Jonah Wilson: Confessions of a Power Broker

January 09, 2012 | Pursuits

 
  Jonah Wilson knows the ins and outs of LA real estate

As a real estate agent with 20-plus years of experience, I’m often asked if I have any trade secrets the average buyer should know. I find it’s sometimes the obvious items that get overlooked.

The first thing on my list is to find an agent with good local knowledge. An agent truly plugged into a geographic location will know all the particulars of that region. He or she will know neighborhoods in detail, when prices in certain areas have gone up or suddenly come down, and, just as important, why. A competent agent will also have a good working relationship with other agents in the area and know, for instance, about pocket—or quiet—listings, properties that have yet to officially come on the market.

Once you’ve a found a property worth making an offer on, do your due diligence. Don’t underestimate the importance of multiple inspections; one general residential inspection is never enough. Even exquisitely maintained older homes can have hidden—and costly—problems. For newer properties, my suggestion would be four to five inspections. Yes, it will mean more money spent up front, but this is not a time to be penny-wise and poundfoolish. It’s important to know if you’re making a sound investment.

Third, don’t forget about the ins and outs of appraisals. It’s very important your agent has the ability to establish a good working relationship with the appraiser. In effect, the agent is your lobbyist, pointing out to the appraiser details about a home that might not be readily apparent. Those could be that an owner has spent $500 a square foot on custom finishes during a remodel rather than $200 a foot, or that a home has an important architectural pedigree that justifies a premium over other houses in the neighborhood. A savvy agent will also know what comparable properties—both on and off the market—have sold for in the area and will share that information with the appraiser.

While these may not be insider’s secrets, they are common-sense moves that are more important than ever in the new reality of a postbust real estate marketplace.

PHOTOGRAPHY BY ULRICA WHILBORG

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