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There are more than 100 Mammoth Lakes real estate agents. If you don’t know one of us personally, how will you ever choose one?

My advice is to shop around. Many people contact the first real estate agent they come across and stick with them because it’s easy. But it’s always a good idea to interview several agents before choosing one. If you have referrals from people you trust, you might only need to interview two or three agents.

If you’re new to real estate, or new to the Mammoth Lakes housing market, what should you ask in these real estate agent interviews? If you ask these questions, you’ll be able to figure out the best agent in no time:

1. Can you send me some information about yourself?

You’ll want to look for professionalism and consistency. What are their professional accomplishments? Try to discern how they approach their work — are they a committed business person, or are they just doing this on the side? A good real estate agent will have a strategy and a solid support system. If the agent is new to real estate, ask about their team’s dynamic and accomplishments.

2. How long have you been in real estate?

Longevity is really valuable in the real estate industry, especially in Mammoth Lakes where the real estate market has some weird quirks. An agent who has lived in Mammoth Lakes for several years will also be better connected to other professionals in the area — home inspectors, lenders, the title company, etc. — so the process will move along more smoothly.

3. How will you keep me informed?

Do you want daily or weekly reports from your agent? Before you meet with agents, figure out how much communication you want, then find an agent who will give you the attention you want and deserve.

4. Can you provide me with other resources I may need?

Good real estate agents have a wealth of knowledge in their heads, but many of them also offer resources like market reports, pricing trends, rental histories, tourism statistics and more. Great Mammoth Lakes real estate agents will also have strong relationships with their extended team of professionals and can sometimes get faster service or cash in a favor for you if a need arises.

5. For sellers: Can you share your plan to market my property?

Many real estate agents will just put your home in the MLS and wait for it to sell. That’s not how I work, and I bet it’s not what you imagined when you decided to work with a real estate agent. A good agent will have a detailed plan of how to get your home the most exposure on social media and through their local networks.

BONUS: Are you a real estate agent, a realtor or a broker?

It might sound like they’re all the same, but each designation is quite different. Any licensed real estate professional is a real estate agent, but to become a realtor, you have to subscribe to the REALTOR Code of Ethics. Brokers are real estate agents who have received further education and an advanced license from the state. You can work with any real estate professional, but the additional education and code of ethics can be really useful depending on your situation.


Make sure the real estate agent you choose feels like a good fit to you. This person will guide you through the process and can either make it a joyful transition or a total headache.

Learn more in my Ultimate Home Buyer’s Guide or Ultimate Home Seller’s Guide or contact me to start your search.


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If you’ve bought or sold property before, you may be wondering if you should handle your next purchase or sale on your own. While it can be tempting to do so, a good local real estate agent makes a world of difference. They can serve as your partner and confidant through what can sometimes be a convoluted process.

Here are 10 reasons why I believe hiring a local real estate agent is the best thing to do:

1. Real estate agents know the ins and outs of zoning in Mammoth Lakes.

Before you even start shopping for a Mammoth Lakes home, you’ll need to know what you can and can’t do with the property. If it’s a vacation home that you’d like to rent out, it needs to be in an area that’s zoned for nightly rentals. Your real estate agent can help you navigate the zoning regulations throughout town.

2. They’re professionally educated and trained to sell homes.

In California, real estate agents must complete 135 hours of Pre-Licensing education, find a licensed real estate broker to work under, and pass the CA Salesperson License Exam. Although realtors and real estate agents are both licensed to sell real estate, realtors are members of the National Association of REALTORS® and must subscribe to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. I am both a realtor and a broker. The real estate industry is complex, so having an educated guide through the process is incredibly helpful.

3. They’ve seen Mammoth Lakes properties in all four seasons.

You’ve probably experienced Mammoth Lakes during a crazy winter where homes get buried, but you might not have seen the properties you have your eyes on during a big winter. Certain condo complexes and neighborhoods do a better job with snow removal than others. Your real estate agent has probably been to most of the neighborhoods in Mammoth Lakes in the winter and should have a good sense of which properties handle big snow years the best.

4. They can advise on pricing and market conditions.

In a ski town like Mammoth Lakes, the community is much more than meets the eye. Mammoth Lakes real estate agents have their finger on the pulse of exactly what’s going on in town. They can advise on recent economic developments (like the 2017 sale of Mammoth Mountain or Yotelpad coming to Mammoth Lakes), ideal list prices, and how to market your property for the best results.

5. They can fill you in on the differences between HOAs in town.

Not all HOAs are created equally, and not all will give you the bang for your buck you might be hoping for. Some homeowners associations come with access to amenities like a hot tub, sauna or common area for hosting large groups. Most include snow removal and trash services, but some complexes manage this better than others. Your real estate agent can let you know which complexes will take the best care of you in your new home.

6. A good real estate agent will act as a buffer.

As a buyer or a seller, you might need some protection. A good real estate agent will keep all the unimportant chatter out of earshot. If you’re buying, they’ll work with the seller’s agent on your behalf. If you’re selling, they’ll weed out the people who aren’t serious buyers so your time doesn’t get wasted. They also filter out any unnecessary emotion in the transfer of a property.

7. They have strong negotiation skills.

Negotiation is an acquired skill. It’s addressed during a real estate agent’s initial training but it really gets honed over years of experience. Having been in real estate in Mammoth Lakes since 2011, I feel confident going into any property negotiation. I advocate for my clients’ needs and can usually reach a solution in which everyone wins.

8. Real estate agents handle all the paperwork.

If you’ve worked with a real estate agent on a purchase or sale, you probably remember the slew of emails or appointments asking you to sign yet another document. What you might not have noticed is the hours of work that your agent spent behind the scenes preparing and organizing those documents. When you’re buying your dream vacation home in Mammoth Lakes, you shouldn’t waste time bogged down in paperwork. Let a real estate agent handle it.

9. They know the right people to move the process along.

Mountain towns like Mammoth Lakes run on face-to-face communication. If you get connected with the right real estate agent in town, you’ll also get access to many other important people. A good real estate agent will have relationships with local lenders, inspectors, cleaning companies, vacation rental companies and more. Instead of wasting your time tracking down people who often operate on mountain time, your real estate agent can do the heavy lifting.

10. They know what it’s like to live in this unique town.

Local real estate agents love calling Mammoth Lakes home, but they also know that life in a mountain town at 8,000 feet comes with its own set of challenges. They can share with you what they love most about living here as well as the process they took to find their own Mammoth Lakes dream home. You’ll be working with someone who knows what you’re going through because they’ve been there. And who knows — you might even find a new lifelong friend in the process!


If you want to know more about buying a home in Mammoth Lakes, check out my Ultimate Home Buyer’s Guide. Give me a call with any questions: (760) 914-4664.

Not all real estate professionals are the same. And it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the options and information about working with real estate professionals to buy or sell your home. In fact, many real estate markets are oversaturated with agents.

To help you understand what makes top agents and market experts stand apart from the competition, the following are five key attributes of an amazing agent:

  1. A Pricing Specialist

If an agent has their real estate license, they know the basics of the transaction process. They know what goes into buying and selling a home. However, there’s a difference between knowing the process and navigating it for an ideal result. This ideal result often means buying or selling a home for the best price.

For buyers, amazing agents have a strong understanding of market trends, competition, and how to make your offer attractive to sellers. They can help you identify and secure a deal to ensure you get the home you want, within your desired budget.

If you’re selling a home, market experts have experience pricing homes optimally for the market and creating pricing plans to minimize the time spent selling the home. This will help you sell for your desired price, and avoid costs like additional mortgage and utility payments.

Takeaway: Whether buying or selling a home, pricing can be tricky. Market experts can help navigate best-possible pricing strategies, and also secure the home you want within your budget.
  1. An Effective Time Manager

It’s common to underestimate the amount of time it takes to buy or sell your home. The average real estate agent may not be utilizing the latest tools and technology to make the transaction easier and more cost-effective for their clients. Market experts have tools and strategies at their disposal to minimize the amount of time you spend on the process.

For sellers, market experts can make sure you only deal with qualified buyers, not the “window shoppers” who can waste your time. We also utilize the latest marketing practices to advertise and price your home effectively, ensuring it gets sold quickly.

When looking to buy a home, inexperienced agents may waste your time by showing you homes that are not a good fit for you. A market expert knows how to prioritize your needs and wants to find you the ideal home within your budget. They also know how to spot “red flags” and can steer you away from homes that are likely to turn up major issues in a real estate inspection, saving you time and money.

In addition, well-networked Realtors can gain access to the hottest listings before many websites do. Their extensive professional networks can help identify “pre-list” homes before they’re officially on the market. This can be invaluable in a highly-competitive real estate market.

Takeaway: Even a well-intentioned agent may not have the skills, tools or technology to make the experience easy for you. There are lots of hidden activities that may take up unexpected time, and a market expert will save you time and energy.
  1. A Market Insider

While most agents can pull market stats about a neighborhood, community or city, they may not understand important trends or developments that would affect your transaction. These can include the state of the school district, issues with a homeowner association, new businesses in the area, zoning rules or trends in home prices.

Market experts live and breathe local real estate and know the trigger points for buying and selling in this market. We also stay current on effective marketing and negotiation practices, resulting in our track record of success.

For sellers, we understand what features of your home and neighborhood are assets in the selling process. And for buyers, we share a deep understanding of market factors, including school and neighborhood quality, crime statistics, the speed of sales and more.

Takeaway: Getting relevant and specific market knowledge can be difficult and time-consuming, which is why many real estate agents don’t have it. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, an experienced real estate agent is often the best source of information about a city, neighborhood, or even street … we’re literally conducting market research every day.
  1. A Strong Negotiator

Amazing agents truly set themselves apart in their ability to negotiate. Unfortunately, a large portion of agents don’t commit their full time to increasing this key skill.

Real estate negotiations can be challenging, even for seasoned professionals. It takes skill, experience and a knowledge of how to fight for your client’s best interests. While any agent can enter negotiations to buy or sell a home, they may not know the effective strategies to exit those negotiations with the result you want.

Experienced Realtors focus on negotiation as a key skill. We understand what to do before entering negotiations (establishing the upper hand to set up the best outcome), as well as during the process (when to offer or accept concessions).

Takeaway: Many agents can feel the stress of the negotiation process, and may agree to terms of the buyer/seller. Working with a market expert will help ensure you get the best deal, not just the fastest deal.
  1. An Effective Closer

Closing a deal fast is often a good thing. For buyers, it means you found the home you wanted quickly. For sellers, it often means you can avoid the added expenses of mortgage and utility payments, and maximize the value of your home sale.

However, an agent solely focused on speed can make decisions that aren’t in your best interests. Top real estate professionals know how to not only achieve your real estate goals quickly but in the right way to avoid potential pitfalls.

Just like negotiations, the paperwork and process of closing a real estate transaction are complicated. And they can be overwhelming for the average agent who hasn’t handled a lot of transactions. Sales contracts, property disclosures, occupancy agreements and even lead paint records need to be executed with precision. Your agent not only needs to be familiar with these but also stay current on any changes in requirements or regulations.

Market experts have a strong understanding of real estate contracts, timelines, clauses and contingencies within the closing process. In fact, avoiding pitfalls during the closing process is where many sellers find an experienced Realtor is a huge asset.

Takeaway: Many agents don’t have a firm understanding of contracts. Because a real estate transaction often involves a significant investment, even a small mistake can mean serious trouble. With that in mind, it’s often best, and most responsible, to work with a true market expert.

If you are ready to talk with a real estate expert, give Sonja a call at 661-979-9000 or email her at [email protected].

How to vet your real estate agent, Sonja Bush, Mammoth Lakes,

How do you know if you have chosen the right agent when it comes time to sell your home?

With more than 86,000 real estate brokerage firms in the U.S. as of 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, you have quite a few resumes and websites to wade through.

Follow these recommendations for vetting potential real estate agents, and you’ll find the selling process much smoother.

Treat it like a job interview. Signing with a real estate agent is effectively hiring their firm to perform a service, so treat it like any job interview – where you’re the employer. Ask questions, interview more than one candidate and make a decision when you find the right person for the job.

Pay attention to how they communicate. Your real estate agent’s ability to understand your needs as a client is imperative to selling your home, and possibly finding you a new one.

How does the agent listen, respond and follow up to your questions, requests and needs? Not only should agents do all three in a timely manner, but in a way that you prefer, too, whether it’s by phone, email or face-to-face meetings.

Ask around town. As with any job interview, you should check for references. Ask the agents you’re interviewing for the contact information of previous clients, and take it one step further – call around to other professionals in the local market to get a feel for their reputation.

The ability of an agent to work with others in the business is key to the success in selling your home – if you hire someone who doesn’t play nice with his or her peers, you might find few agents willing to show your house to their buyer clients.

Talk about marketing and what you can do. In the initial meeting with a potential agent, you should expect her to present everything she plans to do to help you sell your home, including her marketing strategy and what you can do to stage and prepare your home for tours.

Expect a large portion of marketing to be online, as print advertising has largely fallen out of style in a world of to-the-minute listing updates.

Listen to money talk with a skeptical ear. Real estate agents will typically give you an estimate on your home’s value when they make their pitch, but don’t let dollar signs in your eyes cloud your judgment.

Picking a real estate agent based on promises of a higher sale price can leave you with a bad fit, and if an agent is making a higher estimate to try to lure you in, he’s probably not a great agent to begin with. A promised price doesn’t mean buyers will actually be willing to pay it.

Go with who you trust. Your real estate agent will be privy to a good deal of personal and financial information about you, so only sign with the one you are confident will work with your best interests in mind. A good agent works best when he has open communication with clients about their financial situation and reason for moving. As a result, he can secure the deal that meets their needs.

When you find the agent you feel comfortable with, you can maintain the relationship for the next time you decide to move, and refer him or her to friends who are buying or selling as well.

Sonja Bush is ready to be that agent.  Call her at 661-979-9000 or email her at [email protected] to interview her for your home selling needs.

mammoth lakes signIt is the last day of your vacation and you and your family have enjoyed your time in Mammoth Lakes California.  You decide you might want to buy a vacation home here so you stop by one of the local real estate offices on the way out of town and see if someone can show you a few properties before you leave.  Sounds reasonable, right?

Well since this is a resort town,  it is important to know it is not as easy as it may sound.  Since you are here on vacation, chances are occupancy is pretty high with other vacationers and there might be a limited number of properties you can view.  After narrowing down your interests, the agent will need to view the notes on each listing and contact the property management company to check availability.  In addition, many of the listed properties are on vacation rental programs and as such do not have lock-boxes (to prevent walk-ins on paying renters).  What this means is that in many cases the agent has to drive to multiple locations to pick up the various keys for the available properties.

While all of this is possible and done numerous times each week, it is not the perfect scenario.  Most agents will agree that a call at least a day ahead can save everyone time and hopefully maximize the time spent viewing properties.  Given a little time the agent can do the leg work in advance and still have time to prepare for the tour with custom materials for your review.   In the end planning ahead will be a better use of your time and help get you one step closer to making your second home a reality.

2013 meterIt is human nature to want to get the best deal so I’m not surprised when new clients ask this question.   My advice is not try and time the purchase to get a better price.  Often buyers think they will get a better deal on a home in the off or shoulder season.  But generally speaking, sellers are savvy and home values do not fluctuate by season.  The best time to buy a property is when you find the property you want.

Know what you want and be prepared to take action.  You have to be confident you understand where the market is and what you want out of your property.  What is your budget?  When will you be using the property?  Will you be renting?

When you do find the property you want, I recommend you request photos of the property taken during different seasons.  You really need to see the difference between summer and winter.  Where does the snow accumulate?  How is your view impacted by the snow or trees during the summer versus the winter?

Trying to time the real estate market is not recommended but do watch for trends.  It doesn’t matter if you buy the “deal of the century” if it is not something that matches your goals.   Prices were relatively flat in 2012 but we have seen an increase in 2013.  Historically Mammoth Lakes has followed the trends in San Diego and Orange County by 6-8 months.  In those markets they are currently seeing multiple offers and properties are selling for over the asking price.     The median days on market is decreasing in  Mammoth Lakes.

In summary, be prepared:

  1. Know your budget.
  2. Identify your goals for the property
  3. Know which area of town you want to buy.
  4. If financing, get preapproved.
  5. Establish a relationship with a real estate agent and communicate the info above.

A trustworthy real estate agent will help you understand the market and help you find the property that matches your goals.

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Helpful tipsBuying a home can be confusing and overwhelming.  Being educated about the real estate market and staying informed on the latest trends and tips for buying a home are some of the most important factors when looking for a home. A little research can go a long way toward getting you in the door with a minimum amount of stress.

Source:  American Home Shield

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There are distressed sales in almost every market.   Before we look at Mammoth Lakes specifically, bank ownedit is important to understand the definition of distressed sale.

A distressed sale in real estate is defined as the urgent need to sell property when the owner can no longer make the mortgage payments.  He/she must sell the property immediately to pay off the mortgage, even if it involves losing money on the property.  There are two primary types of distressed sales:

Foreclosure:  A situation in which a mortgage lender takes possession of the property because the borrower  has not made payments on interest or principal for a certain period of time.

Short Sale:  An agreement between a mortgage borrower in distress and the lender that allows the borrower to sell the house and remit the proceeds to the lender.  A short sale is an alternative to foreclosure or a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

Foreclosure-related sales are on the decline but distressed sales continue to claim a “disproportionately high portion” of total home sales across the country, according to RealtyTrac’s most recent foreclosure and short sales report. The firm also found increases in prices for distressed properties in 2012.

Distressed property sales made up 43 percent of all home sales nationwide in 2012, according to RealtyTrac. Foreclosure-related sales made up 21 percent of all sales, while non-foreclosure short sales made up 22 percent of sales. Together, foreclosure and REO sales decreased 6 percent from 2011 with a total of 947,995 sales over the year in 2012.

Here in Mammoth Lakes, in 2012 distressed property sales made up 41 percent of all home sales.  Foreclosure sales made up 15 percent of all sales and short sales were 26 percent.

A qualified licensed real estate agent can provide information on available distressed sales.  Often the lender has special requirements for buyers and although there are some “good deals,” patience is a virtue when dealing with distressed sales.

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Price-StrategyPricing your home for sale should be based on comparable sales, specific neighborhood time-on-the-market trends, current appraisals and the homes pros and cons.  Sellers who price the property correctly from day one experience fewer days on the market and more “real” potential buyers.  No amount of marketing “magic” can overcome an over-priced price tag.  Experts suggest reducing your price if you have no serious offers in the first 30-45 days.

The most challenging part of pricing your home is to make sure you are using your head and not just your emotions.  Sellers that ignore the facts and price their property purely on “feelings” are generally disappointed or even insulted when they receive lower than asking price offers.  Inflated prices send a signal to potential buyers (and their agents) that you may not be serious about selling and therefore won’t waste their time viewing your property.

Pricing your property is part art and part science and qualified real estate agent can help you make an informed decision when pricing your property.  Licensed agents have access to recent sales, pending sales,  withdrawn listings, price per square foot and much more.

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There are several benefits by getting your home purchase or sale closed before 2013.  The first and most important is you will benefit from the Mortgage Debt Relief Forgiveness Act.

This law exempts current homeowners from serious income taxes normally incurred when mortgage debt is forgiven – including in cases where an underwater home is sold short. A mortgage lender extends cash to a borrower when they make a mortgage on a home. If that debt is wiped out without actually being paid back, then the cash that was extended to that borrower is normally considered income by the IRS, and is taxed as such.

But when the real estate market crashed, the federal government enacted this Act to eliminate the thousands and thousands of dollars of income taxes the average American who loses a home to foreclosure or short sale would otherwise incur.

This Act is set to expire on December 31, 2012. Most industry insiders expect it will be extended before that time, but growing numbers are surprised it hasn’t already been. And with the upcoming election, some are unsure what will happen.

If you need to sell an underwater home via a short sale, the time to list it was really a few months ago. But some servicers are expediting these transactions so that it might still be possible to get your short sale closed before year’s end. If your escrow closes by December 31st, you’ll avoid the enormous tax burden that could result if the Act expires and you had to do a short sale in the future. (Ask your accountant or financial advisory for advice on your specific situation.)

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Source: Trulia

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