Is Your Home Ready to Sell?

You waited all winter to sell your home just in time to move during the summer.  You put in the extra work to make your house stand out from all the rest on the market, right?  No matter where you are in the process, review the list below to help you determine what buyers really want and do not want in their future home.

The top three must-haves:

1.  Curb Appeal:  You only get one chance to make a first impression.  Your home should sell to the buyer from the curb.   Buyers should be so impressed that they want to leap out of the car and run inside.

How do you create curb appeal? Show attention to detail.  Your home has to be prettier, cleaner and in better condition than its neighbors.  Start with sweeping the drive, walkways and porch or entry of dirt and debris.  Get rid of leggy bushes, wilted flowers and broken tree limbs and plant fresh flowers in the front garden.  Power-wash the exterior and hand wash the windows and touch up paint around the windows, if needed.  I have trusted tradesmen who can do these things for you, if you prefer.  Replace the door hardware and porch sconces.

2.  Space: The number one reason why people buy homes is to have more room.  Whether they are moving from an apartment or moving up from the home they have, they want to have plenty of space.

If you have a large home, you are golden, but that does not mean you have it made.  You can ruin a buyer’s first impression with too much clutter, so make sure to keep your home picked up so your buyer can see your home’s features clearly and easily.

What if you do not have a lot of space?  Plan to do some storing and staging.  Rent a storage unit and put away all out-of-season clothes, toys, home decorations and accessories.  Clean off all tables and counter tops so you have only the minimum of things you need to operate your home.  Empty closets of anything that is stored and move it to the storage unit.  The small expense you will pay in storage fees you will more than make back from a good offer to purchase your home.

3.  Updates: First-time buyers and single people tend to buy older homes because they are more affordable than buying new.  So unless the buyer is a building contractor, chances are he will want a home that is as updated as possible.

Concentrate on the kitchen and bathrooms.  Replace the most dated features such as counter tops, cabinet pulls and appliances.  Bathrooms are so personal that they can easily turn buyers off.  Invest in new towels and bathmats  (use your old ones and replace them with the new ones when you have an appointment to view your home or for an open house).  Throw out slimy soaps and limp ragged bath sponges.  Replace with liquid shower and bath products.  You can take all the newly purchased items to your next home.

Painting is expected by buyers, but do not repaint the same colors that you chose ten years ago.  Pick an updated neutral like a warm gray instead of beige.  Be sure to choose a color that will complement the architecture and flooring in your home.

The typical home purchased in 2013 had 1860 square feet of living space and was built in 1996, so home buyers are not expecting your home to be a mansion, nor do they expect it to be new, but they do expect to see pride of ownership.  The more updates and repairs that you perform, the more confident the buyers will be that they are choosing the right home.

The top five have-nots:

Make sure your home is free and clear of the following items (instant turn-offs).

1.  Overpricing your home: If you have listed your home at a higher price than recommended you will get negative feedback from buyers.  The worst feedback is silence that could include no showings and no offers.  The problem with overpricing your home is that the buyers who are qualified to buy your home will not see it because they are shopping in a lower price range.  The buyers who do see your home will quickly realize that there are other homes in the same price range that offer more value.

2.  Smells: Smells can come from a number of sources-pets, lack of cleanliness, stale air, water damage and much more.  You may not even notice it, but your agent may tell you something has to be done.  There is not a buyer in the world who will buy a home that smells unless they are investors looking for a bargain.

3. Clutter:  If your tables are full to the edges with photos, figurines, mail and drinking glasses, buyers’ attention is going to be more focused on breezing through your living room without breaking any glass figurines than in considering your home for purchase.  Too much furniture confuses the eye and makes it really difficult for buyers to see the proportions of the rooms.  If they can not see what they need to know, they move on to the next home.

4.  Deferred maintenance:  Deferred maintenance is a polite euphemism for letting your home fall apart.  Just like people age due to the effects of the sun, wind and gravity, so do structures like your home.  Things wear out, break and weather and it is your job as a homeowner to keep your home repaired.  Buyers really want a home that has been well-maintained.  They do not want to wonder what needs to be fixed next or how much it will cost.

5.  Dated Decor:  People want your neighborhood, but that does not mean they want a dated-looking home.  Just like they want a home in good repair, they want a home that looks updated, even if it is from a different era.

Though I am in the business of selling houses, I know it is no easy task to move.  You will receive daily calls from agents to show your home, you will be asked to leave your home during open houses; you will really have to “put your life on hold” until it is sold.  The objective should be to limit the marketing time by making sure your home is the best it can be.

How the Real Estate Business Works

I was recently working with a prospect who was looking for a lease property and that experience is what has prompted me to write this post.  I met this person and showed her some homes.  I had mentioned to her that the homes she was finding on other web sites came from our Multiple Listing Service and I would be able to show those properties.  She notified me about homes she found on one of the sites but when I looked them up, they were not listed.  I told her she would have to contact the owner or agent direct and I was kicking myself because I did not explain to her how our business works.

The Multiple Listing Service is not just a list of homes on the market.  When a property is listed for sale or lease, that listing agent is offering compensation to the cooperating agent.  If the commission is 6% the compensation to the cooperating agent is usually 3%.  If a property is not listed we cooperating agents are not entitled to a commission; therefore, we may be working for nothing, which, of course, agents cannot afford to do.

We have the capability of putting prospects on an auto-e-mail program that will notify them when new listings come on the market.  A person’s finding just the right property, I believe, is contingent upon working with an agent he trusts to keep him apprised of new or price-changed listings and to be there to show him the property.  That buyer’s agent will be working just for that buyer.  Look for an agent who is not only responsive, but also a good negotiator who is up on the latest legal requirements for real estate transactions cialis 20mg en ligne.  Ask the agent for recommendations from other satisfied buyers.  A listing agent who represents you as a buyer may have a conflict of interest, as he is also representing the seller.  Be sure to ask how he will handle the situation.  He will have to ask himself over and over, “Is this in the seller’s best interest; is this fair to the buyer?”

Good luck with your real estate purchase. and be sure to contact me if you need assistance.

Countdown to Home Buying

The market is improving; inventory is low.  Check this countdown list to make sure you are ready to purchase:

1.  Get Pre-approved.  You are pre-approved when your credit has been checked and confirmed and your income, assets and employment history have been verified.  Be careful; some so-called pre-approvals are not worth the paper they are written on.  I have received “pre-approval” letters from lenders and submitted them with offers to purchase only to find out later that the buyer was not able to obtain a loan.  Sometimes it is advantageous to work with loan officers at the bank with which you do business, as they have a vested interest in your continuing to do business with them.

2.  Temper your expectations.  Listing inventory in the Palos Verdes area and the entire South Bay is only 50% of what it was last year.  This means that if you want to stick to any sort of budget, you are not likely going to get everything you want or you will have to be patient.  Have a clear understanding of your needs, wants and wishes, so you will take action when the right home becomes available.

3.  Be ready to compete.  Unless you are willing to purchase a home an outlying area or in need of a lot of repairs, prepare yourself to make multiple offers and compete with other buyers in the market.

4.  Be prepared to act quickly.  When you find the home of your dreams, you need to be ready to rush to get it.  If you do not act quickly and start making preparations right away, you may find yourself left out in the cold when it comes time for your offer to be accepted.

5.  Watch your behavior at open houses.  Everything you do and say when in front of the listing agent (seller’s agent) or his representative will inevitably be shared with the seller and may come back to haunt you when your make an offer the purchase the home.  Both being too excited about the home or nit-picking the condition of the home can put you at a disadvantage at the negotiating table.

6.  Call your real estate agent.  Actually, this step should be first.  Contact me at 310-995-3754 or Katie@katiemuck.com as soon as you would like to begin the process!

Six Paths to Success for Buyers in Tight Markets

In low-inventory markets, some buyers are having a hard time finding a home to buy. There are steps you can take to improve your odds of finding a home at a time when interest rates are at record lows and affordability is high.

One approach is to broaden your search. You should be clear about what it is you want to buy. But, homebuying involves making compromises. Just make sure you don’t give in on the essentials. You need a home that will last you for the long term. Avoid listings with major defects that will be expensive or impossible to fix.

The sorts of features you should be willing to give up, if necessary, are house style, or a large yard, which can be a maintenance drain. If you’re having no luck buying in your first-choice neighborhood, check out the adjacent areas. These could be the next turn-around neighborhoods when the overall housing market improves.

You could also do an about-face and consider condos rather than single-family homes. This might have the advantage of shortening your commute to work.

Ask your agent to cull the inventory of expired, withdrawn, and canceled listings that didn’t sell in the last year or two. These may not have sold because they were priced too high. If the sellers are still interested in selling, and aren’t locked into a lease, you might be able to work out a mutually acceptable price.

Be open to making improvements rather than holding out for a home that’s in move-in condition. Major fixers will probably be snapped up by investors to rehab and resell at a profit. This is a competitive market and not one for novice homebuyers.

However, if a listing isn’t receiving attention because of its dated décor, this could work if you intend to live in the property and not try to flip it for a profit. Be sure to work with an agent who has experience with cosmetic renovations, or consult with a decorator.

You’d be surprised what updated plumbing and light fixtures, new paint, floor finishes, appliances and improving the outdoor living can do to turn a dowdy listing into a comfortable abode. Just make sure you don’t tackle too much. You don’t want to over-improve for the neighborhood, and structural issues are taboo.

Don’t exhaust yourself by bidding on a house you can’t get. A home was recently listed for $985,000. Seventeen buyers made offers. It sold for $1.2 million. Underpriced listings are often bid up in a low-inventory market. Wait to make an offer until you find a listing that’s priced within your affordability range.

Don’t be afraid of accepting a backup offer if your bid isn’t accepted. The transaction fallout rate is pretty high in this market. Keep looking for another listing while you’re waiting to see if the first deal goes through.

All-cash offers tend to win in multiple-offer competitions. To be competitive, try to put yourself in a position to pay all cash. If you have savings you can tap and you can secure a private temporary loan from parents or borrow from a 401(k), you might be able to make a cash offer.

If your parents are providing some of the financing, ask them to write a letter that you can provide to the sellers that confirms your source of funds. This should be accompanied with documentation of the parents’ funds. You can refinance into a conventional mortgage later.

THE CLOSING: If the market where you’re looking is too hot, you can take the watch-and-wait approach. The market is always changing. When inventories increase, there will be more opportunities for buyers.

Go Ahead; Make the Offer

The inventory of homes on the market in the Palos Verdes  is only 40% of the inventory last year; therefore, some homes are getting multiple offers at present. If you find a home you like, make an offer.  My listing partner and I recently put a very desirable home on the market and held it open to the public the Sunday after we took the listing.  We did not advertise in the newspapers, but we put out ten lead-in signs.  We opened at 1PM and planned to close at 5PM.  We had so many people viewing the home that we did not close until 6:30 PM; definitely one of the best open houses ever.  One couple came through and said they wanted to submit an offer through their agent.  They said the house was over priced and asked me what they should offer.  I told them to talk to their agent, as I represent the seller.  Their agent called me and said they might make a low offer or simply wait until the price came down.  I told the agent, “That won’t happen with this property.  It will be sold by the end of the week.”  Another couple came through who really liked the home.  The wife is an agent and I told her not to wait and to make the best offer they could because there were other people interested in the house.  They wrote a good offer and the house sold for near the asking price.  The couple who were waiting for the price to come down were very disappointed and their agent called me urging me to let him know if anything went awry with the accepted offer.  Again, if you find a home you love, make the offer.

I had another listing recently where a prospective buyer asked me to find out what the sellers’ bottom line was because he did not want to go back and forth with offers and counter offers.  I got the sellers’ bottom line and relayed it to the buyer, but he continued to dally.  Another offer came in and I called the dallier.  The bottom line is that he ended up paying a hefty sum more for the home than he would have had he made the offer before another offer came in.

I know that there is still a lot of fear about paying too much for a home in today’s market, but remember that a home is more than just an investment.   Your home is where you will live and not just any home will do. When you find the home that you love, make an offer.

 

Making That Offer on Your Dream Home

You have been looking at homes for a few months now and you believe you have found your dream home.  The asking price is $850,000; how much should you offer?  Here are a few tips about handling that offer:

  • Because you have seen a number of homes, compare the homes you have seen with this one and you will probably have a good idea if the asking price is in the right range.  Your Realtor should be able to provide you with a list of comparable homes that have sold within the last six months and you can derive the list price to sales price percentage.
  • Write the offer to be accepted, not to get a counter offer.  If you are aware of the listed prices and the sales prices, make an offer that is reasonable…one that will make the seller wonder if you will go away if he does not sign it.  If you are within 10% of the asking price, you will have a good chance of coming to terms in today’s market.  In brisker markets we need to be within 5% of the asking price.  If the property is offered below market value, you may consider going over the asking price.  It has been my experience that “low-ball” offers are rarely successful.  Most likely, the owner will either not respond at all or will counter back at full price or will come down only a little bit.  One time I presented a low offer on an investment property.  The owner said, “Get out of my house!”  Needless to say, that deal did not go through.  Because an owner is often insulted by such offers, they are seldom made.  Also, instead of writing an offer of $800,000 for a home priced at $850,000, consider writing it for $815,500; at a glance it is not so obvious how far off the price is and your offer has 5’s in it, just like the asking price.  Ask your agent to find out which title, escrow, and termite companies are acceptable to the seller so you won’t receive a counter offer just spelling out the services to be used.
  • Ask your Realtor not to give too much advance notice to the listing agent that you will be writing an offer.  Because the listing agent represents the seller, he will want to get the highest price for his client.  Nine times out of ten he will be on the phone calling everyone who has shown an interest in the property to get a bidding war going and before you know it there is another offer on your dream home.
  • Ask your Realtor to present the offer in person to the seller and seller’s agent, if at all possible.  The reasons that personal presentations are more successful are:  1.  Your agent will be able to tell the seller all about you and your family and your qualifications and  2.  Your agent will be able to read the seller’s “body language,” which is key to successful negotiations.  3.  Your agent will be more likely to walk away from the table with an acceptance or counter offer.  One time I was presenting an offer to a listing agent because the Seller was out of town.  There was another offer to be presented after mine.  The agent told me what the seller’s terms were and they included price, closing date and amount of the earnest money deposit.  She went on to say that a counter offer would be issued the following morning.   Because I knew what the Seller would require, I went over to the buyer’s house (it was probably after 10 PM) and we re-wrote the offer per the seller’s terms and submitted it to the listing agent.  If we had waited for the counter offer, we would have been competing with the other buyer, but because our offer was exactly what the owner wanted, he signed it without countering back to the other buyer.
  • Be sure your offer is accompanied by a loan approval, proof of funds to close the escrow and a copy of your earnest money deposit.  Because of the difficulties of obtaining a purchase money loan today, most sellers will not even consider an offer without verifying that the prospective buyer is qualified to purchase their homes.  If you are paying all cash provide verification of the funds to close the escrow with your offer.
  • Give the seller time to consider your offer.  When a seller feels backed into a corner, he will often say “no”.

 In closing I would like to add that if you really love a certain home and it is within your means to buy it, go for it!  I have had a few buyers who never got over “the fish that got away”.