Monday, August 31, 2009

How to Find a Buyer's Agent: Top 5 tips

If you are shopping for real estate in today's market you can and should expect more from the real estate agent (or Realtor®) helping you shop. Trust us, there are plenty of agents that would love to have your business. Don't just settle.

These are Inside the Brackets' top 5 tips for selecting a buyer's agent.

#5: Don't pick the first agent that avails his/herself:
It may seem simple, but it is important to understand that you are not obligated to work with the first real estate agent that reaches out to you, especially if you are like 80% of shoppers that start their search on their own on the internet (and we know you are). Inside the Brackets recently spoke with a house-hunting couple that used the internet to find a property they were very interested in putting a bid in on, and then scheduled a showing by clicking on an agent link on the internet listing page (not the listing agent), only to find that "their agent" seemed more interested in closing the deal than getting them a good price.

#4: Real estate is local, so should your buyer's agent be:
There is no point being loyal to the agent that sold you your current house if you are interested in relocating to a different market. Their knowledge and service will not translate unless your target market is very near your current one. Best to ask him/her nicely for a list of referrals in your target market. You can then start with a short list to interview.

#3: Don't sign a blanket exclusive agreement with a buyer's agent
An exclusive agreement that covers a certain period of time will lock you into working with a buyer's agent no matter how you find the property you are interested in buying. Ask instead to implement a property-specific agreement so that you are committing to work with the agent on certain homes, but not all. This is more flexible for you, and should be reasonable to most buyer's agents.

Some agents will try to tell you that because (in most states) the seller doesn't pay any sort of commission, it won't cost you anything to sign a blanket exclusive agreement. This is technically true. However, because house-seekers have so much access to online property information, an exclusive agreement is a non-starter because buyer's agent value should be added rather than contractually obligated. If a buyer's agent tries to push you into an exclusive agreement, it should send up warning signs about his/her intention to truly help you find and negotiate the best deal.

#2: Low volume = high attention
This one is simple, but often overlooked. You should ask a potential buyer's agent how many clients they are currently representing. If it is more than five, there is reason to think that they may not be able to give you the attention you expect and deserve. If the agent assures you he/she has a refined customer service model, despite representing 20+ buyers at a time, be sure you are comfortable with the other agents or assistants that you will be dealing with during your hunting and transaction experience.

#1: Seek professional knowledge beyond typical agents
In most states, any licensed real estate agent can represent a buyer. It is up to you to figure out how to get the most value out of the service. Our #1 tip is to ask the agent what makes them different. Their answer should concentrate on differentiating knowledge and service. Some agents just passed their state exams. Others are licensed in other professions as well. Others have real estate investment experience in a given market. These additional licenses and perspectives help ensure you get the most from your agent.

Who will get you the best deal and give you the most confidence when writing offers to buy your first home or your next investment property? Ask the right questions.

If you have additional questions, send us a comment below.

If you are shopping for real estate in Chicago, consider contacting [1016] Architecture principal Josh Canale for questions on buyer representation.

Jameson Real Estate is one of the largest real estate companies specializing in Chicago real estate.

This post was inspired by a more generic article found on Yahoo! Real Estate:
Full text of the Dian Hymer article: Be Picky When Picking a Real Estate Agent.
Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years' experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer's Guide."

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Do we NEED Mainstream LEED?

Do we need LEED® to be mainstream? Inside the Brackets thinks not.

On the previous growth of LEED:
In his email newsletter, Rob Watson, a USGBC Board Member, explores the idea and consequences of LEED pushing into the mainstream:

About five years ago when we were wrestling with the phenomenal growth of
LEED, I came across a book by Geoffrey Moore that changed my life. Entitled
"Crossing the Chasm," Moore's book introduced me to the concept of market
composition and segmentation . . . it also scared me to death.

"Chasm" woke me to the fact that the 100 percent to 200 percent annual
growth we were seeing in LEED at that time was nothing compared to the frenzy
that awaited us if we "got it right." You see, 100 percent growth against a
small number is still a small number, but 50 percent growth against a big number
is a big number indeed.Moore argues that the Innovators and the Early Adopters
are fairly forgiving folks compared to the Early Majority segment of the market.

The titular so-called chasm refers to the performance and expectation gap
between products that succeed in the Early Adopter market compared with products
that exceed in the Early Majority market. Innovators and Early Adopters are
willing to put up with quirks and foibles of products that the Early Majority
will not tolerate.

As green buildings penetrate the Early Majority market, expectations of
performance and cost are becoming quite high.In order for green to succeed, any
gaps or holes in products' and buildings' performance must be plugged...

Consistent with the USGBC's commitment to providing excellent service --
for those smugly snarking, consider for one moment that in the year 2000 only
about 2,000,000 square feet entered the LEED system and in 2008 LEED had 2
BILLION square feet come in, and then ask yourself when was the last time you
handled a thousand-fold increase in anything with grace -- the
organization is beginning an intensive dialogue
with users of the system to
determine how it can be improved from an operational perspective. So, while LEED
is firmly into the Early Majority market in the United States, 2 billion square
feet represents less than 5 percent of the global market.

On the continued growth of LEED:
Inside the Brackets is, on one hand, very glad that LEED is growing so fast it can hardly contain itself. We don't like the idea of Mr. Watson making excuses for the shortcomings of the system during expansion, but we appreciate the dialogue for improvement. We are building an architecture firm around the design ideas that LEED and other green building rating systems espouse, so [1016] has a vested interest in exposure of the USGBC/LEED brand.

On the other hand, we posit that at a certain "tipping point" (to use a buzz word) we don't need LEED. Let us be more specific: we don't need LEED to grow so large as to certify 50% of the built square footage in the global market.

Once upon a time, the ideas, building practices, and materials that LEED sought to call attention to were progressive. The LEED designation meant a building's design and construction were truly "outliers" (another buzz word) and worthy of showcasing. Now, a combination of many factors, including the work that LEED has done, have raised the awareness of green and high-performance building to a much higher level. Municipalities are codifying sections of LEED standards and incentivizing LEED buildings with reduced permit fees or expedited approval... in other words, they get it.

LEED should be focused less on certifying more square feet, and more on progressing the dialogue of green materials and policy. Growing so large as to certify 5% of existing market is quite an accomplishment, though one not without growing pains. Growing larger than that threatens LEED's continued relevance by making a commodity of the designation and rendering the added expense of administering the checklist for any given building a waste of money.

Inside the Brackets is not saying that LEED is dead or pointless. (Full disclosure: Andrew Wilson, [1016] Architecture Principal, is a LEED Accredited Professional, and [1016] Architecture is a USGBC Member Firm.) We are saying that LEED and the USGBC should stick to the cutting edge, progressive green design that brought it to where it is today. In our opinion, this is the spirit of LEED. After all, the "L" stands for "Leadership," right? We think aiming to certify more than 2-3% of the built square footage in the world dilutes the brand and speaks more towards greed than green.

What say you about the explosive growth of the LEED certification? Should LEED stick to the cutting edge? Drop a comment to let us know what you think.

Full article text for the Green Biz newsletter.

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a 501(c)(3) non profit that developed the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System.

The LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings.

Monday, August 24, 2009

AIA: Inquiries are up, but not translating into work

AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI), a/k/a "Work on the Boards," bounced back in July, returning to a level seen in the three months prior to June, 43.1. Since a score of 50.0 indicates a neutral month-to-month change, this score still represents a decline, but a modest one compared to June.

Inquiries continued their positive trend, with a score of 50.3. This is the fifth month in a row where firms reported an increase in month-to-month inquiries for new work. Clearly, though, a significant disconnect is occurring between inquiries and the more important billings.

AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker explains it this way:
"We are still seing a lot of inquiries out that that in all likelihood are not going to generate billings at firms because there is so much competition in the marketplace."

For more in depth analysis, check out this video with Kermit Baker.

Forward looking clients should get their ducks in a row before they miss an advantage of potentially decreased design and construction prices.

[1016] Architecture Inc. is ready. Are you?
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