“Experience does matter, and in this economic and very competitive environment it’s important to choose a Realtor with the highest standards”
I’ve learned over my years in real estate and in life for that matter that homes, locations, aesthetics and such are so much a matter of personal preference. As a potential Seller, it’s important not to try to make your listings be all things to all people – but you do want it to appeal to the majority of qualified buyers out there. And, some complaints are predictable and avoidable for that matter. The most common complaints from buyers are:
- Odors. When a buyer comes to see your listing, they don’t turn off the rest of their senses. And there is nothing that can turn a buyer off quicker than a powerfully bad odor. This includes cigarette and pet odors, mildew or the smell of strong cooking spices or oils — it’s one of the tougher parts of my job as an agent to point out bad smells and odors, no matter how uncomfortable this conversation can be with Sellers.
- Extreme overpricing. I’m not referring to the kind of overpricing that makes a buyer say, “seems to be a bit high.” Then there’s the kind of overpricing that makes a buyer say “I’ll wait until a price reduction” or worse “this Seller is out of touch with reality.” When overpricing is glaring, many buyers and buyer’s brokers will comment on it or inquire about it. Homes that are severely overpriced simply don’t sell, or not until they’ve had some serious price cuts. The goal for any Seller is to price your home “right” so that your home stands out as a property that presents a good value for the money – that’s what motivates buyers to come and see your home. Smart sellers see beyond their emotional attachment and tendency to overvalue their properties and concentrate on the real and recent sales prices (not list prices) of similar, nearby homes that have recently sold.
- Dirt and mess. Maybe the single largest source of buyer complaints are the dirt, mess, “clutter” and piles of personal belongings that buyers find so distracting when they walk into a home. What is underestimated is how often even savvy home buyers are distracted (and disgusted) by relatively clean homes that just have a few outstanding messes, like piles of dirty dishes in the sink, piles of dog dirt in the yard or even piles of clothes lying out in plain view. As I see it, cleaning up, meticulously, before every single showing is free – so it makes no sense to even run the risk of turning off a prospective buyer by letting messes get in the way of a good showing.
- Lots of little but obvious malfunctions. All the non-cosmetic work that’s been done to maintain and improve your home is fantastic and should be highlighted by your agent in home marketing materials. But here’s the thing, serious buyers won’t be running the dishwasher or testing the furnace themselves. What they will do is flick light and fan switches; open or close window coverings, closet, room and entry doors; open and close drawers, cupboards, gates and fences hold the handrails as they walk up and down the stairs; listen for leaky faucets and point out water spots; notice (or potentially trip on) uneven exterior walkways and paths. And when they notice a bunch of these sorts of things in a single property, they assume the house is a lemon. More serious is the suspicion about the things they can’t see!
Since most of these fixes and showing preparations are inexpensive to make, I advise sellers to complete them before listing, if at all possible. I offer homeowners a good handyperson reference who will work efficiently and quickly. Remember – these are complaints I hear every day. Don’t waste weeks or months trying to sell a house that needs these simple and inexpensive “adjustments.” These complaints are avoidable and in this competitive market you always want to position your home in the best condition possible before marketing begins.
Perhaps the best indicator for the future of our real estate market is Warren Buffett, the best known American investor (Berkshire Hathaway) who has bought up real-estate brokerages around the country. Now, he is even partnering with a Canadian real-estate investor, to more than double the size of his investments in the brokerage business. Berkshire’s managers have positioned the firm to benefit, as the U.S. home market recovers. The Omaha, Nebraska-based company has bought a brick maker, purchased the loan portfolio of a bankrupt mortgage lender, and agreed to acquire real-estate brokerages in states including Oregon and Connecticut. This is a great SIGN that one of our country’s most successful investors and wealthiest people is BETTING on a strong real estate market.
Now that the election is over — my job just got easier, as doubt is the greatest cause of inaction. With initial commitments from President Obama and Congress to focus on continued economic growth and stabilizing the housing market, I remain optimistic. I am happy about the end of a very contentious election, and I predict that real estate will continue to be a bumpy ride for a while, but we are on the road to recovery. I am ready to arm myself and my clients with real data, and the tools necessary to have “the best real estate transactions ever.” Here are the issues I will be thinking about and preparing for in the near future. Mortgage Rates: So far, Secretary Geithner and Fed Chief Bernanke have worked closely together to carry out very accommodating housing policies. Hopefully their replacements when they are made, will be equally committed; While the Fed has a lot of power, the bond markets are more powerful. International bond buyers, particularly in China, can wreak a lot of havoc on mortgage rates if they don’t believe the U.S. will get their fiscal house in order. There is no time to waste. We must keep the pressure on Congress to work toward a fiscal compromise. As concerned citizens AND Realtors, we should be pressing Congress to come to the table and support a sound plan to strengthen our economy and create more jobs; The tremendous mortgage subsidies that are now in place, from low rates thanks to the Fed to low down payments thanks to FHA, will continue. I also believe we will eventually see lending rules that are reasonable, with disincentives to create those dreaded “ticking time-bomb” mortgage programs of the past. Once we set the rules, the private mortgage market will come back; We know that we are headed in the right direction and we must demand more cooperation in Washington to keep us on the right path; Americans believe that job growth is the most important reason for a healthy housing market. More jobs=more demand for housing. These are bipartisan goals, and I look forward to supporting any plans that help to strengthen our economy and create jobs — if we can do that, housing will have a bright and strong future.
The key to buying a home in today’s market is having the funds and financial stability needed. Most financial planners & experts on the economy talk about the benefits of homeownership, but also stress the importance of being financially ready to buy. These days it is wise to think about the 10-20% RULE. Don’t buy a house without the ability of having 10% to 20% for your downpayment. While buying a home is a great investment, if you do not have at least this amount to put down on the home loan — then you can’t afford the home! If this is the case, it’s TIME TO SAVE. Many people spend every dollar that they make each month. Instead of saving 10, 20, or even 30 % of their monthly income like they should, they make minimum payments on credit cards and other loans. Many people spend way beyond their means and slip further into debt with each extra purchase.
So – here are a few simple tips to get started with your plan to reduce debt and save money for your goal to buy a home:
- Start by working out a budget. Collect the “real” numbers on your spending. See how much you are truly spending on eating out, entertainment, buying extra household items, clothes, and all those little extras that add up. This goes double for cash purchases. Be sure to keep every single receipt.
- Now that you have real numbers, come up with a new budget. Set aside money for all of the necessities first (rent, mortgage, car payment, food, medical, etc).
- Cut out what it really unnecessary — perhaps you can change your cable plan, save on your phone bill, eat in more often, minimize you driving by car pooling, entertain at home and pool your entertainment budget with friends.
- Once you’ve cut out the unnecessary and refocused your spending, it’s time to put your extra funds into a savings account. If really motivated – set up an automatic transfer each month that will help keep you on track with your savings goal.
- When you go shopping, including the grocery store, always take a list. This will help reduce impulse shopping. Only buy items that you truly need. Give bigger purchases (electronics or that new flat screen TV some time and thought.
- Ultimately, learning to save is about learning to follow your own instincts and using common sense. If your head says you are making an impulse buy, STOP and wait a few days. Just keep your eye on your goals.
- Use the right boxes, and pack them carefully. Professional moving companies use only sturdy, reinforced cartons. The boxes you can get at your neighborhood supermarket or liquor store might be free, but they are not nearly as strong or padded, and so can’t shield your valuables as well from harm in transit. Use sheets, blankets, pillows and towels to separate pictures and other fragile objects from each other and the sides of the carton. Pack plates and glass objects vertically, and not flat or stacked.
- Be sure to point out to your mover the boxes in which you’ve packed fragile items, especially if those items are exceptionally valuable. The heavier the item, the smaller the box it should occupy. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t lift the carton easily, it’s too heavy. Label your boxes, especially the one containing sheets and towels, everything you need the first night in your new home.
- For your family’s safety and comfort teach your children your new address.
- Lighten your load & reduce any storage space you need to rent by hosting a garage or yard sale before you pack. Better yet, ask your Realtor to sponsor a neighborhood garage sale for you!
- Fill two “OPEN ME FIRST” cartons containing snacks, instant coffee or tea bags, soap, toilet paper, toothpaste and brushes, medicine and bath items, flashlight, screwdriver, pliers, can opener, paper plates, cups and utensils, a pan or two, paper towels, and any other items your family can’t do without. Ask your moving foreman to load one of these boxes last, so that it will be unloaded at your new home first. In case the movers are delayed getting to your house on the day of the move, transport the second “Open Me First” box yourself.
- Keep your pets away from all the activity on moving day; find a reliable pet sitter – you will both be happy you did!
- Since you may need to call old neighbors or businesses, pack your phone book.
- Work hand in hand with your mover; give the mover’s foreman your reach numbers and email addresses so you can stay in contact.
- Read the inventory form carefully, and ask the mover to explain anything you don’t understand. Make a note of your shipment’s registration number, and keep your Bill of Lading handy. If you’re moving long distance, be aware that your property might share a truck with that of several other households. For this reason, your mover might have to warehouse your furniture and belongings for several days. Ask your mover whether your things will remain on the truck until delivered. If they are to be stored, ask if you can check the warehouse for security and cleanliness.