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“He’s fun to work with, and smart as a whip.”

“James did marketing work for some of my real estate development properties, and was consistently energetic, focused, and creative. He’s fun to work with, and smart as a whip. No hesitation giving him a strong recommendation.”

Joel M. Karr

“They were there every step of the way”

“District Residential made the journey of finding a perfect apartment seamless. Flexible, timely, agile, and all around a wonderful people to work with, their style of customer relationship had no time-limits — from the weekends calls to late evenings emails, while I was different time-zones, they were there every step of the way — consummate professionals who facilitated exactly what I was looking for in an apartment. I believe I’ve found my real estate broker as long as I’m in the DC area for the years to come.”

David

“We found all that and more with District Residential.”

“As first time homebuyers, we were intimidated by the market and unfamiliar with the process, but we love DC and were open to living in a variety of neighborhoods. We were looking for someone who would be patient while we learned the ropes and who would help us feel confident in a highly competitive market.
We found all that and more with them. They helped guide us through many properties around the District to more fully understand what we were looking for in a house and a neighborhood. At each step of the process, we never felt pressured to make an offer or any other decision with which we were not completely comfortable. They were able to educate and empower us with their knowledge of the market, and their engaging personalities helped us thoroughly enjoy the experience from start to finish. After looking for just about a month and putting in two offers, we were under contract for an amazing house in Petworth. We’re so thankful they were in our corner advocating for us every step of the way (including pushing back on settlement and personally climbing on the roof to show the seller that inspection items were not addressed correctly and made sure they were fixed!).”
Adam & Rebecca

“Not only did James do a fantastic job for us we will always be thankful for the lesson he taught us.”

“James showed us how to let go of the part of the real estate business that was just taking up our time. By trusting his vision and putting his strong, extremely competent and creative talents to work for us, we finally learned to hire others who were better than us to do things that were using up our time. Not only did James do a fantastic job for us we will always be thankful for the lesson he taught us.”

Eric Weaver

“Highly recommended and we would plan on using her as our agent again in the future!”

“We used Molly as our agent for both selling/buying, upgrading from a condo in DC to a house in Maryland. We first met Molly at an open house and were impressed by how much she remembered from our short conversation in the follow-up email she sent to us later that day. Throughout everything we appreciated Molly’s honesty and how she listened to our thoughts and concerns — she never came across as condescending or as if our concerns didn’t matter to her. When it came time to put an offer in on the house she was very aggressive in beating out a competing offer, which we appreciated since we had never been in that situation before. Molly also communicated with us constantly throughout the process and responded instantly whenever an issue came up. Highly recommended and we would plan on using her as our agent again in the future!”

David Garber

“He created some of the best marketing pieces I’ve seen in my 25 years”

“I worked with James for years as he provided marketing, design and social media services for our real estate brokerage and directly to our agents. He created some of the best marketing pieces I’ve seen in my 25 years in the business and added much value to our endeavors during our collaboration.”

Patrick Carlisle

“Molly was patient and flexible, and stepped in when she needed to in order to make the transaction happen”

“Molly was patient and flexible, and stepped in when she needed to in order to make the transaction happen. She had great ideas which totally worked out, and was never upset or put out…even when we had to contact her with an emergency while she was on vacation.”

Vickie Drake

“He has tried-and-true recommendations that he is more than willing to share”

“My husband and I worked with James to find our new home in DC. We were new to the market and had lots of different thoughts about what we were looking for. James was incredibly patient as we traveled from neighborhood to neighborhood, from free-standing houses with yards to condos with street parking! James continues to be very helpful with brainstorming renovation ideas, giving recommendations for contractors/painters/glass workers. He has tried-and-true recommendations that he is more than willing to share. During the negotiation and settlement process, James was 100% present the whole time, keeping us up-to-date and running every decision past us. He took the time to explain each aspect of the bidding process, each point on the contract, and every step of the settlement process. We never felt pressured to increase our number or establish an escalation clause before the offer was submitted. James has a fabulous understanding of the bidding process and was able to predict (I sweat he has a crystal ball) how the seller would respond to different bids, inspection reports, etc. My husband and I would wholeheartedly recommend James to anyone looking to buy in the DMV area. When we are ready to move to another place we will definitely be using James to help us sell and buy somewhere else. We cant wait to have him over for dinner in our new place! Thanks for everything, James!”

Erin P.B. Katz

“I’m grateful for his positive spirit, can-do attitude, creative genius and OCD-level work.”

“Being a real estate agent requires the ability to juggle many things at once. Agents need to focus on their clients’ needs, and should delegate what they can as soon as they can. I simply cannot provide great customer attention if I’m preoccupied with my website or social media. Enter James Kastner. James not only unburdened me but he took my website and social media sites and ran with them. His elegant and creative design propelled my site into something more than I hoped for. And social media? Forget about it! I’m all over the place – key in this short-attention-span society. James has given me what I feel is priceless: peace of mind. I’m grateful for his positive spirit, can-do attitude, creative genius and OCD-level work. It’s always perfect, error-free and on point. Thank you, James!”

Mary Macpherson

“James is a real go-getter with genius ideas!”

“James is a real go-getter with genius ideas! He has helped me advance my real estate business in numerous ways. He is always ready to jump in and help with anything from marketing to social media to prospecting and lead generation. He is a delight to work with – fun, smart, professional and did I say fun?”

Deborah Lopez

“At each step of the process, we never felt pressured”

“As first time homebuyers, we were intimidated by the market and unfamiliar with the process, but we love DC and were open to living in a variety of neighborhoods. We were looking for someone who would be patient while we learned the ropes and who would help us feel confident in a highly competitive market.

We found all that and more. They helped guide us through many properties around the District to more fully understand what we were looking for in a house and a neighborhood.

At each step of the process, we never felt pressured to make an offer or any other decision with which we were not completely comfortable.

They were able to educate and empower us with his knowledge of the market, and his engaging personality helped us thoroughly enjoy the experience from start to finish.

After looking for just about a month and putting in two offers, we were under contract for an amazing house in Petworth. We’re so thankful they were in our corner advocating for us every step of the way.”

Adam & Rebecca Evans

“James’ mind works at another level from the rest of us humans”

“James’ mind works at another level from the rest of us humans. Because of his creativity, my sales material was unique, compelling and always impressive.”

Shelly Sutherland

“Flexible, timely, agile, and all around a wonderful person to work with”

“District Residential made the journey of finding a perfect apartment seamless. Flexible, timely, agile, and all around a wonderful people to work with, their style of customer relationship had no time-limits — from the weekends calls to late evenings emails, while I was different time-zones, they were there every step of the way — consummate professionals who facilitated exactly what I was looking for in an apartment. I believe I’ve found my real estate broker as long as I’m in the DC area for the years to come.”

David Mazaheri

“Thank you to all of the team.”

“The team made our transition to finding the right tenants and property management easy and a welcoming experience. We know our home while being rented will be in good hands! Thank you to all of the team.”

Steven and Beth Fabbri

“Thank you to all of the team”

“District Residential made our transition to finding the right tenants and property management easy and a welcoming experience. We know our home while being rented will be in good hands! Thank you to all of the team.”

Steven

“Molly has been an outstanding Realtor throughout the whole process of helping me buy a new place.”

“Molly has been an outstanding Realtor throughout the whole process of helping me buy a new place. It was my first time buying and I had so many clueless questions but Molly made all of my questions important and addressed them immediately. The process of buying a place could be a little frustrating but she makes it all easy and fun and fast forward 5 months, I have a condo that I really like. She is patient and never pushy, this is very important because no one wants to be pushed and buy a place that they will end up not liking. I really had a great experience of buying a place with Molly and she went above and beyond every time. I couldn’t wish for a better Realtor and experience. You would be lucky to have her as your agent.”

Kali Ferede

“If you’re looking to buy or sell your home I highly recommend that you choose Molly Branson as your agent”

“If you’re looking to buy or sell your home I highly recommend that you choose Molly Branson as your agent. First, Molly is friendly and easy to work with. She always made time to answer our questions and was very clear about where we were in the process of selling our condo. Molly also did a great job showing our condo. She used everything from advertising on social media, phone calls with her network of agents, and two open houses. Our condo was on the market for two days and sold over list price. We plan to use her as an agent again and will definitely recommend her to our friends.”

Jason Trentacoste

“He is passionate, creative, out of the box thinker, with a can-do attitude”

“We hired James and Intersect to build our website and on line presence for our real estate business. He is passionate, creative, out of the box thinker, with a can-do attitude!”

Alla Gershberg

“He improves everything that he touches!”

“I employed James to manage and deliver my real estate print, social media and online marketing. James is a brilliant, savvy idea generator, brimming with creativity and energy. His excellent editing and writing skills result in marketing copy that is direct and full of impact! James delivers visually appealing results and he improves everything that he touches!”

John Solaegui

Don’t Let Your Real Estate Deal Crumble at Closing!

May 9, 2018

Don’t Let Your Real Estate Deal Crumble at Closing!

Avoid These 5 Common Mistakes to Make Sure Your Settlement Goes Smoothly

There are lots of things that can go sideways at settlement. We see it all the time. Realtors (particularly newer ones) make innocent mistakes that cause valuable deals to fall apart, or put them and their clients at risk.

Here are the top five mistakes we’ve encountered and how – with the right knowledge and insight – you can avoid them, ensuring that your settlements go smoothly and your clients are protected.

Mistake #1: Misunderstanding the flow of money.

Buyers and sellers are often unclear about how money moves and is distributed during the course of a real estate transaction. These are a few things you should make sure you know and your clients are aware of before you get to settlement.

1. The role of the title company

As the title company, we act as the escrow company, which is a clearinghouse for the funds that are transferred during a real estate transaction.

2. Potential settlement fraud

Recent wire fraud schemes are a big deal in today’s real estate industry. Criminals try to hack into title companies and brokerages to gain access to settlement money. And when they do, it can be very costly to all involved.

Despite the potential for fraud, wire transfers are still the preferred industry standard because they ensure the money is available the same day. To ensure no one is a victim of fraud, have your clients call the brokerage or title company directly to verify any wire transfers BEFORE sending them.

3. Prepare for common mistakes.

Cashiers checks vs. personal checks. Make sure your clients know which is required and who to make them out to. In situations where clients are completing a simultaneous settlement on the same day (selling one property and purchasing another), make sure they know that cashiers checks usually take a day to clear the bank and personal checks take 2-3 days. A better option for simultaneous settlements is to use a wire transfer.

Bring extra checks to the settlement. If the client is writing a personal check (which is allowed by many title companies for amounts under $3,000), remind them to bring extra checks in case anything changes at the settlement or a mistake is made, which is common during this high-stress time for buyers and sellers.

Remind client who their money is going to and who to make checks out to. A perfect example of this is “earnest money.” We recently had a buyer send in an earnest money check made out to Earnest Money, as though it was an actual person. Make sure your clients know that earnest money checks should be made out to the title company or brokerage firm, and specify where any other required checks are going as well.

Mistake #2: Not planning for a failed walk-through.

Educate clients on the give and take that’s needed during the walk-through. Help them to recognize that some issues with the property may not be addressed by the seller or that some buyers won’t budge on something they really want fixed.

A good option for addressing this may be to request a seller credit when a repair hasn’t been made or something new has been discovered during the walk-through, giving the buyer the option to take cash to complete a repair after settlement. Another option is to create an escrow agreementfor a specified amount and time, which allows time to get a clear idea of how much the required repair will cost.

In the end, if there’s still a struggle between buyer and seller, you can always come back to this question: “Do you think this is still a (good deal/the house for you) if you don’t get _____?”

Mistake #3: Allowing buyers to forgo title insurance.

Full disclosure: Prime Settlement sells title insurance and makes money from that sale. Here’s why we think it’s important though, no matter who is selling it.

If a buyer opts out of title insurance, they’re at risk for future financial liability for issues that may arise regarding their property title. That may seem vague, so here’s an example of risk that came up for a recent client of ours.

The client purchased a home and then received a letter from the District advising them that their deck, including an addition and the roof over the deck, plus the beautifully finished basement, were not properly permitted when built. As a result the District demanded the proper building permits be obtained for the basement, and that the deck (including the addition and roof) be removed. The cost for this was over $500,000!

The homeowner, who purchased the home in large part because of the renovations that the developer had completed, was now responsible for the remediation because they didn’t have title insurance. A title insurance policy insures the homeowner against loss related to forced removal (in this case, of the deck, addition and roof) or remediation due to lack of building permits.

You can avoid issues like this by educating your clients on the benefits of buying a title insurance policy:

  1. Title insurance is a one-time fee that covers the owner for the sale price of the property as long as they own it.
  2. If your client obtains a mortgage, most lenders require a title insurance policy for the loan. If a client is already purchasing a policy to protect the lender, it only makes sense that they would also purchase a policy to protect themselves in the case that a title issue comes up.
  3. It also covers omissions of the title company. For instance, the title agents are responsible for ensuring the property is transferred to the buyer without any mortgages, tax liabilities or liens, but there are things we don’t typically check for – like building and development work for permits inside the property, including renovations, lot grading, work orders or stop orders.
  4. Title insurance also kicks in when unforeseeable errors in title cause loss, such as fraud, forgery, or inconsistent paperwork in the land records.

While these situations may seem rare, in cases like the example I gave above, it can save hundreds of thousands of dollars and a legal battle if title errors or permit issues come up after settlement. Like any other insurance, it’s protection against the unforeseeable and is absolutely worth the upfront expense.

Mistake #4: Failing to manage client defaults.

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a buyer decides they want to default on their contract, despite all contingencies being met and no seller default. Maybe they’ve found another house they’d rather have or maybe they’ve got a “bad feeling” about the house they’ve committed to purchasing. Whatever triggers this desire to default, it’s your job to manage it as best you can.

Instead of waiting until settlement to address client defaults, start at the beginning of the process.

  1. Clearly explain to your client the consequences of default as soon as you start talking about making offers.
  2. Explain to your buyers that once a contract is signed and earnest funds have been exchanged they can’t just walk away from the transaction and get their money back.
  3. Make sure they also understand each of the contingencies available to them and how they would each affect the transaction should they not be met. Then, once they have chosen which contingencies to include in their contract, explain again the consequences of those specific contingencies.
  4. Remind them at each step along the way that if they default on their contract they will put their earnest funds at risk.

Client defaults are never fun to manage and often lead to litigation. If spending a little more time explaining defaults and contingencies to your clients can spare the time and effort of dealing with a default down the line, it’s well worth it!

Mistake #5: Not addressing special circumstances for unwed buyers.

Handling a title for unwed buyers can be complicated. Each couple’s situation requires a great deal of consideration and requires the couple to answer some tough questions – questions they don’t always want to address in the thick of love or don’t have easy answers for.

Because of this, it’s important to discuss financial details as early in the process as possible. We recently had a couple referred to us after discovering they wouldn’t both be able to be listed as borrowers. Because of their complicated situation (one had heirs, the other didn’t; one had more money, the other had more income; one had good credit, the other did not), I recommended they place their property in a revocable trust. But because they didn’t start this process until they were already in settlement they had to back out of their first deal (thankfully they had an inspection contingency that allowed them to do so) and wait for another acceptable property to come along.

You can avoid a situation like this by asking the right questions when you have unwed buyers purchasing property together. If it looks early on like they may be bringing different assets to the table, you can refer them to a settlement/trust & estate attorney before ratifying a contract (or even finding that perfect property) and we can help them get an agreement in place that will ensure they’re both protected.

Ultimately, communication between you and your clients is the key to avoiding any of these mistakes. So practice having open and frank conversations about these tough topics with your clients and you’ll avoid watching your real estate deals crumble when you get to the settlement table.

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