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Success Stories

Read some of our Success Stories and learn more about how we approach the real estate transaction from a different perspective.

Expansive Mediterranean-Style Estate
I received a call from a La Canada homeowner who tried unsuccessfully to sell her estate. She didn’t want to use her previous agent. She said they weren’t aggressive, didn’t have good marketing, and didn’t seem to have “a fight in them.” This beautiful Mediterranean estate was previously on the market for 87 days and fell out of escrow with the other agent during negotiations, and sat on the market. She hired me as the 2nd agent, and I sold it in less time for more than that previous agent, and in a shifting marketplace. How did I do it? I started with a high-end photoshoot, drone photography, we had the floorplan drawn, along with aggressive local and international marketing. I did something special that no one ever seems to do, and in the end, this is the one thing that sold the house. I made just over a hundred phone calls to agents who have sold similar properties over the past few years. The agent said to me, “thanks for the call, no one ever calls me, and I’m glad you did because I didn’t quite realize that my client would love this house.” Yes, old fashioned phone calls get homes sold. Reference provided upon request.

Stunning Luxury Condo On South Orange Grove Boulevard
This stunning contemporary condo was on the market for almost a whole year. With the previous agent, it received no offers, and barely any showings. The marketing strategy was all wrong, it had a 3rd bedroom that wasn’t being marketed, and only the typical passive methods of exposure were being used. We were able to utilize our vast marketing resources and use an effective strategy that allowed us to secure two offers. We generated a bidding war and ultimately sold it for only a few thousand under the asking price, all in a market that was slowing down. My client could finally move on with life, and retirement, in the desert. Reference provided upon request.

Classic Craftsman Bungalow
We took over the sale of a 1922 bungalow built by William Henrichsen that is in the National Register of Historic Places portion of Bungalow Heaven Landmark District. It was previously on the market with another agent, went into escrow, and ultimately fell apart for unfortunate reasons. It had building code violations that seemed scary, but I was able to get the violations cleared for under a thousand dollars. With an easy clearance from the city, it was a natural decision to measure the home, which was 254 sf larger than the assessor measurements. A permit search verified that the assessor was wrong. In a marketplace where the average square footage is between $600 per foot, this was a substantial (and easy) discovery. I received five offers and closed it for more money than the previous agent’s offers. Reference provided upon request.

Estate Sale To Happy Sale
While driving around and I spotted an estate sale sign. I love estate sales. While in the house I asked about a few antiques, and as a good agent, I asked what they were doing with the house. The lady said they already had an investor buyer that their agent brought to them and they didn’t need to go on the market. I asked if they signed a listing. They explained they hadn’t yet, and that their agent was out of town. I couldn’t help but ask how they felt about their agent earning three commissions, not generating back-up buyers, and if they were comfortable not knowing if they received market price. “What do you mean?” they asked. I didn’t know this when I walked into the house, but most of the people in the front room were brothers, sisters, and grandkids of the owner who recently passed away. Now I had an audience. I explained that they were going to give a listing commission to the agent, the buyer’s side commission, and the third commission was the listing commission that their agent would make when the very happy investor relisted the house. Their eyes opened up wide. They then asked me how much the house was worth, and their eyes got a lot wider. The house was ten blocks from my home, and it was easy to tell them what the house was probably worth. They came to my office the next day and hired me. I sold the house for $150,000 more than they were told it was worth. The sellers love me (most of them do!). Reference provided upon request.

Mom’s Death Was The Least Of Our Worries
An attorney referred me his full authority probate client who was the administrator of her mother’s home in Pasadena. Among the challenges: the lender had not received a payment in almost nine months, the single family residence was rented to two families, and the City of Pasadena gave the home multiple code and zoning violations (zoning violations cannot be transferred to the buyer, but need to be remedied as a condition of closing regardless of Probate Code). The plot gets thicker. The mother recently passed away inside the home (this is a statutory disclosure ), and we were working with highly emotional family members. They didn’t have the same goals. There was almost $300,000 in tax-free equity to be protected. The lender started foreclosure. We were able to negotiate with the lender, clear the zoning violations, and move the tenants out. We received ten offers, and were able to close the transaction with my leadership in this concerted and emotional effort. Attorney reference provided upon request.

Local vs. Semi-Local
I happen to live in a historic district called Bungalow Heaven. Homes in historic districts tend to attract buyers who love the history of the area, and the culture of the neighborhood. Frequently these buyers will pay more, and often a home needs to be promoted a bit differently to attract that higher-paying buyer. I recently competed on a listing in my neighborhood with a very experienced agent who doesn’t live in Bungalow Heaven. I felt he didn’t know how to connect the right buyer to this historic home. We were almost $100,000 apart on our suggested list and probable sales prices. The owner of the house was a semi-retired real estate salesperson and attorney who completely understood the risk of listing a home with too high of a price. I needed to convince them that I would make them more money. Obviously, since I’m writing this story, you can figure out who earned the listing. In hindsight, the way the bids came in, the sellers realize that they would have probably lost out on tens of thousands of dollars had they not taken my advice. Local experienced agents who know the market tend to make sellers more money than anyone else. Reference provided upon request.

This Doesn’t Pencil Out. So What. Trust My Strategy.
I received a call to help a family sell their 8 unit apartment building that needed to be repositioned. The seller was an attorney and her husband is a Superior Court Judge. The property was in fair condition, the leases were month to month, and the tenants were paying under market rents. If you ever interview me, you will hear this advice from me: if you want the most amount of money, focus on your best and highest paying buyer. An 8-unit building might seem straightforward, and it would be easy for anyone to just pull comparables and perhaps discount the value because of the condition and low rents. That can be a huge mistake, and my clients trusted me with my plan, which was quite simple. I was 100% right when I forecasted their highest paying buyer. I said it would be a local buyer who wanted a project to keep them busy, didn’t necessarily care about CAP rates or gross rental multipliers, someone who needed to buy because they were getting close to their 45 day window to designate a suitable 1031 exchange property, and felt the apartment market would continue to improve. It took two months, and we hit BINGO. The buyer wound up paying almost $300,000 more than our three other offers (which were based upon CAP rates and GRM’s). I have a lifelong client. Reference provided upon request.

Saving The Investor
I don’t work with many investors, but when I received this call, I figured out the problem pretty quickly. These folks were presented a too-good-to-be-true investment. Their agent represented both buyer and seller on a supposedly great investment with an easy $50,000 return. The deal seemed to get better. My clients would have to pay cash, and only put in $10,000 worth of materials into the house because their agent would do all the labor for free. The Realtor only wanted a small sliver of the equity and the sales commissions. It seems like low risk because everything seemed to look good on paper. Well, what was supposed to be a 6-week flip turned into a 3-month fiasco that ballooned into $25,000 in materials, more holding costs, and re-evaluating the real estate market without fuzzy math. At that point, their agent disappeared. He just walked off the job and didn’t respond to calls or emails. He. Was. Gone. The sellers called me in a panic. We evaluated what needed to get done. I met their new contractor and guided them to do what was necessary and value-enhancing. The new kitchen, bath, windows, flooring, paint in and out needed to be finished. We sold the house for what I thought it would sell for, and we were able to sell it with multiple offers just before the market slowed down. Reference provided upon request.

Let’s Just Fix This And Move On (Dirty Deeds)
I was consulted by a local real estate attorney to look into questionable strategies by another broker to sell a $3,000,000 estate property in South Pasadena. Without unnecessary drama or threats of potential litigation for breach of agency, my 11 recommendations to the real estate attorney were the driving force. My client/seller avoided a short sale and netted almost $500,000 more than the contract that their dual-representation broker was encouraging them to sign. My strategies and standard of care recommendations were game-changers. Attorney reference provided upon request.

Sometimes Renting Is Better Than Selling
I received a call from a local attorney asking if I would be willing to be one of many agents to interview for a listing of a $1M+ home in Pasadena. The owner passed away recently in the house, and her daughter was selling it. She told me I was the 10th agent she interviewed, and she didn’t care for the other Realtors. I thought to myself that this would be a tough client and tackle this like I always do: I ask a lot of questions. What I found out was that the daughter, even though she was so distraught that she couldn’t bear to go into her mother’s room, seemed desperate to sell. She seemed. What I found out was that she thought she should sell. With my questions, she realized that she needed to protect and grow her new investment, and the best way to do so was to rent it out instead of selling. She has been a repeat client, and I have rented the house out many times over the years. She tells me I’m the only Realtor who discussed renting the house out. She is so thankful that she said all of her neighbors and one of whom hired me to sell their house. Most of my business is from referrals like this one. Reference provided upon request.

The Rats Did It
I was hired to sell a $1,200,000 trust property, a referral from a prominent local law firm. Weeks before closing, the air conditioner was turned on by the beneficiary the day they moved their personal items out. While temperatures averaged over 100 degrees, the central air conditioner condensate drain line was plugged. The old secondary line was chewed out by rats causing about 10 gallons of water to leak out of the condensate line and drip pan for over 20 hours. A bedroom lathe and plaster ceiling in this 1920’s home collapsed, and the wood floors were destroyed overnight. Within four days, I had the room completely fixed and painted. It was fully disclosed, and the buyer continued to close with no further investigation. Because I used a licensed general contractor, we were able to make this sale happen quickly and without causing delays. Attorney reference available upon request.

Dam House
That dam house was a fun house to sell. This house was built on a city dam over a hundred years ago. When the City of Sierra Madre expanded, they decided to abandon this city dam, but the dam foundation was too big and thick to demolish. It served as a perfect foundation for a huge three story 9,000 square foot house. Yes, there is a house in Sierra Madre built on a dam. This house had been on the market for 429 days with two different brokers. I knew about the house because I had clients who were interested in it when it was listed before my listing it. However, at that time the listing agent was challenging to deal with, as she seemed to be only interested in working directly with buyers rather than cooperating with agents. When the listing expired, the owners called me. I was one of many agents to be considered as the new listing agent. I explained that being the 2nd or 3rd agent is a little difficult because those homes have been on the market for so long, and the property can be stigmatized. The next agent needs to be aggressive; the listing needs to be targeted to the right buyer, and to get different results, the strategy needs to be better and different. It took a few months, but we finally sold it without having to reduce the $2.5M price. Reference provided upon request.

Cannabis Not Included
I received an email from a potential seller in Altadena who needed to sell their home. They found me through my website www.MichaelBBell.com. I immediately called them, and they asked me to come to their house. Both husband and wife were disabled and grew, well I think they grew, marijuana in their home and garage. When I sat down with them to determine the price of the house, I told them their house was worth just under $1M. In unison, they both said, “you’re joking.” I wasn’t quite sure if they thought I was too high or too low (pardon the pun), so I asked. Believe it or not, but both thought their home was worth “maybe $400,000” and thought that no one would want to buy their house. They said they’d be happy with “almost anything” because the owner, the husband’s mother, recently passed away and they wanted to move out of state. They’re lucky they met me because many agents would take advantage of the situation. They would offer a low price, and these sellers would probably never know it. They had some probate and trust issues they needed to work out, so I referred them to my trusted resources. When we put the house on the market, I didn’t realize that the small bush-like trees in the backyard were marijuana trees. They thought it was funny that I didn’t know what marijuana looked like, and I didn’t have it removed for showings. Of course, we had to disclose all of this to the next buyer. Part of the purchase contract stated, “all plantings in the rear of the home are not included in the sale.” Attorney reference provided upon request.

Just Try To Make Me Blink
A local attorney asked me to help her client/seller sell the primary residence in a divorce. She described the situation as “the most difficult divorce I’ve ever litigated.” The sale successfully closed in 2 months, allowing the divorce to finalize. Among the challenges: one of the clients was incarcerated, three liens from past attorneys, a home invasion a week before closing, the buyer was represented by a rookie agent, and a mother-in-law who sold the home to the divorcing couple had an unsecured lien and wanted usurious interest rates for her loan. There were multiple trips to court to enforce the stipulation, The spouse in possession vacated the home early and canceled all utilities, pool, and yard maintenance. Before closing, the lender required the peeling paint to be remedied, among other challenges. The transaction closed with no renegotiation. Attorney reference provided upon request.

Help Us, We Can’t Sell Our Last 2 Townhomes!
A local developer called me to help sell the last two townhomes of his luxury development in downtown Pasadena. They had interviewed ten other brokerages, and they chose my strategy. Prior to hiring me, they had hired two different agents who sold the first 22 homes. But, they were stuck with the last two of these new $1M+ luxury units. Undoubtedly, they were the toughest ones to sell. The developer had almost a thousand buyers on their interest-list, but they all passed on these two units. I took over their development website, completely re-engineered the marketing, re-staged the units, and promoted the properties separately with separate signs and SEO’d websites. I completely changed the messaging, brought a high-end photographer, had drone photography done, and I made hundreds of phone calls. Yes, hundreds of calls. I was able to find a buyer from the Westside, and another from Denver. It was a lot of work, but I got it done. References provided upon request.

But, I Thought My Agent Was Working So Hard
I received a call from a trust attorney who said he had a client who couldn’t sell their home, and the client was frustrated. I went to the house to meet the client. We discussed what had been going on for the past three months with her current agent. What concerned me is that she said the agent brought about ten people to the house for showings, but none of them had an agent. To the casual observer, it might seem that the agent was doing a great job and that the area agents were lazy. The harsh reality is that the agent was shutting out other agents and trying to get his own buyer so that he could earn a double commission. When I explained this to the attorney, he decided to confront the agent. The agent chose to cancel the listing so the owner could hire me. The house for $55,000 over the previous asking price with five offers. Attorney reference provided upon request.

Not Quite Ready To Retire
I received a call from an attorney who I’ve worked with for many years. He explained that he and his wife had been looking for a condo for years. They wanted a home they could buy today and rent out for a few years until they were ready to retire. It was a surprise to hear that he had looked at dozens of homes over the years. They had been going to open houses, looking through Zillow, Realtor.com, etc. I wish I could say that sales like these are easy, but they can be if you have the right network. I called all the top agents in the area. I asked if they had a property coming on the market, or perhaps they had a seller who didn’t necessarily want to market their home. Believe it or not, there are sellers who do not want their homes on the MLS. They don’t want a For Sale sign, and they want to keep their sale private. Yes, it’s amazing but true. I was able to find a fantastic deal on a very rare detached townhome with one shared wall, much like a PUD (Planned Urban Development). I believe we had instant equity once we closed escrow. Reference provided upon request.

Oops, No One (Before I Got Involved) Read The Letters Of Testamentary…But Me
I was able to help an attorney navigate their limited authority sale on the 1/2 ownership interest that required probate (and a court confirmed sale), and the other 1/2 ownership that the decedent’s brother co-owned and lived in for this $1,000,000 property. The first agent did not secure a valid full contingency removal so that the buyer decided to back out with no penalty when they found out they needed to go to court. Maybe it wasn’t the agent’s fault (even though the attorney had misread the Letters, but the agent should have been able to figure that out). After the first agent was let go, I was hired and sold the property for close to $100,000 more than the first agent, and with no drama. Reference provided upon request.

You Will Never Sell It For That Much
I received a call from a private fiduciary who was in charge of the estate of a little old lady who had no family. The trustee was her longtime neighbor, and he had no experience with real estate. He did his best to get educated about the real estate sales process, and the marketplace by looking at real estate websites like Zillow, Redfin, Realtor.com, etc. When I met with him, I was impressed with his newfound knowledge of the process and market data. We reviewed my market data, reviewed absorption graphs, discussed who the highest paying buyers are, and how they will likely react to the house. I determined the best way to market this house. But the seller did not want to list it for what he felt was way too high. We agreed to meet in the middle, a little lower than what I suggested. We received multiple offers, and he was able to sell to the highest bidder who just so happened to be a veteran. A few times a year, I have a seller who chooses a Veteran buyer. Veterans often do not have a large down payment, and their loans can have challenging underwriting, causing sellers to choose other buyers. Reference provided upon request.

A Caltech Scientist’s House With A Full Laboratory With Bunsen Burners
The managing partner of a prominent law firm suggested three agents to interview to help his clients, an out of state family, sell their parents’ estate property. To get the best buyer numerous small and tedious items needed to be completed, including historical permit research to fix a significant square foot discrepancy between tax and permit records, a difficult occupancy inspection, termite work, a significant estate sale, home cleaning, toxic material disposal, pool fixes, and other value enhancements. The property sold above what all other brokers suggested it could sell for, and this $1,200,000 estate sold with multiple bidders. References available upon request.

20,000 Sq Ft Of Custom Bliss
I received a call from an attorney about her client who could not sell their luxury compound in Los Angeles County. This multi-million dollar estate was being marketed for almost two years with a good local agent.  They realized that the marketing was only reaching a limited pool of buyers, and certainly not the wealthy or international buyers. This property was 20,000 square feet of custom bliss: 2 master suites, lots of ensuites, offices, maids quarters, pools, garages, and everything you could ask for. The challenge was that the home didn’t fit in the neighborhood.  It was almost 10 times larger than the average home.  Also, it is always an uphill battle as the 2nd or 3rd agent hired. In this case, I was the 3rd agent hired, and the home had a very long marketing history on all the portals (which is impossible to erase, and it never helps when buyers can see that it has been on the market for years). It was a daunting challenge, and I focused not only on reinventing the marketing for the regional area, but also pushing this property to the national and international audience as never before. I was able to receive offers from local and international buyers who said they had never known of the home before, and they all said that they had been looking for real estate for years. Reference provided upon request.

Let’s Position This House So We Look Like Professional Sellers
A local attorney was appointed as successor trustee for a family of 11. He interviewed many brokers and hired me. I worked with different personalities and dynamics to coordinate cosmetic repairs to enhance value and marketability. I was able to position the $1,000,000 property and encouraged other agents and their buyers to bid fairly. With minor and inexpensive enhancements, I was able to reposition this home to look like the sellers were smart and sophisticated to attract a family rather than a low offering investor. We had a very successful close. Attorney reference available upon request.


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Michael B. Bell | Making All The Difference In Real Estate