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Are you looking for an experienced agent to help you buy or sell a home? Contact Jim the Realtor!

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Category Archive: ‘Tips, Advice & Links’

Did The Staging Work?

3056-via-mariposa-028

More notes on staging and its effect on sales.

Staging delivers a great first impression – it’s probably worth it for that.  But staging is just a component of the overall package needed to sell a house – especially for top dollar.

Examples from the weekend:

1. An agent called me on Saturday morning to tell me her client was gushing over the home on Via Mariposa, and they were going to make an offer.  But nothing happened, so I pinged her on Sunday morning.  She got back to me on Sunday night, and said her client re-considered, and decided not to make an offer.  In her case, the staging wasn’t enough.

2.  A lady asked me at open house, “I wonder what this house looks like without the staging?”  Some buyers want to see beyond the staging.

3.  Kayla said, “I’m not a big fan of the blue/teal color combination”.  The staging will have a different impact on different people.

4.  An example where staging really paid off was with the out-of-town buyers. There were multiple out-of-towners viewing homes via FaceTime, Skype, and video – the staging has to have a positive impact when you are looking at a small screen from afar. The eventual winner at Via Mariposa was one of them – a family member saw it in person, and online photos and video did the rest.

I am comfortable with buyers making informed decisions based on video/FaceTime actions.  People trust the smartphones for everything else in life, might as well use it to buy a house!

Staging got the ball rolling, and got buyers engaged.  But the rest of the house had to look sharp, and the price had to be attractive too.  There were about 20 showings of that house over the first four days on the market, and we had three written offers.  For seventeen buyers, the staging wasn’t enough.

After offers are submitted, the end result doesn’t just happen by itself. I’ll take the credit for giving every buyer a fair opportunity to step up and pay top dollar for the home, and guide it over list price.  It’s the talking to people that makes the sale!

Posted by on Jun 29, 2015 in Jim's Take on the Market, Listing Agent Practices, Tips, Advice & Links | 5 comments

10% Range in Values

2015-06-11 17.54.08

Is there an easy answer to how much sellers should spend on repairs, to sell?

You see me on various jobs talking about projects undertaken by sellers – and the scope of the project are almost always related to the house’s age.  You want to bring houses up to speed, but items that are dated and hard to change (eight-foot ceilings, split-level, bad yard, etc.) make it a real challenge.

Where do you start, and where do you stop?

Work it backwards.  Those who live in a super-custom area (RSF, Del Mar, La Jolla, etc. where values can vary widely from lot to lot), have a wider range.

But those who live in tract neighborhoods can expect home values to range roughly 10% between the fixers and the cream-puffs.  The newer the tract, the easier it is to predict where you are in the range, because the improvements are more likely to be similar.

If your house is mostly original, buyers will expect to pay a minimum of 10% less than the comps that have been fully remodeled or have other positives (view, big yard, one-story).

If you can find a way to spend less than 10% to get your house from fixer to full retail, then do it.  Your renovated look could spur a bidding war, and/or provide additional benefits later like easier repair-list, easier appraisal, and less chance of fallout.

If the cost of needed improvements exceed 10% of your current value, then just sell it as a fixer, and have your price do the work – list for 10% under the renovated comps.

There are other variables – a bad agent can cost you 2% to 3%, and a great one can add 2% to 3%.  Quality contractors at reasonable prices make a substantial difference, and timing is everything!

Get Good Help!

Posted by on Jun 16, 2015 in Jim's Take on the Market, Remodel Projects, Tips, Advice & Links | 3 comments

Selling House with Leased Solar Panels

solar

Hat tip to ‘just some guy’, who asked if I’ve had this happen.  Yes, and my buyers had to take over the lease but it went smoothly.  But could be a potential pitfall for less-engaged buyers!

http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-harney-20150322-story.html

Can going green by leasing solar panels for your roof cost you money — or give you headaches — when you go to sell the house?

Possibly both.

Say you get pitched by one of the growing number of companies offering solar panels at no upfront cost that they claim will save you lots of money on electricity bills. Sounds like a slam-dunk. So you sign on.

Then a few years later you decide to sell the house. You assume that the presence of solar panels can only be a marketing plus, maybe even get you a higher price. Everybody goes for green, right?

Read full article here:

http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-harney-20150322-story.html

Posted by on Mar 22, 2015 in Jim's Take on the Market, Tips, Advice & Links | 0 comments

Hiring A Friend to be Your Agent

This article discusses the potential pitfalls of working with a friend-agent, but whether they are a friend or not, verify that they are good at what they do. The easiest and most-effective gauge is to check their Zillow page to see if they average at least one sale per month. 

http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2015/03/17/5-reasons-not-to-use-a-friend-as-your-real-estate-agent

As the spring house-hunting season approaches, many Americans will be buying or selling a home – and some will enlist the help of a friend or relative who happens to work in real estate. But experts caution that hiring a friend as your real estate agent could backfire.

“Realtors tend to be a social bunch,” says Jon Sterling, who manages a team of agents for Keller Williams Realty and specializes in working with real estate investors. “I can’t say never hire a friend, but you shouldn’t hire them because you’re a friend. You shouldn’t do it as a favor – you should do it because they’re good at what they do.”

In some cases, people find that it’s easier to hire a friend rather than invest time interviewing several agents. In fact, a 2014 survey of nearly 300 sellers from the Redfin Research Center found that over a third evaluated only one agent before choosing one to list their home.

Before you hire a friend as your agent, here’s a look at potential pitfalls to consider.

1. Your friend may not know the neighborhoods that you want. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, you need an agent with intimate knowledge of the market in that specific geographic area. “I always get calls from cousins saying ‘Oh, you live in Florida, I’m thinking about buying a property in West Palm Beach,’” says Karyn Glubis, a real estate agent based in Tampa, Florida. “They assume that you know everything, and even if you live in a certain city, there’s several different areas of the city. I live in a certain ZIP code that I know with my eyes closed. If you ask me to go away from Tampa to [St. Petersburg], I don’t know that area.”

According to Mia Simon, a Redfin real agent based in Silicon Valley, it’s important for buyers or sellers to instead look for “someone who really has the local knowledge, the relationships with the main players and a really good grasp of the inventory.”

2. Your friend may think she knows what’s best for you. If you want a downtown loft and your friend pictures you in a suburban bungalow, it’s bound to create tension. Glubis ran into this issue when she helped her father shop for a three-bedroom townhome and he wanted a move-in ready property, while she showed him fixer-uppers. “He’s like, ‘I am 68 years old. I don’t want to fix up a house,’” she remembers. “People think they know what you deserve or what you want. A friend doesn’t have the boundaries that a client would have.”

Glubis has her clients fill in a “needs and wants” list (for instance, “I want an oak tree in the backyard, but I’m not crazy about hilly lots”). However, she didn’t take that step for her father because she assumed she already understood his needs and wants.

Another potential pitfall is if you’re buying an investment property and your Realtor friend doesn’t educate you on the responsibilities of a landlord because she assumes you’ve already researched it.

3. Your friend may put in less time. A friend helping you house hunt may not want to spend every weekend driving you around instead of working with other clients. That would put the onus on you to search listings and do the legwork. “You’re on Zillow and Trulia doing all your own research,” Glubis says. “You’re telling your friend what you need. The friend is more casual in their searching, making you do all the work.”

4. Your friend may not give you a reality check. You may not like hearing that the list price you want on your home is too high or your offer on a property is too low, but it’s your agent’s responsibility to give you the honest truth and serve as an objective outsider. “The competition [in Silicon Valley] is so fierce that you’re having to waive all contingencies and go way above list price. Having to advise a friend to do that could jeopardize a friendship” says Simon, who has never represented friends but will refer them to another agent on her team.

Discussions about your housing budget or the amount you’re willing to accept for your home might be more comfortable with someone you see strictly as a professional, not as a neighbor or yoga buddy.

5. Disagreements could sour the friendship. “When things go bad it really gets ugly, so Thanksgiving dinner could get weird if you’re in the middle of a really tough transaction with friends or family members, and the lines start to blur between your personal life and your professional life,” Sterling says. “I don’t ever want to put my friendships at risk because of a business transaction.” Like Simon, he’ll refer friends in the market to other agents he trusts who could better fit their needs.

Another sore spot for real estate agents is when they handle a transaction for a friend and that friend asks for the commission back, which Glubis says can make things uncomfortable.

That said, there may be situations when a friend-real estate agent arrangement works out. “If the friend is experienced and treats you like a client, if they take their job seriously and know the market you’re shopping in,” Glubis says, then it could be the right fit.

http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2015/03/17/5-reasons-not-to-use-a-friend-as-your-real-estate-agent

Posted by on Mar 17, 2015 in Tips, Advice & Links | 1 comment

Verifying the Comps

Mustard

It is very typical to see new listings priced higher than the comps.  If sellers keep adding a little mustard to their list prices, why do buyers keep paying it?

1.  Buyers are payment shoppers.  With rates this low, the mustard is cheap. If a buyer has to pay an extra $20,000 to beat out other bidders and win a house, it adds less than $100 per month to his payment.

2.  Cash buyers have gone nutty.  It used to be that cash buyers always drove the hardest bargains, but these days the craziest sales prices are almost always paid by a cash buyer.  The money must be coming easier these days with the real estate and stock market run-ups, because it’s being spent willy-nilly.

3.  Listing agents expect buyers to just pay their price, whether it is justified or not.  Buyers concede due to mounting frustration, and end up surrendering.

4.  Buyers are looking forward, not back.  If they don’t pay this price for this house, somebody else probably will, and then it ends up being the comp for the next sale.  The trend of rising prices makes buyers want to hurry up and get it done now, before it gets any worse.

The result is – or should be – less confidence in the valuations.  If you see cash buyers throwing crazy money around, it’s difficult to consider those as legitimate comps.  But in a fast-moving environment, logic and common sense get left by the wayside.

Buyers and sellers both can check the validity of comps by researching the neighborhood’s sales history at the last peak, and by factoring in the price reductions, days-on-market, and the buyer’s agent’s sales history.

Get Good Help!

Posted by on Mar 4, 2015 in Jim's Take on the Market, Tips, Advice & Links | 4 comments

Zestimate Tune-Up?

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When they first rolled out the improve-it-yourself feature, it turned out to be no more than an opportunity to list your upgrades – because little or no value was added to your zestimate.  I received this by email today:

Hi Jim,

Today Zillow announced enhancements to the Zestimate® home value that allow homeowners to edit their home facts on Zillow and, depending on the new information they provide, potentially see an immediate impact on their Zestimate. For instance, if the square footage of a home is out of date on Zillow, the homeowner can correct this information and see an adjustment in their Zestimate.

Can listing agents use this feature to affect the Zestimate?

We encourage you to work with your seller prior to placing the home on the market to ensure all information on Zillow is accurate. If your seller is concerned about the Zestimate, check the home facts and make updates where needed. We suggest you communicate that the Zestimate is an estimate, not an appraisal.

We continue to iterate on our existing offerings to improve how buyers, sellers and homeowners use the resources available on Zillow. Should you have any questions about the Zestimate, visit www.zillow.com/zestimate.

Sincerely,

Greg Schwartz, Chief Revenue Officer, Zillow Group

I’ll believe it when I see it!  In the end, the zestimates will likely be more inaccurate as sellers fluff their values to the moon.  But Zillow is learning the ways of the industry, and is now siding with the sellers.  Get Good Help!

Posted by on Feb 27, 2015 in Listing Agent Practices, Market Buzz, Thinking of Selling?, Tips, Advice & Links | 12 comments