Michael Ortloff

Steve Ploetz is the best agent I have ever used. We needed to sell our home in San Marcos for a work related move to Sunnyvale, CA. To purchase a home in the SF Bay area you are competing with many prospective buyers who may have all cash and no contingencies. In order to compete, we needed to sell and close our house in less than 30 days. With Steve, every aspect of the selling process was accelerated and we actually closed in less than 30 days and every detail went smoothly. We highly recommend Steve as he has met or exceeded all of our expectations.

John DL Arendsen

I have personally and professionally known this young man since I coached him in soccer and baseball. He wasn’t the 8 foot giant he is today but he had all the fixens i.e. true grit and dedication.
If Steve tells you something you can count on it. He’s a down home boy from his heart and soul but he’s a stalwart, smart and aggressive lone star hero from his gut and he will get the job done.
I’ve also known Steve’s Mom and Dad and have been their neighbors for 34 years. There are no finer folks and they’ve done a wonderful job raising this fine gentleman who graduated from one of the greatest ever universities. UCSD!! Go Steve!!!

Value versus Market Value

You’ve heard the age old saying that a product is worth what someone is willing to pay for it.  As a child I collected baseball cards and was intensely interested in the value of each one.  I’d tear through the pack accompanied by my Beckett’s guide eager to determine the value of each card.  As I grew older I remember asking my father about how Beckett’s could determine the value of so many different players from so many different eras.  He explained that the Beckett’s guide was a tool but that the value was based on scarcity and how many of each cards there were.  Supply and demand.

Real estate is similar in many ways… but also very different.  As I write this in the Spring of 2013 San Diego County’s real estate inventory has dried up.  Looking for a single family detached house in Oceanside, Vista, or San Marcos with at least 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and built post-1990?  Right now, there are 6 for sale (per Sandicor 04/18/2013).  With such a shortage what inevitably is happening is that prices rise.  Supply shrivels up, demand stays the same (or increases), prices go up.  Basic economics.

The issue is the appraisal.  An appraisal is hired by the lender of the buyer to ensure that the collateral for the loan is worth what they’re lending.  In other words, if I’m going to loan you $200,000 of my money I want to make sure that whatever you’re buying with it is actually worth $200,000 so that if you need to sell it I know you’ll be able to pay me back.  That’s essentially what an appraisal is.

These days, the challenge is the balancing act the buyer must play to come in strong enough to get the property but realistic enough to have the property appraise.  If a property appraises lower than the agreed upon price, buyer and seller must come to an agreement as to if the seller will drop the price, the buyer will pay over the appraised value, or a combination of the two.  These days, with so many offers in on properties, the buyer doesn’t have a leg to stand on trying to negotiate the seller down to the appraised value.  Usually, if the property appraises more than $10,000 low the deal will fall apart.

Simple example, I recently listed and sold at property at 149 Christen Way in San Marcos.  When I met with the sellers we looked over comparable sales and determined that the value of the house was around $225,000.  In other words, we felt confident that the property would appraise at $225,000.  Still, with the lack of inventory we expected to receive offers above that price.  After 3 days on the market we were looking at 22 offers including 3 cash offers.  The property sold for $245,000.  That’s market value.  Obviously cash is king in this market because there is no appraisal.  The buyer is happy with the purchase at that price and the seller can be assured that there will not be any issues with regards to value.

If you don’t have a bunch of cash sitting around, you’re going to need an agent that can get your financed offer accepted.  It’s not always just an agent that promises that the deal will go through or sends a sob-story of why you deserve it more than the other 21 offers.  You need an agent that’s connected and understands what a seller is looking for.

Call, email, or text me with questions and I look forward to getting your offer accepted.

I Want a Rental. Who Should I Rent To?

The most important part of renting is figuring out your demographic and what are the advantages and disadvantages to them.  If you’re new to investing, you’re probably looking under $400,000.  Since you’re looking for a combination of monthly cash flow and long term appreciation, you’re probably trying to stay in the strongest long-term value areas.  For San Diego County that would be the coastal neighborhoods: Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar, Carmel Valley, etc.  The challenge is that in these places it’s unlikely you will find a detached single family home under $400,000.  Therefore, your demographic renter needs to be someone that feels comfortable in a twinhome, townhome, or condo.  Generally that means you renters are:

1.  Military

2.  Young Professionals

3.  Small/Growing Families

4.  Students

Each of these demographics have there own positives and negatives and it’s important to get to know them before signing the lease.

1.  Military: the biggest advantage in my opinion is that they tend to be very reliable.  The money that is being paid out for rent is specifically given to them from the government as their housing allowance.  Therefore, they will always have rent money.  Also, it’s easy to handle problems if things aren’t working.  A simple call to a CO (Commanding Officer) explaining the issue and seeking his/her help will usually solve the problem.  The downsides are that at a moment’s notice they may be deployed and legally they are allowed to exit the lease agreement without penalty (rightfully so since they work so hard for us).  The only other disadvantage is that you may have to deal with a younger demographic that may not be as responsible as others (I had a young military man tenant pee all over his own couch when he got drunk recently — not sure this is the ideal tenant).

2.  Young Professionals: the advantages is that they often don’t require much space and may even room with one or two friends.  I know other landlords have had difficulty with this demographic because the job market is still tough and even though many young professionals are highly educated, their resumes are still mostly blank and they’re the first to get laid off in cut backs.  Plus, usually once they enter into a serious relationship the prospect of living in a small space or with friends isn’t as desirable.  Furthermore, if renting to an unmarried couple who is living together (particularly for the first time), there can be real challenges in the relationship and if someone leaves it can often leave the remaining party unable to cover rent.

3.  Small/Growing Families: in my opinion, usually the best tenant to have.  Usually moderately established and in an age range that is generally focused on family well-being more than individual satisfaction.  This usually makes for a quality tenant and one that may be around long-term.  They are often focused on school districts and proximity to parks, etc.

4.  Students: the nice thing about students is that you know that they will always need a place and usually won’t have a problem with them not being able to pay (since most students either have loan money or their parent’s money since they aren’t working and going to school).  The disadvantage is that students generally aren’t interested in renting the summer months (they want to rent September to May) and you often have to deal with multiple people to collect rent.  When I was in college in the early 2000’s, my girlfriend at the time lived in a 2BR condo with 6 girls.  They were respectful and good tenants, but being the landlord and potentially collecting 6 different checks makes for a headache (and a lot of estrogen in your condo).  The only other issue you often find with student tenants is that they are living in their college years and drinking and parties are a part of the lifestyle.  Certainly you can screen out the frat boys but you need to expect that there will be some wear-and-tear more than other tenants.

Kristina Konrady

Steve worked around our schedule and helped us find a house that we love.  He knew what we were looking for and didn’t waste time showing us houses that he knew we wouldn’t like.  He was very professional and at the same time very personable.  We will definitely be calling Steve if we need an agent in the future.

Paul Kracha

Steve Ploetz and Kathy Fortenberry are excellent Realtors!  As a first-time buyer, I was looking for a high quality home in North County that would fit my modest budget.  They both displayed extreme confidence while maintaining a positive attitude as they showed me home after home.  As we traveled the long journey of finding the right house, I was amazed how knowledgeable they were concerning market trends, reasonable pricing and the competition from numerous other bidders.  After 6 months, I finally decided on a home that was listed under aspecial Fannie May program.  In the current market, MLS properties were switching from “New Listing” to “Contingent” in the same day.  Kathy helped me keep my composure as I was tempted to over-bid just to close the deal.  Once the offer was accepted with her suggested contingencies, Kathy followed up through daily communications between the seller, my lender and escrow to keep things moving. I’m happy to say, escrow closed on time and with the current interest rates, well within my budget.  I would highly recommend Century 21 Realtors, Steve and Kathy as your partner in your own search for the home of your dreams.

Preparing Your House for Sale? Avoid the Pitfalls

When you’re selling a house there are things you can control… and things you can’t.  The important thing is to recognize what the strengths and weaknesses of your house are and to have a professional indicate to you how they affect the value of your house.  Some items are obvious: road noise decreases value, granite counter tops increase it.  Others are not so easy:  What about a pool?  What about a house on 10+ acres?

Marketing your house to the specific demographic of buyer is obviously extremely important but you don’t want to pigeon-hole yourself.  Just because you’re in a great school district doesn’t mean that you can ignore down-sizing buyers or single professionals.  Instead you want to emphasize the strengths but also broaden a buyers perspective to the advantages of your house as compared to all the competition.

I’ll explain it to you in a quick story of a recent client.  I just closed with a husband and wife on a property in Oceanside that love to swim.  Husband surfs daily.  Wife is an avid swimmer for exercise.  When we first met they told me some of their basic wants and needs and the most important thing was that the house “MUST have a pool”.  You know where this is going…

They just closed on a house at the top of their price range without a private pool or community one.

As I’ve mentioned before, residential real estate is bought and sold on emotion.  As a seller you need to recognize that when you prepare to sell it.  Therefore, recognize that a house that smells beautiful and has beds made and closets organized actually does help sell it.  Open windows and show off the view or natural light.  Arrange or stage rooms to show the size and functionality.  Place a potted plant or flowers in the kitchen, at the entry, or in a bathroom.  Don’t be present during a showing and don’t give people the walking tour (“And then in 1993 I put in new baseboards throughout the kitchen.  Aren’t they beautiful?”).  People want to buy a house not walk through someone else’s and the only way to do that is to help the buyer envision themselves there without you looking over there shoulder or telling them they can’t go in that room or open that closet.  Control the things that you can control and don’t worry about the rest.

And just be glad Calvin is not living next door to you.

Sally Glausser

Steve helped us through a two year process of selling my parent’s home. He went above and beyond anything I would have expected. I would highly recommend him to anyone!