Monday, September 24, 2007

Don't It Yourself

"RealUmbrella, a new site for home buyers and sellers that launches today in California ... seeks to link for-sale-by-owner buyers and sellers directly in an online platform that features digital documents and electronic signatures for a flat fee."

"The company charges property marketing fees ranging from a few hundred dollars up to about $1,000 depending on the package chosen by sellers, and there are no fees for buyers who work with RealUmbrella sellers." (From

I have a cracked tooth. It's not painful, and as a molar it's not visible to anybody but me, but it should be taken care of. Filled, mended, capped, whatever it is that dentists do to cracked teeth. I don't know what they do. I don't want to know. I just want to hire an expert to evaluate the situation, and then do exactly what he or she recommends, regardless of price.

blueprint1.jpgThe point? Sometimes teeth are like homes. For most Americans, your home is the single most expensive thing you'll ever own. The average home price in metro Phoenix is over a quarter million dollars. I can't think of anything else that most Americans will own which costs a quarter million dollars, on which many of us would consider going the Do It Yourself route.

Buying or selling a home is an incredibly complex process. The contract metro Phoenix Realtors use runs to 9 pages. Add in the required addenda, qualifications, additions and so forth, you're at 13 or 14 pages of fine print in legalese.

Selling a home is at least a 30 day process where something happens every day.  I have several things to do every day to make sure the buyers, sellers, inspectors, the lender, home warranty people, home insurance people, and title company all make it to the closing table on time, at the same time, with no ruffled feathers and no dashed expectations or last minute surprises. All that activity is normally transparent to the buyers & sellers.

That's the way it's supposed to be. Sellers need & want to spend energies packing and choosing somewhere new to live. Buyers need to provide their lender with an endless stream of papers. Then in their 'spare' time they need to pack, arrange movers, forward the mail and the utilities.

I'm busy at least 10 to 12 hours a day, every day, weekends and holidays included. I have a transaction checklist that runs to a full legal sheet of paper. The phone bill I rack up arranging all these items is larger than the gross domestic product of some Third World countries.

Would you choose the cheapest accountant you can find and trust him to complete your tax returns? When your children are sick, do you look for a discount doctor? Would you go to divorce court without an attorney after reading a few articles at

For most of us, the answer is 'of course not'. For most Americans, selling or buying a house takes way more energy, expertise and time than most of us are willing (or able) to put in.

There will always be some folks who can and do sell and buy real estate without a qualified Realtor's consultation. I know several attorneys who've done it successfully. A couple of experienced investors I know who originally started out using Realtors now do it themselves.

The number one thing I learned after attending real estate school? If I ever give up my real estate license, I would never, ever, under any circumstances sell my house without hiring and paying handsomely the most experienced Realtor I could find.