Kathleen Daniels is a California Real Estate Broker, specializing in probate and trust real estate sales. She was contacted by the successor trustee of her sister’s trust. Kathleen is a Certified Probate Real Estate Specialist and certified in Professional Fiduciary Management for Trustees.
Successor Trustee Seeks Help From Real Estate Attorney
While working in her office the phone rang. Kathleen answered the call. It is her standard practice to answer all calls unless she is with a client, driving, or otherwise unable to answer a call. The call was from a local real estate attorney. The conversation unfolded as follows:
Kathleen: Of course. What’s up – how can I help?
Attorney: Do you explain and go over all of the listing paperwork and disclosures with your clients?
Kathleen: Yes. Not only does everyone need to know what they are signing before they sign it, but I am also required by law as part of my fiduciary duties to explain all documents before asking clients to sign them. I confirm what I have explained makes sense and ask if they have any questions before clients sign any documents.
Note: Kathleen thought this was an odd question because she knows the attorney, they have worked together, and the attorney knows how she conducts her business. It is among the many reasons why the attorney refers clients to her.
Attorney: I am sitting here in my office with a client. She is the successor trustee of her sister’s trust. She has interviewed seven (7) real estate agents and was not impressed with any of them.
The agent she thought she would hire sent her everything online without any explanation of any of the documents. She was told, that is just the way it is done. Just sign the documents.
The agent also told her that the home will be sold to investors who will fix it and flip it. Then assigned a list price of $900,000.00.
She was so confused by what the agents were telling her she scheduled an appointment with me to understand how real estate sales are managed.
Successor Trustee Fiduciary Duties
Kathleen discussed her listing strategy with both of them over the phone. The attorney said, “She is already likely what you are saying.” The successor trustee did not feel comfortable with electronic signatures. Kathleen explained that given the client is local, she is happy to sit down with her, go over all of the documents, explain the documents in person, and allow her to “wet sign” the documents.
A lengthy discussion regarding fiduciary duties followed. Kathleen explained her duties and applauded the potential client for reaching out for help when she was not comfortable with the information she had received from so many real estate agents.
The trustee and Kathleen agreed to meet at the property that needed to be sold. Several hours were spent at the property discussing recommendations of minor things to do to get top dollar for the home. The home was certainly worth more than $900,000 even without doing much more to it. The home is located in a prime San Jose location.
Our sense is that the agent may have had many investors that would have loved to buy the house at that price. What a steal of a deal it would be if they could get it at that price! Most likely, the transaction would be double-ended (the agent represents both the buyer and the seller) and the agent makes twice the amount of money. After the home is updated, the agent gets to list the home and make even more money.
Please do not get us wrong. Real estate agents need to be paid for their services. In this situation, the agent’s strategy did not serve the seller. The agent did not want to spend any time working with the client. He only wanted to get it sold so they could move on to the next property.
Kathleen Daniels, Certified Probate Real Estate Specialist
The successor trustee was pleased with Kathleen who demonstrated she puts her clients first. Out of all the agents the trustee spoke with, Kathleen was the only one that made sense to her.
The listing documents were prepared and presented to the seller in person for signature.
The next step was to prepare a proposed Listing Marketing Schedule. As a certified project manager, Kathleen prepares a marketing schedule as a tool for her and her clients to use in preparing a home to list for sale. The marketing schedule outlines target dates, what needs to be done, and who is responsible for doing it.
The seller was an amazing client to work with. She was very conscious of her fiduciary duties and focused on doing the right things the right way.
They worked for several weeks keeping right on schedule. Kathleen recommends sellers get pre-listing inspections. The home, termite, and chimney inspections were completed. The home was professionally cleaned and staged. Final touches were made, photos were taken, and a video was created. It is now showtime!
Professional Fiduciary Management for Trustees
Real estate agents are not created equal. We are not “one-size-fits-all”. The depth of education, experience, and training do make a difference.
If you think real estate agents are all the same you may make the mistake of hiring the wrong person just as the seller in this situation almost did before seeking help from her real estate attorney.
Putting clients first is key and experience does make a difference. Kathleen’s experience and qualifications are impressive.
Who you hire does make a difference. As mentioned above, the agent the seller nearly settled with and hired would have listed the home for $900,000 and spent no time with the client explaining the process, or explaining the legal documents the seller is required to sign.
If you think hiring a real estate agent with high volume sales is a good thing, consider the quality and level of service you may get with that. Selling a Million plus dollar property wham-bam style does not serve the seller. If you believe a quick sale means top dollar, you may be cutting yourself short by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Kathleen Daniels is not about volume sales. She is focused on providing high-touch service and exceeding her client’s expectations.
The listing strategy was to keep the home listed for at least one week allowing ample time for buyers to get in to see the home. If a home sells on the first day it is on the market it may or may not be the highest and best offer. How would a seller ever know if they could get more for their home if they take the first offer received on day one?
The home was listed for $1,259,000. After 12 days on the market, receiving several offers, including a few days of negotiating, the seller accepted an offer, and the sale closed on schedule at a final sales price of $1,320.00. This represents $61,000 above the asking price and $420,000 more than the $900,000 list price suggested by the agent whose plan was to sell the home to an investor.
Who got a great deal here?
The seller is over-the-moon happy with the sales price and how Kathleen managed the sale.
The buyers who got their offer accepted are over the moon happy with their new home.
Kathleen Daniels is grateful for the referral from the real estate attorney who recommended the successor trustee who filled their fiduciary duties by exercising prudence in who she hired.