Ann Sansbury - Divorce - Best Selling Options In A Divorce

Best Selling Options In A Divorce

Handling your home sale during a divorce

By

Ann Sansbury

Published by Legacy Media Networks Copyright ©2016 Legacy Media Networks

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. DISCLAIMER AND/OR LEGAL NOTICES: While all attempts have been made to verify information provided in this publication, neither the Author nor the Publisher assumes any responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, or omissions. Any slights of people or organizations are unintentional. This publication is not intended for use as a source of legal or accounting advice. The Publisher wants to stress that the information contained herein may be subject to varying state and/or local laws or regulations. The reader of this publication assumes responsibility for the use of these materials and information. Adherence to all applicable laws and regulations, including advertising and all other aspects of doing business in the United States or any other jurisdiction is the sole responsibility of the reader. The Author and Publisher assume no responsibility or liability whatsoever on behalf of any reader of these materials. If your property is currently listed with a Realtor, please disregard this notice. It is not our intention to solicit the offerings of other brokers.

Printed in the United States of America

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Table of Contents

Part 1: Your Options One | 5 MOVING FORWARD Two | 8 BE PREPARED Part 2: Agreement to Sell Three | 17 MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT Part 3: Sales Process Four | 25 THE 80/20 RULE Five | 28 RELATING THE 80/20 RULE TO HOME SELLING Six | 35 CREATING CURB APPEAL Seven | 41 STAGING WITH PURPOSE

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Eight | 51 UPGRADE WITH ROI IN MIND Nine | 66 THE THREE D’S Ten | 74 HOW TO MARKET YOUR HOME Eleven | 83 COMMON MISTAKES SELLERS MAKE Twelve | 87 AVOID COSTLY MISTAKES Thirteen | 93 FINDING BUYERS

Fourteen | 95 BE A POWER NEGOTIATOR

Fifteen | 101 THE DO'S AND DON'TS OF NEGOTIATING

Sixteen | 108 BARGAINING CHIPS

Seventeen | 112 SERIOUS CONSIDERATIONS

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1 MOVING FORWARD

Divorce is not easy. Even amicable separations involve disappointment, lack of communication, and a failure of expectations. Realistically, the objective of divorce is to allow people to part ways and get on with life separately. Unfortunately, during the process, you and your emotions are subject to a myriad of changes in family life, the home, and finances. Selling your home is not an easy task either. It also involves disappointment and emotional stress. Combine the two events, and you have an undertaking that requires much patience, diligence, and fortitude. Thankfully, divorcing couples can move forward in this challenging phase of their lives with the help of sound legal advice. Decisions regarding the family home can be difficult, but it is important to know the legalities that come to the forefront in a divorce action. Since divorce laws can vary from state to state, professional legal counsel is your best source of information on what needs to be done to protect both parties' interests in the property. Selling a house without a divorce looming in the background can be a major task in itself. Many questions arise when trying to sell your home during a divorce. What needs to be done to have a quick and profitable sale? Who will choose

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the Realtor? When is the best time to list a home? Where do the financial responsibilities lie during the sale of the home? Knowing what to expect in the selling process can help alleviate any fears or misconceptions you may have. Every divorce has a unique set of circumstances. This book is not intended to be a legal guide or advice, but a source of information regarding your marital property. Knowing some of the legal terminology and options may give you a more objective understanding of your situation. Rarely does a divorce end up in the courts, because that is costly and time-consuming. But, if there is no reasonable way to settle the divorce using mediation and/or legal counsel, any disputes and disagreements between spouses will have to be decided by a court of law. Some states are called “ community property ” states, and others are “ equitable distribution ” states. Most states follow the laws of equitable distribution, which means property acquired will be divided between the spouses in a fair and equitable way. The court determines who receives what based on a variety of factors, such as the relative earning contributions of the spouses. In community property states, on the other hand, all income and assets earned or acquired during the marriage are considered to be owned equally. This also applies to all debts, no matter who created the liability. In a divorce action, these will be divided equally. In addition, there are mutual court orders that automatically protect marital properties. An automatic temporary restraining order prohibits spouses from selling, transferring,

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or borrowing against property when a divorce is filed. Again, any orders need to be discussed with your family attorney as this protection varies from state to state. It is also vital for you to understand the relationship and difference between a mortgage deed and a property title. Mortgages are conditional, legal agreements for the purpose of buying a property/home. The lender's security interest is on record when the title is registered. The mortgagee (lender) may obtain a foreclosure order to take possession if payments of the debt are not made. A property title refers to ownership of that property and the rights to use it. A person on the title can transfer ownership to another party but cannot transfer more than he owns. Some divorcing couples utilize a quitclaim deed, which transfers ownership from one spouse to another, but it does not transfer financial responsibility. One spouse may transfer title of the home to the other thinking they are no longer financially responsible for paying the mortgage, but this is not so. The loan payments are the responsibility of the parties on the mortgage. In order to change the names on the mortgage, one spouse will have to obtain financing to buy out the other. All discussions regarding mortgages, quitclaim deeds, and title of property should be conducted with your legal adviser. The purpose of this book is to provide information regarding the sale of your home in the framework of a divorce; it is not legal counsel.

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2 BE PREPARED

The starting point in successfully handling the disposition of the family home in divorce is to have a clear picture of where you stand financially. Money matters matter the most when your life has been disrupted by the emotional turmoil of divorce. By refraining from snap decisions, instead focusing on being objective, major money mistakes can be avoided. As stated in the previous chapter, it is important to know who is financially responsible for the mortgage payments. If you both signed the mortgage agreement, you are both obligated to the lender whether your name is on the property title or not. Removing a party from a property title does not alleviate the financial burden of that party. Two signatures on the mortgage means two responsible parties. This also includes your homeowners insurance policy. You need to know who is named as beneficiary and if both parties are insured. That is why it is smart on your part to have as much information regarding your home insurance, property taxes and liens, mortgage and marital debts, and marital assets available to your lawyer early on. The more prepared you are to face your financial future, the more objective you can be. Knowing where every dollar has to go will help you make better decisions and avoid uncertainty.

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Knowing where you are financially greatly influences the decision to keep, sell, or buy out the family home. The home is usually the most valuable asset couples share, not to mention the sentimental ties. There are many considerations for each option, so make your decisions carefully. Affordability and objective forethought are the keys to your decision. Poor decisions can affect you and your ex-spouse years down the road, long after the divorce is finalized. Keeping the House When divorcing couples have school-age children, the decision to keep the home so the children can keep the same schools and circle of friends is a best, less-stress way to handle the situation. Maintaining the normal routine as much as possible while working through a divorce can be accomplished with written agreements between you and your spouse. By allocating home expenses and mortgage payments by percentages or delegation of financial responsibility, your family will be free to focus on what matters the most to you. A clear-cut, signed agreement drawn up by a mediator will help avoid contention in the family home. This is why it is important to know your financial picture and how much each spouse can contribute. If your spouse fails to make their share of payments and cannot provide, it can affect both your credit ratings as well as complicating the later sale of the home. If you feel you can trust that your ex-spouse has enough resources to set up this type of arrangement and is willing to

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participate in the agreement, this may be the answer for you. Some couples choose to reside in the home, but in different rooms. If, later, one leaves, that person will have more financial obligations than the other, so be sure to give serious thought before choosing this option. Be aware, though, that some spouses are tied to the home, not only because of their children but emotionally. The house represents stability and shelter from the trauma of divorce, and by keeping it, they can have more control of their situation. Some may think keeping the home means they have “ won ” even though it is not a feasible financial decision. It is difficult enough to deal with divorce without later learning that unforeseen or unbudgeted expenses have taken their toll. Being realistic about what is affordable is crucial. Selling the House For most couples, selling the house is the best solution in a divorce setting. Selling a home, under any circumstances, is not without time and effort, so adding the emotional effects of divorce can make it a particularly trying time. There are legal reasons to sell as well as financial and emotional considerations. The decision to sell can include any and all of these, but liability may have the greatest weight in the decision to sell.

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Legalities Legal reasons to sell involve the division of real property. Marital property belongs to both parties no matter whose name is on the title. Each party is entitled to their equitable share. Some couples have a legal agreement beforehand, providing a simple solution to property division. Some couples want to make sure they receive their fair share and turn to the courts to handle it. Some use mediation to talk about the division of assets. Again, your attorney handles any agreements regarding the division of property. If you sell your home, the division becomes much easier because the future value of the home does not apply. Financial concerns created by divorce may be a significant reason to sell your home. A mortgage drawn up and signed based on two incomes is now in a precarious state. Monies budgeted for the upkeep of the home, property taxes, home insurance, home security, and house payments may or may not be there when couples split. Couples who sell their homes before divorce have the advantage of the capital gains tax exclusion of $500,000. A divorced person selling a home gets half of that tax break. There are other tax benefits available as well when substantial equity growth has occurred over years of owning a home. These are best discussed with your lawyer so you can make a financially sound decision about when to sell your home when you are divorcing.

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The Emotional Side of Selling Your Home When the marital home has been the hub of happiness and family life, it may turn out to be a constant reminder of what it once was and is no longer. The memories of good times in the home can be tainted by the unhappiness and pain of divorce. No matter how strong sentimental value may be, sometimes the best option is to sell the house and move on. Dealing with the past on a day-to-day basis simply because you want to keep the house may not be worth the trouble. As time goes on, you may decide that hanging on to the house wasn't as important as you first thought. Liability The liability of keeping a home may be the best reason to sell it. There are various ways to keep a house with one spouse remaining and the other departing, but they all carry risks and challenges. The Buyout If one spouse has enough income to remain in the home, it may be easier to buy out the other's share of the property, which would entail refinancing the home. The real challenges come when working out the money details. What if there is a disagreement on the selling price to the spouse or the appraisal value of the house? What if the equitable division of the property is not what was expected? Is it possible to give up marital property rights in exchange for

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other assets like investments? Will the ex-spouse lose out on future appreciation of the house? It is crucial to know that questions like these will arise when it comes to the division of property in a buyout situation. Refinancing the home in one spouse's name means not only settling the previous loan but paying the selling spouse their portion of the buyout. As an example, if the principal balance owed is $100,000 and there’s another $100,000 in equity, one-half of the equity ($50,000) would be due the selling spouse and $100,000 would be needed to pay off the principal. The refinanced loan would have to be at least $150,000. If the house value has appreciated, who is entitled to the equity? What if the property is appraised lower than the current loan? All scenarios must be considered before deciding on a buyout. Again, knowing your financial standing before filing for a divorce is paramount. Co-ownership Maintaining a clear channel of communication with your ex- spouse is a major part of co-ownership. Divorcing and keeping the home takes mutual trust. The goal is to move forward, so any concessions or efforts to do so will benefit both parties for the duration of the divorce process. If you or your spouse want to keep the house and buy out the other, but this cannot be accomplished, co-ownership is a possible path to take. It is a way to maintain stability for your children, who will not have to face the challenges of moving. One of the spouses can occupy the home with the children

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and make the mortgage payments until they can manage a buyout and become the sole owner. The drawback to this type of arrangement is what can happen if the mortgage payments are not made. Both parties are still responsible, and missed payments will affect both credit scores. Moving forward with a new life can be tricky in a co- ownership agreement because consistent communication is necessary to keep things going for the children. House payments, insurance premiums, utilities, and necessary repairs are financial obligations that ensure a secure place for the children. What if the utilities will be shut off due to nonpayment? What if the home heating and air-conditioning system needs replacing within a day or two? What if you moved two hours away and your ex-wife needs you to help with a fallen tree because she can't afford to pay someone? What if your ex-husband decides to move out because he has stretched his money too thin? What if bankruptcy is filed and there is a risk of losing the house? Co-ownership must be considered carefully, and a knowledgeable attorney dedicated to protecting your family's well-being will be your best source for guidance on the complexities that may arise. An agreement can be created to address all the obligations mentioned previously and protect both parties in the meantime. No matter what option is chosen, mortgage payments still must be paid. Selling is the only alternative if neither of the spouses can afford the home on one income. A short sale is possible if the home is going into foreclosure. You can come

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to an agreement with your lender to sell the home for less than is owed. Couples with good credit that are in the midst of divorcing may find more favor with their mortgagee to obtain permission for a short sale. Walking away from your home and mortgage does not go over well with the courts. It will complicate your divorce with the legal actions taken by the lender to get the remaining balance paid. One of the ways to end up with the judiciary in your divorce proceedings is to have an uncooperative spouse or attitude, costing more time and more money. Many divorcing couples end up spending what equity they had in their marital property on lawyer and court fees. Refusing to sign papers to sell the home or refusing to help pay for the mortgage can lead to judges ordering the home sold. As mentioned earlier, when a divorce action is filed, there is an automatic temporary restraining order that can be issued to prevent spouses from selling or borrowing against marital property. Discuss this option with your lawyer to make sure you have some sort of protection for your stake in the marital property. Less than a third of divorces end up in court due to disagreements over property division, but going to trial doubles the cost of the divorce. If an average divorce costs $11,000 settled out of court, and an average divorce trial costs $22,500, you can see how the equity in a home can easily be eaten up by attorney fees. Many divorcing couples who seriously consider the cost of lawyers and the time it takes to settle choose to sell their

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home instead of keeping it. Surveys show that couples who resolved their property issues without court intervention completed the divorce in under a year. Those who could not agree and went to trial had to wait an average of 15 to 16 months. Some states require divorces to be resolved within a year, but in most states, there are long wait times for divorce trials. While the trial is pending, mortgages still have to be paid as well as utilities, insurance, and property taxes. Delays can certainly lead to more stress, which divorcing couples do not need. To avoid increased legal fees and court costs, it seems like a commonsense decision to sell the home. In the upcoming pages, you will learn the benefits of marital agreements that help sell the home, the importance of having realistic expectations regarding the value of your home, and how choosing a good Realtor experienced in divorce may be your greatest help in the sale of your home.

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3 MARITAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT

One of the best ways for couples to move forward with a divorce is to disconnect emotionally and handle the sale of the home in a businesslike manner. Because the marital home is usually the greatest asset in a marriage, it is also the greatest liability. Much thought needs to be given to securing settlement terms to protect both parties, especially the spouse who is departing the home. When you enter into your marital settlement agreement, you need to have your lawyer specify who is financially responsible for the mortgage, the homeowners insurance, utilities, and upkeep of the marital home. If the spouse occupying the marital home is responsible to list, show, and sell the home, the other spouse may be obligated to pay part or all of the mortgage as well as contribute to maintaining the home. If the occupying spouse shows little effort in getting the house sold, the marital agreement needs to provide a timetable for the sale of the home. It is important for the marital agreement to include provisions outlining the steps to be taken if the house cannot be sold within a specified time or if one spouse fails to meet any financial obligations.

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Consult your legal adviser for contingencies that are specific to your situation when you want the home to sell. Extra-cost items may include repainting the home, landscaping, or paying for new appliances or carpeting. There needs to be clear directions on how to handle the unexpected while attempting to sell the home, for instance if a home inspection reveals a cracked foundation or termite infestation. Ex- spouses sometimes agree to a fixed amount of time that expenses will be shared before the sale of the home. Quick decisions can be damaging, especially when it comes to co- ownership or one spouse living in the home until it sells. By keeping emotions at bay while making important decisions and focusing on what needs to be done to sell your home, you and your ex-spouse can move forward to better futures. Reasonable and Realistic Expectations Since the home is one of the most valuable marital assets, dividing the property between a couple in the turmoil of divorce can be a major source of contention. If you have other properties, such as a vacation home or investment properties, those will also have to be assessed and have a monetary value placed on them. In order to divide equitably or equally, as the case may be, you will need to know how much your property is worth. When it comes to the marital home, there are several common valuation methods available to help determine the value of your home. These are used in property settlements

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and may differ from what you perceive as your home ’s worth.

Comparative Market Analysis Your Realtor will provide you with a comparative market analysis, or CMA. This is an in-depth review of your home's worth in the current market based on the recent sale prices of homes comparable to yours. Any differences, such as the size of the lot or value-added items like a swimming pool, are taken into consideration and the value adjusted accordingly. Broker Price Opinion The broker price opinion (BPO) is another type of estimate, produced by a real estate agent in response to a request from a mortgage lender. A few years ago, when real estate sales around the country were at their peak, lenders found it difficult to handle the staggering number of transactions. The BPO concept was born. It is less elaborate, and thus less costly, than an appraisal, but more involved than a CMA. There are two kinds of BPOs, drive-by and interior. If the agent has access to the interior of your home, you will obtain a more in-depth and accurate evaluation. No matter your circumstances, you’ll want to get as much money as possible from the sale of your home. Therefore, it

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is crucial to get a reliable evaluation, generated by a Realtor who will also stand by your side during the sale process.

The Cost Approach The cost approach is based on what it would cost to reproduce your home new, less depreciation and obsolescence. Would any person buy the property for a cost greater than the value of the land and a structure with equal appeal? Professional Appraisal A professional appraisal for the valuation of marital property is required when the court has to divide the couple’s assets . Some states require a judge to independently determine the fair market value, and sometimes the judge may consider information provided by a spouse. You should understand that when a valuation is determined, it may not include latent cost-related issues. If there are plumbing problems under the foundation or termites that have compromised the structure, these situations will affect the sale price of a home. Home inspections are valuable because you will have a more realistic idea of what to expect when you sell your home. Some buyers may require home inspections to eliminate any questions regarding your home's integrity. You will need to trust your Realtor when it comes to listing your home to sell. It pays to select a good one.

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Finding a Good Realtor Choosing a good Realtor is always important. As obvious as this might seem, selecting the best Realtor for you can be difficult. What defines a good Realtor? That often depends on your particular circumstances. For someone selling a home during a divorce, it means finding a Realtor who has experience with that situation and is comfortable with the procedure. Some Realtors prefer not to take on clients who are selling during a divorce because the process takes more effort and knowledge than a standard real estate transaction. Not every real estate agent is equipped to handle the complexity of property issues that come with the division. Choose one who keeps the word “ divorce ” out of any conversations with potential buyers. Divorce means “ desperate ” to some people. Since most divorcing couples' greatest single asset is their marital home, selling it includes the necessary decision of choosing a Realtor who will help both parties. Conflicts of interest and strong emotions often create stressful discussions of what should be done with the house. A Realtor experienced in transactions involving divorcing couples home knows how to handle the emotional state of spouses, the awkward meetings of soon-to-be exes, and how to provide a neutral ground for interactions. When you look for a Realtor, questions about their divorce experience are imperative. You need to find one you can trust wholeheartedly. How they talk about previous clients is an accurate indicator of how you will be treated. Look for

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discretion and empathy. Most Realtors work with buyers and sellers who don't know each other, not with divorcing couples in the midst of conflict. It's important to have a Realtor who is impartial and who understands the complex nature of divorce. When you choose among Realtors experienced in divorces, make sure you pick a good listener. No two divorces are alike, and your Realtor should be able to help sell your home without taking sides. Some Realtors have even been trained in mediation. Since you and your spouse will both be involved in the selling process, look even further for an exceptional communicator who knows how to keep everyone on the same wavelength. Suitable agents are focused on being objective and unswayed by emotional outbursts from either party. Not only do you want a Realtor with divorce experience who is a good listener/communicator, you want one who is genuinely concerned about your situation. They should show an interest in both parties having a quick and strong rebound in their finances. They should also be knowledgeable about the local market in order to price your home correctly from the start. When you interview Realtors, ask them about their listing price to sale price ratio. What is their success rate for sales? Here are some traits to look for when hiring an agent. • Current – Is the agent up-to-date with the latest housing trends so he/she can serve you effectively? • Connected – Does the agent have the necessary contacts who can assist in every phase of selling your

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home? A network of connections includes home inspectors, quality service people, other brokers, and county officials. • Knowledgeable – Is the agent familiar with the current market and able to price your home strategically? Do they know what is unique about your neighborhood to distinguish your home from the competition? Do they know what to highlight in your area to attract buyers? • Organized – An agent must pay close attention to your specific needs, communicate well, and be quick to follow leads. • Personable – An agent who is sincerely interested in helping you will go the extra mile with a smile. They must be able to sell themselves to you as well as sell your home to a buyer. • Passionate – Some agents treat their job like a hobby or just a way to earn extra income. Find an agent who is passionate about what they do and loves their job. • Tenacious – Successful agents possess a strong work ethic. They are efficient and take advantage of time- saving tools that help sell your home. • Honest – Professional real estate agents build their reputation on high standards of business practices. • Self-motivated – Real estate agents are commission- only businesspeople. Successful agents work hard because if it benefits their clients, it benefits them. • Creative – Sometimes it takes creativity to properly showcase a home, develop engaging content, and

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negotiate a sale. An agent who can quickly address any marketing need is an asset to you. • Tech-savvy – Agents well-versed in the latest technology for marketing homes should have a website, social media setup, user-friendly home search options, and quality presentations online with high-resolution images of homes, videos, and slideshows. Some real estate agencies have smart- phone applications. A professional Realtor has to wear many hats. They must be proficient in marketing, negotiating, consultation, legalities, property taxes, and, most of all, gaining the trust of their clients. It is to your advantage to hire an agent who understands your unique needs while you work through your divorce. If you decide that selling the marital home is the best option in this life-changing time, continue reading the chapters ahead. Let them be a helpful guide on how to present your home in the best light and how to avoid costly mistakes, especially when it comes to negotiating.

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4 THE 80/20 RULE

In 1906 an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, found an intriguing correlation. He noticed 20% of the pea pods in his garden held 80% of the peas. Studying the peas prompted him to take a closer look at this ratio. In one of his initial discoveries, he found 80% of the land in his area was owned by 20% of the people. After a detailed study, he observed this ratio held true in many aspects of life. The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, is the result of his findings.

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Buyer's Story When Vince and Sue were shopping for a new home, Vince wanted an ocean view. They looked at many desirable properties but didn’t find any that were right for them. Some were overpriced; others had obstructed views. The search went on for almost a year until they found an older home a short walk from the ocean. The neglected exterior and dated interior were not encouraging, but when Vince stepped out onto the third-floor balcony off the master suite, he was sold. Any shortcomings in wall color or fixtures faded away when he took in the view. He could now see the sunrise from his bedroom window every morning. What 20% of the home caught the eyes of Vince and Sue? The magnificent third-floor view of the ocean!

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Seller s’ Story When Cam and Kate listed their home, they needed a buyer who wasn't concerned that the house was on an unpaved road. Though the home was over 10 years old, the interior was updated with fresh, neutral wall colors and carpeting to look brand-new. The towering trees and established yard gave the home a welcoming curb appeal. The buyer had also looked at home within miles of Cam and Kate’s that had towering trees as well as a koi pond and a patio. This home was comparable in interior and exterior, but it was on a busy street. What 20% of the home caught the buyer's eye and prompted him to choose Cam and Kate’s home? The buyer loved the secluded country feel of the home. The 1.8-acre property was surrounded by pastures, with grand oaks dotting the landscape.

20% of Causes Are Responsible for 80% of Outcomes

For example: • 80% of your income is derived from 20% of your work. • 80% of a business’s income is derived from 20% of its customers. • 80% of your value to an employer is derived from 20% of your work.

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5 RELATING THE 80/20 RULE TO HOME SELLING

Understanding this concept can save you time in selling your home. When you use the 80/20 rule, you stop trying to sell people on the entire home. Applying the rule, you can highlight the 20% of your home’s features that make it special. The remaining 80% of your home still affects the buyer's decision , so don’t neglect it . Your selling point won’t be the common features your home shares with the other properties on the market. Focus on your home's unique features to grab the attention of buyers.

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How the 80/20 Rule Applies to Home Sales An out-of-town home shopper with no specific requirements contacted a real estate agent to look at available homes for sale. The agent drove him from house to house. In each case, this buyer suggested offers 10% to 20% below the asking price without budging. As the day progressed, the agent's chances of finding a suitable home were dwindling. They stopped at one last house as the sun set. The exterior of the house was dated and the yard untended. This agent and her client had spent the entire day looking at houses that shared 80% of the same features. Nevertheless, once the buyer walked into the great room, he wanted to buy the home for the asking price. What set this house apart from the others? He wasn't too interested in the kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms. A bedroom was a bedroom as far as he was concerned. He fell in love with the one remarkable feature of this otherwise uninspiring house. The house sat atop a hill with a beautiful view out of a large picture window. As they entered the great room, the sun was setting below the distant tree line. That view sold the buyer. The remaining parts of the home could be improved.

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The home buyer based his decision to buy on the window view from the hillside. The 20% of the home's features motivated him to offer full price on the spot. Such is the power of the 80/20 rule. In some cases, the 80/20 rule may help people make a sale without even conducting a showing. The house in the following example had languished on the market for months. Unlike the previous home, this one was not unattractive. On the contrary, it was a brand-new, custom-built home. It sat on the market for over seven months without a single offer. The builder hired a real estate agent who knew the importance of finding that one special feature. He drove out to give the house a thorough investigation. He discovered what the property had that the competition did not. The house had a beautiful five-acre yard. Other houses being sold in the area were on one- to two-acre lots. Not only was the yard bigger, it was also more private than the other properties. The real estate agent marketed the property highlighting the five acres along with a description of the house. Because the house was no longer the main selling point, interest in the property increased.

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The 80/20 Rule in Action: Buyers Are Searching for Unique Features Spotlight the unique features of your home that set it apart it from the others on the market. You will attract interested buyers who are willing to pay the asking price. A buyer was so interested that he submitted an offer from 1,000 miles away. Fearing that someone else would buy it before he could, he bought it sight unseen. He didn't want to lose out on his “ perfect ” home. The sale was completed in 45 days. The builder was amazed! His house had been on the market for close to eight months. That small percentage of the home's features was the selling point. The 80/20 rule unfolds again. Learn how to apply this rule by leveraging a unique selling point, and you will not have to settle for less than your asking price. Buyers who fall in love with a home rarely offer a lower price. By shifting focus to the five acres, the real estate agent captured the interest of buyers immediately. The house was no longer unsellable, but desirable.

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What does your home or property have to offer that other homes in the area do not? Perhaps you have a relaxing patio or lush landscaping that will catch a buyer’s eye.

Potential Unique Features Each house will have its unique features. You may already have some in mind. If not, these ideas should help to get you started: • Hilltop views are an excellent defining feature. Like the earlier example, a high vantage point comes with a spectacular view of the surrounding area. • Maybe your home looks out on an open field frequented by wildlife. Many people would like that view. • Your house might have an unobstructed view of the sunset. That would interest potential buyers. • Patios are another great feature. Maybe the rest of your neighbors do not have patios, or theirs are smaller. That vital feature could help you sell your home. • The location is something else that can set your property apart. If your home is on a cul-de-sac or has a corner lot, make the most of it in your marketing.

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A buyer once paid extra for a townhouse simply because of its location in the complex. Most of the surrounding homes did not have yards. However, a few shared a half-acre "yard area." An owner whose townhouse bordered this yard area was able to sell his home for a higher price than other townhouses on the market. His home had a characteristic shared by fewer than 10% of the others. He had the only available listing offering that feature. With this attractive point of difference, the house sold for a higher price. Another townhouse seller (in the same complex) found a different unique feature. Although he did not have a yard, he was still able to use his location to his advantage. His property backed up to a lake and fountain. This unique feature helped him sell his townhouse quickly and for a great price. • You might have a private location. For instance, your lot may be partially concealed by trees, or you might have an empty lot next to you. Use this to market your property. • You might have a unique backyard. If you have a larger backyard than your neighbors, feature it to your advantage.

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• A shady backyard can also help you sell your property. Some people like the idea of lounging in the shade. • A fenced backyard is also a big selling point. People with kids and pets look for homes with fenced backyards. • You can also look at other features. For instance, a finished basement can help you sell your home. You can also market a large attic, an extra-large garage, a swimming pool, or anything else that makes your home stand out. Look for the 20% Difference and Market the Feature to Get Results Follow the 80/20 rule and you will stop wasting time showing to people who are not interested. Instead, you will be showing your home to buyers who are motivated to make a purchase. You won't have to show quite so often. You also won't have to sift through lowball offers from casual shoppers. Keeping this in mind, it is essential you take the time to uncover your home's most attractive and unique features. Compare your house with others in the neighborhood to see what makes yours stand out.

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6 CREATING CURB APPEAL

Whether viewing an online photo or driving by your home, a home shopper will decide in a simple glance whether they want to see more of your home. First impressions are powerful, so creating curb appeal is crucial to garnering interest in your home. Curb appeal (how your home looks from the road) is so persuasive that your well-prepared house may even catch the attention of buyers who didn’t find the written description particularly compelling. Take a drive around your neighborhood and the surrounding area and see what homes appeal to you. Homes with clean yards and groomed lawns will be more impressive than homes with uncut grass and overgrowth. The outside appearance of your property should be an invitation to come inside. Potential home buyers are drawn to welcoming entries and uncluttered yards. Would you be attracted to a home with dead shrubbery and a weather-worn exterior?

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You may feel that the home is neglected on the inside as well as the outside. Here lies the importance of curb appeal. When you drive up to your home, take inventory of things that need attention. With simple improvements like weeding, trimming, and window washing, you can improve the appearance of your home in an afternoon. Low-cost investments like power washing the house and concrete, repainting trim, and adding landscaping also help your house have more curb appeal. The goal here is to get more money for your home. Home buyers generally aren't interested in a home that needs work unless you want to sell below market value. If you have poor landscaping, dingy exterior paint, or an unkempt yard, they may drive by without wanting to see the rest of your home. Look around your yard and list everything that needs work. • Are your shrubs, trees, flower gardens, and walkways tidy? • Is there trash or a general mess in your yard? • Does everything (front light, garage door, porch rails, etc.) function properly and look its best? • Could outdoor features, like patio furniture or the deck, be updated with a quick coat of paint? Make the necessary improvements to update the exterior of your property, and think how many people will be drawn to

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the inside of your home when they see how beautiful it is from your curb! You may find yourself with a long list of things to do; it takes hard work to get a home ready to sell. Anyone can put a house on the market, but not everyone sells quickly or with great profits. Follow these guidelines to improve your chances of selling your home quickly and for the best price. Creating a Grand Entrance Impressing the home shopper at the front door is as important as the curb appeal. This means more than putting out a welcome mat or potted plants. You want them to feel safe and secure when they open the door. The doorknob is the first point they touch on your home. If the entry handset is worn or loose, you will need to replace your door handle with a heavy-duty deadbolt and knob combination. This wise investment of less than $50 will make your home more visibly impressive. A flimsy lock or handle on your front door will make potential home buyers feel uncomfortable, and they may not even know why. Security is important to home buyers. The front door is a focal point, so make it impressive, too. Is the paint on your metal door faded? Is it peeled and flaking? Freshen it up and add a dash of color. Choose a paint that complements the color of your home. Replacing a wooden

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door with a steel entry door is worth the cost with a 91% return on investment (ROI).

Here are other things to consider that will help in creating great curb appeal: • Symmetry appeals to the eye, and is easy to accomplish. Lopsided landscaping or unevenly trimmed bushes will detract from the curb appeal. The overall appearance of your home needs to be balanced. • If you have a mailbox, make sure it complements your home. Investing in a new one, if yours is unsightly, does not cost much and is worthwhile. • Outdoor lighting added to your landscaping is not only a great way to add beauty but is perceived as a safety measure. • Add instant color by utilizing flower boxes and raised flower beds. They are an easy, inexpensive way to enhance the exterior appearance of your home. • Spruce up the landscaping surrounding your home. Eliminating weeds and adding fresh mulch can really make a difference and shows others you care about the overall look of your home. • Give your home architectural appeal by adding molding to the tops and sides of the doorway or around windows. • Shutters and trim need to be in excellent shape. Repainting them adds to the attractiveness. Your

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fence gates, arbors, or fencing panels need to be clean and fresh as well. • Clean downspouts and gutters. Repaint or touch up to eliminate rust spots. You don't want your home to appear neglected. • Make sure the walkway to your front door is easy to approach. Don't let stacked hoses or unruly landscaping interfere with home shoppers walking up to your home. You want to present an inviting look. • If your railings look weathered, consider a fresh coat of stain or paint. • Faded or chipping paint, siding, or trim will always detract from curb appeal. Giving your home a fresh coat of paint is recommended. If your exterior paint is good, make sure your doors and window trim are, too. It is well worth the cost this upgrade will add to the overall look and feel of your home. • Power washing the house, walkways, and driveway can be almost as effective as repainting, at a much lower cost. Power washers are easily rented from your local hardware store. • Adding some stone or stone veneer to the face of your home is an inexpensive way to instantly update your home if it complements the design. • Add a “ smart ” doorbell. Eight of 10 home doorbells are outdated or not working, so if you invest $200 in a doorbell equipped with a camera and speaker, you

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will gain the approval of home shoppers who are looking for security measures. Curb appeal is one of the most important elements in selling your home quickly and successfully. You can create interest in your home before buyers even step out of the car, no matter how uninterested they might have been initially. Learn about strategic interior staging in the upcoming chapters. Understand the power of photography in marketing your home. Know where to spend and where to save. The investment of your time and energy to update can improve the way your home is appraised, viewed, and valued.

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7 STAGING WITH PURPOSE

This strategy is effective in any market. No matter what type of home property is being listed, this approach works. It applies equally to single-family houses, apartments, townhouses, and condos. Agents and sellers using this tactic have a greater chance of selling the property for more money. Staging is the act of sprucing up a home to make it as visually appealing as possible. It does take extra time and work, but the payoff is well worth the effort. Staging is one of the most effective marketing tools to sell homes for more money. In today’s competitive real estate market, selling your home requires hard work and dedication. If you are a motivated seller, this is where you can bring your home to the marketing forefront. Creating an eye-appealing home, i.e., staging, one potential buyers can envision living in, is the best investment of your time and effort.

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Staging your home will: • Distinguish it from the competition • Attract top dollars from home buyers • Give you a visual edge over the competition How powerful is staging when selling a home? Consider these results from surveys conducted by Coldwell Banker and the National Association of Realtors®. • Staged homes spent 50% less time on the market than nonstaged homes. • Staged homes sold for more than 6% above asking price. • A staging investment of 1% to 3% of asking price generates a return on investment of between 8% and 10 %. • Homes staged prior to listing sold 79% faster than homes staged after listing. A real estate agent discovered the secret strategy by accident when he met a wealthy executive who wanted to sell his condo. He was willing to hire the agent but on one condition. The real estate agent must agree to use the man’s secret method to sell the condo. The agent was naturally skeptical, but he knew selling the condo would bring a handsome commission.

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Conversely, if it did not work out their agreement would expire, and the agent could walk away. The real estate agent decided to give it a shot and listed the condo. They priced the condo at $554,900 even though two similar condos in the same complex were listed for $479,000 and $439,000. The agent was not confident that the condo would sell for the $554,900 price. On the other hand, the owner’s secret strategy was intriguing. The condo went on the market, and the agent waited to see what would happen. He began to doubt the strategy as he was showing the condo regularly, but without any offers. People were walking through and leaving. To make matters worse, most visiting agents thought the condo was overpriced. They could not understand why the owner was asking for so much money. After all, a similar condo around the corner was available for $100,000 less! They counseled their buyers to keep looking and left without making offers. The condo had no special features that set it apart from the others. This unit was not a penthouse. It was on the sixth floor of a 10-story complex. The other agents were correct to say the price was too high. Still, the owner stood firm. Four months and many showings later, a buyer walked in who loved the condo the moment he stepped through the door. He made an offer before he finished the tour. The agent was so excited that he rushed to call the owner. The owner accepted the man’s offer and sold close to listing price.

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The condo successfully sold for $549,000, which was a record high! The strategy they used was a huge success. Naturally, the real estate agent was excited, and the owner was thrilled he had made a substantial profit. The price was $110,000 higher than a condo that had sold two and a half months earlier. The higher price was not due to the current market. The next unit that sold (28 days later) went for $435,000. It was a less desirable second-floor unit. Five months later, another similar condo sold for $450,000. What is the secret strategy to selling a home for more money? What was the special request the wealthy home seller had for his agent? It was simple. He insisted that the condo be staged. The successful real estate agent knew he was onto something. He began researching everything he could find on staging's impact on the selling prices of homes. He collected his findings and shared the tactics the wealthy seller had taught him. He included all the examples he had found as case studies. Many agents already encouraged sellers to stage their homes. However, few of them knew of the following case study proving staging is an effective method of selling your home for more money. The following is an excerpt from his report, with one of the case studies he recorded.

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Staging – vs – Non-Staged Case Study & Report

Dear Reader, I wanted to give you the most convincing proof possible. Many people find it hard to believe the simple act of staging helps one home sell for more than another similar home. In my research, I looked for examples of similar houses being sold for differing amounts of money where only one of the two houses were staged. The clearest example I could find was in the case of these two listings. This development has 200 equivalent townhouses. Every single townhome in the neighborhood is three stories with three bedrooms and three bathrooms. Every single unit has the same floor plan. I looked for two sales there, and found these: • 4438 Capital Dome Drive sold on August 26. • 4456 Capital Dome Drive (5 doors down) sold on July 26, for 40,000 dollars less. I visited this neighborhood, and I am familiar with these properties. You could not find a better example of two identical properties that sold for different prices.

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