Question: How do I find a good real estate agent?
Answer: In much the same way you find a good home-improvement contractor. Ask people who have had successful business dealings with a particular agent, and check recent sales that he/she has made.
I would be careful of the agent who either tells you that you will receive an extremely high price for your home or one who tries to get you to put an unrealistically low value on your home by telling you that homes in your immediate area have sold for a lower cost than you feel is accurate.
It doesn't take any talent to give your property away, and you must realize that whatever the price you have set will be reduced in negotiation with the buyer, and that the real estate agent will get his or her commission.
A professional and legitimate agent should be able to give you a good ballpark figure that allows for the commission, plus some negotiation with the prospective buyer.
Q: I am a single person who has a fairly good income and is interested in acquiring real estate. I am not certain, though, that the market justifies my confidence.
A: There will always be good buys available. You have to seek them out. There are some very good buys on condominiums, planned unit developments and homes in the Palm Springs area because, in my opinion, they are overbuilt. Even in the city of Los Angeles, if you look carefully, you will find outstanding pieces of property at a reasonable cost.
To be a successful buyer, you have to be willing to make written purchase offers.
Several years ago, after the Bel-Air fire, a friend of mine spent several weekends making offers on lots that had been burned. He bought three or four pieces of property at ridiculously low prices and three years later sold them at three times his purchase price. They are now worth about 10 times the original cost.
Very often, you will find elderly home sellers who need immediate cash and are not interested in long-term financing arrangements. These homes sometimes can be appraised at a much higher price than the sellers realize, and you can self-finance a good portion of the property.