Every week, we ask an Atlanta real estate professional for their thoughts on the top trends in Atlanta real estate.
This week, we talked with Scott Trowbridge, the business development manager for AquaGuard Foundation Solutions in Marietta. A construction professional for more than 10 years, Scott joined AquaGuard in 2011, where he assists real estate professionals with such issues as cracked foundation walls, moldy crawl spaces and settling issues. Additionally, Scott has taught Continuing Education courses for the last three and a half years, and has instructed hundreds of agents on such topics as wet basements, moldy crawl spaces and structural issues with foundations.
Atlanta Agent (AA): What are some of the most common issues agents face when listing properties?
Scott Trowbridge (ST): There are a lot of moving parts that an agent needs to effectively navigate when listing a property in order to attract the right buyers, get the house under contract and ultimately reach the closing table. Some challenges that we see on a regular basis are when the house is under contract and in the due diligence period. The buyer has a home inspection performed and often times, the inspection report comes back with some sort of deficiency. For example: there may be signs of moisture in the basement or crawl space, some sort of structural problem with the foundation or maybe cracked and settling concrete in the garage or driveway. Those issues are not taken lightly by the perspective buyers, and can sometimes cause the real estate transaction to terminate.
At that point, the agent has spent a lot of time and effort to get the home under contract, and now their deal is in jeopardy. Now, the agent is running around trying to figure out how to manage the problem in the narrow window of due diligence – and they must do so by coordinating the appropriate contractors to see what work will need to be performed to satisfy both the seller and the buyer. The seller probably doesn’t want to do any work at all or put any money towards a repair project; the buyer wants the most comprehensive scope of work they can find to fix the issue.
It’s a challenging position for all parties involved.
AA: What continuing education courses are most useful for agents, in today’s real estate market?
ST: The Georgia Real Estate Commission recently increased the amount of Continuing Education credits required in order for agents to maintain their license; so, CE classes are going to be in higher demand. There are a wide variety of CE classes offered covering all sorts of valuable content. In my opinion, the classes that benefit agents the most are the ones that are relevant, timely and provoke action.
I’ve sat through a number of great CE classes where the content is actually relevant to helping the agent be more successful in their business. Call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure that most agents sell real estate to make money. If the CE class can help them make more money, then it’s probably going to be viewed as a great class. On the other hand, some classes are a real sleeper. Yawn! Check with your colleagues to see what valuable classes they’ve attended recently.
Today’s real estate market is forever changing. There are significant changes in technology, GAR forms and in the law, all of which can be a challenge to keep up with. The most helpful CE classes address those changes and help agents stay up to date.
One of the best classes I took recently was one that inspired action on my part. It wasn’t a three-hour CE class, but a workshop covering networking techniques and how to effectively use LinkedIn to build your circle of influence. The content was taught by Peter Pasternack with great enthusiasm and passion. He provoked everyone in attendance to get off their duffs and do something. Here’s what to do – now go do it!
AA: Finally, say an agent uncovers structural issues with a listing during the inspection process; what is your advice for them?
ST: Regarding sellers – if I could, I’d like to back up for a moment to the pre-listing period. I’ve met a number of proactive seller’s agents who, during the time period where they are preparing the home and homeowner to list the property, do several key tasks to best position the property for sale. For example, in the pre-listing period, they may perform a market analysis to determine appropriate pricing; they may stage the property so it shows well; and some seller’s agents even invest in a pre-inspection before listing the property. A pre-inspection can be a very useful tool to help bring attention to both the seller and seller’s agent what potential issues may arise when buyers begin view the property.
If a pre-inspection uncovers a structural issue, the seller has time to evaluate the options up front. I would recommend that the seller have a reputable foundation repair contractor take a look at the structural problem, provide options for repair and, of course, an estimate for the work. If the seller decides to move forward with the work, the repair can be a selling feature for the home, provided it has a nationally-backed, life-of-the-structure warranty that will be transferred to the buyer at closing; that will provide an invaluable piece of mind to the buyer.
If the seller decides not to do the work, at least they’ll know what is involved with the repair, and will have hard numbers in hand to support future negotiations with a buyer.
Regarding buyers – when a structural problem arises during the home inspection process, oftentimes it can be a deal killer. Such problems are not to be taken lightly; however, such problems do not have to kill your deal. They are simply a repair issue, like a leak in the roof or broken HVAC unit. Structural problems can be fixed. In fact, a property with a foundation problem may even be an opportunity for a buyer.
What if you find the perfect property for your buyer, but it just happens to have a foundation problem? Because of that problem, the house is stigmatized, and as a result, the property has been sitting on the market for a while and the seller has had no offers on the table. If you can negotiate the price of the property, get a significant discount and fix the problem for less then what the property was discounted, the seller can come out ahead. I’ve seen it done many times. It all depends on the comfort level of the buyer and buyer’s agent. The more you know about foundation problems and how to fix them, the more comfortable you’ll become navigating those types of scenarios. You don’t have to always walk away from those homes if you know what your options are.