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Zillow launches Mortgage Marketplace

When I saw this news today I had no other words but: “This is going to be big!” It is a bargain hunters paradise for everyone in a market looking for a loan to buy a new house or refinance an existing one. Let me explain why.

Zillow is a service that offers real estate valuation estimates (Zestimates) neatly mashed up with maps, satellite and aerial images. The usage is extremely simple, go to Zillow.com, type in your home address and you will see how much Zillow thinks your house is worth along with Zestimates for all of your neighbors.

Zillow Marketplace

This is how the team started in 2005. These days Zillow is much more than just real estated valuations. They has amassed a number of other free and useful tools that help home owners and home buyers alike.

One recent addition is called “Make me Move”. It is a brilliant idea which evolves around the popular expression “everything has a price”. Let’s say you don’t want to sell your house but you would if the price was right? Name it and anonymously assign to your property at Zillow. This is a sort of opportunistic real estate bargain hunting, just for sellers.

Zillow Marketplace

Back to the Mortgage Marketplace. Zillow already has a real estate marketplace that helps connect sellers and buyers. With this new addition the team is expanding their reach into the lenders/borrowers niche. They are far not the first to offer these services (LendingTree is another example), however with their open approach they are the first who I think have done it right.

Here is how it works:

  • You anonymously submit a request for a loan with such details as your credit, amount needed, value of property, etc.
  • Certified lenders give estimates based on this information so you can compare rates.
  • Now here is the winner - Lenders don’t contact you, you contact the lender you want to work with
  • When the transaction is over you can leave comments and rate the lenders based on your experience

From my mortgage related experience, assessing the agent’s credibility is what has always been a huge problem when shopping for a loan. What Zillow offers is very much like what Yelp is doing with the restaurants and TripAdvisor with hotels, both are successful and free services that became essential part of my “dining out” and “vacation” planning. I am giving Zillow a big “thumbs up” for the effort. See you guys when my loan is up for renewal!

Source: Opening Bell for the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace (via Techcrunch)

The art of negotiating the lowest price

This is not my favorite topic to write about since I am not good at bargaining the lowest price. It is a very psychological process and I don’t feel comfortable doing it face to face.

Thanks to the internet I don’t have to. I can do most of my shopping online in the comfort of my home. Even with such things like new cars, while I still have to come to inspect the purchase in person, I don’t have to negotiate the car price at the dealership.

Prices on all big-ticket items are usually negotiable and price negotiating skills can be very helpful when there is no choice but to buy something in a brick and mortar store. This is why when I stumbled upon this Readers Digest article full of haggling tips I couldn’t resist not to comment on it. Here are the 5 skills outlined in it with my own comments and examples from my shopping experience.

Remember that prices on big-ticket items are negotiable

We often forget that if the price is above $100 it almost always means it is negotiable. I was negotiating prices for the washer and drier when we bought our house 4 years ago. I bargained last year when we had the storm door installed. And I never skip the chance to haggle when we buy a new mattress.

Not all of sales assistants have the power to cut the price and some can only do a very limited reduction. If you don’t seem to be having success with a particular sales person, don’t be afraid to ask for the manager.

Don’t be afraid of silence, it almost always works in your favor

People who are in the retail shopping business are usually pros in their niche and know exactly what the price should be. With rare exceptions (Black Friday door busters?), the price will be average and will have a built in margin to account for the case when you start bargaining and the seller has to give up some. My biggest problem is that when I see something I like for the price that I think is right, I get attached to it and feel afraid to lose it.

The art of getting the best price is to remain flexible. Don’t concentrate on one thing. Play uncertainty. Hesitate. Stay silent at the negotiation. The sales assistant may just snap off and offer you a better deal to secure you as a customer.

If your competitors can do it for less, you guys probably can too

Price matching is a very effective negotiating technique. This is why it is important to do your home work before you head for the store. Call a few places, get the quotes, and go to the place of your choice. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the one with the lowest price. For example when I was buying our TV I got a quote from ABS and Sears. The price was lower at ABS but Sears was closer to my house and had better warranty terms so I drove over there and bought the TV for the price ABS offered.

Don’t start with the details — talk first about how you feel as a customer

This part of price negotiation is the most difficult for me as I am not good at showing my emotions in open. Nevertheless it worked for me a few times in the past. Once I bought a vacuum cleaner that I thought was on sale. When I came home I realized the price was higher than I thought I paid. I felt I was tricked.

It is hard to say what exactly happened, maybe the assistant’s broken English was partially the reason. Anyway, I called the store and explained the situation. I didn’t go into any details, I just poured my feelings about how upset I was. The sales person who sold me the vacuum cleaner wasn’t available to remedy the problem and I said I am returning it back. As I was already on my way to the store, a manager called and said they will credit the difference.

Request a compensation when a store breaks its contract

When the repairs you order are not done on time, when the construction materials you purchase are not delivered the next day as promised, you have every right to expect something in return. The fittest and slimmest businesses survive, this is the foundation of our capitalistic economy. Who else but you as a consumer can enforce this rule?

Unfortunately you can’t always expect a positive result. I am still puzzled how scam shops survive in our time of open source, collaboration, and social networking. This however happens here in there and I am sure you know what to do if you are not treated fairly. BBB, Yelp, and ResellerRatings are just a few places to go when in trouble.




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