Look for active listings in the greater Bloomington area.
Learn about the guy you may spend hours with in a car, driving around looking at properties.
There are lots of things you can do to get your house out the door, so to speak.
Buying a home is a little like peeling an onion - first you lop off the parts you don't want.
Houses and properties that Brian's customers are selling.
First, welcome to town! Second, here's a whole site about how to find a place to live in Bloomington.
Rental properties managed by Brian - apartments and houses.
Brian's answered a bunch of questions about Real Estate, especially in Bloomington and Monroe County.
People who have worked with Brian talk about why they made the right decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

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Brian Lappin Real Estate, Bloomington, Indiana

 

 

 

 

 

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How do I know which neighborhoods are best for me?

I think it's really primarily about your lifestyle choices – and, of course, kids and school districts – that determine where someone will be happy.

Some people see themselves as wanting to walk or bike to more places. Some people want a bigger yard and are happy with the suburban tapestry. Proximity to schools, church, job, parks, shopping. Living in the country. Proximity to water, to one of our lakes.

Having lived in the area since 1974, I'm pretty familiar with the ins-and-outs and trends that neighborhoods go through. Working together we can get you matched-up with the right neighborhood.

What are the historic trends in home prices in the area?

Generally, prives have been on a moderate upward slide. Recent circumstances have altered that. They've been on a generally ascending trajectory, although they certainly have flattened out for a while.

Most neighborhoods, Park Ridge, Park Ridge East, Bryan Park, Sycamore Knolls, Hyde Park, trend pretty well. But it's still harder to be the highest priced home in a neighborhood.

We have a pretty good economy – a pretty consistent economy – here in Bloomington. The university's here, Cook's here, Baxter, Bloomington Hospital and various medical service organizations, so you just have to deal with the local economy and it's less affected by national trends. We haven't had the run-up that some places have had. It isn't the sort of place that speculators descended upon. Maybe so in student housing – those large student housing complexes. The developers, probably correctly, assessed that students were interested in more upscale – 46” color TVs, stainless everything, and were willing to spend $1,400, $1,500 per month because they have a family economy that can support them. So those speculators look like they've done OK, mostly. But nobody's come in to speculate on housing the way they did in Florida, Phoenix or San Diego. We don't have 10,000 condos that have gone under water – figuratively and literally.

How do I tell that a home won't have hidden flaws?

I think everyone's got to have a qualified, quality home inspector in there. Some people have that talent themselves, but most people don't. They can't rely on their abilities to assess a property, and I can make assessments only to a certain extent. I'm not going to be able to tell if a place does or doesn't have termites or radon. I'm not going to be able to check out the crawl-space. But I can point out certain structural elements that are positive or negative.

Bottom line, make sure you have a good inspector.

How can I pre-select a variety of homes to look at?

I can set you up with your own personalized MyHomefinder account which gives you a level of access, a level of searching that is a level higher than what's available to the general public. Licensed realtors do have some more powerful searching tools, but this account is the closest to that.

The problem with the usual realty searches is that you get results that are much too messy. You need to define your choices to whittle it down to something more manageable.

Just looking through the house listings is an exhausting process anyway. Not everybody can stand that level of frustration. So by having the next level up – MyHomefinder – personalizing your search, you get a lower frustration level by getting a little better quality of search results. Once I start working with someone, they have the right to expect me to do searching as well and sort of select and score the properties. I can make the process more efficient.

We might come up with an initial list of 30 properties that satisfy certain criteria, but only 12 of them make any sense with what the buyers are looking for.

You only have so much time to look at properties, and you should only need to look at ones that are the most appropriate rather than looking at way too many houses, which can be confusing. It's better to have some focus.

Can I get to and from work without a car?

In certain locations, depending on where you work. But that list is not long. If you work at Baxter and you live in Highland Village, that answer is yes. But if you live there and work at the University, in a real practical sense, the answer is no.

There are areas and neighborhoods that have better public transportation facilities and bike routes. So it is possible in a fair number of neighborhoods to get by without driving. But, it's still probably handy to have a car around here.

If you lived downtown, and worked for the city or IU, you can go shopping, you can go to church, the farmers market, courthouse square, and you can use a bicycle on the B-line trail. You could get to all kinds of shopping, dining and entertainment without a car.

Will you help me find a mortgage?

Yes. Some people like to shop online. My experience is that a certain percentage of the population likes doing their house searching, mortgage searching, travel buying, amazon, whatever. They like the convenience of that interface.

Personally, for home buying and mortgages, that's not my first go-to position. I have a list of local lenders and I appreciate their level of personal service. Of course, it's rare that a bank makes a mortgage loan and holds onto it and services it. They usually sell it at the time of closing.

Most of the loans I personally have are with local lenders. I just like working with people who are courteous, prompt, attentive – a phone call away. You walk into their office – make an appointment, no appointment, and they're friendly and helpful, as opposed to going online and dealing with some person at Countrywide in a call center somewhere. I've had people who have done their mortgage that way a couple times, and they've said they'd never do that again. But there is a Countrywide branch that's opening in Bloomington, so that may improve.

In general, I like personal service when it comes to a banker.

How do I set-up a home hunting trip to Bloomington if I'm from out of town?

If you're working with me, or even if you're not, you might subscribe to the local paper online and look through the real estate and home section. Go to the Homefinder site. If you can get access, set up a more personalized MyHomefinder site. Make a list of what's important. Decide where you want to end up. I'll use my experience, my talent, to look for and email you properties to look at. Then, its the process of sorting through the listings to choose the best tones.

Houses have a way of stepping forward from their competition. Parameters: price range, square footage, bedrooms, baths, basement, lot size, garage, part of town. We go over the list, but they're not all equal. The best ones have a way of revealing themselves in the comparative house shopping process.

I don't think I've ever sold a house without a person going through it at least once. I've never sold something sight unseen, but it could be done with enough photos.

I have gone in and taken photos for an out-of-town client. In the homefinder you can have up to 16 photos. But in some cases, there is only one or just a few. And these can be very nice houses. Occasionally, I've gone in and shot lots of photos and sent these to them. That can be helpful. I don't especially want to go to twenty properties and take twenty photos of each one, but I think with enough focus the process can be a little more efficient.

Regarding visiting Bloomington

I can recommend places to stay, places to dine. Recently a couple from North Carolina was visiting and I provided them with daily restaurant recommendations and they came back and said that, “they haven't found a bad restaurant in Bloomington.” And they ended up finding a church that suited them. They haven't even moved here yet and they already have a friends list.

People seem to be pleased. They can find places to stay, dining experiences.

And we look at our calendars and figure out when they should come to town. Is there a conflict such as Lotus weekend or a home football game? Is it a day that everybody is moving back to town with school starting? Everything's booked because parents are here with their children? So we can look at the calendar and see what makes sense with their schedule. Come to town. Spend some time looking at property. Relax. Enjoy Bloomington, and look for the right fit.

There are people who come to town for a blitzkrieg. They're only here for two or three days. So sometimes we've looked at as many as 15 or 16 properties in a day. It's a little mind-numbing. You tend to remember the living room of one house with the bathroom of another. It can be a little blurry. But, I'll have everything printed out and ordered. So they can make notes all over the pages as we drive from one house to the next to remember what they liked and didn't like about each house.

How do I decide how much I should offer on a home?

I don't think there's a magic formula. I've met people who like to use magic formulas, such as everything should be 10% less. Or if it's a sellers market, 3% less. My personal view is that if you look at 10 houses, three or four of them will reveal themselves as the best houses. The best of them, within similar parameters, including price, may be priced properly. And there might not be a lot of negotiation there. There are houses that are clearly overpriced. I think I've got a pretty good sense of that. If you like a house, and you've looked at ten houses, you probably shouldn't offer 15% less – you might upset them. But that's their choice of the final number to offer. I help guide the buyer as part of the process.

There have been times when I've said offer the asking price. Or offer $1,000 more. Say, this house has just come on the market. It's less likely right now, but I'm not saying that that can't happen again. There could be a property that just came on. I've got a new buyer. We've looked at 12 properties. Two or three of them are new listings. And, one of them has great appeal and it's priced right. The seller, when they were working up the price on it said, “I need to sell! I'm taking a new job someplace, and we don't have time to list high and wait and negotiate. What's it going to take?”

So, there are properties that are listed where they're supposed to sell at. And even in these days, the price difference between what they list for and what they sell for can be very slim. Not all over the place. Not every property.

Do you look at how long it's been on the market?

Yes. We look at the whole history, which is not available to everybody on the public site, or on the "private" public side: MyHomefinder. You don't get the listing history. It will show us that on the realtor's site only. Also if it's been relisted. Because I'll have properties that have been listed for four months, six months, whatever. Then the listing expires. There's a percentage of this going around. You let it expire for a day, then you relist it. Then the time frame shows it to be a new listing. That it hasn't been re-listed. So the public listing shows that it's been on the market for twenty days. But you can find out that it's really twenty plus 180. So, when I send people listing information – the detailed sheet, what I do is choose the listing history button, then I copy and send that. And it's good to know. People want to know. If you've got a property that's been on the market for 280 days, I've got to think that they're a little more motivated. Something's wrong. There's work that needs to be done that they refuse to do. Or they don't want to sell. I think sometimes that they're just hopeful, or they think that something's going to be different. Something's got to change. Somehow. Some way. Someday. . . . It may.

What house problems are especially bad in Bloomington?

Some have leaky basements. Some are not maintained. That's bad. This all will show up in the inspection process. Each house stands on its own. Some of them, location is bad, but price should reflect that. You're on a busy street. You're not going to get as much as if you're one block away where it's a little quieter. Usually people don't want that. But, surprisingly, I have had that.

How do I find out about Neighborhood Covenants?

Most residential neighborhoods have covenants and restrictions. Most neighborhoods for the last 50 years or so are platted, and have those covenants recorded. They often won't be available electronically. You may have to go and get them at the courthouse. Most of them aren't very different from one another. They all have the same sorts of things – bans on commercial livestock, building fencing, setbacks, etc. Some places you can't hang your laundry out. Sometimes you can't park a vehicle out on the street, or you can't have a truck parked there that's above a half-ton.

So, if you're looking from out of town, I can mail or email you the covenants and restrictions on a property you're looking at. If it's not available online, I'll go to the courthouse myself.

What should I think about in buying a house if I'm going to work for IU?

I think that one of the important things is where do you and your family travel. Do you work on the east side of campus? Do you shop downtown or on the west side? There are a lot of parameters involved in these choice. School districts if you have kids. Price ranges if you have a budget. Most people do. Do you like an older, more mature neighborhood? Tax rates? Bike trails? Public transportation? What sort of urban development? Commute times? Parks? Do you want the option of walking or biking to work? Biking or walking to shopping?

What neighborhoods should be avoided?

I've seen neighborhoods that are out a ways, semi-rural, that may not have access to broadband. You have to contact local providers like AT&T, Smithville or Comcast and get an answer from them. But, you have to be careful in checking on this. Sometimes a broadband carrier has reported that a certain home was within their service area, only to find out on installation that the home was really outside their range.

I think that kind of question is driven by socio-economic decisions. School districts. There are better neighborhoods, and there are worse neighborhoods, like any other community. The people who live in lower socio-economic neighborhoods are generally there because they can't afford to live in the ones that are more affluent. So that tends to create some socio-economic stratification, but some of that can be circumvented in a residential setting. I've seen people move from more a affluent sort of subdivisions to a home with a lower price point, but closer in town – the historic Westside. People who've moved out of Sycamore Knolls or Hyde Park because they wanted to be closer in. They found out that they wanted an older, more architecturally appealing kind of setting.

How are the public schools?

I think that they're generally good. I don't have children in public school as we speak, but I did have a step-daughter who went through our public schools and ended up graduating from IU. I think her experience was generally pretty good. But we started out in a more rural setting out near Lake Lemon, and I think she found that the elementary school was a little too convervative, if you will. Her experience in public school was enhanced when she got into high school, where there was a broader range in the student population that was important for her artistic, musical leanings.

Are there alternatives to the public schools?

There's the new Tech School which opened in the fall of 2008, which sounds like a vocational tech school, but that's not what it is. It's sort of a team learning, project-based school, modelled more like the corporate world experiences.

And there's Harmony School, which is K-12. That's been a very successful alternative school. Smaller classrooms. More personalized instruction. Seniors often have projects which they develop with their teachers with the support of their staff. Some of the students go abroad, or have internships. My understanding is that many of these students move into higher education well prepared.

There are also several others such as Aurora, an alternative high school, very small, very successful school for students who cannot succeed in the standard school environment. There's a Catholic school on the east side of town, Christian schools, Montessori Schools, the Pinnacle School for certain learning situations. And lots of preschool choices.

Do you recommend any moving companies?

There are a number of local companies. Of course, some people move from greater distance and use the national companies. If you're getting around within a couple hundred miles, there's some local companies and there's different ones. I have a churning list of local companies that perform a variety of services. I can make recommendations and provide contact information.

What's the best thing about living in Bloomington?

It's a vibrant, diverse community that appeals to a broad spectrum of families and can be very engaging. It's a very attractive college town in beautiful Southern Indiana with great parks, restaurants and lakes.