Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Great set of tips on what to do to get your home ready to sell

what a great bunch of info from a government site:

If you've decided to sell your home, chances are you're caught up in a host of emotions. You may be looking forward to moving up to a new dream house or facing the uncertainty of a major move across country. You may be reluctant to leave your memories behind or eager to start new adventures. Whatever turbulent feelings you're experiencing right now, there are plenty of practical matters that need your attention. Keep in mind the following considerations to help the whole process go more smoothly.

Time Becomes Money

It's a good idea to place your home on the market as far in advance as possible of purchasing a new one. If you find a new home first and then try to sell your present home, you may wind up with two mortgages. If this does happen, ask your real estate agent or banker about a bridge loan to help you make the double payments. Lenders use the same criteria for offering bridge loans as they use for mortgages. Should you qualify for a bridge loan, beware of the expense; during the term of the loan you must continue to pay both mortgages. Shop around for the best terms.

Keep in mind that when people move, sell and buy, there usually is a domino effect. Closing and moving dates have to be coordinated, and the more firmly everyone commits to a window of dates and sticks to them, the better for all involved. Put all agreements about dates in writing, and protect yourself by negotiating financial penalties for failure to comply.

Check Your Curb Appeal

A home that's visually appealing and in good condition will attract potential buyers driving down the street. Use this checklist to view your property through an outsider's eyes.

Are the lawn and shrubs well maintained?
Are there cracks in the foundation or walkways?
Does the driveway need resurfacing?
Are the gutters, chimney and walls in good condition?
Do the window casings, shutters, siding or doors need painting?
Are garbage and debris stored out of sight?
Are lawn mowers and hoses preperly stored?
Is the garage door closed?

On the Inside

Strong curb appeal will lure potential buyers inside, where you have to live up to their expectations. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy improvements you can make to your home's interior without spending a lot of money. Cleaning is No. 1. Your windows, floors and bathroom tiles should sparkle. Make sure you have clean heating and air conditioning filters. Shampoo dirty carpets, clean tubs and showers, repair dripping faucets and oil squeaky doors. Keep your home neat, clean and picked-up at all times. It may not seem fair, but a peek in the oven may be the hallmark by which a buyer judges how well you have kept up your home.

Remove unnecessary clutter from the garage, basement, attic, closets and straighten stored items. Also remove any items that might make a statement that would be offensive to others who may not share your same views, beliefs or sense of humor. If your home is crowded with too much furniture, consider putting some things into storage. If a room needs a fresh coat of paint, use a neutral off-white. Think, too, about how your home smells. You may be used to the smell of a pet or cigarettes, but such odors can be a strong turn-off to others. Be certain to remove valuables such as jewelry and other items from view. It might be wise to put these items in a safe deposit box before showing your home. Finally, set a mood for the buyer. Make your house homey with live flowers and fresh guest towels in the bathroom. Place scented potpourri around the house or, on the day you're expecting a potential buyer, pop a batch of frozen cinnamon rolls into the oven for a welcoming aroma.

Remember, cosmetic changes do not have to be expensive. In fact, costly home improvements do not necessarily offer a good return on your investment when you sell. It's attention to the basics—anything that says “this home has been carefully maintained”—that will help you get the price you want.

Go It Alone

Some homeowners decide to sell their homes themselves in order to save the commission charged by a real estate agent. The commission rate may vary, depending on where you live or what agency you choose, but it is generally upwards of 5%. However, handling your own sale means you will be responsible for placing ads, answering phones and showing your home to strangers. What's more, buyers who know you are saving on an agent's commission may offer less for your home, wiping out the financial incentive to do it all yourself.

You may decide an agent's commission is a bargain the first time that a would-be buyer shows up unannounced at dinnertime. Also, be aware that a real estate agent probably knows a lot more about the business of selling a home than you do. Here are some of the advantages professional agents offer:

They will help you establish a fair asking price for your home.
They will promote your home to other agents and list your property in multiple listing services. A multiple listing service is a book or computer database that all real estate agents who subscribe to the service can access. Your home will get exposure to all those agents, one of whom may have the perfect buyer.
They will create, pay for and place advertising for you.
They will schedule appointments to show your home to prospective buyers even when you are not there.
They can weed out buyers who will not qualify for a mortgage.
They can refer you to sources for insurance, inspections, legal counsel and financing.
They will help you negotiate with the buyer.
They can make suggestions to help make your home more attractive to a potential buyer.

If you decide to sell through an agent, ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. Talk to several agents before picking the one you want to work with. Taking a walk through your home with an agent should give you a feel for how that person will handle prospective buyers. Ask prospective agents how they plan to market your home. Don't sign with an agent just because he or she suggests the highest asking price. Negotiate the broker's commission prior to listing your home, and sign for a limited period of time—usually three to six months.

Setting a Fair Price

Naturally, you want to get top dollar for your home. But, at the same time, you don't want to scare off potential buyers with a price tag that's too high. Setting an artificially high price may cause your property to languish on the market for months. Reducing your asking price later on may lead buyers to wonder if there is something wrong with your home. Here are some of the factors to consider in pricing your home.

Your location
Economic conditions
Supply and demand in the local housing market
Seasonal influences
Local schools
Average home prices in the neighborhood
Your home's extras -- pool, fireplace, central air, etc.
To determine the value of your home, you probably will want the advice of a real estate agent or appraiser. Ask an agent to prepare a market analysis for you, showing the recent selling prices of three neighborhood properties comparable to your own. The agent can help you adjust for the unique features of your own property.

Qualifying a Buyer

Either you or your agent will want to quickly weed out potential buyers who cannot really afford to purchase your home. A number of factors will help determine whether or not you are wasting your time negotiating a sale.

The buyer's debt and credit history
The buyer's current income and employment
The buyer's cash position and availability of a down payment
The length of time the buyer needs before closing on your home
How interested the buyer appears to be in your home versus others
Seek Legal Representation

When selling your home—particularly if you are selling on your own—it's a good idea to be represented by an attorney. Look for an attorney with expertise in real estate transactions. When a potential buyer puts an offer in writing and you accept it, the signed acceptance becomes the sales contract. Your attorney will be present at the actual closing to protect your interests and can assist you with the following elements of a sales contract:

The sale price
What is included in the sale price -- draperies, carpeting, light fixtures, heating oil, etc.
The amount of the down payment
The date of closing and possession date
Contingencies to the sale--inspections (e.g. structural, lead-based paint, radon), required improvements, legal review of the contract by the buyer's or seller's attorney, etc.
The amount and length of the mortgage loan, interest rate and time limits to secure the loan
Determining which closing costs are to be paid by the buyer and which by the seller
Tax Implications

Selling a home can have a major impact on your federal and state tax returns. Check with your tax consultant on the factors that may affect taxes resulting from the sale of your home. For example:

Whether you purchased the home or acquired it by gift or inheritance
Whether you used your home partly for business or rental
Costs associated with selling your home
Home improvements or additions, which may help to offset capital gains
The sale of your home. In certain cases you can exclude up to $250,000 in gain ($500,000 for married couples filing a joint return) on the sale of property that was your principle residence for at least two years. Generally, you can use this exclusion every two years.


You've successfully weathered the logistics of selling your current home, and you're ready to move on to a new and exciting chapter in your life. As you prepare for the coming changes, check out the Life Advice sections Moving and Buying a Home to aid you in this transition.

Monday, September 26, 2005

20 Low-Cost Ways to Spruce Up Your Home to sell

20 Low-Cost Ways to Spruce Up Your Home

Make your home more appealing for yourself and for potential buyers with these quick and easy tips:
1. Trim bushes so they don’t block windows and cut down on light.
2. Buy a new doormat.
3. Put a pot of bright flowers (or a small evergreen in winter) on your porch.
4. Put new doorknobs on your front door.5
. Put a fresh coating on your driveway.
6. Edge the grass around walks and trees.
7. Keep your garden tools out of site.
8. Be sure kids put away their toys.
9. Buy a new mailbox.
10. Upgrade your outside lighting.
11. Use warm, incandescent light bulbs for a homey feel.
12. Polish or replace your house numbers.
13. Clean your gutters.
14. Put out potpourri or burn scented candles.
15. Buy new pillows for the sofa.
16. Buy a flowering plant and put in a window you pass by frequently.
17. Make a centerpiece for your table with fruit or artificial flowers.
18. Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones that let in more light.
19. Buy new towels.
20. Put a seasonal wreath on your door.

Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online by permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Real Estate - Home Selling Articles and Advice

Here is a great site that has links to lots of information and articles to do with home selling. This page is a good start to see an overview of the home selling process.

Real Estate - Home Selling Articles and Advice

Here is a good bit of information on makeing your house "anontmous. As a Realtor I saw far to many houses with a lot of emotional, familt momentos that could harm a person seeing the house as their own:

Make Your Home "Anonymous"

If there is a new home sales tract near your home, go visit. It doesn't matter what size the homes are. What you will find are some wonderfully (but sparsely) furnished homes that anyone could live in -- with the emphasis on "anyone." They are anonymous. There may be a baseball glove in the boy's room, but no family photos on the walls.

There may be "personality" - but no person.

The reason you want to make your home "anonymous" is because you want buyers to view it as their potential home. When a potential homebuyer sees your family photos hanging on the wall, it puts your own brand on the home and momentarily shatters their illusions about living in the house themselves.

Put away family photos, sports trophies, collectible items, knick-knacks, and souvenirs. Put them in a box. Rent a storage area for a few months and put the box in the storage unit.

Do not just put the box in the attic, basement, garage or a closet. Part of preparing a house for sale is to remove "clutter," and that is the next step in preparing your house for sale.

Real Estate Internet Marketing: Homebuyers sold on technology

I have found this great info on how home owners love using technology when buying or selling a house

Real Estate Internet Marketing: Homebuyers sold on technology

Common Home Seller mistakes

Sometimes people have to be reminded that when selling their largest possesion that there are many that have gone before them on this path and there are some things that you can easily avoid. Here are the most common mistakes that home sellers make:

Basing Asking Price on needs or emotion not market value. Many sellers base their pricing on how much they paid for their home. If your home is not priced competitively, home buyers will prefer larger or better homes in the same price range, increasing your time-to-sell. When your price is later lowered, buyers may be wary because they suspect other reasons the house has remained unsold so long.

Failing to "present" the home. A property that is not clean or well maintained often suggests hidden defects that increase the total cost of ownership. Sellers should make necessary repairs, and spruce up the house inside and out, keep it clean and neat, or risk chasing away buyers brought in by realtors. Buyers will leave themselves a large margin for error for the cost of repairs, reducing their offer price.

Over-improving the home prior to selling. Sellers may spend thousands of dollars doing the wrong upgrades to their home prior selling, expecting to recoup this cost. If you are thinking of selling, ask your realtor which upgrades are cost effective.

Failure to effectively market the property. Good marketing distinguishes your home from hundreds of others on the market, selling its benefits not just its features. Open houses and print advertising (the most obvious) are only moderately effective. Only 1% of homes are sold at open houses, and just 3% of people purchased their homes after seeing a print ad! realtors use these tools to attract future prospects, not to sell your specific house. make sure realtor uses other marketing tools as well.

Choosing the wrong Realtor or choosing for the wrong reasons. Many homeowners list with the agent who tells them the highest price, and not the one who provides the best experience. More experience could mean a higher price at the negotiating table, selling in less time, and with less hassles along the way.
Failing to take the first offer seriously. Many sellers believe that the first offer received will be one of many to come, hoping to hold out for a higher price, especially if the offer comes in soon after the home is listed. Often the first offer ends up being the best buyer, and many sellers have had to accept far less money than the initial offer much later on in the selling process. Homes are most saleable early in the marketing period.

Using the "Hard Sell" during showings. Buying a home is an emotional decision, and buyers are looking to see if a house is comfortable for them. Good realtors let the buyers discover the home's features on their own, pointing out only features they are sure are important to them. Many sales are lost by overselling when buyers think they are paying for features that are not important to them.

Not knowing your rights and obligations. The contract you sign to sell your property is a complex and legally-binding document. An improperly written contract can allow the purchaser to void the sale, or cost you thousands of unnecessary dollars. Have your realtor fully explain the contract or have your lawyer review it before acceptance

Home Seller Tips

Home Seller Tips

The key to selling your home is effective presentation. Like a person, first impressions and "curb appeal" are critical.

Curb Appeal. A home should be attractive as soon as visitors drive up and walk to the front door. There are ways to enhance curb appeal: keep your lawn cut, trim the edges, plant flowers and shrubs, and keep the flower beds weed-free. To make the house itself better looking, wash the windows, paint the eaves troughs and trim, keep the yard litter and leaf-free. If you are out of town while the home is listed, hire a service to maintain the garden and plants (indoor as well as out).

Keep it uncluttered. Inside the home, there are simple things that enhance a buyer's interest. "Job One" is keeping it tidy: this makes the house look more spacious and better-maintained. Clean the carpets, and wash the light fixtures, ceilings and walls (especially if you have pets). A fresh paint job will make the house feel new, especially in a smoker's home. Store any seasonal items or extra toys to reduce clutter. If you need help with repairs or renovations, your real estate agent can recommend good but affordable professionals for the tasks.

Focus on the Bathroom and kitchen. Buyers, especially women, will take a close look at the bathroom and the kitchen. These are the two rooms where women at home spend most of the time. Fix up the grout or caulking in the bathroom beforehand. Consider painting cupboards and re-tiling floors, counters, and walls in the kitchen.

Before the visit. When someone is scheduled to visit your home, turning on all the lights. Try to keep the home reasonably vacant, so the home buyer is free to comfortably look around. Bake a loaf of bread or a cake, light candles, or dab vanilla extract on light fixtures to create a pleasant scent in your home. Most buyers only take three minutes to look at a home. If you make a good first impression, and show a neat and well-maintained home, your odds for a sale improve dramatically. While some improvements may cost money up front, they may dramatically improve your selling price. Your realtor will provide you with recommendations to help improve your net selling price.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

For Sale By Owner Horror Stories

From Jerry Fowlers Web Site


Four years ago, Henry and Mary Langley bought their first home. They loved it and planned to live there about 10 or 15 years and then move out to the lake. But nearly a year ago Henry's employer offered him a transfer to another city. Henry wasn't given much of an option. It was either transfer now or receive no advancement in his present job. Henry's company did not offer a buy-out provision, so the Langleys would be responsible for the sale of their home.

Henry and Mary asked three agents to perform a comparative market analysis on their home. The results were discouraging. Because they had been in the home such a short time, the Langleys had not realized much appreciation in their home's value, so if they sold through a Realtor they would have to pay the commission out of their own pockets. They decided to try the For-Sale-by-Owner route.

Everything proceeded smoothly at first. Several lookers stopped by, but the seventh family to see the house fell in love with it and made an offer. The offer was lower than Henry and Mary had expected, but time was running out so they decided to accept it. In writing the offer, the purchasers had used a blank form they'd found in an office supply store. The Langleys never thought to have an attorney review it. If they had, the attorney would have advised them to add a financing contingency clause, which would have let the Langleys out of the contract if the buyers couldn't get financing within a certain number of days.

The house was to close in 90 days. When weeks passed and the Langleys hadn't heard from the purchasers, they began to worry. Henry finally called his buyers, who told him they'd been turned down by the first bank. Still the buyers were optimistic they could get the loan from their credit union. Later that same day a buyer dropped by because someone in the neighborhood had told him the house was for sale. This person offered the Langleys full price in cash for their house with closing in one week. Once again, Henry called the buyers and told them he'd received another offer, but the purchasers remained adamant that they could get financing. They refused to release the Langleys from their contract. Because there was no financing contingency, the Langleys could do nothing but wait - 60 more days to be exact. Unfortunately the second buyer needed to find a home within two weeks. The Langleys called the first purchasers almost daily but they wouldn't give up on trying to get a loan. Finally the 60 days passed, but the generic contract contained an extension clause allowing the purchasers an additional 30 days if financing had not been finalized by the original close date. Another 30 days passed and finally Henry and Mary could sell their house to the cash buyer. There was just one problem. The cash buyer had already bought a house. The Langleys had wasted four months because they wanted to save that commission. It was now time for them to move, so they were forced to list the house anyway. It's now been six months - that's six months after the four wasted months - and the Langleys still don't have a contract on their home. They're renting in their new city and waiting, waiting, waiting...

Lesson Learned
What Henry and Mary should have done was to have a Realtor or attorney review that contract before signing it. Real estate professionals will keep you out of trouble. In this case a financing contingency clause would have permitted the Langley's to move forward immediately when the buyers' loan was turned down. They could then have sold their home to the cash buyer. Please ladies and gentleman, if you're selling your own home there are more than 90 things that need to be done to get your house closed, any one of which could stop your sale cold if not performed properly. Consult a Realtor or real estate attorney before playing with the largest investment you'll ever make.


John's house had been on the market for three months and he hadn't gotten a single offer to purchase. Finally, one day Henry drove up and offered John a long-term rental agreement. Henry was a traveling salesman and needed to move to this town to be centrally located within his sales area. Henry was very nicely dressed, drove a respectable car and talked very professionally. Because Henry was on the road so much of the time, he wanted to simplify the move for his family by paying John a security deposit and six months' advance rent. He also wanted to sign a three-year rental agreement. Needless to say John was excited. He didn't really want to sell and a three-year rental agreement from such a professional was a dream come true. Henry signed the agreement, advanced the money and John headed to the bank. That is when the real estate horror story began.

As soon as Henry gained control of the house, he placed a for-sale ad in the paper, advertising the home for an unbelievably low price. In fact the price was so low Henry received hundreds of calls. Henry scheduled dozens of showings. Each time, he would give the person a real sob story about how he had lost his wife and family in an accident the previous year. Henry told everyone that he was being forced to give up thousands of dollars of equity in order to pay bills resulting from the accident. He then convinced the buyer to give him a $2,000 earnest money deposit to hold the house. The buyer's greedy nature told him he would never find another deal like this and he gladly forked over the $2,000. In fact, 30 buyers put up $2,000 each. With $60,000 in cash, Henry split, leaving behind 30 contracts for sale on John's house. Can you image the horrible situation John faced when the buyers' attorneys tracked him down? What do you do? I'm sure the title companies are having fun with this one. How could you stop this from happening to you?

Lesson Learned
If someone wants to advance you a large up-front deposit and pay the rent in advance, be very suspicious. Ask for three credit references and check them. Get referrals from the renter's previous landlord and verify that he is moving in immediately. Make sure the water and utility accounts are transferred into his name. Ride by your property often and inspect it. If you see a lot of unusual activity, investigate. Just remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it almost always is.


This is a true story about Mark and Rebecca. They listed their house for sale and received a contract seven weeks later. The contract specified that the buyer would take possession of the house on the day of closing. Mark and Rebecca found a new house, which they were to close on the same day as their old house. Both transactions proceeded smoothly and everything was set for closing. The first home closed without a hitch. On the new house, however, the attorney informed them when they arrived that there was a problem with the title. It seems 40 or 50 years ago a relative of a previous seller had claimed that part of the property had been stolen from her and she now wanted her property back. BIG problem! To complicate matters, the house was now being handled by a third-party relocation company. Not being able to obtain title insurance for the lender would stop this sale. The attorney called the relocation company to see if Mark and Rebecca could move into the house on a rental basis with a hold-harmless agreement. The answer was no. And thus the horror began. Mark and Rebecca were homeless. How long would it take to resolve the problem? Where would they go? What could they do? They approached the purchasers of their old home to see if they could move back in temporarily but got another no. As it turned out they kept their furniture on a truck and rented a motel room for three weeks. Luckily, they were able to resolve the title problem within that three weeks. Often, title problems will take months to solve.

Lesson Learned
What could they have done to avoid this situation? I don't understand why some attorneys wait until the last possible minute to search the title. If the attorney had done the title search as soon as the contract was signed, the horror of this story would have been greatly minimized. Before you close on your existing house, call your attorney and make sure everything is in order for your new house. Ask if he's done the title search and make sure there is nothing pending that might halt the closing.


This is a story about a man here in Columbia. We'll call him Johnson. Johnson had his house on the market for nine months at a price of $12,000 more than the market value. Why? Well Johnson said that's what he needed to be able to move to his new home. Of course his house didn't sell. Johnson then contacted another company and this time was lucky. His new agent knew the market very well. She listed his house at what it was really worth. She staged the house to get it ready to show and put it on the market.

Johnson told his Realtor there was a termite bond on the house and the termite company had just re-inspected the house and there were no problems. Three weeks later an offer can in but was $5,000 below the listed price. Johnson thought about the offer very seriously and decided to accept because he really needed to move.

The buyer was pre-approved and everything looked great. Seven days from closing Johnson's agent helped him order the termite letter. Upon inspection the termite company discovered termites. Although Johnson claimed he had a termite bond, he really didn't. The bond had expired two years ago. The termite company that had just visited his house was simply one that sprayed for bugs on a monthly basis. The termites were so bad that they were in the walls and had eaten severely on the seals below the house. In addition Johnson needed French drains to get water out from underneath the house. The entire situation cost Johnson almost $10,000.

Lesson Learned
Had Johnson known about the problem beforehand, he could have held to the full price rather than accepting the lower offer. That, of course, would have helped. He also would have had more time to shop for better prices on the repairs. The pre-inspection is absolutely necessary even if you have a bond. Then if you find problems, you'll have more time to correct them.

Monday, September 19, 2005

First Post for Home Seller Tips

I found this great article on how to choose a Realtor. I will make more posts about this very thing in the days and weeks to come.

Purchasing a property, either as an investor or as a prospective homeowner can be one of the most exhilarating and frightening experiences of your life. In both situations it is imperative that you find just the right property at the right price. With so many options to choose from it can quickly become overwhelming. Start with Credit Unions to help you make the most of this exciting purchasing process.

Searching for the right property can be exhausting. Not only do you have to keep a price range in mind but you also must search out the elements of neighborhoods that are important to you. Choosing the right realtor makes a difference between chaos and calm.

There are a few tips that you should keep in mind when choosing a realtor. Considering the fact that you are making a major investment, it’s important that you locate a realtor you will feel comfortable working with. You will need to find a realtor who is competent and professional, as well as knowledgeable and who respects your time and the fact that you are committing to a serious investment.

Although consumers are generally unaware of this fact; realtors are generally classified as either seller realtors or buyer realtors. This means that they must represent the best interests of one or the other. Far too often individuals who are searching for properties select a realtor and believe that person will just naturally take their best interests into consideration. This is not always the case because most realtors, unless they specify, are actually seller agents. This means that their primary goal is to obtain the best deal possible for the seller. If you are looking to purchase a home and want to choose a realtor who will represent your best interest you should look for a buyer agent. If the realtor does not specify, chances are they are a seller agent.

After determining whether a realtor is a buyer or a seller agent, your next step will be to check out the realtor’s background. Obviously, all realtors are governed by the regulations of their state and must meet certain licensing requirements but you will need to check on information above and beyond this. Look for someone who specializes in the type of property that interests you. If you are looking for commercial property, why work with a realtor who has no experience in commercial property? You may also consider working only with a realtor who has experience in the specific neighborhood or community that interests you.

How much experience should the ideal realtor possess? Well, it depends. Relatively new realtors are often hard hitting and will put in quite a bit of time and effort in order to make a sale. The downside to a new realtor is that they simply may not have the experience and knowledge necessary to find the right property for you. On the other hand, more experienced realtors are often quite busy and may not have the time to devote to all your needs.

Finally, look for a realtor that has good communication skills. It can be difficult to find the right property if you feel you cannot even communicate to your realtor the features you really need or want in a property. And above all; look for a realtor who has a trustworthy reputation. Integrity says far more about any professional than any other trait-even experience.

Nicole Soltau is the President and Founder of

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