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Table Of Contents





To Rent Or To Sell? That Is The Question 4


Not Living In Your Home Makes It Easier To Sell 10


Steps To Selling Your Vacant Home



Choosing The Right Agent



Why Changing Things And Small Improvements Can Gain You Thousands



Marketing A Vacant Home



Using Curb Appeal To Sell Your Home For More



Importance Of Good Pictures


10. Staging Solutions And Options


11. Safety Points While Selling A Vacant Home


12. Selling A Home Out Of State


13. Negotiating While Selling A Vacant Home 72

14. A Good Agent Can Help Sell A Vacant Home 15. Mistakes To Avoid While Selling A Vacant Home



16. Closing The Sale On A Vacant Home


About Maurice Hi, I am Maurice Gilmore of MVP Realty Associates. My past experience in the Banking and Life Insurance Industry has enabled me to be one of the most knowledgeable, loyal and confidential Real Estate Professional in South West Florida, specializing in the Naples, Ave Maria, Marco Island, Bonita Springs, Estero and Fort Myers communities. For the past 19 years I have been honored to serve in this beautiful slice of paradise that I have been blessed to call home for over twenty years. Every transaction is serviced with exceptional class and distinction whether it is Luxury Homes, Pre-construction, New Construction, Resale, Foreclosed homes or Land. Buying, selling, or leasing; please allow me the privilege of making your Real Estate experience stress-free. Register today for instant access to MLS listings and email updates. This information will assist each client in confidently making the best decisions specific to their unique real estate needs. Also ask about our FREE Guaranteed Buyers and Sellers Programs and how you may QUALIFY for New Home Builders and Realtors incentives? As an Accredited A+ member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) my services will be offered at the highest level of ethical, professional standards and principles in the industry. I will always be accessible to clients throughout the transaction and even years after closing…


What Others Have To Say About Maurice I have found Mr. Gilmore to be extremely professional and considerate throughout the purchase of my property. He made the experience very stress free and straightforward. Expertise and specialism was demonstrated at all times and I would refer back to him for any future purchase or sale. Is there anything you wish Maurice Gilmore did differently? Nothing that I can think of. How did the agent help in finding the right property for you? Kept me informed of the different type of properties available and which would suit my purpose and lifestyle in my price range. How did the agent help to get a good price for you? He negotiated with the selling agent with my authorization. — Audrey Lucas. Maurice was a great help with our home search. He was very knowledgeable, and answered all of our questions at any time, day or night. He helped us get the best rates, and negotiated very well. He checked on us throughout the whole process. Maurice started as our realtor and ended as our friend. I would definitely recommend Maurice Gilmore to my family and friends. — Brandy Vasquez, Client "Maurice was knowledgeable, helpful & professional when I was dealing with him while trying to decide on a location to build in Naples. He took us to several developments during the process before we finally decided on one. He was never pushy or high pressure and in fact, long after I had moved into my house, I still considered Maurice a friend! It was a pleasure working with him." — Mrs. Janet Evenson, Client

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"This guy is super when it comes to helping customer find a home so I know him since 2004, when I buy my first home and I closed one last May because of good service he provided to us and I will be more than happy to recommend him to someone else." — Mr. & Mrs. Leslet & Anne Rose Jean Charles, Client "We found Maurice to be an excellent realtor when we were selling and buying our property. We live in the UK and it was very reassuring to be able to completely trust and rely on Maurice to take care of things for us. He has excellent local knowledge and took the time and trouble to show us properties in several different locations, when we found the right place for us he proved to be a skilled negotiator and was able to get us a good discount on the original asking price. Maurice is professional, honest and trustworthy with a great personality and sense of humour. I have no hesitation in recommending him." — Mr. & Mrs. William & Debbie Neech, Client "My husband and I bought our first home in 2005 and Mr. Gilmore was our realtor. He diligently guide us throughout the whole process. When we purchased our second home, he was just as diligent. He is very professional and you can absolutely rely on him to respond to you no matter what time of the day or night Maurice is a professional and knowledgeable Realtor on anything regarding Real Estate. You can call or text Maurice anytime and he will respond shortly. He is the best Realtor in South West Florida. I would definitely recommend him to anyone looking to make a real estate purchase or rental in Naples to Fort Myers. I’ve experienced such a smooth transaction from start to finish with Mr. Gilmore. He is such a great realtor to work with! — Jeannette Ruiz-Ayala with any concerns. He is Awesome!!" — Sylvia & Dermot Brown, Client


Mr. Gilmore is a professional Realtor servicing the Fort Myers to Naples Real Estate Market. He is never too busy to take your calls and will get you an answer real fast, he is available for his clients. He helped us find our dream home and we are very happy. I will definitely recommend Maurice to anyone looking to buy, sell or rent a place anywhere in the U.S. — Patricia Williams Maurice provides an excellent realtor service. He listens, he is responsive and provides great customer service. He made the process of home buying seamless and efficient. I would definitely recommend Maurice to anyone needing this service. — Suzette Jones As a first time home buyer Maurice and his team made this process so smooth and stress free. I can’t thank Maurice enough for his patience and professionalism in helping my find my dream home in such a challenging year. He guided me through the process from the start until after I got my keys. I am truly grateful. — Orville Cole One of the best Realtor helped me find a wonderful home for an amazing price. Maurice G. is the best Realtors I have ever met in my life. He is so kind and treated us like we were family. We are so thankful, he found us one of the best houses for the best price in Naples and for that we are very happy. He's so generous and one of the nicest people I've met. So I want to say thank you to Maurice for helping me and my family find a wonderful home. — Donna Marilyn Forbes

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CHAPTER 1 Introduction

Vacant homes pose real estate challenges and offer opportunity at the same time. Paradoxically, empty real estate can be easier to sell (e.g., it can be owner-unoccupied and beautifully staged for marketing) and at the same time it is harder to sell (it may be a piece of property left to you in a favorite aunt’s estate that has been neglected for years. That is what we are going to discuss in this book — the challenges and the techniques to successfully sell an empty house. A home can become vacant due to marriage, divorce, job relocation, death, or myriad other life events. The house could be in superb, average, or shabby condition. It may be updated or old-fashioned. It may be starkly empty and beautifully painted in neutral colors throughout, or it may be crammed with old furniture and the previous owner’s (perhaps your) possessions and have zebra-striped wallpaper in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Either way, it needs to be sold. This book considers how.

There are two types of vacant home sales. One is where the homeowners/sellers have decided to vacate the home they currently live in and reside elsewhere while the house is sold, such as an apartment, rental home, or residence hotel. They do this to make a home showing a more attractive proposition for the buyer. As we will see, this is “staging” a house for the market. The advantages of vacating the house before starting the home marketing and sales process include presenting a better staging opportunity, more frequent showings, easier upkeep to curb appeal and a pristine interior, and less burden on the seller’s time


and effort.

The other situation is where the home is unoccupied — no one lives there and perhaps no one has lived there for some time. Maybe you were left the house, assumed it for a debt, or decided it was an investment that did not work out. Sometimes vacancies are due to a bank foreclosure or short sale in which the lender accepts less than the mortgage balance. It is these bank-owned properties, sometimes called “real estate-owned,” or REOs, that tend to be “problem homes” in maintenance and sales. A house that’s been vacant may look like a bargain, but buyers should be cautious because expensive problems can exist inside homes that have been unoccupied. While vacating the home during the time it is on the market can be a distinct advantage to the seller, that is not the case with all vacant property. That’s the purpose of this book — to educate the reader on the issues involved in selling a vacant residential property.


CHAPTER 2 To Rent or To Sell? That is the Question

The decision whether to rent out or to sell a vacant home often arises in residential real estate sales transactions. Real estate is a prime investment. For most Americans, it is their largest investment, with the equity built up in the home of genuine importance in retirement planning. It may be an attractive proposition either for long-term investment or immediate cash flow if a homeowner has the opportunity (and financial ability) to become a landlord and rent out a home while affording another. A family may arrive at a point where more room is needed, or a change of location desired, or a new job requires a relocation that causes someone to move, yet rent their house to tenants. Other situations where it might be more practical to rent out rather than sell out could involve a home that has languished on the market or where the owner is “under water,” the mortgage being more than the home value. By 2016, American home prices had recovered nearly all the losses from the 2006 downturn, although when adjusted for inflation, prices are still 20% below the 2006 peak. Renting your home versus selling has many factors to consider. For example, is real estate a good investment in the overall economy? Is the housing market in general moving up or down? If waiting two or three years will see substantial appreciation in local home prices or if home prices have been depressed but are slowly rebounding, it may be better to rent out your home than sell now.


It makes sense to keep a house as an investment if it shows future growth in worth, provided you have the wherewithal to maintain its value with conscientious renters and appropriate upkeep. In a general down market, it could also make sense to hang onto the home and realize rental income until the market recovers.


The local situation is a big factor. Is the home in an area of economic stability and rising house prices or in a steadily decaying area? That the home is in an increasingly unstable neighborhood is economically a reason to sell quickly. Should the value of the entire area have vastly decreased, it is hard to know when it will stop, or if it will stop at all. Consulting with a real estate agent who has experience and knowledge about dropping neighborhood value will help you in figuring out what to do. If the agent believes that the value is not going to go up anytime soon, it is best to sell your vacant home as soon as you can. Using a real estate agent to sell your vacant home will make the process go more smoothly, especially if you need to sell it within a short period of time.


There are issues that will determine whether you can, or should, rent your home rather than selling it. Renting costs. Consider the costs in renting your home to decide if you can afford to go that route. Determine the going rental rates in your market using tools like the MLS listings, “shopper” guides, and online websites. Look for comparable properties in your neighborhood to estimate the monthly rent your home could bring. Note features such as square footage, number of rooms, and upgrades such as granite kitchen counter tops. Take location and


proximity to desirable schools into consideration while looking for comps. You can also talk to real estate agents and property managers to get their take on pricing. If it turns out that you cannot cover your mortgage with the projected rent, then calculate how much of a loss you can take to still be able to afford to rent the house. In addition to mortgage payments, there are taxes, upkeep, and utilities to consider. Your home-sale situation. Your own economic circumstances may play a role in determining whether to rent your home or offer it for sale. Some sellers must evaluate whether they can afford to sell their home. If not, renting is a viable alternative. Here is an example of a situation where a couple had to examine how affordable it was for them to sell their house. The couple live in an area of Florida where houses have dropped in value since the peak in 2006, the same year their house was purchased. As they debated whether to sell their home in 2011, they realized that if they chose to sell, they would be forced to take a $50,000 cash loss, not including closing costs. They looked at the numbers and decided they could not afford to sell their home. For them, it made more sense to rent their home and purchase a second home. When you rent, you may take a loss monthly, but you do not have to come up with the cash to satisfy the loan immediately upon sale. If you sell at a loss, then there is no tax benefit. The couple bought some time for real estate prices to further recover. Beneficial tax deductions of renting a home. For homeowners in need of tax deductions, there are benefits to renting rather than selling a house. You can deduct expenses related to owning and managing your property when you rent it. This includes mortgage interest payments, insurance, property taxes, maintenance,


fixtures, cleaning services and even travel and local transportation expenses incurred in maintaining and managing the property and rent collection.


The biggest advantage of renting out your vacant home is gaining an additional source of income. This extra money each month will help you pay property taxes, mortgage, and utilities (unless you rent with the condition that tenants pay for utilities each month, which is completely your choice). It is possible to return some profit. Another advantage is the increase in the value in your vacant home through appreciation and/or by having some renovations done for your tenants which could end up becoming an enhancing investment at ultimate time of sale. For example, finishing the basement and adding a kitchen and a bathroom will turn it into a basement apartment, and increase the home’s value for resale. By renting out your vacant home, you will avoid squatters, vandals, and thieves. For example, if you own a vacant home and you are rarely there, squatters and vandals are going to take notice. Therefore, it is best to rent it out even short-term, so there is someone living there if you are not planning on quickly selling it. You may get lucky and even have tenants, who can help with maintaining your property. This could be anything from lawn care to plumbing issues. A tenant could even become a future buyer for your property. One con to renting out is that you are the landlord with the obligations, responsibilities, and headaches of that role. Property management is a dynamic activity, meaning you do not simply rent out your home and await income and tax benefits. There is regular and emergency maintenance (e.g., mowing and the hot water heater that bursts at 3 AM.)


Bad tenants are a serious concern for owners renting houses. They cause damage to property, are late on rent payments, or don’t pay rent at all. This will cause additional expenses for repairs, perhaps involve legal fees for eviction proceeding, and may eliminate the benefits of renting out your property. Background checks and requiring references on potential tenants is advised. Another con if you are expecting to sell within a few months to a year or two is that having tenants in the home can make the home more difficult to sell. For example, say you have let your tenant know that you are planning to sell, and that they must relocate within two months’ time. If they do not have options, they may drag their feet and make it as difficult as possible for you to prepare the home to sell. Whereas, if your home were empty, you could easily clean up, and get the property ready for the potential buyers, without having to work around your tenant’s schedule. Converting residential to rental property may involve capital gains tax. If you lived in the house for at least two years, then rented it out for under three years, you might be able to use the provision that allows you to exclude up to $500,000 of gains tax free. If you plan to sell a home you’ve converted to rental property, you should consult an accountant or tax expert.


CHAPTER 3 Not Living in Your Home Makes It Easier to Sell

Some real estate professionals profess that it is 10 times easier to sell a house the seller is not currently living in than an owner- occupied home. For instance, buyer-agent showings may be increased. It is more efficient for real estate agents’ schedules to show unoccupied homes. If they have 20 homes to show and 5 are occupied, they may show the vacant homes first — or only — because it’s easier. They do not have to call and make an appointment. They can arrange with seller or seller’s agent to go to the home and access it via the lockbox. Also, a homeowner is not interrupted at inopportune times to show the home. A seller doesn’t have to go to a neighbor’s, go to the store, or lurk about the house while buyers are looking. Further, the seller isn’t under continual pressure to keep the home in immaculate showing condition and spotless at all times. With small children, this can be almost impossible to do, even if one of the parents does not hold a job outside of the home.

Finally, the home can be “staged” for sale.


Statistics from a 2015 survey indicate that homes expiring from their primary listings were generally homes that were lived in by tenants or the homeowners themselves. There were 400 homes listed on the market as owner occupied. Approximately 36% of 10

these homes’ listing expired, versus the 29% that were unoccupied by the owner. Therefore, the statistics, in fact, show that owner- occupied homes will take more time to sell.


A psychological benefit of moving out of your home while it is on the market is that it signals a “motivated seller” to potential buyers. An occupied home will not give the message that the seller is ready to negotiate and sell as does one that looks lived in. If you’re planning on putting your home on the market soon, it is best to do so after you have moved into a new place. This way, prospective buyers will be able to see that you are ready to sell, finalize, and close the deal as soon as they are ready to go. This will also help in staging the home with furniture and decor. If the agent or you have decided that the house should not be staged and instead remain empty, then all the better. Minimize furniture within the home when you move out. This will help buyers to picture where their furniture will fit into the home, even if they do not like what you currently have. Decorative pictures — not family portraits or pictures of your children — will also help the home to feel inviting, without being overpowering. Overall, a staged furnished home looks more spacious and attractive than one that is entirely empty. During the process of moving out, check with your home insurance agent to find out the homeowners insurance coverage situation while your house is unoccupied. Usually, there is an insurance coverage difference in an “unoccupied” home (i.e., the owner is on extended vacation) and a vacant home (no one is living there). Your current policy will determine whether additional or different insurance is necessary.

As an extra security measure to ensure that your house will not


be a spotlight for potential break-ins, have a burglar alarm that is battery-operated and sensor lights on the exterior.


Logistics and expense may preclude the owner from acquiring another residence during the home marketing and sale period. If moving out is not an option you can still achieve some of the advantages of selling an unoccupied home by renting a storage unit and putting away as much personal items and belongings as possible. This will also help you when you do move because your things will already be wrapped, boxed, and ready to go. Remove all personal items, anything of value, family pictures, book shelves, decorations, and anything that has personal value to you. Furniture that would not work well with the showings should be removed, as well. It is best to make the house appear that you are not living in it. Having a storage unit, in this case, is your best bet, as you can easily store everything in one place and will not have to impose on friends or family to use their garage.


If circumstances allow, moving out of the home before the sale is a good approach and a method to more adequately prepare your home for the market. All preparations can be accomplished with a “blank slate” of a house, which can include filling nail holes, painting the walls, or replacing dingy carpet, or even turning carpeted floors into wood floors. Ensure that both the interior and the exterior of the home are spotless. This means a continually mowed lawn, raked leaves, trimmed hedges, and freshened or repainted outside of your home.


Leave some furnishings, such as couches, beds, plants, and tables, but nothing that will give off too personal a feel or vibe. Even if a home is sparingly furnished, a staged home will sell quickly, and at a price that can be higher when compared to a home that is occupied with clutter and family possessions. Your home will need to sell quickly if you are buying a new one before you move out. Handling and paying for two mortgages at the same time can be incredibly burdensome, but if you are able to do it, moving out and selling your home while it is vacant will be much easier.


CHAPTER 4 Steps to Selling Your Vacant Home

Selling a house is all about the finer details. It is about putting your property up for sale at the perfect time. It is about decorating it enough to look inviting, but not so much that the potential buyers cannot visualize their own life there, and it is certainly about the price. Buying a house is a huge commitment, potentially the biggest chunk of money that someone is going to ever spend in one sitting, and prospective buyers will scare easy. If one thing, one little aspect, makes them unsure, there is a good chance you will lose the sale altogether. In a perfect world, everything would fall into place. You would sell your home at the exact time that you are ready to move into your new one. As we all know, it rarely works like this and many people move into their new home before selling their current one. This obviously adds pressure to a stressful time and as all your furniture and homely touches are moved into your new home, you may be attempting to sell an empty house. In sales strategy, buyers might use an empty home as a bargaining chip, believing the seller is anxious to sell. Was it overpriced? Is there something wrong with the property? Selling a vacant house requires taking that extra bit of care to make sure all details are perfect in order to guarantee every chance of getting that sale, and to encourage the buyer that there is no reason to be hesitant about considering your property.


An advantage of selling an empty house is that it allows the potential buyer’s imagination to run wild during the home viewing. Without the distractions of furniture and homey touches, prospective buyers can imagine their own things in every room and start mentally placing their own lives in the vacant spaces. Emptying the house could well be a blessing in disguise if the seller is the type of homeowner that has clutter everywhere or a flamboyant taste in decoration. Too much personalization will leave potential buyers unable to picture themselves there, as they will be distracted by the clutter. There are ways to make an empty house feel homey. The impression you want to give is that it is a home eagerly awaiting a new family to start creating memories. You do not want it to look neglected and sorry for itself, as if it had been abandoned. A house needs to have character to encourage a sale and there are ways to give a vacant home the appropriate bit of personality.


This sounds obvious — cleanliness is next to salesmanship. However, many sellers believe a quick vacuum once they have packed up their stuff is enough to call the place clean. A house must sparkle to the point where it does not appear as if it has ever been lived in. Buyers are looking for a fresh start in their home-buying experience and will turn away from anything not meeting their “fresh start” expectations. Bear in mind that moving furniture out of the house exposes all floor and wall areas. Keep up with cleaning on a regular basis for however long it takes to sell. The buyer will use the sense of smell as much as sight in viewing the house. Eliminate all pet and food odors. Make sure the place smells fresh always. Keep the home aired out by opening windows every few days, and invest in plug-in air fresheners for a longer lasting effect. Keep the home smelling fresh and well-maintained,


rather than musty and deserted.


First impressions are paramount in homes sales and the last thing you want is for a potential buyer to be put off before they have even entered the house. Give prospects a warm welcome by ensuring you keep the outside looking neat and tidy. Trim the hedges, mow the lawn, and depending on the season, keep on top of snow removal and fallen leaves. You want your house to look like you just moved out that morning, and the building is still alive. Allowing anything to become unkempt and derelict is going to give the impression that the house has been abandoned and neglected, which is never going to help a sale.


Like landscaping work, you must also pay attention to the finer details of the exterior of your house. Keep the gutters cleaned to avoid mess and check on the paint work, roof tiles, and brickwork. Walkways should not be cracked or broken. A frequent turn-off for a potential buyer is to arrive at a property and their first thought is of everything they see they would need to attend to. You also want to create the impression that your house can withstand the different weather elements. If your house is still in great shape in harsh weather when other properties are looking tired and shabby, that will greatly increase your chances of a sale.


An advantage of selling a vacant house is that any strong or unique feature your house has will not be obscured by your possessions. Buyers may look at a vast number of properties before deciding on


which one is for them, so you need to highlight features that make your house stand out. Here is your opportunity to make the most of it and to make your features stand out. If your house has hardwood floors, for example, make sure they are gleaming. Do you have a dramatic view? Take those curtains down and let the light shine through. Whatever it is that made you fall in love with your house, make sure they see it too. The golden trick to all of this is letting the buyers discover everything for themselves. If you must point out the floor or point out the view, then it is likely not be enough to encourage a sale. There is psychology involved in selling a home. If buyers are to be convinced to part with a vast sum of money, they need to have confidence that it is their decision. Buyers do not want to feel convinced into saying yes; they’ll want to fall in love with the house on their own accord. Let the house speak for itself by making it look its best.


Your home is how you express yourself. People can get a good read on who you are by the way you decorate, and your personality is in every room and spread throughout your home. That is not an advantage in home-selling. It means your home may be filled with different colors or funky wallpaper patterns. The best thing to do when selling is take it all back to neutral. Choose plain but warm colors to invite a buyer in. If you keep the glaring pinks, purples, or football team colors in a teenager’s room, a buyer is going to be reminded that she is stepping in one someone else’s memories. No one wants to feel like they are invading someone else’s space, so take it all back to neutral and let prospects put their own spin on it.

It is best to paint over any woodwork or fixtures that are starting


to look shabby just to tidy the place up.

The bonus of all that effort is that your house will have the “new home” smell that will make the buyer feel like they are moving into a brand-new home.


So now that your accumulated memories and belongings have vacated the house, the buyer can take the opportunity to picture their own life here. The best thing you can do is give them a nudge in the right direction. If you can spare a few pieces of your furniture, and it really takes few pieces, place certain pieces strategically to help the buyer establish what they can do with the space. One chair by the window is enough for the buyer to picture a relaxing morning with a book staring out at the view. A table in the dining room gives an idea of the space available to work with and how many people can come over for dinner. These subtle little hints are not too much and will create the blank canvas aspect that you are going for, plus it will do wonders to encourage the buyers to begin envisioning their own lives here. A few plants here and there on countertops will bring color and life back into the house. It could easily be the difference between a sale and a near miss, so it’s worth the effort.


Anything broken must be repaired and anything looking rundown should be replaced. Again, this is so the buyer does not straight away get overwhelmed with a list of “little” things to change and fix if they agree to buy.


You want your buyer comfortable they can get the keys and just start living. Anything that poses as too much of a “fixer-upper” will be a major turn off for most buyers. Make sure you check all the doorknobs, faucets, lights, and fix them.


Let’s backtrack a little. All the advice you have received so far is under the assumption that you get buyers to come for a viewing. Before we get to that stage, you need to consider a few aspects to make sure you get them to come in the first place. This comes down to the right price and right time. Avoid, if possible, putting your house up for sale just before Christmas, for example, as not many people will be looking to buy with the expensive holidays coming up. Keep an eye on the property market. Prices are known to rise and drop all the time, so try and avoid choosing to sell your property during a drop, or you will not get the price you are hoping for. Keep a close eye on the competition when it comes to choosing what price to list your property for. Have a look around your area for houses of a similar size with similar features and see what they are listing — and selling — for. You can get your house valued by a professional and decide from there; but it is good to do your own research so you know what is fair for you. It is also worth choosing a reputable agent who can get you the right exposure and optimize your chances of selling. It may cost you a little more than other places in commission, but it’s always worth choosing a company you know will get results because of their experience and reputation. All it does is increase your


chances of getting that sale.

So that’s everything you need to know about how to sell a vacant house and make it look like a home. Just a few little changes can make all the difference in making your house go from abandoned and lifeless, too homely and enticing. Make the most of the blank canvas, rather than the remnants of your home and allow the buyer to picture their life in the property and you’re as good as sold. This, means that while you are selling an empty house, it should not be so empty if you wish to sell it as fast as possible.


CHAPTER 5 Choosing the Right Agent

Selling a residential property involves more than 100 people with different skills and expertise who participate in the transaction from start to finish. Whether it is for a home inspection or a title search, it takes more than 20 steps to finalize the sale of your home. A real estate professional who is knowledgeable in all phases of real estate can make the process much easier. You do not need real estate expertise if you engage a real estate professional who has it. Choosing the best real estate agent for you can be problematic. Recommendations from friends and relatives and references are valuable. A friend might recommend an agent because that agent was able to sell the house at 20% more than hoped for (but would be wrong for you as unfamiliar with your neighborhood). Gather all the bits of advice from people who have dealt with one real estate agent or another, but do the legwork yourself. Understand that choosing the best agent can make the difference between selling your vacant house or it still sitting empty in a year. Selling a house is an expense of the homeowner’s effort, time, and resources. It is a complex and emotional exercise because people grow attached to properties they have owned. Having a good agent can help you through that process, and you will eventually complete the transaction a happy person. The question that remains is how to find the one that suits your needs and is comfortable to work with.

The best way to start the process is to interview agents you might


consider using from among your recommendations, existing knowledge of local real estate agents, or online search. There are many ways of finding a good broker. Personal recommendations from friends and colleagues are often helpful. If someone outside the real estate business with nothing to gain is bringing up a broker, you can be pretty sure you are on to a winner. The best brokers — the top 10% — do 80% of all the business. Who has the most listings in your area? A first meeting need not be a formal one and can be noncommittal. Through the conversation you will learn a lot about the agent. This will also give you time to know how the agents treat their clients. Through the informal interview, you will have the chance to ask about each agents’ selling record, how well he understands the local market, and how the agent can help you sell your house. You want someone with enthusiasm and drive, someone who will give you the attention you need, and steer you through the whole process with courtesy and professionalism. These are appropriate topics to be discussed prior to making a real estate agent selection:


This is supposed to give you an idea of how fast the agent can get a deal. A competent agent who has some experience in the field of real estate should have a respectable number of sales under his belt. However, do not rate the agent simply according to the transactions per year, as you should also note that more transactions do not necessarily reflect the agent’s capability or compatibility. An agent may have a lot of transactions which left the sellers or buyers deeply unsatisfied.



Any real estate agent should be able to explain the complete process of selling or buying a house. If you happen to notice that the agent does not have a firm grasp on the idea of selling or buying a house, there is a possibility that that agent might land you in trouble in the long run.


This is a very important interview question. A real estate broker should understand all requirements whether federal, state or local. The importance of this question is to ensure that all legal documents are properly crafted. The agent is supposed to advise you on the point at which to hire a lawyer to handle the legal work. The agent should even recommend the best lawyer suited to your needs.


This is also of importance since it will help you as a buyer to know whether the agent can sell your house at the right price.


Asking for references is vital. It will help you understand how the agent treats his customers by talking to people who have dealt with him previously. It will also give you a grasp of how capable the agent is in handling the transactions.


When you put your house on sale, it is important for the agent


to communicate with you regularly. This will give you an idea of the number of offers coming in as well as the amount of money potential buyers are willing to offer. In the end, it will help you figure out the amount of money you can expect from the sale.


CHAPTER 6 Why Changing Things and Small Improvements Can Gain You Thousands

The housing market is more competitive price-wise than it has ever been. It’s on the seller to go the extra mile and make sure their house stands out. We will now take up the extra steps necessary to take to earn more money on the sale. These are proven methods to raise the price of your home. This discussion of “staging” and these other strategies are backed up by statistics to prove how important these extra steps can be. There are steps to improve your home and make it more welcoming to your audience during a drive-by or walk-through. Taking these steps will affect the online presence as well. It is a paradox that although there are so many mediums and platforms where houses are advertised today that it is harder to stand out. That places the importance of the home’s immediate appearance into a higher level. You can choose a professional stager or a staging company, as many of them are available in most cities. Even a property stylist is appropriate in some circumstances, since it will just make your house stand out that much more.


Home staging is the process where your (empty) home is prepared, dressed up, and presented to look extra attractive and extremely welcoming to a prospective buyer. Home staging is 26

about creating more space by cleaning clutter, removing objects and furniture, giving rooms a fresh and neutral color, and making necessary repairs. Replacing carpets and flooring is a common practice. The process may involve professional painting, deep- cleaning, furniture rental or placement of appropriate pieces of the seller’s furnishings, and continual maintenance. To minimize expense in home staging, you or your professional’s first step is going to be to do as much as possible with everything that you already have. The priciest items will probably come with making updates and repairs, inside or outside the house. Least expensive are the things the sellers are willing and able to do themselves — maximizing space by moving objects around and cleaning your house out. An important part is choosing accessories and furniture to dress up your newfound space, creating a welcoming and warm environment. Home staging makes prospective buyers see all the possibilities of purchasing the home and living in it. They need to be able to imagine their own life’s taking place in each part of the home. Money spent on staging should not be considered as waste, but should as an investment or cost of doing business, and it will be recovered when the property is sold. It will pay off in the long run when the home’s perceived value is boosted.


According to the information from the Real Estate Staging Association, properties that are professionally well-staged look more appealing and spend less time (about 75%) on the market. They are most viewed by buyers as “well-maintained” and “must- see” houses, and subsequently sold at a higher price.

When it comes to acquiring real estate, most prospective buyers


imagine or think they can overlook empty rooms or poor décor and see only potential, but they really do not. The sole purpose of staging is to make it easy for prospective buyers to envision how they will live in the house. It gives an example of the type of comfort and life that prospective buyers can have in the house. This is the main reason successful builders use model suites and model homes to sell their projects. Experienced home sellers discover that the same principles from modeling a home are also useful in the resale market, thus, they rely on professional home stagers to make sure that they sell at a higher price and get off the market quickly. When hunting for a house, home buyers start with a reasonable list of prospective properties, but the house they buy is often chosen mainly for emotional reasons. The aim of staging a project is to ensure that prospective buyers see the great possibilities owning the house will bring. The prospective buyer can walk into the home and have that “finally, I’ve gotten my dream home” feeling. Potential buyers pleased with the staging may be willing to look beyond some of their “must have” features such as a two-car garage or fireplace. It is paramount to put minute details into consideration. Small things that you overlook such as personal memorabilia, overcrowded rooms, scratched doors, or dripping taps can disengage the buyer emotionally from the home. They will envision the problems they will have to face later, rather than the stone hearth that might tempt them, and immediately shift their attention to the next appointment while writing off your house. The greatest motivator for someone to make an offer on your property is a connection they make with it while imagining their life there. If this can be achieved, then you may have put an end to


the buyers’ search for their perfect choice. Your motive is to keep them restless with the feeling that if they decide too late, someone else will buy their dream house.


This is the online shopping age. Most prospective buyers first look online for what they want, before even employing the services of real estate agents. One survey said 90% of home buyers in the United States begin their search for houses on the internet. It is the photos of the home more so than a written description that will interest a prospect — or not. When listing a house, your photos of the house need to be captivating such that buyers become anxious to see the house in person.


There are numerous things to do to get your property ready for the market. One of the most important things is to get rid of your clutter. This may be difficult, especially if you do not see it as clutter, but be aware that a prospective buyer will. Emotional attachment to your things should be kept low as it may keep you from realizing how cluttered your home will appear to strangers. If your spending is done appropriately by replacing worn out items and making small improvements, you stand a better chance of selling your property quickly, and at a better price.

Here are some basic rules for proper staging of a home:

• The house must be clean. “Sparkling” should be the right word to use for your house. The kind of cleaning that attracts top offers is often achievable and only feasible by employing the services of a cleaning crew. It is even a good investment to have the cleaning team come weekly to 29

inspect, while your home is for sale. Your windows and other places should be professionally cleaned outside and inside also. • Repair or replace. A cracked tile or dripping faucet will send a wrong impression to prospective buyers. Replacing them or getting them fixed before putting your house for sale is mandatory. • Use neutral colors. Neutral colors sell. Conveying an image of neutrality and quality is important. Prospective buyers walk through your home imagining themselves as the owners. Odd or loud colors can turn buyers off. They won’t be able to imagine living with those colors or will envision having to paint as part of moving in. Those sports team colors in the den will have to go! • Depersonalize. Remove most objects that personalize the home to your own memories or tastes, Overt signs of political causes or affiliation are not going to help the sale and might detract. This can affect desire to work with the seller if objectionable to the buyer and subconsciously affect the buyer-seller relationship. There are emotional aspects to buying a home and you want prospective buyers to attach emotion to your home by making it possible for them to see themselves as the owners. • Critical areas. While staging, be especially sensitive to the entrance, kitchen, bathroom, and toilet. Buyers put more emphasis on these areas.


CHAPTER 7 Marketing a Vacant Home


The boons bestowed by web technology have rendered it extremely easy to sell property on multiple platforms. While most homeowners engage or eventually resort to an agent to sell their property, some turn to the online real estate portals, online classified ads, video sharing sites, blogs, and social networking sites. Several sites are specially designed for property selling. In addition, sellers can utilize the capabilities of real estate companies like Trulia and Zillow that also feature mobile apps to handle the complete range of processes associated with home selling. House buyers make broad and sophisticated use of the online market. However, their online activity significantly varies. Some are hunting for properties by locating specific brands on search engines. Others are keen to go through reviews and ratings on properties, or interacting with the members of various real estate communities using social media sites. Many are also watching property tours presented through YouTube videos. Many make use of handheld devices to search for their dream homes online. The sales scenario existing today can give the widest exposure, reach, and coverage to your property. Due to the diverse kinds of customer behavior online, your sales strategy must involve multiple platforms. About one-fifth of real estate searches happens on handheld devices. Over the past four years, real estate searches over Google have grown more than


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