Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Pictures make a difference

Anyone who has been searching online knows the truth in this - pictures matter. We've all seen the terrible house photos: pictures of a bedrooms showing only the bed (Hey, nice linens!), or pictures of the bathroom with the toilet seat up (Gross. Seriously.), or pictures that are blurred, or pictures where you can see that the Realtor(R) rolled up in his car, leaned out the window, and snapped a picture of the front of the house.

Your pictures should invite people into your home. They should look professional and be taken at angles that tell a story about the room they depict. You should be able to figure out where the rooms are in relation to each other by the pictures. Instead of the a picture of the living room couch, the dining room table, and the kitchen stove, you should have a picture of the entire kitchen, with a hint of the eating area in the background. The eating area should show a hint of the adjacent living room, etc.

Even better, offer Buyers a virtual tour of the home. Here is an example of a virtual tour:

Click Here
Want some more suggestions for real estate photos? Shoot me an email and I'll give you more information and provide you with a great photographer/virtual tour provider.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Staging your House for Sale

So, I'm wrapping up the work on my flip property (hence, the scarcity of posts lately). I'm planning on staging the property because it's hitting the market at a really bad time - right smack in the dead holiday season. Hey, "It is what it is." (That's my absolute favorite saying for real estate)

I'll be posting some before and after pictures in the next two weeks to show you the difference and what an impact staging can have.

Here are some of my quick staging tips:

1. Stick a red plant next to something you want to call out to the Buyer. I don't know why, but it draws the eye right to it. I read a study where red flowers brought more Buyers into a home than any other color (no source, sorry).

2. Walk through the house and take one piece of furniture out of each room. It'll make the house seem bigger, and you really won't miss it for the one day the house is on the market (Aim high, Grasshopper. Aim high.)

3. Stage the room how it's being marketed. If you're using the living room as a dining room, or a dining room as an office - you need to switch it back. Re-working rooms is fine for living (I do it in my own home) but when you're marketing the home, it leaves the Buyer thinking you don't have enough room. ("This dining room is SO SMALL! You can't even fit dining room furniture in here!")

4. Glade plug-ins or candles.

5. De-clutter. You're going to have to get rid of it or pack it up before you move anyway. Just do it now, because I can guarantee that some Buyer is going to walk through the house and pompously declare, "Wow! Look at all this stuff they've got crammed in here!" Others in the group will nod derisively. Then they'll all go back to their own junk riddled houses not even noticing how great your home is!

Want more suggestions? Shoot me an email and I'll send you a "Pre-list checklist"...

**And check for those pictures coming soon...

"Wow, these internets are cool!"

Do you know not everyone checks their email regularly? Seriously. My pet peeve is when email is listed under contact info, you should be able to contact someone that way!

If you are reading this blog, you're obviously somewhat internet savvy. I'm here to tell you that not all Realtors (or service professionals for that matter) are.

Act accordingly!

Ask your Realtor (or anyone involved in your transaction - mortgage broker, insurance agent, etc) how often they check their email. Ask them if they can send documents electronically. Ask them how they will communicate with you.

For Sellers: Ask them the following:

1. How many pictures of the home do you post?
2. Do you post a virtual tour?
3. How many/what websites do you post my home to?
4. How often will you update me with website activity?

For Buyers: Ask them the following:
1. How often will you email me new listings?
2. How often do you check TREND?

Want to know my answers? Shoot me an email and I'll fill you in...

**One caveat on this - there are many, many people in this world who are NOT internet savvy. The non-internet savvy Realtors are a GREAT fit for them. I'm not knocking them, I'm just advising you that you need a Realtor who works for your needs.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Low-ball Offers...Done Right

The low-ball offer has been non-existent for so long, that many Buyers don't even consider it anymore. It's coming back, Buyers, so readjust your thinking and consider properties that are a nudge over your price range, but have been on the market a while.

So, how do you do a low-ball offer right?

1. Acting predatory is going to hurt you - the Seller will be a lot more flexible if they don't feel like you're out to rob them blind. Don't enrage the Seller by offering them something off the wall like 10% of the asking price. Give 'em something to work with.

2. Make it worth their while - offer to accept responsibility for some repairs or the U&O, or a quick closing, etc. Give them something to console themselves with. ("Well, we took a real hit on the price, but it was worth it to get out from underneath that payment in 30 days.")

3. Be compassionate. Some of these people are strung out financially because of the current real estate market. STRUNG OUT. Some older people are taking a hit of tens of thousands of dollars because they waited 2 years too long to sell their house. Be thankful that you're not in their situation, and remember that you someday may be, and act accordingly.

Now, saying that - lowball your offer. You may be able to give these people what they need, which is a sale of their house. It's a very simple matter, $X is what you are willing to spend, and you hope that it works for the Seller. Try to figure out their motivation and structure the offer so that it gives them what they really need:

A vacant home where the Sellers have already moved? Give them an offer with a quick close and a streamlined inspection period.

A treasured family home? Show them that they'll be selling to someone worthy of the home who will be a good caretaker (and mentioning that you LOVE the house will go far).

An estate sale? Give them some flexibility on the settlement date, or offer to accept the home with some furniture or belongings in it.

Want some more info? Shoot me an email and I'll be happy to answer any questions you have...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The $100K Flip and other Fairy Tale Creatures

You know a lot of the numbers thrown around on these shows are a bunch of garbage, right?

I really like that some of the shows are doing "re-visit" episodes where the homeowners admit that after carrying costs, Realtor's fees, etc. they walked away with very little (if anything).

There is a way to do it right, and market volatility doesn't mean the death of the flip. The basic concept doesn't change with the depressed market:

Figure out your Budget.
Buy Right.
Work Smart.
Price Right on the Back End.

The key to a successful flip is to be generous with your expenses and timelines (and make sure to figure in carrying costs, realtor fees, money to get in and out), and conservative with your re-sale price.

If you've considered flipping a home, the touted foreclosure epidemic might give you a wonderful opportunity to get into the game.

Want to talk further? I've successfully flipped 3 properties and work with several investors. Shoot me an email and we'll talk junker houses!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Tough Love from Heather

Here is some plain speak regarding pricing. Now, I know no homeowner is going to want to hear this, especially one who is chasing down the market, always priced a bit too high to sell. But these things need to be said:

1. Buyers' first question when looking at a house is "How long has it been on the market?" followed quickly with either "Let's wait until they reduce." or "Wow! That long? Let's lowball them. They must be desperate." Your best bet is to price it right so that educated Buyers know it's a good deal and move on it immediately.

2. Mortgage companies are becoming brutally stringent with their appraisals. If the appraisal doesn't come in at contract price, you'll lose the deal or be forced to lower the price. There is no "stretching the market" anymore because banks are no longer flexible on their lending.

3. The ideal is to generate multiple offers. Sellers have true leverage when they have multiple offers on the house and can counter price, settlement, financing - whatever is most important to them.

4. In this vein, it's nearly impossible to UNDER-price a home, since you'll see a correction via multiple offers.

And finally...

In today's market, PRICING is going to make or break your home sale. All the good marketing, advertising, staging, or dark magic and voodoo in the world is not going to convince a Buyer to pay more for a home. It will simply sell your well priced home faster (although the dark magic and voodoo are suspect at this point.)

Don't despair homeowner - we can still sell your home for you and make you happy! Be reasonable. Be realistic. Be flexible. We'll get it done.

Need some more tough love? I'm always ready to dish it out. Shoot me an email!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Revenge of the Buyers

Oh yes...It's your time in the sun NOW first time homebuyers. Bask in your new found power and get out there and buy your house!

Reasonable sellers (even if it takes them several months to get to that point), the re-birth of seller's assist, and your prime position of having no home to sell make this a great time to buy. If you've been thinking about buying a home, I'd really suggest that you get serious about it now, especially if you need some help in the mortgage department.

We are starting to see a move towards old practice lending - you're going to need a reportable income, money down, and good credit to secure financing. If you need a no doc loan, or 100% financing, they can still be found, but the volatility of the mortgage market may make them more difficult to get in the future.

My suggestion: work with a responsible, seasoned mortgage lender (and I happen to have a great one - shoot me an email if you want his contact info) who will get you what you need without getting you into trouble and go shopping!

"What's that smell?" and 4 other things that run off Buyers...

Five of the quickest ways to drive Buyers out of your house...

1. Cooking smells, including: tuna fish (blech!), bacon, garlic, deep fry oil, etc. If you can still smell it after you've cleaned up, you shouldn't be making it while the house is on the market. Coffee and cinnamon buns? Good. Hot Dogs and Sauerkraut? Baaaaaad.

2. Giving Buyers a "tour" of your home. Buyers HATE (I mean really HATE) having the homeowner following them around telling them about the house. They really want to check out your closet and cabinet space, and to do it while you're there is rude for some reason. Besides, it always comes across as a little...desperate.

3. This is a touchy one...anything really personal that would make someone else uncomfortable. Nude portraits (even tasteful ones) above your bed, shrines to deceased loved ones, self-help books, etc. If it's private, remove it.

4. Animals freely roaming the house. I'm desperately afraid of birds. I once ran out of a house crying because some large parroty type thing squawked and dive bombed me. Once your animal scares someone, they spend the rest of the tour worrying about when BooBoo is going to eat them alive, rather than looking at your house.

5. Not wiping down the kitchen and baths. Your house should be spotless while showing (har har) but at the very least, make sure that the kitchen and bathrooms have been wiped down before a showing. A kitchen counter with crumbs or a bathroom with toothpaste on the sink or (ahem!) on the toilet seat gives the impression that the house isn't just "lived in" but "gross."

Want more? Shoot me an email and I'll regale you with more horror stories from my showings...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Seller's Assist and the "But THEY got $ for their house!"

Do you know that the price listed as the "sales price" in the Real Estate Transactions in the paper is sometimes $5-10-15 THOUSAND dollars less than the true sales price?

In today's real estate climate, we are seeing the rebirth of "Seller's Assist." This is when the Buyer offers you a certain price for the home with the agreement that you are going to "kick back" some of the money at settlement to go towards their closing costs (or mortgage discount points, or repairs, or "decorating allowances"). It's important when you are pricing your home for sale that you get the NET sold price - the sale price minus any credits.

In the past few Comparative Market Analysis that I have done, I've had at least 2 of the comparative properties have some sort of credit given at settlement. It's important that you know that the price published in the paper is often grossly different from what the Seller walked away from the table with.

Have a question regarding Seller's Assist, or want to check the net sold price of a recent sale in your area? Shoot me an email and I'll get you the information!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Open Houses and Agency

The inaugural blog...the pressure is overwhelming! What to talk about? Myself? Selling Real Estate? Buying Real Estate? I guess I'll just pick a topic and run with it...

How about a quick comment on open houses, since the weekend is coming up?

If you're working with a REALTOR, or you have someone in mind who you would like to work with, it's pretty critical that you let the agent working the open house know that. If not, the agent working the open house can refuse to pay YOUR agent a commission (and your agent isn't going to work for free). Agents get paid by being the "procuring cause" (or the person who finds the Buyer) NOT for writing the contract.

Now, as a professional courtesy, most agents will honor agency if they're informed up front that you're working with someone, but you can sometimes run into a problem when you try to bring in your own REALTOR later on.

Also,you don't have to use the Open House Agent if you don't have a REALTOR and you love the house. If you don't want to have that agent representing both you and the Seller in the transaction (or you just don't like the agent!) ask them to refer you to another agent to act as your Buyer's Agent for the transaction.

Happy Open Housing!