Buyers & Sellers
Buying a Home
Buying a new home is a serious venture that is an investment in the dwelling, the area and your future! You are bound to have many questions and we can help! For example, “In what area can I find a home that best meets my needs"?
Before You Start Looking for Your New Home, here are some Helpful Hints:
Closing Costs to Expect:
Selling Your Home
When selling a home there are no guarantees that a buyer is going to walk through your front door. In many cases we have to take the house to the buyer. Recent technology allows us through still photos and virtual tours to bring our sellers property into a potential buyer’s living room. By the time a buyer walks into your property they have a pretty good idea in what to expect from your house.
There are numbers of aspects that can help sell your home such as, the first impression a buyer gets from your house, the appearance of your house and most important other comparable sales in your area.
Setting the price of your home
There are three main factors that will determine whether your house will sell quickly or even sell at all.
The price of your house should not be dealt with lightly and, some sellers tend to put too much emphasis on the price and not the condition, ending up with a house that is overpriced for its current condition and market.
There are several reasons why care and time should be part of pricing your home accurately.
If a house is overpriced it will not sell or appraise. If the house does not sell and sits on the market the listing becomes stale.
If you list with a price that is too high with the intentions of reducing it later “just to see what will happen”, when the price is lowered it signals to buyers that is was and still is overpriced.
If the house is priced to low, it will most likely sell quickly, to the detriment of your proceeds.
Some factors that affect the price of your home
Condition: A house that has been maintained and updated will show better than a house that has been neglected and needs work.
Location: This is something you can’t get away from. If your house is in a desirable area it will sell more than a house in a less desirable area.
Desirable amenities: If the house has amenities that buyers desire and are popular in the marketplace, it will bring a higher price.
Marketing Your Home
What Works Best?
The 2 primary factors that determine if and when your home will sell are price and exposure.
Setting the right price is crucial because under-pricing is like giving money away and over-pricing is just a waste of time because nobody buys over-priced homes.
Exposure that counts is exposure that reaches buyers who are the most willing, ready, and able to buy. Exposure to people who are not in the market or can’t afford to buy is meaningless.
The best possible exposure is MLS and the corresponding website, Realtor. This is where the vast majority of buyers are looking for homes, and where the buyers are the most ready, willing, and able to buy. MLS and Realtor.com ARE the real estate market!!
MLS (Multiple Listing Service)
MLS is the network that Realtors belong to that gives them access to show and sell each other’s listings, and comprises 90% of all homes on the market nationally. The Realtor commission, most often 6%, is split between the agent who lists a property and the one who sells it. Only licensed Realtors have access to MLS.
Realtor.com allows the general public access to see all the MLS listings. It has revolutionized the home search process, because homebuyers are no longer at the mercy of Realtors to see what homes are available on MLS. 90 % of all homes for sale nationwide are on Realtor.com, because MLS is 90% of the market.
Buyers use Realtor.com because it has the best selection, it’s easy to use, and it has lots of other useful information, too. For example, go to Realtor.com, enter your search parameters, and pick any listing. Click on “See listing details” and scroll down and select “Get neighborhood information.” Then click on some of the other options to see all the information available. You can get everything from the average prices and ages of homes in the neighborhood, to crime statistics and average SAT scores of students enrolled at the local high school.
The internet has become the primary search tool for most homebuyers today and more than half of them use Realtor.com. Of all online shoppers, 98% use MLS information websites, predominately Realtor.com.
Where online home-shoppers do most of their searching for homes
86% Search primarily on Realtor.com
12% Search primarily on other MLS listing websites
2% Search primarily on non-MLS websites, such as FSBO websites.
Realtor.com and other MLS websites in the market makes it an essential ingredient of any home marketing campaign. It is the single most effective marketing tool available.
Where recent homebuyers first heard about the home they bought
79% Real estate agents and MLS information websites, primarily Realtor.com
7% Yard signs
6% Newspaper ads
3% Friends & Relatives
Comparison of Marketing Alternatives
MLS & Realtor.com
The majority of buyers still use real estate agents when buying a home and 99% of all real estate agents use MLS. What is changing is that more than half of all buyers today are finding houses on Realtor.com and other MLS websites, and then telling their agents about them, instead of the agent solely making selections from MLS. The agent then shows the buyer the houses that the buyer has selected. The bottom line is that whether a buyer comes to look at your house because his agent found it on MLS or because the buyer found it on Realtor.com, it is still the result of an MLS listing, and you must have an MLS listing to be on Realtor.com.
A simple sign on the front lawn is a cheap and effective advertising tool, and should be part of any home marketing plan. If you have time and are patient enough, you can sell your home eventually by doing nothing more than putting a sign in the yard. The average time period for a house to sell using only a yard sign is 12-18 months, and will vary based on the amount of traffic on the street and the price of the home.
Newspaper ads can get expensive and sellers who are not interested in owner financing will have to weed out unqualified buyers. The majority of homes sold with newspaper ads are by professional investors. Newspaper classified ad columns tend to be filled with investor ads with headings like “$0 down,” “Owner Financing,” “Lease Option,” “Bad Credit OK,” etc. Investors typically inflate the home prices and give the buyer/tenant (who can’t qualify for a loan a lease option. Credit challenged buyers gravitate toward newspapers because of the prevalence of these kinds of ads, and because they know they would be expected to qualify for a loan if they dealt in the MLS/Realtor.com market.
The value of hold an open house is vastly over-rated. People who go to open houses are typically just looking, and any serious lookers would have seen the yard sign and called the phone number anyway. Realtors love to hold hope houses because they have a chance to meet prospective buyers who may be in the market to buy at some point in the future, and prospective sellers from the neighborhood who are planning to put their house on the market. Holding an open house is also a great way for Realtors to give their clients the impression that they are actively marketing the home when they are actually just promoting their own business.
Free Real Estate Magazines
Commonly found on racks in supermarkets and convenience stores, those publications exist to either promote a real estate company or sell advertising. They contain very little useful information for buyers, and due to the lag time between printing to actually being picked up and read (minimum 3 weeks), the listings are already out of date before they are ever seen.
For Sale-By-Owner websites get an insignificant amount of traffic from buyers. Buyers who do take a look get discouraged quickly by the limited selection and from lack of response from sellers when they try to make contact. Many of the ads are outdated and the homes are off the market, so sellers often don’t respond.
There are various things Realtors will tell potential listing clients to get a listing. Some of these things sound good, but accomplish nothing more than promote the real estate company. Example: “We’ll send out 300 mail pieces to all the homes in your neighborhood!” This is a way for the real estate company to advertise their company and generate listings. Neighbors are more likely to become sellers than buyers and if a neighbor or somebody they knew were interested in buying your home, the yard sign would let them know.
Another unproductive method some agents like to tell their clients about (as though it had value) is mass e-mails to agents informing them of a house for sale. Agents have access to the MLS and don’t need to be spammed with such information – it’s just an annoyance. The first thing the typical agent does when checking e-mails is delete the “House For Sale” spam e-mails from other agents.
The 3 L’s & 4 C’s of House-Hunting
Don't sweat the stuff that can easily be changed
By now, we're probably all familiar with the famous three L's of real estate: location, location, location. But if you're shopping for a house and limiting yourself to those three L's, you might be doing yourself something of a disservice. Keep the L's in mind while you're on the real estate trail, but I'll show you how to use them to expand your thinking a little.
The three L's
The most important one of the L's definitely still needs to be location. When you're buying a home, there's simply no substitute for location, since you can't move the house after you've bought it. (Well, technically you can, but that's obviously not exactly your first choice for how to approach things).
Location can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It might be a short commute to work. It might be a particular school district. It might be an older established neighborhood, or an area with lots of parks or shopping, or an active social scene. If you need to be in a particular location, that should be one of the first criterion for your search.
The next L is for "land" or "lot size". This is another thing that you can't easily change about a house, so pay close attention to it. You may find the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood, but if the lot's too small, or on a busy corner, or has a slope or an odd shape that won't fit that pool you want to put in some day, then no amount of rationalizing about how great everything else is will ever change that.
The third L is "layout". Pay particular attention to how the house is laid out, and whether that layout is going to work well for your particular needs. The flow of the house is extremely important for your everyday needs. Is it the one- or two-story house that you wanted? Is the kitchen open the way you want? Are the bedrooms on the floors where you want them? Layouts can be changed to some degree, but often not easily and can be expensive. The changes can sometimes require extensive remodeling work. So it's definitely better to get what you want from the outset or as close as possible.
Don't sweat the C's
The three L's are all something to pay close attention to, because they're either impossible or potentially very costly to change. But a lot of buyers can get hung up unnecessarily on another group of real estate letters: the four C's. This group can sometimes blind you to the potential in an otherwise ideal home.
The first C is "color". Before you walk away from that cute house on the big lot with the ideal layout because of the purple bedrooms and the wallpaper in the dining room and living room, stop for a moment. Those things are easily changed.
A couple of long weekends of sweat equity and a few hundred dollars can make a huge difference in how a house looks. It also gives you the opportunity to put your own personal stamp on the home, and really make it into something you can call your own.
The second of the C's is "condition". It's easy to be turned off to a great home in a great location because the overall condition is run-down or outdated. But remember, as long as there are no major structural issues, condition problems can be taken care of. And they can also represent a great negotiating point, especially with a motivated seller. This can also apply to specific components of the house, such as the roof, the windows, the flooring or the heating system.
If you're not sure exactly when a condition item crosses the line from run-down or outdated to a genuine problem that affects the structural integrity of the house, that's where you need to rely on the experts. If this is a house that you're seriously considering, it's time to call in a home inspector or other professional to help you evaluate how extensive any potential problems might be.
Next on the list is "clutter". For some reason, a lot of sellers don't take the time to declutter their homes before they list them for sale, and that can make for a poor showing. Don't let that throw you. If you're a savvy buyer, you can learn to look past the clutter, and visualize how your own furniture will look in the space.
Take a tape measure with you. If necessary, you might even ask if there's a floor plan drawing of the house available. If so, there are scale furniture cutouts available inexpensively online that will let you quickly place your own furniture in the existing rooms to see how things will fit.
The final C that you don't want to sweat too heavily -- no matter how much it might gross you out -- is "cleanliness". If the sellers are foolish enough to leave the house dirty, they're simply inviting lower offers, so take advantage of it. Look past the dirt, and possibly buy yourself a great house at a bargain price.
The New 3 L’s
The first rule of real estate is the 3 L’s….Location, Location, and Location. In a declining market such as this we might think about adding 3 more L’s to our real estate experience. In my opinion these would be Learn, Listen, and Let Go.
Learn to adapt to this market. Realize that what worked before is not necessarily going to work today so learn how to price your property appropriately and then learn how and when to adjust it. If you are looking to buy, learn how to make a solid offer before your dream home is sold to someone else. You don’t want to be caught in the dark, being prepared is always best. Learn all of the parts of a sale contract and the process of buying/selling a house so that you feel comfortable discussing all possible scenarios and variables when that contract is written.
Listen to the economic forecasters from the National Association of Realtors. They recently published an article about how the unemployment rate is directly tied to real estate trends. They believe if unemployment goes down in the next quarter we can most likely consider the worst is behind us. Listen to an established real estate professional. They are the ones that have made this their career. Every single day they access the latest available property list. We can tell you what has gone down in price, what is under contract, and what has sold for less than asking price. Point being, they actually do know what is happening in the market place and it’s not just from watching the nightly news. Listen to what these people are telling you and follow their advice. Remember this is why you look to them for their knowledge in real estate.
Let go of anger and resentment about the economic climate. Let go of blaming anyone or anything for the current state of the market. Let go of comparing neighborhood sales from the past 3 to 5 years to what they are selling for now. If you can get past these things and understand that it is a fact that people still need to move for their own reasons. Then you are truly “letting go". A house may not be worth as much as it was in 2006 (when it was, in all probability, over-inflated) but that should also come as good news if you are looking to buy.
By listening to the information provided by professionals, learning how to adapt and react to this market, and letting go of negative re-enforcements, you can have a great experience. I believe you hold the keys to a successful real estate transaction.