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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.

Stand Out From the CrowdOne of the most interesting things about showing property in Mammoth Lakes is I can show several different condos in the same complex and get drastically different feedback from the same potential buyers.

This past weekend was a good example. I took my client to see three different condos in the same complex. He wanted to see for himself why the price was so different when the floor plans and views were exactly the same.

The answer boiled down to four key areas:

1. Carpet: It is nice if the carpet is new but if it is not new, is it at least clean? Even though it is easy to clean, a dirty carpet leaves a nasty first impression.

2. Paint: When you enter the front door are the walls scuffed and paint chipped? If you are going to paint before selling, consider a neutral clean palette. The first 30 seconds in the property is important — paint can help make a good first impression.

3. Clutter: Should go without saying but buyers want to visualize the place as their own. All the ski gear, knick-knacks and items you will be taking when you sell, should be out of sight. Since most places are sold furnished in Mammoth Lakes, buyers can get a real sense of what it will be like for them when all the clutter is gone.

4. Kitchen: This is a costlier issue than paint, carpet and clutter but a necessary fix if someone really wants to sell. A total remodel is not necessary. Something as inexpensive as new kitchen cabinet hardware and light fixtures all the way to costlier new appliances will help you sell your property. Even a dated formica kitchen with dark wood cabinets looks better with new hardware. Consider a new faucet, painting the cabinets and upgrading appliances for a real boost.

Granted there are some buyers who want a “fixer” but most want a turn-key property. They want to buy it and enjoy it.

Ask your real estate agent for input. Better yet, ask them to show you a property similar to yours that has made some of these improvements so you can get some fresh ideas m

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strategic defaultConsciously or knowingly ceasing to make mortgage payments is called strategic default. There are many people that knowingly stop paying the mortgage because they cannot afford to continue to do so, and there are others that opt to stop because they believe that this might accelerate their short sale or their loan modification.

Borrowers need to understand the consequences of their actions. Late mortgage payments impact your credit score and thus, they also impact your future ability to borrow.

The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) program has specific guidelines, which often allow for a short sale when the borrower is current on the mortgage. Additionally, short sales can be completed for short sale sellers that have not missed a single mortgage payment. For more information on the HAFA program, visit

Some homeowners also stop making their Home Owners Association (HOA) payments. This can often be a short sale deal killer. Short sale lenders do not like to pay the seller’s unpaid HOA balance and often will only allocate a small amount of money for HOA document and transfer fees. Most experts advise short sale sellers to continue to pay the HOA dues whenever possible.

Whether to continue to make the mortgage payments or HOA dues is a personal decision that can only be made by the borrower. Understanding the consequences of the late payments can often help to make a more informed decision.

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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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OOPS!According to real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran (you might know her from Shark Tank) if you are in the position to consider making a down payment on another property, now’s the time to do it. According to Corcoran, “It’s the smartest thing you can do right now,” adding that the second-home market is “the last area you can still get a steal of a deal.” But if you’re thinking of taking the plunge, Corcoran advises you act fast. “In the second home market, the homes are abundant but starting to shrink up.” As for Mammoth Lakes specifically, inventory levels are extremely low for both condos and single family homes.

If you decide to make a second home purchase, be sure and avoid some of the biggest mistakes made by second home buyers.

 Buying Where Your Friends Live:  Too often, Corcoran says, people fantasize about vacationing with or near friends and end up making a purchase that isn’t right for them.

Not Having a Budget: Set a budget and stick with it. “Look over your budget,” Corcoran says. She also adds that it’s a smart move to make a low bid on a property that is out of your price range, especially if it has been languishing on the market for months. “People who have the nicest homes always overprice, and it just sits on the market,” she adds.

Focusing on the Wrong Amenities: Don’t buy into a community because of its amenities. If you’re not a tennis player now, you won’t become one because your new development has a court. “Most people generally won’t use the extra stuff and they get blinded by all of that,” Cochran explains.

For previous articles, visit

For more information on Ms. Corcoran, visit

Smart consumers interview potential real estate agents before deciding on whom to hire. Just as you are sizing up the potential for a good fit, rest assured that the real estate agent will likely be interviewing you, too.

1. How Long Have You Been in the Business?
Experience is valuable, but that’s not to say that freshly licensed agents aren’t valuable. Much depends on whether they have access to competent mentors and the level of their training. Newer agents tend to have more time to concentrate on you. Some agents with 20 years of experience repeat their first year over and over. Other 20-year agents learn something new every year.

2. Will You Please Provide References?

Everybody has references. Even new agents have references from previous employers.

3. What Are the Top Three Things That Separate You From Your Competition?
A good agent won’t hesitate to answer this question and will be ready to fire off why she is best suited for the job. Find out what area they consider themselves experts.

4. May I Review Documents Beforehand That I Will Be Asked to Sign?
A sign of a good real estate agent is a professional who makes forms available to you for preview before you are required to sign them. If at all possible, ask for these documents upfront.

5. How Much Do You Charge?
All real estate fees are negotiable. Typically, real estate agents charge a percentage, from 1% to 4% to represent one side of a transaction: a seller or a buyer.

6. What Haven’t I Asked You That I Need to Know?
Pay close attention to how the real estate agent answers this question because there is always something you need to know, always.


There is no law that says you need a Realtor to sell your property in California.  That being said, real estate is a complex transaction involving the sale of what is very likely one of the most valuable assets you own.   The legal requirements involved in buying and selling property in California have become increasingly complex in the past several years.  An active licensed Realtor is trained in these areas.

The top 5 reasons to hire a licensed professional Realtor:

1. Education & Experience:  You don’t need to know everything about buying and selling real estate if you hire a professional who does.

2. Realtors are Buffers:  Realtors do the screening for your showings and visits.  If you are selling, they will make sure and keep the “lookers” at bay and encourage the serious buyers to make an offer.

3. Price Guidance:  A Realtor will help guide clients on the selecting prices for sellers and buyers.  They are experts in the local market.  Based on market supply, demand and the conditions, the Realtor will devise a negotiation strategy.

4. Negotiation Skills & Confidentiality: Top producing Realtors negotiate well because, unlike most buyers and sellers, they can remove themselves from the emotional aspects of the transaction and because they are skilled.

5. Handling Volumes of Paperwork:  Purchase agreements run 10+ pages.  That does not include the federal, state and local disclosures.  Most real estate files average thicknesses from one to three inches of paper. One tiny mistake or omission could land you in court or cost you thousands.

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