Buying rural property is a little different from buying property in a large city or the outlying suburbs. Working with people primarily by email and the Internet is often a bit different, too. Knowing the differences can ease the process and make it work well for us all.
The list of what I need to help you best
If you want help from me right from the beginning, start with telling me, briefly:
-Who you are (difficult to work with nameless people);
-Where you live;
-What kind of property you want (land, weekend home, main home);
-Where you want the property to be; (sunny, in the redwoods, ocean views etc.)
-If "privacy" is a priority, then tell me how you define privacy;
-When you will be ready to own it (we don't need to be looking a year in advance);
-What your price range is (you can get general ideas from the web site or MLS);
-If you are commuting to work, what's the maximum time you are willing to spend on your commute;
-When you (and spouse, if married) could come to see property;
-Who else needs to see the property to approve for a decision; and
-What must happen before you can buy (sell a house, sell another investment, retire, kids finish college, get financing, etc.).
I prefer to use email as much as possible as it allows us to communicate at any and all hours and keep good records of our efforts together. No telephone tag. A few tips to make it work better:
If our first contact is by phone, be sure to email me same day with a short message so I have your email address and other contact data for follow-ups. Always give me your phone numbers in the first email, please.
First, tell me WHICH property you are inquiring about! It's astonishing how many forget to do so, then have no idea when I ask them.
Second, tell me exactly what information you need... don't just say you "need more information". I will provide whatever you need.
Use the subject line in your emails as effectively as possible.
New Listing Alert
If you feel you are "ready, willing and able" to make your purchase, but just haven't found the right property yet, LET ME KNOW! I have a beautiful system for alerting ready buyers to my new listings, as well as the exceptional listings of other Realtors. For my best new listings, I send the link for the new property usually within a couple of hours of it hitting the market. If it is my listing, I will send it out before it is on the market if possible allowing you the opportunity to make an appointment, or even scoot out to see it, that day or evening. About half of my listings sell this way, because I give you enough detail, up front with the web page, for you to know whether it's worth the trip. And because my most "ready" buyers tend to be on these lists, it often takes but one showing for a sale. If find a great property on the MLS, I will alert my mailing list buyers to that. This can happen at any hour on any day, so if I only have your work email, you may lose out on that.
The way to get onto my mailing lists is to let me know who you are, what you want and how it will be used so that I can place you on the right lists. I have dozens of lists for different kinds of property, various communities, special features, homes styles, price ranges, etc. I need to keep the lists as short as possible so they do not get stopped as SPAM, so please don't sign up unless you are 100% serious, working through me as your Realtor, and you really know what you want. And please, use my "remove" service to get OFF the lists when you no longer need to be on them. The ONLY people who need this service is those who are ready to respond instantly with me when they see the right property. Make CERTAIN, that my email will not be rejected by your spam filters, etc.
A Few Guidelines for Property Showings...
First, I will never waste your time. This is a promise. If you respond to a web page for a listing of mine, it will be exactly as advertised. I will tell you the good and the not-so-good about the property before you come to see it, as I want you to have no surprises after your drive up the hill. We will do this by phone. Even if that is not the property for you, your time will not be wasted, as you and your spouse will learn a great deal from our time together and we will be able to fine tune the search parameters for your next visit.
In return, I ask the same from you. Please do not ask me to show property to you if you are not ready to buy property for some time. The property that you see now, will not be available in six months. I cover a large area of windy roads and my drive time alone may be several hours in showing a single property. I shouldn't need to convince you that you need to purchase a coastside or mountain property at all... I assume you have already made that decision and that we are now searching for THE property. If this is not the case, let's discuss your situation.
My web site is created to save us both time by giving you enough photos and info to make some preliminary decisions. Let's look at the properties that might work for you and skip those that we can see will not work. I feel if I can show you the property inside and out from my web site, including the plot, the topographic map (if available), the room dimensions (if available), the panoramic view and more, then you will have a pretty good idea of whether this place will work for you. Studying my web page for that property is almost as good as a personal showing (far better than one tiny b & w photo!)... some folks consider the actual visit to be the second showing! Some have offered to purchase from the web site alone, but this should be a last resort, when it's impossible to be here from overseas, etc.
You will never be solicited by me. I won't call you or email you without specific reason in regard to mountain or coastside real estate. Your contact info is safe with me. I will never share it with anyone else. I do not send out mass email, but with one exception: the E-mail lists discussed above. Your address will never be revealed to others, however.
I can only do searches for properties and provide additional information for people who sign their emails and provide me with enough specific information for me to do a search productively. I cannot send a list of "everything on the market from 10 to 30 acres" for example. You can get that info yourself from the MLS button on my web site. Actually, you can find and search for almost anything from my web site. I can try to answer specific questions about other MLS properties as long as they are from Hwy 9 to hwy 92 and down to the coast.. Use my services not to dump huge databases onto you, but rather to work that list down to just a few properties for you to consider.
To make an appointment to see property, we should talk by phone at some point. At that time we will make sure this property is "in the running" and see if there are other choices we should see on that day. If we are looking at homes, this should only be done with plenty of advance preparation, as permission needs to be obtained, the sellers often need to be contacted and keys obtained. Rural property is not always as easy to show as is property in the local suburbs.
Dual Agency: Leveling the Playing Field
When I list a property, I MUST represent the basic interests of the seller. However, I can ALSO represent the interests of the buyer in most things, but I cannot represent one party to the disadvantage of the other. I make every effort to list property in the correct price range and even to have most homes independently appraised prior to listing them so that we have them on the market at the fairest price to both seller and buyer. The appraisal is often available for you to examine! Please ask. In all transactions, I will represent the buyer as either a Buyer's Agent or as a Dual Agent. I never represent only the seller in any transaction, unless there is another Realtor who is acting as a Buyer's Agent for their buyer. If you are a buyer and are working directly with me on one of my listings, then I will be representing your interests equally with those of the seller. I will explain the limitations and advantages of working with a Dual Agent on our first visit together, but this levels the playing field in a sale, making it far more pleasant for everyone and simply seeking a fair transaction for both parties. I always try to identify property boundaries, seeking professional help at seller cost if there's a problem doing so. I recommend inspections on every home purchase and assist in having them completed plus any major repair made, if needed, or credit made to the buyer. I work to make sure we don't look at seemingly overpriced property, or at least don't pay it, if we do. I will give you useful comparables to help you make your decisions. Most agents in this area still do business the way it was done 25 years ago, representing ONLY the seller, leaving the buyer with no one on their team. This doesn't seem right to me, but I certainly can't change the way others do business. Buyers from the Metro areas quickly find real estate works a bit differently in rural San Mateo County... some very good ways (more casual, far less pressure) and some, not so (harder to get buyer representation). I will help you with this.
Give me the needed search parameters or simply give me your comments on some of the properties on my site telling me specifically what you like, what you don't like, and why. We may be able to find your property in ONE TRIP, once we're prepared and understand each other. In fact, that's what often happens when the buyer is actually ready to buy and has clearly instructed me of what they want. I will not call you out to see properties that aren't what you asked for, but I will tell you when you've asked for something that simply doesn't exist within your price range or seems poorly suited for your expressed needs. That's why looking at the "SOLD" properties on the front page of my website can be very helpful. Sometimes people see something there that is "perfect", telling me exactly what I need to search for.
In working with you, I will, of course, have the most info available on my own listings (lots of photos, pot maps, topo maps, environmental reports, Seller's Disclosures, etc.). I have less info, but good access to at least the basic info when the listing belongs to another local agent. What I don't have available, I can find out. It is a small community up here, we have been here 25 years and have access to a lot of locals with some great info.
Don't forget to wear proper clothing when looking at property. Sandals will not do. We will be walking the properties that interest you and you will need proper footwear, clothing and maybe even rain gear. I am willing and able to show property in any weather... rain is pretty normal in the winter months. Seeing a property in the worst weather has some important advantages to the buyer, so don't overlook the opportunity to do so!
Financing your purchase
We have plenty of good lenders in San Mateo County. For some properties (land or very unusual homes), if you plan to use that property as the collateral for the loan, you may have to use a local lender. Your Metro area lenders are not usually familiar with rural property and will have little interest in learning about property values here. Some homes may not qualify for "conforming" loans, due to local issues such as alternative water sources (springs, septic systmes), lack of electricity, unfinished construction, too much acreage, two homes on one lot, etc. The local lenders are always happy to help on these.
Internet lenders tend to charge very high up-front fees, in exchange for those low interest rates. Don't get so caught up with those low interest rates that you forget about all those up-front fees. Figure out the real cost of your loan for 5-8 years. I can't tell you how many times I have had online lenders balk in the 11th hour because they didn't realize it was a rural property, or surrounded by trees, thus in a higher fire potential area. This usually happens the day before or on the day you are preparing to sign your closing documents. Who's more motivated to make that loan, do it on time and keep us all happy? I like the local guys because they're the only ones that always do what they say they will. Sometimes it's best to just skip the Internet guys and deal with the local fellows here, who have been here making loans for a hundred years and will still be here for another. Something to remember, I don't get a kick back, or any compensation to any of the professionals I suggest to you. I just suggest them because I have used them before, and they get the job inexpensively and on time.
Most purchases will need about 20% down from you. Some lenders may lend up to 90% on some properties if your credit rating is flawless. Land purchases are more likely to require that 20% down, but exceptions can be found. I have a list of local lenders that are easy to deal with, have very simple application forms, ridiculously low fees and will rarely fail you. Ask me for it.
When we meet to look at property I can give you access to a list of local resources that will help you with all aspects of purchasing and owning your property. I also carry a supply of local phone books with me for those who may need one for working together. These resources will always be provided when you are ready to make an offer on a property.
Making an Offer to Purchase
When we have found a property that seems right for you I can help you construct an offer. We can do this whether it is a listing of mine or of another agent. You should take your time on most offers (there are exceptions) and consider them carefully (no exceptions). I can write the offer with you on your visit or send you home with the forms to "sleep on it". We can also do most of it by email, fax or mail, if you wish. One important factor, though... I cannot present any offer until I have the buyers' signatures and a deposit to put into escrow. This means one cannot write a contract with me if a spouse is to be involved as well, but is not present. I've had properties sell to another buyer before a prior "buyer" could get back with the spouse. Also, I cannot present your faxed or emailed offer until I have the deposit check or a copy of the check..
The deposit is immediately deposited into escrow if the offer we make is accepted. Most of the time, I don't want the actual check, I will have you write the check, I will make a copy of it and hand it back to you. The copy of the check will accompany the offer. If the offer is accepted I ask that you immediately deposit this into escrow that I open for you.. Typically the deposit is 1.5% of the purchase price when we present the offer, and an additional 1.5% when we remove all contingencies. If a buyer fails to fulfill their end of the contract, they will likely lose that deposit, this has never happened to one of my clients, and won't if we follow the terms of the contract that we have written. If the buyer fails to make an offer with a significant earnest money deposit, then the seller will probably not consider that offer to be a serious one and may not accept it. If we are making an offer that is significantly below the asking price or with terms that the seller may consider unappealing, its a good idea to increase the deposit as much as possible. The deposit is always credited toward the purchase price on the property at settlement, is refunded if contingencies are not met, or if the offer is not accepted by the seller. Talk to me about this if there are any questions.
With my listings, I will typically have a copy of the current deed for you, as well as plot maps, environmental reports, seller's disclosure and any other relevant documents that are available to help you with your purchase. I also usually have the septic inspection, well inspection, and termite inspection. I always recommend you know where all the property corners are before making your purchase. If we can't find them, then you might make a survey of the property (paid by seller) a contingency of the sale. Inspections are always recommended for homes and I will help to arrange these. I would never recommend buying a piece of land without a Perc test and a Well, but the buyer usually has to pay for them, and make it a contingent of the sale. Keep in mind, this can take anywhere from 2 to 6 months. Buying land takes patience. See my article on Buying and Building on Raw Land. Perc tests are difficult, if not impossible, to complete in the winter months due to wet soils and the difficulty of getting the heavy equipment into the woods with no driveway. Many properties come with a perc test document done for a prior owner and that may be sufficient in some cases.
Alain Pinel Realtors
2930 Woodside Road, Woodside, CA 94062
Phone: (650)-245-5044 Mobile