Questions for a pro: Sarasota realtor Kathy Marlowe


Kathy Marlowe decided to go into real estate for herself just before Sept. 11, 2001. At the time, she was working for accounting firm Arthur Andersen, handling corporate housing and off-site meetings planning. In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, she took a couple of days to think about what she wanted to do and decided that it was time to move on.

Since then, she has built a successful, small boutique company covering Sarasota and Manatee counties. In February, she moved her office to downtown Sarasota to be in a more central location. Correspondent Chris Angermann talked to her there.

Q:What is the market like these days?

marloweA:At $250,000 and below, it is crazy right now because of the low inventory. It's becoming extremely tough for buyers. They go to see a newly listed home, only to find out right there's already an offer on it; there's a contract. One of my buyers and I wanted to look at homes last week that came on the market two days apart from each other. Before we could see them, they were gone — under contract. We couldn't even get in because the sellers had so many showings. By the time our turn came, they said, "Sorry, it's gone."

Q:What can buyers do?

A:You have to be available immediately when something new comes on the market, if it matches your criteria, so we can go and see it. And buyers really need to understand how to present their offer — how to set themselves apart from all of the others. If there are multiple offers, ask yourself what can you do to make yours stronger? It may mean increasing your deposit. It may mean being willing to pay full asking price or just a little bit over. It may mean saying to the seller, "Don't worry about any repairs, I will have my inspection done, but I won't ask you to pay for anything that isn't structural."

If there are a multiple offers — and even if there aren't — include a letter to the seller with your offer. Explain who you are. Sellers have an emotional attachment to their home. If you can show them your attachment, when there is more than one offer, and they're not that far apart, whose offer do you think they'll choose? You have now shown them your human side, not just the figures you wrote down on paper.

Q:How does new construction figure into this situation?

A:Things are tight there, too. Some builders in Lakewood Ranch only write five contracts a month because they're so backed up and there are only so many lots to choose from. A couple I represented as buyers had to put their name on a list, and they were called the next month and asked, "Are you still interested?" At least, these folks know that, seven months from now, they're getting into their new home. If you can wait, it's wonderful; but if you can't, you're out there in the pool with everyone else.

There are some benefits to buying a new home. What I'm seeing, the homeowner's insurance is approximately 50 percent less than on older homes. A 2,000-square-foot house from the 1970s or '80s without a swimming pool would probably cost around $2,000 a year in insurance, where a new home of similar size is only $1,000. That's a significant saving, which means that buyers probably could bump up their purchase price and wind up with the same dollar mortgage payment.

Q:What else should buyers be aware of?

A:I've said this before: Buyers, especially first-time buyers, need to make sure they work with a knowledgeable agent they can trust. When people work with a Realtor, loan officer or broker, they're counting on them to look out for them.

I have worked with a number of engineers. They check under the sinks. They want to see the electrical panel. They're going to have projects in the garage. Engineers can be quite fussy, so if I can keep them happy, I know I am good on my details and organizations skills.

Last modified: July 19, 2013
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