Tag Archives: staging homes

Homesellers, It’s not personal…It’s Real Estate

In every aspect of life, some people are apt to get their feelings hurt easily. If someone doesn’t like your outfit or says your kid doesn’t play soccer well, etc. But in business, people try to get a thicker skin by saying, it’s not personal…it’s business. When selling your home, you need to remember the same thing when under critique. It’s not personal…. it’s real estate. Homesellers need to keep in mind that homebuyers have to find what is best for their needs and wants and if it is not this house, it will be the next. What the seller likes or wants in the home or its decor or use is not relevant to what the buyer will want. Different strokes for different folks. The goal is selling the home at the best price in the fastest time.

Here’s what I have heard sellers say….If it’s good enough for me, it’s good enough for them. They can take me as I am and the house as it is. They are nit picky. They don’t understand that this cost me $$. They are too young and don’t know any better. They should appreciate… They don’t know…. or IF THEY DON’T LIKE IT, THAT’S THEIR PROBLEM.

If you want your home to stay on the market forever or sell for less money, keep thinking that way. But if you change your thinking, this is what you need to do to prepare for the mindset of selling a home successfully.

1. THINK “It’s no longer your home…it’s a means to an end – a product.” You want to get where you are going and selling your home is the means. You need to think of it as a retail product and “stage” it to appeal to your target market home buyer. Homes sell faster and for a better price if they appeal right away to the target homebuyer…with as little work possible. Sometimes your target homebuyer will be about as far away from your taste as possible. To sell, you need to appeal to them and make changes, even if it doesn’t appeal to you.

2. BE REALISTIC…REALLY understand the good and bad points of your house. Sometimes you can fix the bad points, sometimes you can’t. Upgrading or not, staging or not and pricing must be based on the market and your home. What you think your home is worth isn’t always what the market thinks. Homebuyers look at the market. The market wins. Listen to your expert Realtor advice, which they should be able to substantiate with comps. They are the market, don’t ignore them.

3. FEEDBACK….Feedback from home buyers and other Realtors is important and hard to get…so when you get it, don’t dismiss or ignore it. This is what people are thinking who could have bought your home….but instead there was a reason they bought another home. They may not like the decor or the layout, etc. You have to figure out if it is cost effective to fix or change it or you may need to adjust your price….or you can ignore it, make excuses and sit on the market forever.

And if they don’t like your wall-to-wall mirrors or southwestern decor…don’t take it personal. That is why you should not be in the house when they are there. They don’t want to hurt their feelings, so they will not say what they need to say and their Realtor can’t do his or her job explaining the home and countering objections. Once they have it in their heads they don’t like something, it is tough to reverse or change.

4. FINANCING…Whether you agree or not, times are different now than when you were starting out and buying a home. Many first-time homebuyers these days have very little down payment and no extra for closing costs. Often they will ask you for closing costs, but what you are really doing is allowing them to finance the costs into the mortgage. Negotiate your bottom line like a business….don’t get caught up in how much they are putting down or whether or not they want to finance closing costs. It should only matter if they are capable and likely to get the loan and you are getting a net price that works for you.

5. INSPECTION…It is wise to have an inspection done on a home or a used car, or anything before you make a major purchase. The inspector’s job is just like a doctor doing a physical. They will tell these homebuyers everything that is wrong with the home. That is their job, some are better and putting things in the right perspective and some are not. The key is again, don’t take it personally. You may not agree with what is said is wrong with the house, you may think it is nit picky, but the point is the home buyers do care and if you want to complete the sale, you need to decide if the price is worth making some repairs or negotiate what is or is not important to them. Also remember, once you know there is a problem, if there is, you have to disclose it for the next buyer.

REMEMBER – home buyers are your customer. They have the money.

Can you Handle the Truth in Selling Your Home

There are many euphemisms about the benefits of the truth. The truth shall set you free as a homeseller, as you need to be ready, willing and able to handle the truth from your expert team. But many homesellers prefer to listen to what they want to hear instead of the hard truth, which can end up costing them time and money to sell their home.

When considering selling their home and interviewing Realtors for advice on selling, most homesellers ask these two questions “Tell me what I can sell my home for? and Tell me what should we do to get our home ready to sell?” Unfortunately, it is really like asking someone “does this outfit look good on me.” You think you want the answer, but you don’t really want the answer.

Some Realtors will tell sellers what they want to hear just to get the listing. They ask you – what do you want to sell the home for? Then they tell you – Sure – that is what the home will sell for. But do they have any statistics to back that up? No, because sometimes what the seller would like to sell the home for is not consistent with the market value of the home.

That same Realtor will tell you, nothing needs to be done to the home to market it, for fear that if they tell the seller the home is dated, untidy, unclean or the home needs to be staged, the homeseller will give the listing and another Realtor who lies to them. But then what is the point of getting expert advice, if you have no intention to listen to it?

Some Realtors actually rely on the feedback from other Realtors who show the home to push the blame away from them and tell the seller what really needs to be said to sell the home.

Lying to a seller about price especially is illegal and unethical for a licensed Realtor and will definitely end up costing the seller precious listing time. And in the end, that same Realtor will ask them for price reductions, staging and changes or upgrades to the home to get the home sold.

So, sellers, would you rather waste time with a Realtor who tells you what you want to hear and doesn’t give the expert advice they should or let your market time increase and then eventually change things, which will cost you time and money?

Remember the story, “The Emperors New Clothes.” Everyone was afraid to tell the emperor the truth and he would up walking around his kingdom with no clothing. Home sellers, are you ready to handle the truth and benefit from a better sales price and shorter listing time?

Creepy Distractions that Turn Off Home Buyers when Selling a Home


As a Realtor, I see a lot of unusual, even crazy things in people’s homes. If these silent idiosyncrasies could be explained by the home seller, I am sure they would make more sense. But in their absence and left to the imaginations of home buyers, these eclectic eccentricities can often creep home buyers out …distracting them from the advantages of the home and maybe completely turning them off.

I once entered a room with a full-sized child doll sitting in a rocking chair in the corner of the room. You could not see it until you entered the room. It surprised each and every person who came into the room and needless to say, no one really saw that room. Or the full-size “butler” statues – yes they scare you because they seem like a real person when you walk in the room. Startling to say in the least, creepy to say in the most. This goes for any personal possessions that may not be appreciated by the general public. Doll collections with eyes seemingly following you all over the room are not much lower on the creep-o-meter. Realistic stuffed toy animals of cats sitting on beds or a large tiger in the corner, are another eerie distraction.

And Taxidermy…I have seen heads of nearly every animal on the wall, as well as various skin rugs on walls and floors, horns on walls and full-on stuffed formerly live animals. While these trophies are treasured by the home sellers, to a homebuyer who may not share this hobby, they are unsettling and unpleasant. When you are blindly entering a home, it can cause children to be afraid and many times scare even adults who are not expecting a “jungle room.” Home sellers, let’s put it this way, do you want the home buyers referring to your home as the “dead animal” or even the “jungle” house after their visit. No, that will not sell your home. Put them away in storage, boxes, etc.

Marked graves in the yards for pets or urns of grandma on the mantel are another turn off. While the urn will move with you, home buyers only can wonder how many fluffy and spot bones they will inherit if they buy the home. What is unseen….is the best answer for this.

Weapons in the homes, from samurai swords and cross bows to maces and guns are more common than you would believe. Best to keep the armory put away in a closet in a box, etc. Not only are they dangerous, especially for children viewing the home, but also could be a theft temptation you don’t want to deal with and a potential insurance nightmare you definitely don’t want to deal with.

And while the Nazi flag may be reminiscent of an inside joke or historical memorabilia or something to the home seller, home buyers could easily be offended enough to ignore the home’s attributes and head for the door. Or better yet, they may never come to see the house as they see the photography on the internet and in listings.

Snakes, tarantulas, hamsters, gerbils and lizards may be in cages, but do you want to take the risk that recoiled home buyers will not enter those rooms with their slimy occupants present. If they have to stay in the room, best to cover them …. out of sight, never in mind.

And “Friendly” cats and dogs may be fine for your guests while you are around, but home sellers need to cage or remove these residents and not leave for unsuspecting home buyers…and agents for that matter. You don’t want agents and homebuyers skipping your house when they go to the door and “spot” is barking his head off at the front door awaiting them.

Real life encounters are not limited to pets. Believe it or not, more than once, I have opened a bedroom door to see a lump in the bed that was not laundry, but a real person sleeping in the bed. Both the buyers and I couldn’t get out that room or that home faster.

Again, while it is your home, it also is a product. If you wouldn’t like it in a department store, don’t put it in a home you want to sell. Remember, first impressions last forever and are not easily erased.

Housing Trends…in-law arrangements in homes have made multigenerational buyers more common

Home buyers looking for in-law arrangements in homes have experienced sharp increases in demand putting sellers with the potential for in-law arrangements and suites in a great marketing position.

Parents are aging and sometimes costs of care and other complications require adult children to take them in. But on the other side of the generations, high cost of renting, divorce and difficulties finding jobs have resulted in necessity for in-law arrangements adult children and sometimes their families to live with the folks too.

In many cultures, multi-generational living is commonplace, but it is new to the masses in the US.
What multi-generational buyers are looking for are ways to have a complete or partial living arrangement for either side of the familial spectrum, while maintaining a comfortable separation, when needed.

Older parents coming out of their own living arrangements are often the most difficult to accommodate. They are used to living on their own, so “downgrading” to something less than what they had on their own can be a sore subject.

They will at minimum want as much of their own separate space as can be provided. Private bedroom with on-suite bath (usually no tub), decent-sized bedroom and closets, sometimes a sitting area and sometimes a kitchen. And usually no stairs.

While basements can often accommodate all this and more, older parents usually can’t or don’t wanted to be relegated to the “dungeon” – even with a chair-lift to handle the stairs. And they want to feel comfortable in the space to live as their own home, not like they are intruding.

Buyers looking for this kind of accommodation will likely have to do some renovation to make this happen. Renovation loans can be obtained in order to make changes, even moving walls, etc. They require a higher level of and come with a bigger interest rate, but the money in the mortgage is cheaper than credit cards. Sometimes the sale of their home can be used for this extra money. But don’t look for sellers to be ok with 2 home contingencies to buy a home. Not going to happen.

However, additions are more expensive and a lot more hassle. Looking for homes with extra 1st floor rooms, like a den, sunroom or 1st floor master bedrooms often can be a perfect in-law suite. Adjacent living rooms can be tapped to make a suite where parents can have privacy to have friends over, etc. If utilizing the 1st floor master, enough space has to be made to accommodate a 2nd master on the 2nd floor.

Many “in-law arrangements” are basement suites. While this will not often suit older parents, it is often perfect for young couple, single or young family needs. They can benefit from the proximity of parents for potential babysitting and save a lot of money with no rent payments, and sometimes better schools and area than they could afford. And they also have a completely separate retreat and living area, which both parents and adult children alike appreciate.

Depending on the family dynamic, the in law may not the final decision maker, but they may have a say in the final plan. Need to plan ahead to ensure you don’t ruin the space so it can not be reasonably reverted if necessary by a future buyer.

Sellers who have this type of feature in their homes or can even offer an idea of how it can easily be done, can certainly market that feature to capture some of these new buyer needs and put their homes ahead of others in the marketplace.

Tips for Selling a Home in an Estate and planning to Sell a Home in an Estate

Selling a home in an estate is always a difficult thing and just one of the many experiences most people go through. However, there are some ways to make it easier to sell a home in an estate that you can do now and later to ensure that your heirs have an easier time selling a home in an estate and planning to sell a home in an Estate.

As a Realtor, I have dealt with many people selling a home in an estate from both the listing agent end and the selling agent end. It can be difficult and complicated and can be a real turn off to buyers, or at the least delay the closing or get you in trouble. Here are a few dos and don’t for selling a home in an estate.

1. Speak with one voice. There is a lot of communication and decisions in selling a home. The listing agent needs to have one person to speak for the estate and/or heirs. Delays in negotiations and arguments and misunderstandings among varied heirs who have hidden or past agendas and varied knowledge of the market in the area or the circumstances, etc. can prolong and complicate negotiations and information to the point where buyers bail on the deal. Making decisions by committee all over the world does not work.

2. Make sure your title is correct. Very often during the arrangements after a death in the family, attorneys change over the deed, etc. It is important that this is done properly. A closing can be held up or even cancelled if the proper person in the estate has the right to sell and is on deed properly, etc. Get an attorney involved immediately when you decide to sell a home in an estate and have them look into the title and deed to get ahead of any problems before closing, even before contract.

3. Disclosure is required in Illinois. However, there are circumstances where you need to understand when it will or will not apply to you. If you have knowledge of any deficiencies in the house, to protect yourself, it is a good idea to disclose. If it is fixed, you do not have to disclose past problems, only current.

4. Be realistic. Very often heirs either have the get rid of it or $$$$ attitude towards sales. Selling a home in an estate just like any other sale need to be marketable, priced right and appealing. It is a commodity, just like anything else. Personal feelings about the home, how it was built or cared for, should not enter into it. Market value is what someone is willing to pay for it. And remember – markets are different everywhere – so if you are in California or Texas, etc. doesn’t mean it is the same in the local market. A Realtor can tell you the realistic prices and what the costs are to sell a home.

5. Advertise as Estate – pro or con? I usually say no. Sometimes buyer perceptions of selling a home in an estate are not going to get you the fastest sale at the best price. The word “estate” sometimes evokes buyer fears that someone has died in the home. While you do not have to disclose that and while it is not relevant, some people have an issue with that. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Other buyers see “estate” and see “fire” sale. Let the home stand on its own merits.

6. Fix up or leave it. This is a question of all people selling a home. But for estates, I would say, look at your budget. Clean the place up, get rid of dated furniture, personal possessions, lace curtains and just like any other home, ask yourself if this will appeal to your target market. If not, either get a budget to change some or all things or price accordingly to sell. But keep in mind, any repairs should be done to improve sale ability and avoid lending condition issues.

You can avoid these problems ahead of time when you are planning your estate. Here are some simple and inexpensive planning tips from Attorney Joseph A. Macaluso on how to make preparations for your heirs to sell a home in an estate.

By taking advantage of a Transfer on Death Instrument (in Illinois and some other states), you can arrange to have your home transferred to your children on your death without the expense or time delays of Probate Court.

If you or you and your spouse own your home, you can record a Transfer on Death Instrument with your local Recorder of Deeds, which will automatically transfer the home to your children on the death of the last to die of you and your spouse. During the lifetime of either, you or your spouse are free to sell or mortgage your home.

The legal fees to prepare and record the Transfer on Death Instrument are far less expensive and less time consuming than Probating your Estate or some of the other procedures your children would have to follow in order to sell your home after your demise.

You should contact an Estate Planning Attorney to take advantage of this opportunity to both save legal fees and make the process of transferring your home to your children at your death less stressful for your children.

If you have inherited real estate, hopefully your benefactors have followed the advice in the above five paragraphs. If they have recorded a Transfer on Death Instrument, you are now the owner and can easily sell the property if that is your desire.

On the other hand, if there is no such instrument recorded, your course of action depends on how title had been held, and by what method you inherited the property. Some of the possibilities are:

1) Your parent made you a joint tenant on the property by recording a joint tenancy deed. If that is the case, you and any other surviving joint tenants can sell or otherwise deal with the real estate upon presentation of a death certificate and a joint tenancy affidavit.

2) Your parents owned the real estate as beneficiaries of an Illinois (or a few other states) Land Trust. Once again, transfer of the property would not be difficult and would be handled similarly to 1) above. The disadvantage of a Land Trust is that there are yearly fees to the Trustee, and additional fees to transfer the property.

3) Your parent or parents had entered into a Living Trust and have transferred title to the real estate to the Trust. In that event, the successor Trustee under the Living Trust would be able to transfer the property with a copy of the death certificate.

4) Your parents left you the real estate pursuant to the terms of a Last Will and Testament, or they had no will and you are the statutory heir. This is where it becomes more difficult to sell the real estate. In that event, your obvious choices are to a) hire an attorney to open a probate estate with its attendant legal fees and delays, or b) ask the Title Company to accept a bond in lieu of probate. There are additional costs involved in acquiring the bond, depending on how long ago the death occurred.

At any rate, whether your parents did advance planning or not, upon the death of your last parent, you should definitely consult with an attorney so that when and if you decide to sell the property, you will be able to transfer the property to the Buyer with as few problems as possible.

Good Enough is Not Going to Sell Your Home

When selling a home, sellers often resist the feedback from their Realtor or homebuyers and other Realtors when viewing their home. Many people selling a home are often offended at the most and perplexed at the least at why homebuyers don’t immediately jump at the chance to offer them piles of money to buy their home.

The most popular phrase is “it’s good enough.” But “good enough” for who? Homebuyers today are picky. Fueled by social media, online resources and cable television home improvement shows, many homebuyers today are more educated on the recent trends in design and often homebuyers have visions of moving into a magazine picture home. Homebuyers expect a lot and that raises the bar for people selling a home.

Whether homebuyers should expect this level or what level they should expect will be dictated by their budget, their information and the marketplace available to them. But most certainly, it is NOT dictated by the person selling a home.

In every other buying decision, if buyers are not satisfied, there is another store, restaurant or car dealer that is available to suit their needs. Selling a home is no different. With some marketplace exceptions, if they don’t like your home, homebuyers will continue to look. That is a missed opportunity for anyone selling a home.

It is also interesting how when the same person selling a home gets a new home and employs many of today’s design trends and upgrades. So “good enough” means good enough for someone else only?

You are selling a home. A product. As difficult as it seems, emotion must come out of it. This is not your home. You are now a retailer, selling a product. If you want to sell, you need to know what your target market wants and give it to homebuyers, or be ready to stay on the market for a longer time, or drastically cut the price.

Remember, when selling a home your competition can be brand new homes, investor rehabbed homes and everyone else in your area. You need to consult with your Realtor to decide what is within your budget to do and what will have the most impact on homebuyers and return. Every dollar must count. Here are the top things you can do to make the most impact on homebuyers, some with little to no money.

1. Paint warm, neutral or decorator colors. Not white or cream or beige, but neutral or decorative but not too dark colors. Many homebuyers don’t want to do any work, least of all paint, but if you have a palette they feel comfortable in, you will get a faster sale and more money.

2. Out with the old. Get rid of the wallpaper, paneling, old curtains, gold light and plumbing fixtures, door and cabinet handles, etc. Can be reasonable to change out – even do yourself. Anything that dates a house other than today is subject to homebuyers like or dislike. Change out whatever you can. Even curtains and bedspreads. The bedspreads may not come with the house, but the more homebuyers can see themselves living in the home, the better off you are.

3. Clean. Clean tubs and showers, sinks and counters, carpets tile grout lines, appliances. No cobwebs or dust. Make everything shine like new.

4. Declutter. And reduce, put away or store (elsewhere) collections, too many personal pictures, additional furniture, and too many personal possessions. Keep everything lean so homebuyers can see themselves living in the home, not feel like they are intruding on your home.

5. Kitchens, baths have the biggest impact. Glass decorative tile backsplash, new flooring, new appliances. New and updated are what they are looking for. Consider your budget, but that will give the most impact when selling a home.

“Good enough” may be good for you in this home at this time, but ask yourself is it “good enough” for a homebuyer to buy.

What should I do to sell my home? Top Home buyer turn offs

2123cedar_020 smAfter getting rid of clutter, the second thing most sellers ask their Realtor when selling a home is what do I need to do to make my house more appealing to buyers and sell my home quicker and for more money? There are variations in the rules, but here are the top things buyers do not like to see when selling a home.

Here are a few don’ts for selling a home and some quick and inexpensive fixes that will likely appeal to the range of buyers.

Paneling….Other than traveling through time back to the 70’s – no one wants to see paneling. It sets a certain idea of (grandma’s house) or the past into buyer’s minds. You can remove it, but depending on the listing price of selling your home, you may want to go with the alternative. Paint it a rich neutral color. Carmels and Camels are usually the best. Or you can choose a bolder trendy color. Check the paint store websites for those – they can help.

Wallpaper….Yesterday’s treasure is today’s trash. Lately, everyone loves to hate wallpaper. Mostly it is the work it takes to get wallpaper off. Sometimes on an accent wall (one wall in a room) it can be appealing. But the rule of thumb is get rid of it to sell your home!!!

Polished Brass…You know what brass rhymes with…. GOLD IS OLD. It is dated, no one wants it. Light fixtures, cabinet handles, plumbing fixtures (faucets), door knobs and handles can be easy even DYI fixes and can reap rewards. Bronze and nickel are the in style if you want your home to sell.

Peeling paint on outside…many loans will require it be fixed anyway, as will any municipalities who do inspections. Unless it is winter or cold – scrape and paint it. A little elbow grease will pay off in the end. And speaking of DYI, clean lines and corners and non streaky or globs in the paint inside and out is always preferable. A sloppy paint job is a turn off and can prevent selling your home.

Old, stained or Worn Carpeting…if your carpeting ever saw any disco dancing, put it out of its misery. Near the holidays at the end of the year, discounts on carpeting and installation are often available. If you can’t replace, then by all means – have it professionally steam cleaned.

Older cabinets, especially laminate cabinets…are a big turn off. There are a lot of alternatives to new cabinetry. There are great refinishers out there even for laminate cabinets. Or if your only crime is honey oak cabinets, sometimes having a professional painter glaze them is a quick and trendy fix. Even the right tile backsplash can neutralize an outdated cabinet finish.

Over grown exterior. Most of the time this is the easiest of all. Get rid of the gnomes and personal signs or funny sayings or scale way back. There is a fine line between cute and really? But mostly, trim everything back, so people can see the house not the bushes. Plant some flowers or get some inexpensive flower boxes for extra appeal.

Repairs…get out the honey do list and make sure you check every item complete. Outlet covers, loose closet doors or handles, drawers that don’t open, cabinets that don’t close. Don’t give buyers a reason to imagine what else is wrong – you want to sell your home.

DIRTY MESSY HOUSE… The worst offender. I once had a seller who refused to pick up his underwear for showings. Talk about a turn off. No excuse. Clean is King and dust dirt and grime will have them running out the door. Before putting on the market, if cleaning is not your bag, pop for a one time cleaning lady to get you started. Then all you have to do is maintain.

Remember, you want your home to sell and it must be appealing to buyers. You also want the condition and appeal of the home to equal the asking price for selling your home. Let’s face it, Pinterest and HGTV have spoiled everyone. Buyers want HGTV houses when buying a home. But you need to be cautious. Too many upgrades may not get you the price you want. But too few upgrades may not get you any buyers and will not sell your home. You need to consult your Realtor to know your market and what you home will appraise at and be valued by buyers so you know how much to do. If all else fails remember – kitchens and baths sell your home.

Selling Your Home? How to get ready to sell with less stress

I hear it all the time. When selling your home has become the plan, the first emotion is usually panic. What do we need to do to get ready to sell….and mostly….how are we going to get rid of all of our stuff.

Late Comedian George Carlin had a routine in the 70’s about how we accumulate so much stuff and then we need a bigger place to store the stuff. We are all guilty and frankly for some people it is even more difficult to part with things. But when selling a home, clutter means no sale or less sale, so it must be done.

It’s true, the range of buyer emotions when faced with too much clutter in a home is multi-faceted. Some buyers see the clutter in the home, closets, garage, basement, etc. and perceive that there is no storage in the home. Some buyers even express concern as to if the seller is going to be able to get everything out and if they will leave things behind. Some clutter adds too much personality of the seller into the home, like collections and themed possessions so the buyer has a difficult time separating the seller from the home and picturing themselves living there. But the majority of the damage clutter does is it make the home seem small and that means no sale or less price to the seller.

Selling a home, you must show the house in its best appearance possible. Remember, when you are selling a home, you need to present the fantasy of living there for the buyer. Tons of floor space, tons of closet space and storage. To parallel with retail, you would never see a storefront display or a Macy’s picture window that shows someone surrounded by magazines, newspapers, too many books, too many small appliances….and the list goes on. When selling your home, you must put your best foot forward.

Most sellers know this on some level, but the mammoth task ahead is just too much. When you learned to walk, you took one step at a time. And so does this. Here are a few steps and a plan that makes this easy. One step, then another and soon you are done. And you DO NEED to do all of this before you go on the market. First impressions are nearly impossible to undo. Make the right impression with buyers the first time.

Step 1 – Identify the problem areas…Your closets, your basement, your garage, your rooms. Go through each room with a very critical and keen eye and identify the things that are cluttering up your home. I tell my sellers to get rid of 20-30% of what is in all these areas. If you can’t do this yourself, ask your Realtor, friend or family member to help you with fresh eyes. BUT…remember. You need to hear their comments. If they think it, a buyer will too.

Step 2 – Formulate a plan. You need to figure out how you are going to get things out and where you are going to put them. You can hire stay at home moms, college kids, and high school kids in your area to help with odd tasks and heavy lifting, or get family and friends to help, but you do need to be a part of the equation. You need to have a measure for everything you look at like…if I haven’t worn or used it in a year, then it goes. Or two years, etc. You need to be brutual with yourself – why am I keeping this? Why do I need or want this? Remember, you have to pack it, store it, unpack it and pay for someone to move it. The last thing you want is to get into your new place and not have room for something or not want it anymore. Make that decision now. Once you make the hard decisions the first time, the next time it gets easier.

Step 3 – Where will it all go? This doesn’t have to be done in days or a weekend – you can do it in stages. I encourage you to put yourself on some charity routes. Give yourself 2-4 weeks. Stick with a schedule. Each few days or week have a different charity come to your house and give them something. You will be motivated to have something ready for them and it will keep you on schedule. Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, Amvets, Vietnam Vets, Salvation Army… the list goes on. Most have websites and you can even schedule pickups on the website and they will tell you what they accept. Usually clothes, household goods, etc. Or just make a few trips to your local Goodwill. I like the pick ups because it forces you to stick to a schedule.

You can, of course, store the items in a Pod or storage unit. Remember, storage units cost money and you really need to decide if your things are worth it. Pod is part of your moving, but don’t store the pod at your home, either pay them to store it or put it elsewhere. It will not look good to buyers to have that in the drive. Too Distracting.

Someone once said that the best way to tackle a big project is just whittle away at it one step at a time…soon you will find you are done.

Sellers – Don’t underestimate upgrades to Selling

When selling a house, don’t underestimate the value of upgrades to a home. It is always a big question, do you upgrade your home prior to sale or just sell as is? Here is a tale of three homes. Just like Goldilocks, my buyer found which one was just right – but why is what all sellers want to know.

Even though all buyers have different tastes, a prevailing idea is the less work and more upgrades, the more people will spend and the fastest it will sell. I recently saw three identical homes in the same neighborhood with a buyer client. Same floor plan. All three homes were clean and well-kept.

House 1 was move in ready. It had warm updated colors on the walls, nice furniture, updated light fixtures, hardwood floors, stainless appliances, tile backsplash, nice blinds, nice carpeting and tile. Lovely decorations.

House 2 was not move in ready, but offered a blank slate. Everything was neutral, but colors were warm. Cabinets, counters, carpeting, tile. Basic, but buyers could easily add new tile, backsplash, nice colors and make this home their own. There was sparse furniture in the home, basic college level stuff – no décor.

House 3 was dated. Furniture was dated. Lace curtains and collectibles everywhere. Colors were pastel (pepto bismol pink) on the carpeting, tile and cabinets were white and neutral, as were the appliances. Mirrors on the walls. Lighting was minimal and dated (polished brass). However, house 3 was slightly larger and had several features like a water view, fireplace and walk out basement.

Buyer reaction to House 1 was pure excitement. They loved everything. They wouldn’t have to change anything to live there, just move their things in. They loved the colors, the décor, the upgrades…everything. And even though the furniture and decorations where not staying, they loved it.

Buyer reaction to House 2 was ok. They were not in love but said it was not bad. They saw the potential of the home and how with a little effort, it could be something. House 2 was significantly lower in price.

Buyer reaction to House 3 was nothing but negative. They spent much less time in the home and hated everything. All they could see was how much work would be involved and were distracted by the amount of work would have to be done to get it to their taste. House 3 and 1 were the same price.

House 1 and 3 were identical in price. House 2 was $25k less. From a pure numbers point of view, House 1 and 2 would have been the same price. House 3 would have been more. So because house 1 is more appealing, it will get a higher price. House 2 will get the next best price. And House 3 will get the lowest price and take the longest to sell.

Sellers need to remember one thing. 10k in purchase price is equal to $50 per month in purchase price. So if a home is $20k more and needs no work, it only costs $100 more per month. The alternative is a renovation loan, which are sometimes hard to get, or $20k on credit cards, which a lot of people don’t want to do.

So, the answer to this seemingly fairytale story is that House 1 fits just right, will sell faster and for more – maybe even multiple offers (which actually happened). The question is does your home appeal to buyers? Are you House 1, house 2 or house 3?

Things to Ask Before Listing Your Home for Sale

I don’t really know what I should get or expect from a listing agent? This is a common question asked by many sellers trying to navigate through the sea of potential realtors. I would consider truth, honesty, marketing technique, communication, service and price the major factors which separate a good listing agent and just a listing agent. I would interview 2-3 agents. But you should know what to ask. Just like Penn and Teller like to reveal magician secrets, here are a list of questions you can ask and things you should consider when you interview potential realtors to sell your homes.

Does your brokerage charge administrative costs or transaction fees to the selling broker or deduct from their commission?
It has become common practice among the bigger brokerages that transaction or administrative fees charged by the brokerage are passed on to the selling agent, reducing their commission. While a selling agent should not skip or downplay your home to a potential buyer because they are getting less commission or reductions in commission, let’s be frank – it happens. But the bigger question is, does this affect your homes marketability to other agents. If commission is a factor, it may. Why should the buyer’s agent pay for this fee when it does nothing for them and why should the seller and their home be penalized by this?

What changes should I make to the home? Repairs, updates, clutter clearing, etc. all translate into a faster sale or more price to you. It is a numbers game. No one wants to do anything to a house they are selling or put any money in. It may or may not be necessary. BUT don’t penalize the broker who comes in and tells you the truth and gives you good advice about your home. Whether you do it or not is up to you. Think of it this way…Put yourself in the buyers shoes. Would you want changes, upgrades?

What are the selling costs? Brokers can give you a round number and idea to get you in the ballpark, but they are estimates. Title companies charge fees, attorneys, those are unknown to brokers. But this is important to let you know what you need to know to list the home and come up with the bottom line you want. Again, don’t make this a standard for the broker. “This one said our costs will be less….” Is this one telling you the truth?

What do you think I can sell for? Any broker should be able to tell you what the comparable market is and to back up what they say with statistics. The MLS can show what recent comparable homes were and what you can expect. Homes with loans must appraise out to close. Your house is only worth as much as the comparable homes sold in the last 6 months, regardless of what anyone thinks. Ask to see the numbers to ensure you are getting the truth. Then you can make your decision.

Does it matter if they are with a franchise or a big brokerage? Well, the answer to that is, what can they do for you because they are with a big brokerage? Does it matter to the buyer who sells your home? If you were a buyer, would it matter to you whose sign is in the front yard? Most buyers care about price and the home, not labels.

How are you going to get buyers? The internet is the best marketing tool for homes for sale. But there are varieties in how they are marketed. A potential listing agent should be able to tell you how they will market it and attract buyers – not just “on the internet”.

Accountability/Communication – How often do you talk to your clients? Do you provide any feedback and reporting on your efforts? A broker should communicate at least one-two times per week and should be accountable to you on what they are doing to sell your home. Are you talking to them or to an assistant? However, you need to be fair. Some buyer’s brokers do give feedback after showings and some do not. Feedback is important to tell you what buyer’s think, but no offer commonly means they either were not interested or liked another home more.

What will you charge? There is no set rate for what to pay a listing agent. What you pay a buyer’s agent can affect your ability to get showings. A broker can give you recommendations on what to pay the buyer’s broker and can tell you what they and their brokerage will charge you to sell. What you pay out will affect your bottom line. They should be able to explain their fees to you. Remember, each agent or brokerage can charge what they want, but, by law, there is no industry standard for what to pay the listing agent.

But beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. One of the biggest mistakes I hear from sellers after the fact is that their agent said all the right things, which means things they wanted to hear, when they listed it and then… as soon as a month or so went by and no contracts, it was all about….price reductions and making changes to the home. And often the seller says why didn’t they tell me that to begin with. One reason….if they told you the truth, you would have listed with some one else who told you what you wanted to hear.

Don’t waste time on someone who does not tell you the truth from the beginning. You do not want a yes man or woman to sell you at the beginning and then switch later. The measure of a good agent is what they will do for you, how they will treat you and potential buyers and their agents, and their qualify of truth and honesty.

As brokers and Realtors, the market tells us, we don’t tell the market. The best we can do is market the homes, give could service and charge a fair price. Any thing other than that is hocus pocus, now you see it, now you don’t.