered. Provided the conventional or VA appraiser can find comps to justify a higher sales price the sale will continue as normal. 

In a strong seller’s market like we are in today it is not uncommon to see buyer bid above the asking price. If a lot of buyers are interested in a certain property, it may very well sell above list price by several thousand dollars.

HUD always looks at the net to seller amount so if the buyer is asking for closing costs this will lower their net bid by that amount. I have had buyers ask if they can raise the sales price and then ask for closing costs—making their net bid higher. Remember, if the buyer is going to obtain a FHA loan then the buyer will need to bring the amount above the list price to the table. Why not just have the buyer pay their own closing costs and write a clean contract.

If you are thinking about buying a HUD property, please contact me. I specialize in these types of properties and know how to get them closed. Sandi Walker 405-213-2992 or visit my website, www.sandiwalker.com


Do you have termites?

Don’t get excited.  I always say, in Oklahoma there are two types of homes: The houses that have termites and the houses that are going to get termites.  Termites are very prevalent in our area. When purchasing a home, the buyer will have a termite inspector inspect the home to see if there are active termites in the house. Most home loans will require a clear inspection. If active termites are found then they will need to be treated. The purchase agreement will usually be written (with the exception of foreclosures) that the seller will treat for termites if found.

What about the damage that termites cause? Most of the time I see sheetrock damage however if termites are left untreated for long periods of time, they will eat through the studs. A termite inspector is not going to tear into the wall to see if the termites have eaten the studs, but an experienced termite inspector ought to be able to tell you if it is superficial or structural.

After you have purchased your home you will want to continue to monitor your home. If you see a swarm of what looks like flying ants, dirt in window sills or along the walls of your home, or dirt tunnels going up the side of the stem wall, you need to call a termite inspector to re-inspect your home and get it treated. 

There are some things you can do to help avoid termites. Do not stack firewood next to your house or store in your garage. Avoid having wood to ground contact in decks, fences that attach to your house. Trim bushes away from your house. Be sure to change out wood chips in the flower beds every couple years.



If you are thinking about selling your home or know someone who is, please give them my name and number. And visit my website at www.sandiwalker.net for additional information. 405-213-2992


Showing in the dark

It is winter time and therefore the sun sets earlier than in the summer time. Because buyers have jobs often during the day, Realtors show after 5 or 6pm a lot. By this time the sun is setting and it is getting dark. Often times it is cold and I am fumbling with my keys, lockbox mechanism, papers on the house and my business card all while trying to say hi to my clients. The house is dark, the sellers have left so we can have a look at the property and the lockbox is not opening on the first try.  So in an attempt to help me the clients have their phones out turning on the flashlights so I can see what I am doing.  Just a note: this is the first impression of the seller’s house.  Next the key is not cut correctly and is hard to get the door open after which the key gets stuck in the dead bolt.  Entering the property we find the light switch. The seller has low wattage bulbs in many fixtures and several lights are out. The buyer comments that the rooms look small. Actually it is hard to tell in the light.

Sellers if you want to help sell your house, please help me to get into the door and make a good first impression.

1. Leave the lights on–especially the porch light.  It isn’t going to change the bill that much but it will help the showing realtor.

2. Change out low voltage bulbs for at least 75 watt bulbs. If you are using the bulbs that take a little bit to warm up (CFLs) then please leave them on for us so they look bright when the realtor shows.

3.Please make sure the key works easily in the door. Often times sellers will have a key made and it is not cut correctly so it is sticking.  Do you really want to have gone to all the trouble to clean and prepare and not have a buyer be able to see your house or wonder why the door is tricky.  This is a frustration and sometimes a turn off.

4. If you have a storm door and the lockbox is between it and the front door, make sure the storm door is unlocked.

Making the home easy to access for showings will definately help you to get the house sold. Remember first impressions are important.  If you are thinking of selling your house and would like my help or know someone who does please contact me at 405-213-2992 or visit me website at www.sandiwalker.net



Price it high, we can always come down–Right???

One of the most important decisions in marketing your home will be the original list price of the property.  Price determines whether buyers will look at your home or pass it over for another property.

If the home is viewed as a value, buyers will flock to the property early in the marketing cycle. Agents realizing that there is value in the home will contact their home buyers so they can view the property before it is gone.  If a lot of people view that the property  quickly,  the seller could obtain multiple offers on the house thus driving up the asking price on the property or having buyers forego asking for closing costs or extras. Because the we market property online with instance access to new homes by buyers via multiple websites, I do not believe you can under price a property. If the house is under valued on the listing, the market will correct the price during a multiple offer period.

However I do believe that you can over price a home, cause it to sit on the market for a long period of time, adjusting the price over time to help draw in buyers that weren’t interested in looking at the original price.   Homes that are on the market for long periods of time are often perceived to have issues whether it is true or not. Buyers worry why another buyer hasn’t bought the home by now.   Consequently, homes that have been on the market for longer periods of time may receive lower offers believing that the seller is more motivated than the first week the property was on the market. Statistically we know that homes that stay on the market for long periods of time tend to get less money than the homes that recently came on the market.

Sellers who set the list price high and adjusting over time tend to get less than the seller who listed the property at or slightly below market value. Therefore I believe it is not advantageous for my sellers to price the property above market value in order to have room to negotiate. Let’s face it, if few buyers are looking at the property because of the price, then there is nothing to negotiate. If you will price the property at the market value or even slightly below, you will get fair market value in a reasonable time frame.

If you are thinking about selling your home or know someone who is, please give them my name and number. And visit my website at www.sandiwalker.net for additional information.  405-213-2992