Exiting California–Here’s My Real Estate Recommendation

For those of you planning to flee California, here’s some advice that will save you time, money, and frustration.

I can tell you from firsthand experience that getting recommendations for a realtor via a friend or word of mouth is a waste of time. Both realtors that my wife and I have found in Idaho by this method have been colossal disasters. Neither person that was recommended to us knew the market or cared to take time with us to find what we wanted. Don’t be fooled by flashy websites or other marketing tools.

Oh, by the way, Zillow is the least accurate website that we found. Often its lot locations are wrong, sometimes by a factor of miles, especially in rural areas. Sometimes listings aren’t shown because they don’t have a street number. Also, Zillow is many days behind in terms of showing listings and their current status. The site does have some value but if you rely solely on it, you will not have accurate and up to date information.

So, if you can’t trust recommendations or the Internet, where should you look? Lucky for you that this is the purpose of today’s blog. If you want a realtor that cares about you as a person and doesn’t see you as just as another commission then you’ve come to the right place. Oh, my advice is free and nationwide, so you have no excuses. Also, the people that I’m about to recommend have all been vetted to the same high standards.

Go to Dave Ramsey dot Com, click on Dave Recommends, and select Endorsed Local Providers (ELP). You can pick from Real Estate, Insurance, and Tax Services. Both people that we worked with from the ELP list took lots of time with us as I will briefly explain below.

In order to be in a position to purchase real estate in Idaho, we had to do a refinance of our California home. Strictly speaking, this probably is not a Ramsey approved method; however, due to our closeness to retiring and the rising costs of real estate in desirable areas in Idaho (in some parts of Idaho, prices are increasing at over 15% a year) this is what we ended up doing.

We found a finance guy in Roseville that spent about two hours with us on the telephone going over our financial situation. This person was fully aware that he probably wouldn’t make a dime off of us but was willing to help us anyway. He said that he had enough paying clients to make a living so that gave him the flexibility to help others. In Evangelical terms, he viewed helping us as a ministry opportunity.

Through him, we were referred to another person that helped us do a cash-out refi of our house. She was able to knock about two percent off the interest rate of our mortgage and get us $130K out of the house. The net was a mortgage payment increase of about $300 more each month. With this “seed money” we were then able to try purchasing a property in Idaho.

The ELP real estate lady that we found in Idaho was fantastic. She spent most of three days with us driving around to various properties in the Treasure Valley area of Idaho—think within a one-hour radius of Boise. We learned a lot about Idaho that you won’t be finding on the Internet. We put in an offer for a piece of land with a terrific view. Sadly, we couldn’t agree on a price within our means. (The property owners have had the property listed for two years and weren’t willing to flex too much on their price which is why it’s still for sale.)

In contrast to a great real estate experience, is the one we have been living for the last few weeks. A few hundred miles away from the Treasure Valley area, a property was listed that checked a lot of the boxes that we were looking for. We had a relationship with another realtor thru a recommendation. Since the listing was exclusively on his website, we contacted him. (FYI the listing showed up on RedFin a few days later and Zillow on the fifth day after it was listed.)

The realtor was a California refugee that had been in this part of Idaho for over two decades. On the surface we thought we had found a great realtor but as time went on, we discovered otherwise. This guy had very little idea what he was doing, was extremely passive, and failed to be proactive on our behalf. Much of the time when we asked him questions, we were either referred to someone who gave us bad information or found that the realtor just didn’t know and didn’t want to find out for us. Were he a newly licensed individual, this would be understandable but for a guy doing this for a living for many years, it was profoundly disappointing. It got so bad that last week, I literally had to take time off from work and fly up there just to see for myself.

Just as a for instance, the land we are trying to purchase has never been developed before and was on the outskirts of the city limits. We were told that we would need to get water on the property, but the realtor didn’t know whether connecting to the city water (about 500 feet from the property) or drilling a well would be cheaper. After two days of looking, I found out that the city required us to hook-up to the city’s water supply and it was illegal to drill a well within the city limits. Shortly after I found the regulation stating this on the city’s website, the well drilling contractor—recommended to me by the realtor—told me the same thing. Oh, said regulation stated that the city would provide service up to the property, whereas the realtor and his buddy at the city told me that it was on me to figure out how to get water on the property.

Dave Ramsey–Card Cutter

This is just one example of several that we have experienced while working with this guy. The only reason that we didn’t use a Ramsey ELP was that we felt we already had established a relationship with this person. In retrospect, we should have sought an ELP anyway.

If all goes well, we may end-up property owners despite our realtor and not because of him. Please learn from our experience. Whether you always agree with Dave Ramsey or not, use his Endorsed Local Providers program and save yourself from tying your fate to some clueless individual with a slick website.