DAVID DUNLAP's Blog Posts

Comparing carefully

I use three kinds of comps when I help a client determine the likely sale price for their property: contract prices of sold homes, list prices of active homes, and list prices of languishing homes

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Skip applying for a mortgage - Pay cash!

Home buyers have been using modern mortgages to acquire real estate since the 1930s. Prior to that time, the mortgages that were available required a 50% down payment and involved interest-only

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What's on your list?

Optimism. Flexibility. A solid marriage or partnership. Supportive family. Two or more years of consistent employment. An appreciation for time as a strategic resource. Low interest rates. A knack

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More than 16 pages of legal-speak

The Residential Purchase Agreement form used in virtually all home-purchase transactions will be heavily revised as of December. The new version will be 16 pages long—a 60% increase over the

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Fortune favors the bold

Selling your house and moving to a new place is a major milestone in a person’s life, yet strangely many people seem to start the process with an objective of avoiding as much disruption as

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An opportunity you shouldn't miss

When I set up an appointment for the home inspection at the beginning of escrow, my buyer clients frequently ask if it’s necessary for them to be there. The answer is that their presence is

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Renting vs. Owning: how to add it up

I’m holding an open house at an entry-level condo this weekend, so I polished up one of my older fact sheets to share with first-time buyers. It’s a series of spreadsheets you can use to

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Start packing!

Most people start packing and getting rid of non-necessary belongings somewhere toward the end of escrow, when it has become clear that they really are going to move. Shifting that task to the front

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How to inspire success

When I attended my high school reunion last month, I had the chance to tour the campus, which had seen many improvements since the time when I was there every weekday. One striking spot was the

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Sometimes, distrust your instincts

Sometimes our natural inclinations can betray us when we try to apply them to the strategy of real estate transactions. It’s totally natural, for example, for someone about to spend ten times

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How to look ahead

For anyone considering buying or selling real estate, the question of which direction the market is about to go is very interesting and important. Like Wayne Gretsky looking to skate where the puck

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Escrow banishes the ghost of transaction past

The length of time an escrow lasts is usually determined by the requirements of the mortgage funding process—a good loan officer can get everything done in 30 days, while others might require

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Leverage in SoCal real estate

Home ownership in Southern California is an even better deal than people often think, because it’s easy to overlook the fact that buying a home is a leveraged investment. That is, most of the

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Negotiate terms AND good will

I’m polishing my negotiation skills by taking an online course from Chris Voss, a former international hostage negotiator for the FBI. It’s been a pleasure to learn that this veteran of

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Days long past

This weekend I’m attending a reunion of my high school class and catching up with friends I haven’t seen in decades—some as long as 50 years! Can you guess what question most of

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Home ownership pays, and how!

This week I was curious about how my buyer clients have been doing in the real estate market of the last few years, so I did a quick market analysis on each property I have helped a client to buy,

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Make sure you're first

Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten had a great ride at the women’s Olympic road race in Tokyo, and she celebrated winning a gold medal as she rode past the finish line at the Fuji

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Supply and demand

California needs more houses, and more apartments, and more condos, and more townhomes. You would think that as more jobs are created in a given area, more housing would be built to accommodate the

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Unlike any price you've paid

It’s difficult for most people to think clearly about the price of buying a home, not only because it’s so much more expensive than other things we buy, but because the buying process is

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Envisioning the future

My real estate career is all about life transitions. I help first-time buyers graduate from renting to home ownership, mid-career homeowners move up to a larger, better located new home, and a

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40 steps to get right

I recently compiled a list of the tasks that a buyer needs to complete in order to buy a home—there are actually more than 40 steps involved. The list for sellers is a little bit different,

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Wishing upon a market?

The real estate market doesn’t care about your plans or what you’re comfortable paying. Before you can make a success of a real estate transaction, you have to come to terms with (as a

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Disproportionate value

When I’m guiding a negotiation on behalf of my clients, I look for disproportionate value that we can use to create an advantage. If a buyer offers an additional $10K to buy a house, the offer

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Shut your mouth!

The current seller’s market is a popular topic of conversation among both agents and clients these days, but a recent conversation shows how casual talk can sometimes go too far. A modest-

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No reason to wait

Prospective clients often beg off from meeting with me because they think they’re not close enough to the time when they will buy or sell a home. I always push back on their reluctance, not

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When is a salesman not a salesman?

A few months back I was shopping for a good used car, which gave me some fresh experience with the other side of salesperson – prospect conversations. I struck up a pleasant relationship with

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Schrödinger's open house

This week’s revised CDC guidance on mask wearing seems to have thrown the real estate powers-that-be into a tizzy about open houses. Early on Thursday the California Association of Realtors

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When will it end?

Some readers have been wondering whether this summer might reveal a different kind of housing market, because the Coronavirus pandemic is tapering off. Surely now that people are getting vaccinated

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You're buying a house, not a market

It’s a very hot real estate market for sellers right now, and that has discouraged many buyers. I have sympathized with a number of frustrated buyers who hoped to move into one of my listed

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No time like the present

Owning real estate is so popular right now that there is an imbalance between motivated buyers and available homes to buy. As anyone with any interest in real estate has already heard, there is a

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Neither pushover nor killer

Negotiating to reach a win-win agreement doesn’t mean being a pushover. It involves more than just being a nice guy. Much of the advantage of a win-win approach comes from recognizing that

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"We're just renting."

When I knock on doors around a neighborhood to tell neighbors about one of my listings, one response that I get puzzles me. The person who answers the door says: “I’m not the owner of

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Sometimes opinions are expensive

In order to successfully complete a transaction, buyers and sellers each need to let go of beliefs that are not based in reality—even though they seem very compelling. Someone who believes

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Escrow open? negotiations aren't finished...

When bidding for a property becomes competitive, sometimes buyers will make a dramatically higher offer, while secretly hoping to pay significantly less. There are two ways to make this happen&mdash

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Are inspections just a giveaway for buyers?

Aside from identifying problems that might affect the value of a property, home inspections help buyers to make the emotional transition into being homeowners. By looking closely at their soon-to-be

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Cross qualification means double-checking

“Cross-qualification,” or having a lender whom I know and trust review the financial package of a potential buyer of my listed property, is a key strategy for protecting the interest of

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Here's what I won't do for you

This week I’m advertising and showing two new listings—a lovely 3-bedroom in Encino Village and a lushly planted, beautifully updated duplex near USC. If you or someone you know would

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Is a Realtor a salesman?

People imagine that a Realtor’s job is to convince clients to buy a particular house, when actually our objective is more to find the combination of property and buyer that truly fits. Working

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Enticing from a distance

Now that COVID-19 has transformed our daily lives, strategies for effectively marketing a home for sale have had to change as well. Prospective buyers are naturally reluctant to visit other people

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Affordability has a shelf life

Speaking with prospects who don’t yet own real estate, I often contrast mortgage payments, which remain the same for decades, with rent, which often increases with each passing year. Some

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Show them that you mean business

Here’s a painless way to increase your chances of success buying or selling a home—handle all your real-estate communications and appointments professionally. That means being prompt and

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Negotiations aren't always equal

There are two kinds of conversations during escrow that potentially involve giving up something you want. It’s one thing when new information is uncovered, such as a need for repairs or

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Course corrections during escrow

When most people think about real estate negotiations, they focus on making or responding to an offer to buy and getting the best contract price. The part that usually wakes me up at night happens

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Amazon of real estate?

News outlets carry stories several times a year about a new model for buying and selling homes that might be revolutionizing the real estate marketplace. Sometimes it’s brokerages that don

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Plan for any season, but get the week right

Real estate sellers often wonder when the best time is to put a property on the market. I would say that this week would be a bad idea—but not because spring is better than wintertime. You

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Choosing an agent? Choosing a team

Homeowners preparing to sell their house don’t generally think about it, but when they select a Realtor to represent them they’re usually selecting an escrow company and a title company

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The market will change things, for better or worse

Many people who rent their home anticipate buying later in life, after they have had the chance to build up a stronger financial base in their career. They would like to buy in the same area where

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Keeping the Grinch away while selling

When you’re preparing to sell a house, there are some extra security precautions you ought to be taking—unfortunately, the visibility and increased access into a listed property can

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Staying put can be risky

Potential home buyers are often reluctant to buy in the short term because they think buying at the wrong time is risky. I guess it’s human nature to feel comfortable keeping things as they,

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A serious question deserves a serious answer

Prospective buyers often ask me how much money they should have in the bank in order to buy a home. That’s a hard question to answer without first getting a bit of context. A person could buy

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Elections have consequences

If you’re older than 55 (or not), severely disabled (or not), or expect to inherit real estate, the fact that California Proposition 19 passed will mean some changes in your real estate

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It's different now

Before COVID-19, house-hunting included quite a bit of casual, self-driven exploration. Many buyers would spend a few weeks dropping into open houses each weekend while they explored the home

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Another reason to follow the election results

One reason why there are not as many Southern-California houses for sale as buyers would like is that—based on the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978—long-time homeowners pay very low

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Be smart about what you fear

Between politics and Halloween, the topic of fear is getting a lot of attention right now. Generally speaking, people are not very good at choosing threats to be afraid of. We worry more about

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Could you pass up a car like that?

When you purchase a home to live in, you take advantage of a unique opportunity that can improve your financial standing for the rest of your life. The amount of money involved, and the ongoing

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Clean up real estate records data before selling

The county records describing your real estate property play an important role in your property rights, credit rating, and the value of your home. Sometimes the county records can be wrong&mdash

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Over 70 things need to be done right

There are over 70 tasks to be completed in a typical home-buying transaction. When the process involves some complication, such as a contingency to sell another property or allowing the seller to

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Six things to look for in a Realtor

To know what to look for in a Realtor that you will work with, it helps to think about what this person will be doing for you. First, your Realtor will be your representative. He or she will be your

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Contracts aren't cookie cutters

Most transactions for buying a home follow a pretty standard sequence of events, but things don’t always have to follow that pattern. Part of the job of a good Realtor is adjusting contract

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Managing the balance of desires

There is no objective measure of property value, because value is a function of someone’s desire. If a homeowner leading a stable life says that his house is worth a million dollars, he&rsquo

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Why I write you every week

One reason I publish this newsletter every week is to demonstrate that I actually care about the well-being of my clients. Most people have some ideas about buying or selling real estate, even when

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Careful when you co-sign

I’ve often seen family members lend a hand to help one of my clients buy a home by co-signing the mortgage application. This can be a good way to help an entire family get ahead. The person

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Keep your hand off your sword

The practice of shaking hands probably began as a ritual to demonstrate that neither person involved is carrying a weapon. It has even been suggested that the up-and-down motion of a handshake was

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Low inventory ain't the boss of us!

If you’ve asked any expert about this year’s real estate market, I’m sure you’ve heard that “inventory is low.” While this is true, it sounds much more dire than

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The market's bouncing back from isolation

If you think that the Coronavirus has led Southern Californians to stop buying and selling properties, you’d find many people to agree with you—but the numbers don’t bear out that

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"At home" is different now

The pandemic has led most people to spend a lot more time at home than usual, and many of us have started using our home-space in new ways. A dining room might become a virtual office, and a front

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Waiting for a bargain, missing the bargain

On Christmas Day of 2019, home prices were continuing the steady appreciation that was the trend throughout last year, and interest rates were at a fairly attractive 3.99%. A buyer who borrowed

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Help me help referrals help my clients

My clients often need specialized services when they are preparing a house to be sold, or fixing up a place before they move in. Some of them handle all of that on their own, but I’m also

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Don't lose the waiting game

More often than you might think, people in the market for a new home hit a snag in their search because they have their hearts set on a neighborhood or category of home that their budget will not

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You can still set yourself apart

This week I came across a reminder of one of the best ways to differentiate your offer on a house from others, and to increase your chances of being the selected buyer, even if others are offering a

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Join the smart minority

This month I’ve been putting together a specialty for my real estate business—helping families through probate and selling inherited property. Studying to earn my certification as a

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Why haven't home prices dropped?

The Southern California real estate market has slowed to a near-standstill, while estimates of current unemployment range from 14% – 20%. So how come the price of a home is still rising?The

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Showing homes safely

To give you an idea of how meticulously Realtors are managing the risks involved in pursuing the sale of homes in Southern California, the documents you'll find below are now required to

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Close to ideal

If you were to imagine the ideal time to buy a home, what would the market look like? I would picture (1) a time when interest rates are low, (2) when prices are moving downward, so that the balance

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Looking out for each other

“Home” means something different, and my family and I use our house differently in the midst of Coronavirus isolation. Now it’s the place where you don’t need a mask, and you

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Big-consequence decisions

The Coronavirus pandemic took very little time to make big changes in our daily routines. It didn’t require a lot of analysis for most of us—we simply followed the directions to stay.

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Supply is down, demand TBD

There’s a lag of four to six weeks between most of the real estate activities affected by the pandemic and when they are publicly reported. That’s both because the numbers are reported

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How to think about buying or selling now

In case you’re wondering whether it’s possible to do real estate transactions in a COVID-19 world, I can assure you that it’s as possible as you want it to be. Not long ago I

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Yes, you can buy or sell

I understand completely that many people believe now is not the time to buy or sell a home. For most people, it’s a project that can wait until life becomes a bit more normal than it is right

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What's essential?

It’s pretty hard for the rules-makers to define exactly which services are essential, and which are not. Of course, hospitals, banks, gas stations, and pharmacies make the cut, while dine-in

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Real estate can be socially distant

My standard open-house equipment list now includes soap, paper towels, and tissues, so visitors and I can maintain good hygiene while still connecting clients with the right house. Fortunately, the

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Don't be scared

Between the Corona virus and the looming specter of Friday the 13th in the calendar, right now there are plenty of ways to nurture unreasonable fears. I think one way we mislead ourselves and become

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It's an ill wind

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good. While we’re all taking remedial training on how to wash your hands, and reviewing our plans to travel or attend events where many people will

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Being irresistable

We’re all familiar with the advice to sellers to remove clutter from a house, spruce up its curb appeal, and create pleasant smells to woo buyers. There are also things buyers can do&mdash

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Inventory shortage -- now what?

Owning real estate is so popular right now that there is an imbalance between motivated buyers and available homes to buy. As anyone with any interest in real estate has already heard, there is a

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It's not all buying and selling

In recent weeks I have been helping one client avoid foreclosure as he navigates his way through a financial setback. I’ve referred two newsletter subscribers to a remodeling contractor and a

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88% said it was "the best decision they ever made"

Over the years I have spoken with dozens of potential homebuyers who said they wanted to wait for a market downturn before actually buying a home. For obvious reasons, I’m not usually in touch

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What's it cost? Depends on what you call it...

A gate on the side of our house fell off of its hinges several weeks ago, and I had a tough time finding the right person to repair it. I researched and contacted a half-dozen fencing and gate

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Great values disappear quickly!

This week I scheduled open houses at an attractive Santa Clarita home that was listed just $5,000 below the asking price of a similar place that has been on the market for more than four months. I

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Ownership doesn't need to tie you down

Life doesn’t always proceed in the way we plan or expect. One of my loyal clients has decided to relocate out of Southern California, only 18 months after buying a duplex he intended to live

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