Showing Tips

So you’ve put your house on the market and are planning to jump on the spring bandwagon and take advantage of the thawing market. Let’s talk about how best to show your home & what your options are.

You’ll be talking with your agent about the listing’s “Showing Instructions”. You have several options including “Call 1st”, “Call Agent”, “Call Owner” and “Appointment Only” among others. My recommendation to my clients is to veer toward the “Call 1st” option if at all possible. My reason for this is that you want to remove as many barriers as possible to getting a potential Buyer into your home. While there is often very reasonable rationale for choosing others of those options, the one that makes it easiest for your potential Buyer is “Call 1st”. This Showing Instruction lets the Buyer’s agent know that he or she may call your number, and if no one answers, leave a message with the approximate time of the desired showing and the request for a call back that if that time will NOT work for you. This makes it very easy for the Buyer’s agent and the Buyer…. and that’s what you want! It also gives you the opportunity to say “No… 2PM this afternoon would work better for me.”

Now let’s talk about how you leave your home when you have a showing. Obviously you want your home to he “the one” for the Buyers looking it over. I know you’ve heard all the admonitions before about making things neutral so that Buyers can picture themselves and their “stuff” there; taking down family photos/neutral wall colors/cleared counter-tops etc. I also want you to consider those things that are probably invisible to you as a homeowner… Pretend you have never been in your home before, and walk in the front door. Is the entry open with a clear view to the rest of the home? Is the porch littered with shoes or other “normal” things like miscellaneous gardening objects (trowels, gloves…), dead potted plants, etc? Are your toothbrushes in cups on the counter for visitors to admire? Dentures in a glass? Are your medications out on the counter in the bathroom or your vitamins out on the kitchen counter?? Is there a stinky kitchen sponge decorating your sink? Are those pesky box beetles trying valiantly to get in under your back door & warm up a little? (PLEASE call Orkin…) How about your mud room… is it muddy? If so… transform it into a showplace for cleanliness w/ hooks for clothing & bench-seats for cleaning up…. but leave the mud for peoples’ imaginations. The whole thing is about creating ambiance. I’ll say it: “The way you live in a house is not the way you ‘sell” a house.” Just do a little “I’ve never been here before” exploring around your home… it will probably amaze you!

How to make it all easier?
There are professional organizers who can come in and help you with streamlining your home. I’ve used this method with clients, especially busy ones. It lifts a huge weight off a Seller’s shoulders during the process of sorting and deciding what is staying and what is going into storage during the sale period or to Goodwill.

Once that phase of preparation is complete, I suggest hiring a professional cleaning company to come in and do a once-over on your home. It is more of what we discussed above; things you don’t tend to notice as you live in the house. After this, attempt to keep things the way they are… hopefully streamlined and clean. Then just keep a bottle of window cleaner handy and go through the house lightly touching all the sinks’ hardware so it shines before you leave. Once the initial work is done in preparing your home for sale, maintenance is key, and not as hard as you think.

My main message here? You’ve heard all of the obvious advice on staging, colors etc. Remember to look at the little things. They make a big difference!

More Control Issues

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about what you have control over when Selling your home and what you do not.  I promised to address some “control issues” around Buying as well, and so here are a few thoughts:

Lenders:  Do you have control over whether you are approved to purchase a home that you fall in love with? Yes. When you begin your search for a new home, the first stop ought to be a good lender.  A decent percentage of home Buyers do not begin this way, and it is the source of much disappointment and frustration.  I often will take Sellers out looking for properties when I list their home on the market so that they can begin to get an idea of what they like & don’t like in a new home, (and it gives them the opportunity to see how other homes are presented… giving them *hopefully* an incentive to tidy theirs up and create a good showing : )  Very often these clients of mine poo poo talking to a lender before we venture out… they think they know about what they are approved for, and/or will tell me they talked w/someone awhile back who approved them for such & such.  I’ll admit to giving in at times to Buyers who have not yet been to a lender or who have not handed me an approval letter as yet, and I will tell you I have seen tears when people think they’ve found “the one” & then decide that’s a good time to talk to a lender. Here are some pointers:

  • Get the facts up front before you begin looking for properties.  That way you are only looking at homes you would be actually able to purchase. In any undertaking, you want to begin with facts so that you can make good decisions about how to proceed.
  • Don’t worry about taking a lender’s time before you have a property in mind.  This is what they do.  They are used to it.
  • Listen to your Realtor and any other qualified advisors when you are looking for a good lender.  Get a good referral.  You should have at least three from which to choose. ***The lender is the entity holding the most amount of control in the end stages of any mortgage transaction.  A lender who knows and works well with your Realtor will be inclined to nurture the process… especially in the end stages.  And one who is experienced and skilled will be able to field any last-minute issues that may arise so that you actually get to the completion of your transaction.

Negotiating – Do you have control of the negotiation process? Yes.

So, you’ve fallen in love with a property, and you are “countering” with the Sellers over various items.  Your job is to keep a cool head, and remember what is important to you.  Your Realtor will give you good advice on pros & cons of different options, and in the end, it is your decision how to proceed.  Remember your budget and look at the bottom line.  That said, also give some thought to how important a few dollars a month may or may not be to you if you are achieving other goals.  Remember… You’re in the driver’s seat. You get to decide what’s right or wrong for you.

Earnest Money or Promissory Note? – You make this decision too, and the one about how much it will be.  I advise my clients that the earnest money is their statement to the Seller reflecting their sincerity (earnestness : ) in wanting to purchase their home.  The Seller will be taking their home off of the market if they accept your offer, and so you are showing good faith, and in the event you do NOT abide by the contract you are, in essence, compensating them for taking their home off the market for you for a time.

An earnest money check always gives a better impression with an offer (and you are trying to get them to agree to accept your offer right?) than a promissory note. The exception to this would be if you are out of state and making an offer without the ability to hand your Realtor an earnest money check.  People tend to understand this circumstance.

Your earnest money goes toward the bottom line of your transaction, and is held by the escrow office as a neutral third party while your transaction is in process.    If, for instance, you find something during your inspection period that causes you to want to retract your offer, escrow will return your earnest money, and you can begin looking for another suitable property.  The contract also states that you must be able to get funding… so if you are not able to obtain funding through no fault of your own, you should receive your earnest money back as well.  If the home does not appraise for at least the sale price, and either you, the Seller, or both of you are unwilling to negotiate price or come to some other arrangement, you should receive your earnest money back. The only way to lose your earnest money, really, is to violate some term of the contract.  As long as you meet the time lines in the contract, and perform as you have agreed, your earnest money is safe.

Well, I hope that these tidbits were helpful.  That’s enough discussion of  “control issues” for now…  I’ve got to run and assist some fantastic Buyers in making some decisions of their own!

“Control Issues”

I seem to keep bumping into a concept lately that I thought might be nice fodder for a post in the Blotter.  How much control do you think you have in general in your life?  How much control would you LIKE to have?  …Are you sure?

In real estate there are certain things we can control and certain things we cannot.  I thought it might be fun to delve into some examples of this:

  • If you are selling your home, do you have control over the location? Well, no.  BUT, when making a decision about where to buy, that would be a good time to look down the road and take that property’s location into account for future resale purposes.  If you are getting a REALLY good deal on a home because of where it’s located, you might want to think twice.
  • If you are selling your home, do you have control of it’s condition? Absolutely.   Now, you may say, “I only have a certain amount of money to spend on getting this place ready for sale”, but in the end, you are making the decisions, and have been making the decisions… and now here you are.  Control of this factor aside though, no matter what kind of financial position you are in, this is always an issue when selling your home… “How much should I put into this home I am moving out of?”  When I am working with a client in a position where there are limited funds, we sit down together first and I go over my list of items that will make the property most appealing to the greatest number of Buyers.  THEN, we get real.  Some things, like paint, are inexpensive, and realistically can be handled by the homeowner themselves. Some things require professional assistance.  Sometimes it is just a matter of rearranging a few pieces of furniture and perhaps doing your moving “sort-through” now & considering it work you’ll have to do to move anyway… Tends to make it purposeful and even fun!  Goodwill will love you, and a storage facility or a POD might be a good option to clear your home of things that only make the rooms look smaller.  You’ve heard it before: “The way you live in a house is NOT the way you sell a house.”  So… you do have control of how your home will present to the Buying Public.  Just lay out the facts & pragmatically decide the best way to address each issue.  Buyers in this market are picky… they can afford to be with the number of homes from which to choose.  You have to reveal the gem that is YOUR home, and when you do, someone else will walk in and love it the way you did when you were in that position.
  • Do you have control over the terms of an accepted sale agreement? Yes.  You may not agree with me, but after all the options have been presented and discussed between you and your Realtor, you get to say yea or nay.  It’s your house and you don’t have to sell it for terms that are not to your liking.   Now… do you sometimes have to give a little here or there in order to make your transaction happen?  Yes.  For instance, when there are repairs requested that you are advised will, or may, be required by the Buyer’s lender, it might be in your best interest to make them so that you can close… that is if you want to.  If there are safety issues or other significant ones that have been uncovered in inspection, many will also want to address those prior to close.  The Golden Rule tends to work well here, and usually you are in the process of negotiating terms for your own purchase, so you get to enjoy a 360-degree view of how it feels to be on either side. Again though, you are in control.  You can always say “no”, and the chips will fall where they fall.
  • Are you in control of price & your home’s position in the marketplace? Yes.   You obviously don’t control what other people have sold their homes for around you, or what has happened in the market in general, but after your Realtor presents you with comparable data (i.e. available facts), you make the decision regarding what number will go on your flyers and on the MLS. Many Realtors will let you know that they will or will not take on a listing depending on the “reasonableness” of the price desired by the Seller.  You still are the one who makes the final decision on price, and perhaps the decision on whether to work with that person or not.  As a Realtor myself, I will tell you that most Sellers want to price their property too high for the market (sorry… it’s true : ).  Consider that a Realtor who is advising you does not have much of an incentive to talk you into pricing your home too low…  being as their compensation is based on the sale price.  Worth a thought.  I’d venture a guess that you are probably being given the straight scoop.  I like to tell my clients that all we are doing is looking at the facts, and pricing accordingly…  why would you do anything less?  Dianne and I have been reporting that the facts show homes selling now seem to be the ones either very new on the market, or very old listings that have dropped their prices considerably & often.  Ask yourself how long you want to be on the market, and how many price reductions you are willing to go through if you price against what the facts are telling you.  You will gain the most exposure when your home is fresh on the market.  Take advantage of that and price it right. Also.. remember that you are most likely buying as well…  any market conditions will be in effect on either side of the negotiation table.
  • Are you in control of marketing your home and the exposure it gets? Yes.  That is your Realtor’s job, AND, you are part of this conversation and deciding what kind of promotion you want.   Talk to any prospective Realtor about how they plan to garner exposure for your listing.  Look at the words they are choosing for your promotional pieces and make sure you like how the property is being presented. Make sure their is a good deal of Internet exposure, and that all the details about your home are factual.  It’s also a good idea to go over marketing with your Realtor on a periodic basis to gauge feedback and results. Give your input, and make sure to voice any concerns, but then trust your professional, and put your energies to how the house itself  is presenting each day to prospective Buyers, and to your own search for a new home.
  • Are you in control of the timing of your transaction? No.    You really never know when that Buyer will walk in your door and have the reaction “This is the one!”.  You need to have your Windex ready every day as you leave for work & at least briefly touch each of your sinks & fixtures.  You want them to shine when that Buyer walks in. Check your home’s entrance as you leave to make sure that there is that great first impression just waiting for the right moment. Once that happens, and your Buyer has arrived, there are a few things you CAN control about timing, such as when you are willing to be out of your property- unless there is a set date that the Buyer absolutely needs… If this happens, then you are back to “Do I want this transaction to go forward?”… I have not said that there may not be a few hard decisions here & there : )   For the most part, this is why you picked the Realtor you did.  Let them help you through any rough spots.  In the end stages of your transaction, the Buyer’s lender will truthfully have a good deal of control over what happens in what kind of time frame. Know that even if the timing seems like a roller coaster ride, all the dominoes will fall into place and the timing really will, most always, take care of itself with some good choices, and sure, steady footing as you move to close.  Accept help from your Realtor during this time, and get ready to move into your new home!

This seems like a lot for now.  The subject of “Control” and under what circumstances you have it and to what degree is such a rich subject.  I promise I’ll come back to it, and perhaps focus on the Buying angle next time.   In the meantime… Happy Summer!

Very Best,

Linda