Who You Work With Makes All the Difference

Who You Work With Makes All the Difference

Buying a home is a journey of a thousand steps. So it is imperative to step forward with your best foot first.

Before we even show a house, The Caton Team likes to sit down and meet our buyers face to face. You know talk to one another – no email between us. We like to get to know our clients, what they need and want in their home and match them up with lenders they will mesh well with. Which brings me to my blog topic – the lender you work with – makes all the difference.

I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials – for online lenders offering low low LOW interest rates and often no closing costs. Word to the wise – you get what your pay for

Unless you’re one of the many cash buyers out there these days – if you’re in the market to buy a home – you will need a lender. Banks are very competitive with interest rates as long as the candidate has good credit, a solid down payment and income/assets. But it’s whom you work with that makes all the difference.

I’ve been forced to work with the “as seen on TV” lenders – and sure it sounds like a good deal – low interest rate and no closing costs – until you actually have to work with them. My experience, there is NO customer service with these types of lenders. And customer service is critical when you’re trying to put a real estate deal together.

Around here, the San Francisco Bay Area – we are seeing very competitive offers – often with NO contingencies becoming the norm. The only way a buyer can perform such amazing feats is having a hard working team (their Realtor and their lender) working behind them.

These TV lenders often are not local – and often cannot move as quickly as a local lender who can. Time is of the essence in Real Estate. In fact, in the California Purchase Contract it is even clause #29. Time is serious business. Buyers have time frames to complete actions – sellers are counting the days to close escrow – it all ties in together. So whom you work with makes all the difference.

Allow me to tie this into my most recent purchase with a friend turned client. Brandon is a Veteran and the VA loan offered an amazing opportunity for him to buy a home with no down payment and NO private mortgage insurance. This saved him big bucks for her first California Home purchase. At first, I was having a hard time finding a lender who did VA loans. They are known to be cumbersome and time consuming and in our current market, time is critical and often sellers will choose a faster moving loan than the VA. (It’s sad really and with Brandon and our experience, we are trying to get legislation passed to improve the VA loan experience.)

I digress. I found my Wells Fargo rep – Bill Griffis – up for the challenge. So we took our first step together and got Brandon approved for his home loan. Then the condo hunt began. Much like the FHA Home Loan, the VA loan only lends to Condo Complexes that fit their criteria for a safe investment. In other words, the complex must be VA approved. It is a wise move on the VA’s part – however not many complexes around here try to get VA/FHA approved. So it falls on the Realtors to find complexes that may fit (we use the FHA approved condos as a guideline) and then find a seller willing to wait.

In Brandon’s experience, the stars aligned and we found a seller who was willing to wait it out. (Brandon wrote one hell of a letter to the seller – you can read more about what it takes to write a good offer on my last blog installment here: http://wp.me/p1GGbd-i0) So with their hearts warmed to the thought of helping a VA, and with a great lender on our team – The Caton Team presented Brandon’s offer and got it accepted. Now the real work begins.

It took the VA several months to approve the complex. We even got the office of Jackie Speier involved to help move this along (thus the plea for legislation to pass to make this easier for Veterans).

To make a long story short, there was a week we had to cancel the deal since no end was in sight and the sellers had waited their allotted loan contingency time frame with no concrete answer. So we had to do what we had to do – we had to cancel the deal. It was a heart-breaking week but thankfully it was only a week. The VA kept plugging along and a week after we had to walk away – we got Condo approval. So back in the offer seat – Brandon wrote a new offer (since by then another offer was in hand) and with some negotiations he got his place back into contract. I’m telling you the buyer letter to the seller really made all the difference here – the sellers were willing to give us another shot.

I could go on and on and the trials and tribulations we all endured trying to get this deal done. Thankfully in the end, hard work, determination and fantastic customer service allowed me to hand the keys to my friend – and that is what makes being a Realtor awesome.

So in closing, who you work with makes all the difference. Working with a lender who picks up the phone nights and weekends and goes the extra mile will make your journey towards homeownership much simpler. Working with a Realtor you can talk too, you can trust makes singing on the dotted line that much easier.

Sure you can save a buck or two working with discount lenders or Realtors – but truthfully you get what you pay for. Not all Realtors and Lenders are created equal.  And in this market – it pays to work with the best.  It makes the difference between chasing your real estate dreams and making them.

When we add a Lender to our team – we want them to be professional, knowledgeable, experienced, kind, patient and hard working. Real Estate is NOT a 9-5 job. And often, when in negotiations we Realtors will need answers for our clients so we can write the best offer with the best terms. Having a lender who takes time for us is critical. Not everyone makes the Team. But those who do – are awesome. If you are in need of a fantastic lender – let us know and we’ll connect you with the best.

Looking for a Realtor – we’d love to interview for the job! Please do not hesitate to call or email us your Real Estate questions, concerns and opinions.

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – Drysdale Properties

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE# 70000218/ Office BRE #01499008

 

A Cinderella Story – Michael and Two Condos

A Cinderella Story – Michael and Two Condos

With 25+ years of combined Real Estate experience, The Caton Team is blessed with working with our clients one home after the other.

When Michael bought his first condo with Susan years ago – it was only natural for him to call her again now that he was ready to buy his next home.  By now Susan & I had teamed up and I had the joy of working with Michael as well.

Such a professional and patient gentlemen, we started our journey early in 2013.  Faced with limited inventory and competition we took our time to find choice properties and enjoyed finding the right condo complexes that would fit his lifestyle.

Finally on a sunny Tuesday we found a great 2-bedroom 2-bath condo in San Mateo.  It was a short sale but we were up for the task.  Offer in, up against three other offers – we were so happy to let him know his offer was accepted.

Then the wait begins.  For a short sale, the seller has a long to-do list.  Great clients do what they need to do to get a short sale approved.  Other types of people brush their responsibility off.   We knew short sales take time to get approved.  We knew short sales are a LOT of work. Each week we checked in with the seller’s agent and received short and useless updates.  We grew suspicious and Susan hit the Internet to do some investigating.  Much to our surprise, the unit was set for foreclosure auction the following day!  Quickly The Caton Team reached out to the seller’s agent to implore the urgency of a true update.  Sadly, not all Realtors are created equal and this particular agent brushed us off again.  We did all we could do as the buyer’s Realtor and the following day, with baited breath, we watched the auction site to see if it would be postponed.  Right before our eyes the unit was sold at auction.  When we called the sellers agent to get a handle on this situation – she kindly hung up the phone.

Without missing a beat Susan called Michael and we hit the ground running looking for a new home.  It didn’t take long, another unit, very similar to the one we just lost, was for sale – but they were taking offers the following day!

Michael is a trooper; he met Susan at the home the next morning, saw it, wrote the offer and submitted by the deadline.  By that evening we had the joy of telling him is offer was accepted!  Within less than 24 hours we went from bad news to fantastic news.

It ain’t over till it’s over though – that is a fact.  As the escrow proceeded we had a hiccup – the unit did not appraise for our offer price….which was less than the last sale of an identical unit.   When interest rates went up – the market had turned from a sellers market early in the year to a different market in a matter of weeks.  The appraiser was cautious – and we can’t blame him for being prudent.  No one wants another bust!  Thankfully both the listing agent and the sellers understood the situation and we were able to re-negotiate a win/win deal that evening.

The best feeling in the world is handing over the keys.  Though it was a long and bumpy ride, The Caton Team was able to get our client a better home and in the end Michael is happy – and that makes everything worthwhile.

How can The Caton Team help you?

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call The Caton Team at 650-568-5522

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

A Cinderella Story – Anna – From Renter to Owner

A Cinderella Story – Anna – From Renter to Owner

First time homebuyers bring us joy!  Not only are they the corner stone of the real estate market – they are the fuel.  Without the first time homebuyer, it would be hard for owners/sellers to move on to their next home.

But with great responsibility comes work.  And in the San Francisco Bay Area – it’s hard work.  2013 has been an interesting year in local real estate.  We know prices hit bottom in 2009 and many buyers, sitting on the fence for the past several years, were unsure where the market was going.  Early in 2013 these buyers got off the fence and changed the dynamic of our local real estate market.

After the New Years Eve confetti was brushed away, many buyers started looking.  Earlier this year, we had very limited inventory.  In fact, we’ve had low inventory since our prices dropped.  Amazing low interest rates, coupled with low prices – generated some excitement.

Over the holidays, a friend and fellow Notre Dame alumni reached out to me with a question.  Could she buy a condo?  Before the local real estate bust, condos and home prices steadily rose.   Back then a one-bedroom condo ran close to a half-a-million bucks.  Not an easy price for a first time homebuyer.  So when prices fell – opportunity was knocking.

With her pre-approval in hand we took Anna out for her first tour.  At first, she expected her house hunt to take one month.  Quickly we explained that with the current low inventory and high buyer demand, we were looking at closer to 6 months than 1 month to find and acquire a home.  A frown – but she held tight.

Our first problem – there wasn’t much to look at.  Once we looked at older inventory – it became a race to see the new ones.  As soon as a new condo came on – I was on the phone with her setting an appointment to show it.  I have got to say – Anna understood the importance of the early worm.  She didn’t push the most expensive and important purchase of her life to the end of her day, or only on the weekend.  Anna understood that the market waits for NO ONE!  So during her lunch break or between her appointments, we’d take a look.

Earlier this year, with demand high, most units had offer dates set after the first open house.  Making it a mad dash to the finish line to get her offer in.  Being that we looked during the week, Anna had the opportunity to show the unit to her family and friends over the weekend and write her offer with confidence.

We must have written 5 offers in a few months.  It felt like we wrote offers once a week.  And slowly, as units were closing escrow – we saw it – she saw it – the market price was inching upwards and eventually she’d be priced out of the market.

Now Anna is a very savvy young woman.  She saw the writing on the wall – I didn’t have to tell her it was a matter of time before we had nothing to shop for.  So Anna did what all smart buyers have to do – she took a look at her ‘wants vs. needs’ list and made some reality adjustments.  In the end, location was her most important attribute.  She didn’t want to live in the fringes of the Bay Area just to say she had more space.  Anna wanted to be close to work and near a downtown to enjoy her life.

Then a junior one bedroom came on the market in Santa Clara.  Right in the heart of it – it was a great location.  And you know what how important location is in Real Estate!  We were quick to write an offer.  Up against three others – she was out bid.  Thankfully The Caton Team, with 25+ years in the business has earned a nice reputation among local agents.  With a clean offer and backed up by our expertise, Anna was given a counter offer and my next call to her would prove to be most joyous.

Congratulations Anna!  You were a joy to work with and The Caton Team is honored to have been the Realtors to turn you from renter into owner!

 

How can The Caton Team help you?  We’re a call or click away!

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

A Cinderella Story…. Russ and Natalie’s 5 Month Wait for Their Home

This past year has been very competitive for home buyers at every price point on the San Francisco Peninsula.  Then again, it’s been a competitive housing market since the we hit bottom back in ’09.

I recall in 2006 when my husband and I bought our first place, a one bedroom condo in Foster City, prices were moving up fast.  As a Realtor and first time buyer on a budget, I knew that if my husband and I didn’t buy soon we’d be priced out of the market…including condos.  Then there was the crash and poof….prices started falling.

By 2009 homes prices had fallen as low as they could go and people were starting to feel confident in investing in real estate again.  That’s when Russ and Natalie, who had just had twins, needed a home.  We started our journey together and it quickly became evident – they weren’t the only people buying homes in the Bay Area.  I feel like a broken record in 2012 when I say – they wrote a whole bunch of offers back then and got out bid by higher offers, offers with larger down payments or cash offers with quick timing.  It was tough.  Susan and I take the punches with each client when they don’t get an offer accepted.  Yet Russ and Natalie were troopers, got up, dusted off and got back on the horse.  Sue and I truly wanted to hand them the keys to their first home before the twins started to walk.  And they were starting to walk!

Around Thanksgiving a home that was previously pending came back on the market. It was a tricky short sale that fell apart.  As they can do.  We showed it as soon as we could.  Russ and Natalie were so great about being open to possibilities, ready to get their hands dirty and build some “sweat equity”.  They saw the possibilities this particular home had to offer.  It’s funny. I know the home you think you will buy and the home you actually buy are often very different.  Each buyers journey is unique.  I know my first time buying was not at all what I expected.

Anyway, I digress.  It was the holidays and had this home popped on the market any other week – maybe we would have been outbid.  Instead Russ and Natalie wrote a terrific offer and with the help of The Caton Team their offer was accepted.

That’s when the hard work really starts on a short sale property.  The Caton Team was very fortunate to work with Shirley Krause, whom represented the seller during what proved to be an almost 6 month group effort.

It’s a long wait – for everyone – when buying or selling a short sale.  Just around the twins birthday in the Spring Susan and I had the pleasure of handing the keys to Russ and Natalie.  Yes, they waited 5 months to get their house!

Moral of this Cinderella Story, don’t give up. Not now. Not if you want to call our gorgeous San Francisco Bay Area home sweet home.  So now as the malls fill up with shoppers and homes are sitting on the market ignored – give us a call – you never know the possibilities until you try.

Thank you Russ and Natalie for working with The Caton Team.  Here is to many happy years in your lovely home.

Happy Holidays!

Curious about my own buying and selling experiences?  Although I am a Realtor by trade, I’m no different than you when sitting in the buyer or seller seat.  Enjoy my journey through homeownership at: http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

A Cinderella Story – Fredric and Heather

When it came time to sell their first home Fredric and Heather called the Realtor who helped them their first go around – Susan Caton. By then, Susan and I (Sabrina) had partnered up and became The Caton Team.  It was an exciting meeting, sitting around the dinning room table planing for the sale of their home and discussing the hopes, dreams and reality of their next home.
In the competitive Bay Area real estate market a buyer needs to be ready to make a fantastic offer the moment a home pops on the market.  If a buyer has to sell their current home – writing an offer contingent on the sale of a home is not as attractive to the seller as a non-contingent offer.  Therefore, we agreed that the best course of action was to sell their current home to be prepared to pounce when their next home came on the market.
This can be a scary moment – where will the family live if we don’t find the next home.  Nonetheless, the hunt for their next home began way before the for sale sign showed up in their front yard.
So Heather and Fredric did a fantastic job getting their home ready for sale.  Before our first open house The Caton Team had wind of interested parties.  Within a week their home was in contract.  Oh my!
So the serious house hunting hits.  We’re out day and night checking out everything on the market, new and old…and we start writing offers.  Good offers, solid offers.  But we keep getting out bid, sometimes by all cash, sometimes just larger down payments or out of the the ballpark offers.  Regardless, the sweat starts beading.  Now we’re talking short term rentals as the close of escrow on their current home slowly approaches….and we are very thankful for the 30-days of rent back we negotiated to give us a little more time.  That was extremely helpful, but not enough.  So, a short term rental was located.  More offers.  Out bid.
Suddenly there is buzz around a certain Silicon Valley IPO.  The weeks leading up caused a mini boom on the peninsula.  Offer dates, multiple offers, no contingencies, all cash – you name it – things were a bit nuts.  Then the dust settled, and as a boom of new listings flooded the market a week old listing was suddenly overlooked.  We wrote an offer.  Out of the blue, another offer comes in.  This house was awesome.  We couldn’t let it get away.  Proud to say our reputation preceded us and the Selling Agents knew we’d get the job done – when it came down the the nitty gritty, we helped our friends and clients prepare a terrific offer package and in the end their offer was accepted.
The phone call to your clients when you get to share the good news that they got the home of their dreams – well, it’s one of the best phone calls around.
Thank you Fredric and Heather for trusting The Caton Team with all your real estate needs.  Here’s to many happy years in your new home.
Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.
Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com
Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/
Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:
Thanks for reading – Sabrina

A Cinderella Story – Michael and Tatjana… A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

When Michael and Tatjana reached out to The Caton Team – we were very excited to be their Realtors for their first home purchase.  We got them preapproved with Melanie Flynn of First Priority Financial and hit the ground running.  They were so excited, started checking out properties and sooner than later, we began to write some offers.

With fingers crossed and prayers whispered we waited on pins and needles to hear back on their first offer… they didn’t get it.  The first time you lose a house – it’s the pits.  The second and third time it doesn’t get any easier.  Tatjana and Michael started to lose hope.  Who wouldn’t?

But The Caton Team wouldn’t let them lose out on their dream.  As full time Realtors, we’ve spent countless sleepless nights hoping and praying our client’s dreams come true.  We knew – you have to get back on the horse, try, try again….there are other fish in the sea.

And they did – but they had one request.  They no longer wanted to write a letter to the seller that included their adorable family photo.  In shock, I asked why.  They were adamant – ‘what’s the point?  The seller is looking for the most money and highest offer.’  I smiled.  We could hear the disappointment in their voice.  But we had faith.  We couldn’t change what we were doing.  The offer package The Caton Team prepares for each offer is thorough and it is successful.  Sometimes money talks.  But sometimes, it’s the other items in the offer package that get the recognition.

As we waited to hear back on their offer I was looking at the copy of the photo we sent of their family.  I’ve known Tatjana since the 6th grade and here she was, with her husband and two beautiful sons…  The phone rang, couldn’t get to it fast enough.  It was the seller’s agent.  I could hear the happiness in her hello.  They got the house.  Quickly she interjected – it wasn’t about being the highest price, they weren’t.  It was about the letter and the picture.  (It still brings tears to my eyes.)  Turns out the owner was deceased and had charged her best friend with handling her estate.  Her wish was for her home to be sold to a nice family – not an investor.  She had built that home from the ground up, raised her family there, and she wanted her best friend to pick the sweetest family for her home.  And boy they couldn’t have found a better family.

Sometimes it really isn’t just about the money.

Congratulations to Michael and Tatjana – to many happy years and memories in your new home!

 

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

A Cinderella Story… Lisa and All Those Offers….

The inspiration for this section of our blog – Cinderella Story – was inspired by Lisa and her long journey to home ownership.

Enjoy – Sabrina

Let’s take a look back to 2010 when Russ and Natalie referred their neighbor and dear friend Lisa to us.  Lisa was looking to buy her first home.  We got her pre-approved with Melanie Flynn at First Priority Mortgage and she qualified for the FHA loan.  With her pre-approval letter in hand the hunt began.  And what a hunt it was.

2010 was a tough year…the real estate market had been in a slump…the world knew the real estate market had crashed.  Many buyers were hesitant to buy, fearing the prospect of over paying while the market was still going down.  Locally however, by 2010, we had already hit bottom in many areas of the SF Peninsula the year before and we were now seeing the market slowly starting to recover.  Multiple offers and bidding wars were starting up again.  But unless you were in the trenches as a Realtor or buyer/seller…you wouldn’t know because the media was intent on focusing on the national real estate market which was still struggling.

At the time, the market was heavy on short sale properties, and with the banks so overwhelmed, the process of trying to buy some short sale houses outweighed the joy of owning the house.  Nonetheless,  we wrote offers on choice short sales for Lisa.  I swear, we’re still waiting to hear back on some of them.  There were also some regular sales, but if the home was in nice shape, you could guarantee multiple offers and a bidding war within the week.  The rest of the homes on the market were in pretty bad shape.  Yes the hunt continued.  We looked at many homes in various areas.  My favorite quality of Lisa was her imagination.  She could look at the dumpiest house and see it’s potential.  There were a few times Susan & I steered her away from homes with too many projects.  We truly wanted her to buy a home she could afford, that would need only cosmetic work – not structural headaches.

Lisa had an open mind.  Each home we checked out she seriously considered.  She wrote great offers, including letters to the sellers with a cute photo of her and her furry baby.  She listened to our suggestions and advice.  However, with each offer we would discover the seller accepted an all cash offer….sometimes for less than Lisa’s offer.  We kept checking out homes and writing offers till she could practically explain the purchase contract to us.  In light of constantly being outbid, Lisa wasn’t discouraged.  Well maybe a little, but she would dust herself off and keep on going.  We hunted for more than 6 months…but in retrospect we could have easily looked for a year.

Then one day while Susan & I were touring listings, we drove by a home we hadn’t seen yet.  On my trusty smart phone I looked it up and found out it was a bank owned home that had just fallen out of contract.  It was currently priced higher than we could go, it was an older home, in a beautiful west side location – and well just sitting there.  I quickly did some research.  The home had never had an open house, was never on broker tour and had just fallen out of contract – I called the Listing Agent.  Being that it was already bank owned and had fallen out of contract, I explained our situation to the listing agent and that afternoon we wrote an offer.  Within the week we heard the good news, the bank accepted our price (under list price) and we were on our way to closing an escrow.  After our inspections came up with no surprises, you could tell Lisa was slowly getting excited.  Finally, after writing nearly 20 offers and being outbid and beat up over and over again – 3o days later we popped the bubbly and handed Lisa the keys to her new home.

The moral of this Cinderella Story – sometimes you gotta kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince charming.

Congrats on hitting the 2 year anniversary in your home Lisa.  We truly enjoyed working with you and turning your home ownership dream into a reality.

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-cityå

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina