Indie Ogden Spotlight: Ashley Christensen Wolthuis, Integra Real Estate

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With so many people moving to and from Ogden, questions about real estate often come up. Indie Ogden is privileged to have a pro on hand to answer any questions you may have about buying, selling and appraisal.  Read this great in depth spotlight to learn more about what Ashley does at Inegra Realty and how she can help you. If you have any questions, post them in the comments section and Ashley will answer them all!

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN APPRAISER AND A REAL ESTATE AGENT?

An appraiser estimates the value of a property.  A real estate agent helps you buy, sell, rent or manage a property. Although I have both licenses, by law I can only work as one or the other per transaction, never both. There are also significant differences in becoming a Real Estate Agent or Appraiser. To become a Real Estate Agent in Utah you must be 18 years old, with a High School Diploma and take a 120 hour class and pass a licensing exam given by the state – this took me about 3 weeks. To become a Certified Residential Appraiser (which means you can appraise any residential property of any value) it requires a Bachelor’s degree, then 200 hours of Appraisal Classes, 2500 Hours of Experience with at least 2 years work experience. Most of this work experience has to happen under another Certified Appraiser – which means you have to find another appraiser you can apprentice under (which is difficult). After that the state reviews your appraisals and if they believe your work is good enough, you then have to take a series of exams – the final exam taking up to 8 hours. The average Certified Residential Appraiser now takes between 5-7 years to obtain their license. Needless to say, it was a much more difficult and lengthy process for me to become an appraiser than it was to obtain my real estate license.

HOW IS THE MARKET DOING?

I am asked this question almost daily. There are few things that irritate me professionally more than hearing a “report” on the news or by a Real Estate Brokerage stating something such as “the market is going up…” The truth of the matter is that there are literally thousands of markets in Utah. To which market are they referring? You can have 2 homes, right next door to each other that could be in 2 different markets. For example, I live in a neighborhood where you have homes valued under $200,000 on the same block as homes well above $1 million dollars. Some of these homes were built in the late 1960’s and some of them built within the past 5 years. Buyer’s who are looking to buy an older home in the $150,000 – $200,000 price range are not going to look at the new home that’s for sale for $900,000 – even though they are on the same street. These are different markets with different buyers. The characteristics that make up your home determine your market. If you are interviewing a real estate agent to buy or sell a home don’t accept a generalized answer of, “It’s a buyer’s market”, or any other similar blanket statements. Have them show you an analysis of other homes in your true market so you can accurately see where values are at, and how long the average comparable home is taking to sell.

HOW SHOULD YOU CHOOSE A REALTOR TO WORK WITH?

In my opinion there are 4 characteristics that make a good real estate agent.

Education/Knowledge – how knowledgeable is the agent about your home, your neighborhood and your market? I recently went to a listing interview where I asked the home owner about a potential feature of his neighborhood. The home had been previously listed by several different agents, yet I hadn’t seen any mention of this positive selling feature in any of the past listings. The home owner told me that I had been the only agent to mention this aspect. My knowledge about that neighborhood got me that listing.

Work Ethic – How hard is your agent willing to work for you? Will your agent be

easy to communicate with and keep in touch with you even when your market is a little slow? I have worked on several transactions where the listing agent has gone out of town in the middle of a purchase negotiation and been nearly impossible to reach. If the listing agent is making it hard for me to even submit an offer, I wonder how hard their clients had to work to reach them to answer any questions or concerns?

Honesty/Trust – How honest will your agent be with you? There are times in a real estate transaction that require honesty that a home owner may not like. If there are features of your home that will put off buyers, a good agent will tell you, not let you believe your homes is perfect as is. An agent who feels they must sugar coat any negative aspect of a home or a deal is not doing their clients any favors. I make it a very big priority to always be honest with my clients. I have to have my client’s complete trust to do my job effectively. Buying and selling a home are two of the biggest decisions you will ever make. If you don’t feel you can trust your agent in all things – get a new agent.

Experience – How much experience does your agent have? Do they seem comfortable with real estate terms? Can they give you any examples of how their past experience can be put to your benefit? I put this at the bottom of my list as experience can be relative. I know several agents that have had little experience as real estate agents, but have vast experience in other fields that can be positively utilized. As long as these agents meet the other 3 criteria, they might be a great fit for your needs.

These 4 characteristics can easily be seen and evaluated during a listing interview. When setting up the interview, ask the agent to bring referrals, and actually contact the referrals. There are many great real estate agents in our area. Don’t limit yourselves in only talking to one or two before hiring an agent. Take your time, interview several agents, and find the best agent to work for you.

WHAT TYPES OF APPRAISALS DO YOU COMPLETE FOR PEOPLE?

Most people are aware that appraiser’s are needed for any kind of a loan on real estate. Any time you are buying or refinancing a home, your bank will usually require an appraisal be completed to determine the value. At this point, your bank will usually hire the appraiser and you will not be able to choose who they use. But there are many other reasons for a home owner to hire an appraiser. I appraise homes before they are listed to help the home owner and/or agent determine their asking price. Appraisals can be completed for home owners trying to lower their property taxes. I help home owners determine insurance values and work with accountants on trusts and estate planning. An appraisal can be required for bankruptcy cases and other legal matters. Before remodeling a home is a great time to get an appraisal as it can help the home owner determine the renovations that will bring the greatest return on value. Any time you have a question about a home’s value – you want to speak with an appraiser.

TIPS FOR HAVING YOUR HOME APPRAISED?

The vast majority of the work needed to complete an appraisal happens at the appraiser’s office – not your home. While the appraiser is at your home they are determining the square footage, room count, exterior and interior building materials, the quality and condition of your home and specific amenities that may affect the value of the home. The amount of time the appraiser actually spends in your home depends on the size and complexity of the building and property, ranging from 20 minutes to multiple hours. Appraiser’s are not home inspectors and are not trained to look in depth at certain features of your home. The number one tip I give all my clients: If there is anything you want the appraiser to know about your home, write a list and give it to them during the appraisal inspection. List any repairs, updates, remodeling, upgrades, additions, special features, etc., and list any relevant dates, such as when the remodeling was completed and give a copy to the appraiser. This way you can be confident that nothing will be overlooked and the appraiser will have all the relevant information they may need about your home.

5 BEST TIPS FOR SELLING YOUR HOME?

Get a pre-listing inspection. Don’t wait until your home is under contract to make any needed repairs. You may miss out on multiple offers and any potential buyers may change their minds if the needed repairs are more than they are willing to take on. I offer my listing clients a complimentary home inspection to ensure that we put your best home forward.

Everyone knows about the importance of staging the interior of their home, but don’t forget to stage the exterior. We live in an area where the outdoors are important to people. Help buyers envision their future lives in your yard, no matter how small or great your outdoor space.

Trust your Agent. Make sure you hire an agent you trust completely. Then follow up on that trust by listening to and taking their advice.

Sell your neighborhood – not just your home. Make a list of the great features in your immediate area. Have awesome neighbors? Invite them to an open house so buyers can meet their new friends.

Make your home/listing unique. You want your home to stand out among the sea of listings. This might include offering personal property (electronics, grills, high-end appliances, light fixtures, or furniture) in the sale of your home. Have your agent or photographer take unique pictures of your home that show it in a different light. Offer incentives to the buyers that are useful and different, not just standard closing costs and home warranties, though those are useful as well.

UNIQUE THINGS YOU HAVE DONE TO BUY/SELL A HOME?

Speak with any of my past or current clients and they will tell you creativity is one of my strongest attributes when it comes to marketing and closing the deal. I had a listing that had a huge shop and inside RV parking in a neighborhood where this was not common, so I sent marketing material to all of the local RV dealerships in town. The

response to this was huge.

I had another listing that was in need of some remodeling that the seller could not take care of before listing. On the positive side, the home had the most amazing hot tub and view. We had an interested buyer, but they were hesitant as they knew the amount of work and time the home would need. I could see that the wife was envisioning weeks of living in a construction zone with small children – not a fun image for most parents. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects, I wanted them to picture what their life could be in this home. So I arranged adate night” for the buyers. The sellers left the house for the night to ensure privacy. I had the buyers drop their kids off to me so I could babysit them while the wife and her husband spent some time in the hot tub during an amazing evening sunset. I even had it catered so they could truly kick back and enjoy. When they came to pick up their kids, they dropped off a check for non-refundable earnest money. They closed on the house a month later.

SHOULD YOU USE AN AGENT TO BUY/SELL A HOME?

Unless you have been trained and educated in marketing, negotiations, contracts, and are apprised of all current market conditions and trends, and you have unlimited time to act upon all of these skills, then I’d recommend using an agent for all your real estate needs. Using an agent to buy a home costs you nothing; the sellers and their agent pay the buyer’s agent their fee. Not using an agent to list and sell your home can cost you thousands in missed offers, low contract prices and an often longer time spent trying to market your home. A good agent is the best advantage you can have.

I also work with a team of credit specialists that have allowed many of my clients to purchase a home when they had been told before they wouldn’t qualify. If you think your credit is keeping you from buying a home, contact me and we’ll see if we can repair your situation at no cost.

YOU HAVE WORKED AND LIVED ALL OVER THE WORLD – WHY HAVE YOU SETTLED IN OGDEN?

Ogden is home and I love it here. The beautiful surroundings and easy access to so many outdoor recreation opportunities are unsurpassed in the West. I love the people of Ogden, the hope and determination they feel and act upon to make our area the best. The greater Ogden area was just listed in the top ten places for young or first time home buyers, and was just listed as the 3rd best city for raising a family. I have to agree. Real Estate in Ogden is so affordable compared to other areas in the state. Owning a home is important to the stability of family, and it shouldn’t come at a cost that make you choose between having a safe and comfortable home versus the ability to enjoy other aspects of your life. The affordability of Ogden coupled with the magnitude of outdoor recreational and social offerings, allow savvy home owners to have both. Visit my website www.TheElementsOfRealEstate.com for links to more accolades for Ogden.

WHAT CURRENT PROMOTION ARE YOU OFFERING?

I’ve just mentioned how much I love Ogden. But one of the things I love most is how much our residents give back to our community. Ogden has recently been receiving a lot of praise and awards, but the one that makes me proudest was having our city ranked as the second most generous city in America (two other northern Utah cities, Provo and Salt Lake City were first, and third respectively). Our residents are known for giving their time in addition to financial donations to local charities. In order to honor that spirit of community and giving found throughout the area I have established a “give-back” program – 10% of my real estate commission from all purchase transactions will be donated to the local charity or non-profit of the buyer’s choice. So, purchase a home with my help, and in return you choose which local group will receive 10% of my commission. Let me help you, help others. I have a list of local charities and non-profits for my buyers to choose from, but I know there are others that I am not familiar with. If you know of an organization that should be included on my list of approved non-profits and charities, please email me their details at Ashley@TheElementsOfRealEstate.com or leave the details on the comment section of Indie Ogden.

Mikaela is a transplant from Portland, fell in love with Ogden her first day in town and created Indie Ogden the next week. She enjoys outdoor adventures with her 2 kiddos and making a mess crafting. You can find her at a local cafe or cycling around town with her family.