Michael Caruso gives his expert advice on many issues both buyers and sellers confront when venturing into the real estate market. With scores of personal closed sales, Caruso’s focus is on customer satisfaction. Aligned with Surterre Properties, he works side by side with his wife Christina, son Philip and daughters Andrea and Nicolette, to provide top-notch service in and around the Orange County area.
Q: Why did you pursue a career in real estate?
A: I believed (and still do) that real estate is the most important asset in an individual’s life. This has led me to work at the highest level of sales. I love that responsibility. The ability to help someone achieve this asset is a driving force with and for us.
Q: Are you expert in a specific area?
A: Our family team works a broad area. There are certain areas we do maintain high focus. But we also have a comprehensive understanding of the coastal area in Orange County and beyond.
Q: Why is Orange County an ideal place to live?
A: Living in Orange County is very desirable. The county offers so much diversity of lifestyle. You can have an equestrian lifestyle in Orange Acres, Laguna Hills or San Juan Capistrano. Enjoy a coastal setting with a string of beach cities to choose from, such as Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Balboa Island, Corona Del Mar, Laguna Beach, Dana Point and San Clemente. You can take residence in a more urban setting in the city of Irvine. These diverse areas, climates and lifestyles are all within a few miles of each other, which make OC a fortunate place to live.
Q: What do you consider your specialization in this field?
A: Our specialization is a simple concept. It is the unrelenting pursuit of client satisfaction. We have the ability to identify the potential within a property. We can help a seller prepare a home in such a way that it yields a higher price for them. How? By identifying and addressing certain items on their property. This could mean painting, staging or even a light remodel that is completed prior to bringing the home on the market. When we represent a buyer, we want to help identify a property they might overlook. Our experience and vision knows if the location is good even though the house needs some help. Improving on it can immediately build equity and wealth for our client.
Q: How do you demonstrate to a seller the traits that set you apart from other agents?
A: It’s our success record, our commitment to professional development and the detail marketing approach we utilize. We use many tools such as video, carefully crafted photography, aerial photography as well as staging companies when appropriate or even virtual staging.
Q: Give us examples of the sort of strategies you use to sell property.
A: We like to use pinpoint marketing to identify the most likely buyer for the property. We also canvass through print media. But it is the use of pinpoint marketing that gives us a research driven approach to identify the most likely buyer for a property on the market. We keep a detailed list of agents who work within the price range, which the listing is based. For instance, we would search out a $2 million home listed on the market to show to our client who is selling their property between $1 million and $1.4 million. We actively reach out to those listing agents. It is our secret sauce because nobody is really doing it.
Q: Give us an example of a hurdle you had to overcome to close a deal.
A: We received an offer on a property that we had listed, but the property was currently off the market. The owner of the property had a solar lease debt against the home. The challenge here was the buyer would have to be willing to assume the debt. Leasing a solar unit isn’t the best idea if selling a home soon. It creates a lot of fog for both buyer and seller. As it turned out, the owner ended up buying the equipment in order to make the sale. It was a delicate situation, definitely a giant hurdle, but we got it done. We kept a professional attitude with the client throughout whole marketing period, which helped keep the door open for us to present an offer and sell the home. The seller wasn’t contractually obligated to pursue it since it was off the market.
Q: What does every realtor wish buyers understood about house buying?
A: An agent doesn’t have to sell a buyer a home. The buyer will know the right home for them when they see it. But sometimes a buyer wants to go out and keep looking at other properties just to be sure they are making the right choice. Yet the buyer risks losing the home they loved by continuing the search.
Q: What do you tell sellers to help them set a price that correctly reflects the market value?
A: It’s best to base the price on properties that have sold, rather than other active properties on the market. What’s listed on the market does not shape value. Sold properties shape current value. Pending sales only shape future value.
Q: Have you been involved in a deal where a face-to-face encounter between buyer and seller made a difference in the outcome?
A: It so happened that recently a purchaser of a home was a construction specialist. The seller rebuilt the home and by having both parties together with us we were able to have specific workmanship and materials questions answered, which put together a level of trust between everyone and we finished with a successful transaction.
Q: What factors are the most important for sellers to consider in deciding on an agent?
A: There are two major responsibilities for agents, exposure and protection. Exposure is the best thing a listing agent can provide to their seller. Protection comes in the transaction phase. And for that you want personality compatibility, to feel good working together through the whole process. And for that, it’s best to work with an agent that is in it full-time. No part-timers. You really need someone fully dedicated, a committed professional that continues their professional development. A professional will be wiling to spend money for exposure (marketing) and have the legal knowledge that gives protection through the myriad of disclosure and reports required in the state of California when selling a home.
Q: What preparations would you suggest buyers make before beginning to look for a home to purchase?
A: Pre-qualify with a lender. Sometimes it is better to stretch a bit beyond your comfort level with the purchase price. This can help avoid another move and keep you in your home longer. Purchasing below your capability could lead you to sell your home quicker. We have seen it so many times. And we usually get a call back stating should have bought a bigger home. Buy in your range or even push that range. Salary grows over the years. So do stock portfolios. It might be a little uncomfortable in the beginning, but as time goes on, it eases up. We notice people shape decisions on what is going on in the world. We say, take care of yourself first, don’t sweat the other stuff.