Linda Chain is a professional real estate advisor from Prudential Americana Group and specializes in relocating physicians and their families who are moving to the Las Vegas area. We got spend a bit of time talking about why finding a Realtor who knows the details of relocating physician clients is imperative. Linda also shared:
- Why having a team working for you makes your transition smoother
- How to verify your lender’s reputation
- How a credit and income approval differs from a pre-approval and why pre-approval is not enough
- How selecting the right Realtor who is proactive can reduce the stress of home buying and relocating
- How her relocation reports can focus in on the right home for you
Josh Mettle: Hello and welcome to the Physician Financial Success Podcast. My name is Josh Mettle, and this is the podcast dedicated to advising physicians how to avoid financial landmines. Today, we’ll be talking with Linda Chain, professional real estate advisor from Prudential Americana Group in Las Vegas, Nevada. Linda has transformed her background in the medical field and now specializes in relocating physicians and their families who are moving to the Las Vegas area. Linda, welcome to the show. How are you doing today?
Linda Chain: I’m great, Josh. Thank you.
Josh Mettle: You bet. It’s a pleasure to have you, and I found your background so interesting. So, let me start there. Tell me just a little bit about your background in the medical field, how you got started in real estate, and then helping physicians relocate in the Las Vegas area.
Linda Chain: Prior to real estate, I enjoyed 22 years as a partner in a healthcare consulting firm. My focus was to fit physicians and hospital administrators nationwide with the development of heart program, freestanding heart and wellness centers, medical malls, as we know them today, and overall business development for the ever-changing healthcare environment.
Josh Mettle: Wow, 22 years. You’ve got some background there.
Linda Chain: I got some background and a lot of doctors to show for it.
Josh Mettle: [laughter] That’s fantastic. I love it.
Linda Chain: So, I retired from that career because I was tired of traveling quite honestly. I was on a plane Monday through Fridays, sometimes weekends, and it just became too much. For a while, I just did some freelance consulting that I got paid. I love real estate. What’s fun would it be to help families achieve and enjoy home ownership by doing something I love.
Josh Mettle: Cool.
Linda Chain: That’s how I got into the real estate environment.
Josh Mettle: I love it. So how long in Las Vegas – When you were traveling for those 22 years, where you in Las Vegas the whole time?
Linda Chain: No. I started in Los Angeles and then relocated the company, which I was a partner in, to Las Vegas because travel nationwide from Las Vegas is just as easy as it is in Los Angeles or in New York.
Josh Mettle: Sure.
Linda Chain: Because it’s such a hub for tourism here.
Josh Mettle: Yeah. So how long in Las Vegas now?
Linda Chain: I lived in Las Vegas since 1991. I’ve been in real estate since 2000.
Josh Mettle: Great. Well, I can attest that when I came down and met you and you were kind enough to show myself and my wife a few homes, we interviewed and spoke with a couple of realtors, and you certainly stood out as the area expert, so kudos.
Linda Chain: Well, thank you [laughter]. I try to perfect that expertise on a regular basis because real estate like every other market is ever changing.
Josh Mettle: Especially Las Vegas real estate, right?
Linda Chain: Especially Las Vegas real estate in the last three years.
Josh Mettle: Yeah.
Linda Chain: It has been certainly dynamic to be aware and also stay ahead of the game.
Josh Mettle: Yeah, I totally agree. So, I’ve always believed that relocating physician families have more needs. They need more advice, more guidance, more expertise than the average homebuyer moving across town. The reason for that is they’re obviously typically, there’s relocation, new employment, and lots of moving pieces. So, can you tell me if you agree with that and maybe a little bit about your partnership with Lori and how those two things might marry one another?
Linda Chain: Absolutely, and you’re quite right. Working with physicians and the relocation process are two dynamics that need to integrate with one another. Physicians have very busy lifestyles, intense lifestyles, and in order to assist them, you have to be aware of those time constraints. I sometimes – a little sidebar here – I likened buying or shopping for the new home to buying a new car. You have to drive it a number of times to see if it’s just right, the price is right, and it fits the needs of the family.
Josh Mettle: Yeah.
Linda Chain: And the same is true buying a new house. In identifying what works for this physician and his family, I always start out by looking at the needs of the family ‑ the location, schools, private schools, ages of the children, or they may not be children yet, but then the distance from the hospital to the physician, where the parks are, where the shopping is, and a whole litany of assets that affect what home is right for this individual.
From there, relocating physicians, as you mentioned, they have time constraints.
And real estate services are critical to assist you in previewing the home. Then viewing the home, negotiating the price for the home, and once a home is selected, their real estate specialist such as myself [laughter] becomes the resource to assist with all these steps that have to be managed prior to closing that home and turning the key over to the physician.
I can’t stress enough that the devil is in the details because without paying attention to the little things, sometimes the big things can get away from you, and a physician that’s relocating, he’ll come to town, identify the house. We will make an offer on the house, hopefully get it into escrow, then the physician and his family go back to where they’re moving from to get that ball into play in order to transition to their new life in Las Vegas. That’s where I can come in because I can do everything in the background while they’re busy with other tasks.
Josh Mettle: I can’t agree with you more. Oftentimes I find that realtors are doing the inspection process for the relocating person because he or she is out maybe in the area house hunting. Maybe, they’ve only got two afternoons to find the home or a couple of days. So, it’s very intense. Once that’s done, then the inspection process happens, and they’re usually not coming back for that. Usually that’s something that the realtor is managing. And then, the timing as you mentioned, is so sensitive because not only are they transitioning out of a home into a new home, but they’re transitioning into new employment, and unless they’re paying cash for their home, that all feeds into when they’re starting their new employment contract and the guidelines that the mortgage underwriter has for that.
Of all the professionals we serve, there’s just more moving pieces, and I find that the realtor, who specializes in short sales or the realtor who specializes in farming their little area probably does a fantastic job with that, and he’s very specialized in that area. But if you’re not used to the nine balls that are juggling, that have to be taken care of when you’re relocating a physician’s family across the country, one of the balls is going to drop. I mean it’s just too much for you to figure out the first time down this road, guiding that physician family through relocation.
Linda Chain: Well, it is and you mentioned my business partner, Lori. The reason we teamed is to be able to provide all of our clients with 24/7 services. If she’s tied up and one of her clients needs something, I’m there to help and vice versa.
Josh Mettle: Yeah.
Linda Chain: As you mentioned, you can’t drop one of those balls. Let’s say there’s a critical action occurring this Friday, and I happen to be out of town at a convention, Lori can jump in and take care of it so that we don’t miss a beat. The strength is in the numbers, so with the two of us, I think our clients get so much more for their investment ‑
Josh Mettle: Agree.
Linda Chain: Than if it was just one person.
Josh Mettle: Absolutely great. I don’t know how you can provide the same level of service and the same level of availability, doing it as a one-man or one-woman show, so to speak.
Linda Chain: It’s difficult. It’s difficult, but the clients come first, and that’s what we’re here for.
Josh Mettle: I love it. Okay, so we decided to do something kind of fun today. Since relocation is coming, Match Day is March 21st, so we’re just about 30 days away from that. In anticipation for the relocation season, we created a checklist, kind of the six steps to a flawless relocation to Las Vegas. We’ll just go back and forth here, Linda, and if you don’t mind, I’ll start with step number 1 that I see is the first thing that should be done to ensure a flawless relocation to Las Vegas.
Linda Chain: Okay.
Josh Mettle: All right, so number 1: Choose a mortgage professional who can educate and truly guide you. I find that when we get a client that causes panic at the last moment because their loan was declined or docs are late to the closing table and they don’t know if things are going to happen, the genesis of that debacle where it all started from was that they simply went down the path with the very first lender that they spoke with. Case in point, you deal with the realtor who is not experienced with relocation and physicians. They farm an area, and they’re an expert in that area, and they work with Bob.
Bob is a loan officer that they’ve worked with for 20 years, and Bob is excellent, very good loan officer. He knows his business. However, you happen to be a relocating resident or newly attending physician, and you have $150,000 in student loans. They’re probably transitioning in and out of income-based repayment, deferment, forbearance, some sort of altered payment rather than a full amortized payment. You have a new employment contract. You probably don’t have two paychecks in hand by the time you want to close, and some or all of your down payment is potentially gifted, or from a sign-on bonus, or from another member of the family. And rarely do we see, especially with our younger physicians that we serve, 20 percent down payment just sitting in the bank, ready.
You start down this path with Bob, and Bob doesn’t understand all these moving pieces. What I find is that what happens is that the loan moves forward until it gets to underwriting, and it’s in underwriting the week before closing that some of these challenges that Bob are not used to come to fruition and causes a problem. So, I would say step number 1: Choose a professional who can educate you and guide you and someone who has experience working with physicians and that’s the easiest thing. You just ask them, you know “Can I see your testimonials? Can you tell me about the physicians that you serve?”
Linda Chain: Absolutely. Along that line, too, you mentioned their down payment. For the physician ‑ Let me back up here, average sales price of a home in Las Vegas last month was $220,000. A physician coming to town with a wonderful contract will be looking at a larger home and potentially home that costs a little bit more, even though our industry here, the home prices are still below replacement value.
In order to for a physician to buy a home close to $500,000, which is where I see most of them looking, they require a jumbo loan, and that jumbo plan requires the 20 percent down that you’re talking about, unlike an FHA loan, which has a cap at $220,000. So, your point is so valid as to where’s the down payment coming from because that’s the key to making this home purchase successful for the physician.
Josh Mettle: Yeah, and then, you know just another piece of that is having access to programs, potentially jumbo programs, as you mentioned, that require less than 20 percent down, programs that maybe available for 5 percent to 10 percent down, which our younger clientele tends to have stepping into income but is spread thin with their saving. They haven’t had much money accumulated in savings, and so, that’s another thing to bring to the table when you’ve got a physician loan, you can expect a little less down payment. So with that, Linda, can I ask you to introduce step number 2?
Linda Chain: Step number 2 is to verify your lender’s reputation. In that, as you mentioned Bob earlier [laughter] – I don’t know Bob – in regard to that, I guess I look for three different aspects of that lender which is, number 1 the skills in assisting the physician in understanding the process and accepting the process.
Josh Mettle: Right.
Linda Chain: So, a lot of that is education. Next, the training of the lender, which tying into that would be experience, and then, as you alluded to earlier to in this discussion, the creativity. And that’s not intended to be anything negative, but to be able to bob and weave in changing markets of lending, which just started actually well into this year. The lender needs to be creative. He needs to be able to think outside the box in order to make it happen. So, those are the three things I look for.
Some of the physicians I’ve worked with, interestingly enough, try to compare lenders based on the fees that the lender might charge, and I always question the physician by saying, “Is it really about the fees or it is about getting the job done?” More often than not, with their training, they’re able to see where I’m coming from, so that they understand achievement is the goal. That’s how I believe I’ve helped so many pick the right lender to work with because it’s what they’re going to achieve at the end of the day, not how much it actually costs to get the job done. Would you agree, Josh?
Josh Mettle: Yeah, just to kind of back that up, I mean a great deal on something that cannot be…cannot be brought to fruition, cannot be closed is not a great deal, and that’s unfortunately where I find the error is being made as everybody wants the best deal. Everybody wants to pay the least amount possible. Of course that’s all in our human best interest, but if you’re buying beachfront property in Arizona [laughter], you have to judge that. That to me all comes back to verifying your lender’s reputation. If you see something that you think, “Boy, this kinda seems maybe a little too good to be true,” then I think that it’s totally your right and maybe even your obligation to say, “You know what, this sounds great. Can I talk to the last five physicians that you helped relocate in Las Vegas [laughter]?”
And if they say, “Sure. I’ll give you five, maybe call one at a time, and if you think you need to call all five, I’ll vet that with each of them, make sure it’s okay.”
Great. But if they say, “We’ve haven’t helped five physicians in Nevada.” Well then, you got to understand that there’s likely going to be some sort of problem with what they promised.
Linda Chain: Exactly, yeah. Testimonials and referrals are key.
Josh Mettle: Yeah.
Linda Chain: Next I think, Josh, you’re up.
Josh Mettle: Yeah.
Linda Chain: On step 3.
Josh Mettle: You got it. Okay, step 3: Obtain a credit and income approval. So, traditionally in the mortgage industry, this is referred to as a preapproval or a prequalification. What we identified about three years ago as mortgage underwriting guidelines were in absolute upheaval. Changing weekly, and you know, investors were going all different directions with all kinds of different overlays and additional guidelines. Well, you can do this, only if that or that or this, and in that case, then that.
We decided that a preapproval and prequalification was not enough for the physicians that we serve. So, we insist now or maybe we should say, we strongly advise that we gather all of the documents up front. So, we gather pay check stubs, tax returns, employment contracts, information on all student loans if they’re in forbearance, deferment, income-based repayment, being consolidated, we got to wrap our brains around that.
We have to see where the money is now, where is the down payment, what date does your employment contract start, when do you want to move in. We need to see all of those pieces of the puzzle, and we like to see that as early as possible. If I have a physician that’s relocating and they’re starting a residency in late June. Let’s say they want to close in late May, then I want to start looking at that stuff in March because if there’s a problem with one of those student loans, case in point, we see this all the time where there was a consolidation, but the old student lenders haven’t shown a zero balance on the student loans. So now we’re showing $300,000 in student loan balances on a credit report where there’s only $150,000.
Well that process of clearing up isn’t, you know, we’ll have that done by 2:00 P.M. this afternoon -it’s a process. We got to get letters from or credit supplements done. If you moved and you missed the payment on one of your student loans, often you’re not even going to know that until you pull a credit report. Sometimes, we’ve been successful in going back and negotiating with those creditors and trying to get them to update or remove that, but that doesn’t happen by 2:00 P.M. this afternoon. That takes time.
If you have an employment contract that has a wrinkle in it that’s going to cause you to not be able to close until you have two paychecks, or maybe you’re 1099’d and you’re not going to be able to close until you’re in practice for a couple of months, you want to know that in March, not in May, because in May when you’re out looking for a home, maybe you should be looking for a rental versus a home. So, we call that a credit and income approval where we gather all of those documents. It goes past the loan officer to an underwriter.
The underwriter fully vets, fully underwrites that entire application, and issues what’s called a credit approval. We liken that to a blank check. Basically, you’ve been underwritten, your credit, your income, your employment, your liabilities are approved. Go find a home. If it appraises and the title report is clean, we will close. That process takes a little more time, but for a relocating physician that has so many moving pieces, I think it’s vital. In my mind, if you’ve done, you know, the first three or four steps correctly, and I think the next step is obviously crucial ‑ that’s what I’ll introduce here – but if you’ve done that correctly, you’re 99 percent safe. So ‑
Linda Chain: Well said.
Josh Mettle: Thank you. Anything to add to that or do you think that covers it?
Linda Chain: I think that definitely covers it. It’s just so critical knowing early on where there might be some issues so that they can be resolved timely.
Josh Mettle: Yeah.
Linda Chain: Because it’s true. Once the clock starts ticking in the transaction and the relocation and when the physician is reporting on his new position, those dates can’t be changed.
Josh Mettle: Yeah, that’s exactly right.
Linda Chain: We need…We need to know early on, on that.
Josh Mettle: Okay, Linda. I’ll introduce step 4, and this is, you know, this sounds so self-serving, but the reality is whether you choose Linda to represent you or not, this is so vital. So, step number 4 is carefully select your realtor.
Linda Chain: The success of the transaction is key to the realtor in place, and I’d like to throw out here whether they are renting, as you mentioned earlier because they’re not in a position to close on a house immediately. Or if they’re buying, relocation has a lot of stress involved in it, and the selection of the realtor can help mitigate that stress in order to make it as tolerable, for lack of a better word if possible. But I’d love to draw out right here that if they are able to buy instead of rent, this gives them an opportunity to take advantage right now of the great interest rate, the great prices we have in Las Vegas, and establishing the family in a location where they have home ownership instead of renting. But I will help the physicians and have helped many of them, rent before they buy in order to just get into the community and get settled. So please keep that in mind if that’s necessary because it is the service that is readily available.
In selecting the realtor, I think it’s important that the realtor pays attention to, as I said earlier, the needs of the physicians, and the way in which they are going to communicate. As you said earlier, Josh, they come into town hopefully find that house on the first visit, and then, they’re gone. So, by having a realtor that they will be working with continuously over the phone via emails and at times in person, they need to be able to communicate with that person in order to get the job done. Would you agree?
Josh Mettle: Absolutely, absolutely. I’m just going to give you a plug. I hope nobody takes offense to this because it’s truthful when I give it, and that is you know when we came down and we looked at real estate, we noticed that your professionalism, your demeanor, the ability for you to move through and show us homes quickly and be informed about the neighborhood was what immediately struck us.
As we worked together with the first physician clients, then it was your knowledge of the process of relocating and really one thing that jumped out at me is how you manage transactions. I’ve watched you manage other people’s transactions now. Is that you – I hope this doesn’t come out the wrong way – is that you ride that transaction. I mean you just don’t write that thing and then, “Great, good luck. We’re on to the next deal.” You are in communication. You are fulltime. It’s like, in defense, they would call that the full-court press [laughter]. You are always moving that, you know it’s like there’s all these steps that have to happen, and that each step, you’re pushing, guiding, following up, and that’s something about you that I think is exceptional.
Linda Chain: Well, thank you. I think that came from my consulting background because I spent so much time in operations with the physicians and setting up the heart hospitals, and operationally, you’ve got to be on top of it. You’ve got to be proactive and you need to know if there’s a deadline that’s looming, jump in.
Josh Mettle: Yeah.
Linda Chain: Get the job done.
Josh Mettle: And I think it comes from your personality because you just don’t take any crap, but that’s just me [laughter]. Alright, alright. Let’s move on to step 5: Stay in communication. So, you know, again if you’ve done steps 1 through 4, you’re coasting, and I think you’re going to be fine, but that doesn’t mean that you need to stop your due diligence as a borrower, as a client that’s buying a home, and you need to continue to follow up with those professionals. You need to let them check in with them. Now, you should be receiving updates, but if you’re not, I would say weekly at least, you know send an email. “How are we doing? Are we on track? Everything looking okay? Just a reminder, I need to be in my new home on Friday. I’ll be in town on Wednesday. We anticipate closing docs. Mr. Realtor, Mrs. Realtor, Mr. Loan Officer, Mrs. Loan Officer, are we on track?”
And so, I think that communication is a responsibility of the client if they want to – now, it should be the responsibility of the realtor and the loan officer as well – but don’t just give that up as a client. Make sure that you keep that high level of communication throughout the transaction, ensure that you’re not surprised with something.
Linda Chain: Yeah, absolutely. Going along with that, Josh, is expect the unexpected. I may think that the physician is packing up on Wednesday and driving to Las Vegas, will be here on Friday and expect the keys, but things change.
Josh Mettle: Right.
Linda Chain: And so, all of a sudden, it might be, “Oh, no. It was a – We are packing up on Wednesday, but we are going to make a quick stop in Kansas City or somewhere ‑
Josh Mettle: Right.
Linda Chain: “Because it’s somebody’s birthday.”
Josh Mettle: And that happens all the time.
Linda Chain: “We won’t be there until Monday.” Right. Therefore, that communication is always important, so that everybody is on the same sheet of music.
Josh Mettle: Absolutely.
Linda Chain: I guess that kind of‑
Josh Mettle: That’s exactly how‑
Linda Chain: is the best way to say it.
Josh Mettle: Okay, step number 6. Linda, I’ll let you have this one. Be proactive, and I don’t know that we just didn’t somewhat cover that in stay in communication, but anything along those lines?
Linda Chain: Not really. I think we have covered it because being proactive is making sure the job gets done when it’s supposed to. And the keys are handed to the buyer at the time that they close on the transaction and they’re ready to move in. But what I would add I think is all parties need to be proactive. Not just the realtor, not just the lender, and not just the buyer. All parties need to be proactive on a concurrent basis for a successful close. The other thing I might say just stepping back a little bit here is ‑ and this is information for those who are listening to us – there is not any one transaction that goes smoothly. It used to frustrate me because I thought, “Why are all these moving parts creating such a challenge?”
What I’ve learned over the years is that a smooth transaction is often not successful because there’s always something that is going to create a little hiccup. But if there’s a hiccup, that means that we’re all paying attention to get it resolved, right? If we just didn’t communicate and there was silence, who knows what might be lurking in the background. So, I always find that really actually refreshing, as silly as it may sound, but when there is a little hiccup, there’s a solution to it. We get it solved, and we keep going.
Josh Mettle: I think it’s really important and I think rolling with the punches in real estate because you are moving with so many different pieces. Your ability to say, “Okay, we didn’t expect that thing to come out of left field.” Nobody could have anticipated that there was this title easement or you know what have you. So the ability and the expertise of your real estate professional and your mortgage lender to come together and say, “Okay, Linda, how are we going to fix this one?” And then work together to devise a plan that was going to work for the sellers, work for you as the buyer, work for the mortgage underwriter who’s going to give the final stamp of approval, that’s all rolling with the punches.
That is something that is very hard to determine from a financing proposal from a mortgage person. It’s very hard to determine maybe even with the first phone call with the realtor, and probably the best way to do that is through client testimonials and just really talking to those professionals on how much experience they have. So, really well said. Okay, well, I know these are always good interviews, Linda, when I have more questions than time. But before we ‑
Linda Chain: Yeah, I know. I was noticing that, too.
Josh Mettle: Yeah. But before we end off, I got to make sure we get this in, so I think this is vital. I believe that you’ve done several reports for clients that we’ve helped together, and for relocating physicians on the areas, most attractive areas that are located within say 10 or 15 minutes of the major Las Vegas hospitals. Can you just tell us a little bit about those reports, and how you go through that and position that to clients that are relocating, so they have some sort of a reality with the area?
Linda Chain: Yes, and thank you for asking on that. I’d almost forgotten. The most important aspect I believe for helping a physician to relocate is location.
Josh Mettle: Right.
Linda Chain: And where they’re going to be centered with their new job or their residency program. We have three different healthcare systems in town, and because of that, a physician may enter into his new contract and be expected to cover five different hospitals.
Josh Mettle: Wow.
Linda Chain: So, finding out the parameters of the position that they’re looking for is number one to then identifying the location that might be best for the home search. And consequently, instead of just throwing out a blind report, I’d like to have the physicians contact me, give me just a little bit of background of what they’re considering, and then I can fine-tune and personalize the report to meet their specific needs.
Schools go into that as well, if their children are coming to town, and they’re already aligned with one of our private schools. We need to take that into consideration. So, contacting me is the best way to get that report that will mean everything to the end result and the communities that we’re going to look in.
Josh Mettle: Well, just trying to get a concept of, “Okay, I know I need to be X number of minutes from my hospital, but how do I put that together? How do I marry that with how close I am to schools? How close am I to the shopping centers that I want to be near, and what kind of neighborhoods then fall into that overlap? That’s hard to do from Nebraska. I mean you really need some expertise to kind of figure that out, so well done there.
Linda Chain: It is, but I have a mapping program that will do overlays for me.
Josh Mettle: Cool.
Linda Chain: And it’s really slick. So, as long as I know that the parameters and the order of priority, I can get it mapped out and send them a report overnight.
Josh Mettle: That’s great. So that brings us obviously to the last question. If someone wants a report, if someone has questions about the area and wants to contact you, how do they best reach you and get in communication?
Linda Chain: I would say via email or my cellphone would be the most immediate. My cellphone is (702) 250-7000, an easy number to remember, and my email is email@example.com, and I also have a website, which is actually getting excellent so that you can log on there, and get all my contact information as well, but clearly, shoot me an email or send me a text on my phone, and I can get started.
Josh Mettle: Will you say that cell number one more time?
Linda Chain: Yes. It’s (702) 250-7000.
Josh Mettle: Great, Linda. Thanks again. It was a pleasure, and I really look forward to connecting and continuing our work relationship soon.
Linda Chain: Well, Josh, thank you so much. It was my pleasure as well, and I look forward to working with many physicians in the future.