For Professionals of the Probate and Trust Industry

Category: Strategy

Real Estate Strategy For You?

This past week I had two closings – a Probate sale requiring a NOPA in Lancaster, and a Trust sale requiring a NOPA in Lomita. 

The administrator of the Lancaster sale is located in Northern California, and requested “full service”.  I had my vendor clear out the property, do a sales clean and carpet shampoo within a few days, and we got the property on the market.

The PPF, acting as trustee for the Lomita property requested the same level of service.  My vendor completed a trashout, sales clean, and did some yard cleanup and landscaping to increase the curb appeal. 

Both properties sold above market value.  These properties were both outdated, and both sold to owner-occupants, at values equivalent to renovated properties in the immediate neighborhood.     They were clean and they smelled pleasant, so the buyers could envision themselves making the renovations slowly, based on their vision and preferences.

Both of these buyers did not request any repairs, credit, or price reductions from the seller.

It was smooth sailing.  The beneficiaries of both sales all consented to the NOPA.  Everyone was happy.

Why didn’t the buyers speak up after the inspection, and use their strategy to request a repair, and then, agree to a price reduction in lieu of that repair?

That’s because before I had the sellers accept their offer, I requested to have a call with the buyer’s agent and the buyer, and I anchored that discussion.  I told them both that I need to set the seller’s expectations at this stage, and ensure we’re all on the same page.  If there are any requests for repairs, or credits, or price reductions, the seller will simply move on to the next buyer, and there are many other buyers interested in the property.  Both buyers confirmed they understand, and from that moment on… they both performed beautifully!

This strategy is just one strategy I’ve developed over the years to ensure I deliver a seamless and easy sales process for my clients while obtaining the highest possible purchase prices for the properties I’m selling.

Some clients believe agents need to specialize in a localized geographic market, because they have their finger on “the pulse” of that market, or they “own that market”.   Other clients believe agents specialize in a particular style of property, say mid-century modern, and only hire agents with that specialization when they have a property to sell.  Don’t buy into this! It’s just a marketing gimmick an agent uses for personal branding.

As a real estate broker who has been doing this up and down California for almost two decades, first representing financial institutions, and later representing fiduciaries exclusively, I can tell you that the most important attributes of the agent you hire are their negotiations skills and their contract knowledge, and that, an agent obtains with lots of transactional experience.  Doesn’t matter where they’re located, and whether they have their pulse on the local market.  If the agent has transactional experience, the agent knows how to market real property, and how to evaluate any given market with the tools at hand. 

Just some tips on what to consider next time you need to hire a real estate agent to sell your property.  Ask the agent you’re considering how many properties they’ve sold in the past year, and, how many they’ve sold since they became licensed.  That will tell you how experienced the agent is.   You should also ask what the agent’s role is in the sale.  Some agents are hands-off and are not as involved in the sales process – they have a team that handles every step of the process, and the listing agent is busy seeking the next listing. Sure, the transaction will close, but had your agent been more engaged and utilized strategies to act in your best interest, perhaps you would have avoided issuing a price reduction to a demanding buyer, and, perhaps you would have been able to obtain a higher purchase price if your agent was proactive and pushed the buyers to offer more, and more.

Food for thought.

Virtual Reality? In Real Estate Sales!

We recently created our first virtually staged 3D Tour… on a Trust sale requiring court confirmation. The property is the former residence of the Laemmle family…Carl Laemmle Jr., the producer of Dracula and Frankenstein. Carl had this home custom-built for him back in the day, perched up on Tower Grove Drive in Beverly Hills, 90210.

The house was not staged at the seller’s request, but we did virtually stage every image of the 3D tour and put them together into a video… check out the video via the link below! It’s amazing what technology can do.

Quick Fix or Renovate?

You may be thinking NEITHER!!! Just sell it AS IS!!!

I’d like to share with you a story…. an attorney referred a client to me… she needed to sell grandma’s home.  He referred her to me because a CASH BUYER approached her and offered to pay her $425,000 CASH and he will take care of cleaning out the house.  He will buy it AS IS!

When I spoke with her, she stated that she had no funds, not even to rekey and secure the property, and it’s a mess inside, and she doesn’t want to deal with the headache of cleaning it up, which is why she was inclined on selling it to the CASH BUYER and not placing the property on the market.

I offered to have the property rekeyed for her and cleaned up with NO upfront cost.  She liked my proposal and agreed to proceed.

I visited the property with my locksmith and clear out vendor, the yard was severely overgrown, and the padlocks on the gates and garage were previously placed by her brother……. my vendor was able to secure them with new padlocks, and, we got the property rekeyed.   The kitchen and laundry area had paint hanging from the ceilings… it looked like this:

My client just walked in and came right out… she was frightened by what she saw.

Two weeks later, it looked like this:  

For $3,000 the yard and the interior of the home were cleared out, the peeling paint was scraped off and touch-up paint applied, and the house was cleaned so that it smells and looks good.

AND my vendor also spent a couple of hours with my client in the garage to sort through the personal property that her grandma left behind, so my client can keep those items that have sentimental value…

The reward:  We just sold it for $570,000!!!

That’s $145,000 over what she was offered by the CASH BUYER!

We sold the property to owner occupants, a nice couple who work in the construction industry and are now working to renovate the property for themselves.

We also had many CASH offers on the table, but none were close to the highest financed offer of $570,000.

Is my client happy with her attorney for referring me?  Absolutely!

You see… it’s not necessary to have a complete renovation in order to sell a property to an owner-occupant at top dollar…. Sometimes it’s enough to just do a “QUICK FIX”, so that buyers are not distracted or disgusted by paint hanging from the ceiling and bad smells…. You want to allow the buyers to be able to IMAGINE themselves living there. Some owner-occupant buyers don’t mind remodeling themselves…and some are in the construction industry as were these buyers!

Does a Quick Sale Require Auction?

Some in our industry are under the impression that they must have the property auctioned when they need to sell a property quickly.

This is never the case. 

Before I explain why let me provide you with a quick background.  At Geffen Real Estate, we have experience conducting real estate auctions.  And so, if you wish to auction your property and have not done so with us before, you are welcome to give us a try.

However, if your goal is a quick sale, all you need to do is work with your real estate broker to price the property well below the comparables, and list it on the MLS with a relatively short deadline for offer submission, require that offers are cash only and are non-contingent.  You can also request a larger EMD, such as 10%, to weed out the weaker buyers.

The results are superior to those of an auction!  How so?

Either way, the property is listed on the MLS well below the comparables.

Either way, you can choose to accept cash offers only.  Just state so in the MLS!

Either way, you can define when a property will go under contract.  How?  Specify in the MLS a deadline for offers.

Either way, you can require a quick closing.  How?  Specify a 10-day closing in the seller’s counter.

So, what’s the advantage of not selling at auction if everything is the same?

Some people may not be able to attend the auction on auction day, but they all can submit their offers at their convenience by a specified date in the MLS!  And so, the pool of potential buyers is increased, as is the competition.

And if you think there is more pressure placed on buyers at an auction, remember that buyers are typically investors, and they have their limits calculated before arriving at the auction.  They can be pushed to the same limits via a set of counters if your agent is experienced and knows what they are doing.

Orit Gadish is a member of the National Auctioneers Association.

Trashout and Cleanup of Your Properties

You have a situation where the real property you are managing needs to be sold and is full of personal property and trash.  Completing a trashout and cleaning the property costs thousands of dollars.  The estate or trust does not have the funds to pay for these services.  

Your agent may offer you to sell the property “As Is”, with all of the debris and personal property to be included in the sale.  The standard verbiage of the C.A.R. purchase agreement states that “all debris and personal property not included in the sale shall be removed by Close of Escrow or at the time possession is delivered to Buyer”.  This term can be negotiated and addressed in a counter or addendum, stating that the seller will not remove the property’s debris and personal property.  However, marketing a property in this condition will not appeal to owner-occupants, who typically can offer more than investors.  

Investors will use this condition as leverage to offer less.  Since the property is full of debris and personal property, investor buyers may not be able to determine what the floor and walls look like, what damage exists, or if there’s mold and water damage, which will affect their bottom line.  This creates added risk that they are required to take, which does not result in the highest and best offer.

Alternatively, my firm’s network of vendors can handle the trashout and cleanup, and the estate or trust can pay for their services through escrow once the property has sold.  This includes the services of an organizer who will sort through the items, create an inventory list, determine the value of these items, and facilitate the sale of the valuables.   This approach maximizes the property’s value for the estate while minimizing your liability.

For more information about this or other probate real estate related topics, please contact me at 323-606-1919 (call or text).

Relocating Occupants / Tenants from Your Properties

You have a situation where you need to sell real property that’s occupied.  The occupant can be a paying tenant or someone that was not authorized to occupy it.  In some cases, the occupant is one of the estate’s beneficiaries.  The occupant does not want to vacate the property, is unwilling to provide access to the property to show it to prospective buyers, and refuses to allow access to your agent to conduct open houses or any combination of these.

You consult with an eviction attorney, who advises that the eviction process may take at least six months, or more, and there is a cost.  The estate or trust does not have the funds to pay for the eviction, or,  needs the funds from the sale as soon as possible and can not wait for the duration of the eviction.

What to do?

Owner-occupants won’t purchase a property they have not seen, and, won’t be willing to take on the risks of an eviction and the costs involved. You can, and many agents will advise you just to sell the property occupied.  This will require you to sell the property at a substantial discount to an investor. Many agents will tell you they already have investors lined up to purchase such properties, and they do!  But will this generate the best and highest value for the estate?  Would this be acting in the estate’s best interest?  Would you be upholding your fiduciary duty and your commitment to act in the best interest of the estate?

There is another option to consider!  You may offer the occupant relocation assistance for vacating the property within a short period of time.  I have completed these transactions hundreds of times and developed best practices that motivate the occupant to cooperate with me and leave in a short period, usually two weeks.  If the estate doesn’t have the funds available for payment of the relocation assistance, my firm can provide those funds and will obtain reimbursement through escrow once the property has sold. 

For more information about this, or other probate real estate related topics, please contact me at 323-606-1919 (call or text).

Handling Squatters in Vacant Properties

On numerous occasions over the years, I’ve been asked to list properties that have squatters occupying them.  My team and I have been able to deal with this situation without any issues and get the properties vacant.   We bring a copy of the grant deed showing who the owner of the property is and also a letter from the property owner authorizing my team member to handle the situation of removing the squatters.  My team member arrives at the property as early as possible in the morning, usually, around 6am, and then calls the police to arrive.  During these early hours of the morning, the police usually don’t have much activity and arrive fairly quickly.   We show the documents to the police and the police ask the squatters to leave. 

We also have our locksmith present to secure the property/rekey.

Depending on the situation, we may also fence the property and have a surveillance system installed for ongoing monitoring, to prevent future intruders.

Handling the Disposition of Real Estate When Home Values are Declining

You need to sell a property when interest rates are on the rise.  Which sales strategy do you employ? Sell as-is, or renovate?

Before we jump in to discuss what to do, let’s take a look at the current financial climate.

The Federal Reserve has repeatedly increased interest rates in the past few months.  This has increased the cost of borrowing money to finance real estate, which has triggered a decline in real estate prices. 

Some non-investor purchasers that not long ago were in the market are now priced out with the higher interest rates, and others can no longer afford to buy what they were hoping to buy and decide to wait.  Many others fear losing their jobs and decide to wait as well.

Many investors with low borrowing costs now realize that their costs have increased and may not be willing to risk purchasing, renovating, and re-selling in a few months in an unpredictably declining market.

Other investors that wish to buy, rent, and hold, may be worried about rents dropping and decide to wait for prices to reach the bottom before they purchase again.

The bottom line is that there are suddenly fewer buyers. 

The supply of homes is not yet rapidly increasing, but if mass layoffs arrive, that could also happen.

For now, fewer buyers and a steady number of sellers are likely to push prices further down.

And with declining prices, those buyers that are still active need to protect themselves.

To buy today, they, therefore, need to buy below comps.  And when they buy below comps, this creates a new lower-priced comp that brings the neighborhood’s values even lower.

What to do if you need to sell a real property?

Sell it as quickly as possible.   List it below the current comps to ensure multiple offers and a quick sale.

Is renovating a home prior to sale, which could take 2-3 months, out of the question?


If a home is not habitable or not suitable for owner-occupants given its as-is condition, then only investors would be interested.   Remember that investors will do their calculation, and in addition to accounting for the cost of renovations, holding costs, and commissions, they would also now account for a percentage decline in value for the time period while renovations are taking place. This means that these investors would have to purchase your listing at a major discount (below comps in move-in condition).  In this case, you can employ a renovate strategy and utilize Geffen Real Estate’s services to renovate and stage.  If the trust or estate lacks funds to pay for these services, payment may be made at the close of escrow.  This allows the beneficiaries to reap the awards investors would otherwise enjoy should the as-is sales strategy be selected. If selling a fixer in as-is condition, it would need to be priced accordingly to generate a multiple offer situation with investor buyers and we are happy to help you with this as well.