HOW TO SELL HOMES FAST FOR TOP DOLLAR
Published by Authorify Publishing Copyright © 2020 Authorify Publishing
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. Th is publication is not intended for use as a source of legal or accounting advice. Th e Publisher wants to stress that the information contained herein may be subject to varying state and/ or local laws or regulations. Th e 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. Th e 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 o ff erings of other brokers. Printed in the United States of America
Table Of Contents
1. Not All Home Sales Are Equal 2 2. Understanding The Home-Selling Process 8 3. Pitfalls Of FSBOs 18 4. Common Mistakes To Avoid 24 5. The #1 Secret Strategy To Sell Your Home For More 34 6. Better Marketing 44 7. Top-Quality Pictures 56 8. Curb Appeal: Find The Charm And Show It 60 9. Staging F or Effect 68 10. Home Improvements That Make Sense 78 11. Negotiating Tips 88 12. The Vacant Home 94
13. The Distressed Home
14. The Inherited Home 116 15. Home Sales When Divorce Is Involved 124
About Jim Curry
A ft er 25 years of working in industrial sales, Jim Curry was ready for a change. He wanted a career that would allow him to spend more time closer to home with his family . Th at’s when he found his real estate calling, and he’s been in the industry ever since. Jim enjoys helping sellers get top dollar for their homes and getting buyers into their dream homes. He currently serves Jacksonville, the Beaches, and Ponte Vedra. Jim loves t o fin d the unique attributes of each property he sells. Th is allows him to market them to the right buyers and get the highest price. Jim has extensive experience selling homes that other agents failed to sell. He received several awards with previous brokerages he worked for . Th is includes the ReMax Platinum Club and ReMax Hall of Fame. He was also a top producer with Bosshardt Realty, the largest independent brokerage in Gainesville. Jim’s life and work philosophy are based on hard work and honesty. He strives to treat his clients the way he would like to be treated. He likes to remove potential issues or roadblocks to a sale at the beginning . Th is way, he can direct his clients in the best way possible to remove any potential deal-breakers. Doing this upfront isn’t always easy, but Jim knows it produces the best results. Jim prides himself on being responsive and attentive to his clients’ needs. He enjoys following up and connecting with people who reach out to him. He says a good agent is something of a dream maker, and that’s what he strives to be for his clients.
When he’s not working with clients, Jim and his wife work as Christian missionarie s. Th ey have traveled to India, Sri Lanka, an d Th ailand and have ambitions to travel to more to help people in need. Jim lives a happy and fu lfi lled life in Jacksonville, Florida with his wife, Liza. He has 10 children and 18 grandchildren.
Testimonials & Reviews for Jim Curry Here’s a list of people whom I have helped buy or sell a home, and what they said about working with me: As fir st time homebuyers my husband and I were lost attending random open houses and searching aimlessly. On our journey we were fortunate to meet Jim. Jim graciously o ff ered us lots of advice and eventually became our realtor. Jim was patient while showing us several homes and worked to accommodate my unconventional work schedule. Thanks to Jim’s persistence, knowledge, and intense work ethic we purchased our first home. — Necheon & Sophia To Jim Curry! You have been a blessing to me during the most difficult time of my life. I will be forever grateful. — Rosemarie Jim: Thank you again for assisting us with the sale of our “Lake in the Woods” home. I know it was a challenging job (to say the least) but a job well done. May you and your family have a wonderful Christmas. — Sharon & John Jim cold called me during the Christmas Holidays to see if I'd be interested in listing my home, that he had a buyer who might be interested. I politely told him no, was taking a break from FSBO for the holidays. After some thought, called him back and had him come talk with us. We did list with him and our home was sold less than 3 months later. He actually did have an interested buyer, worked with both parties fairly and closed the deal. We are very pleased with Jim Curry and know you will be too. — Sonia Thomas
Our house was on the market for over 1 year before Jim took on the project. Jim helped us clean up the yard and found us helpers to do landscaping and clean up. We received 4 o ff ers and Jim helped us work our way to the best one. He was relentless even a ft er the fir st contract fell through. He actively navigated the inspections and appraisals, even when the house came up a little less in the fin al appraisal. At the closing, the buyers tried to change some terms. Jim is a very nice and personable man, but he can be tough and stand his ground when it is called for. He came through for us. We always felt things were under control and were con fi dent in his guidance through what could have been a very complicated process. Th anks so much for your help. It really was a great privilege to have found you. —Marilyn Hennessy
CHAPTER 1 Not All Home Sales are Equal
Let’s Bus t Th at Myth! Hello! Nice to meet you. Th ank you very much for picking up my book on Home-Selling Strategies I Use to Sell Homes for More Money. I am a real estate agent — and proudly so! It’s a wonderful way to make a living for an entrepreneurial and people-person type, as I am. I pride myself on my ability to help people settle into their little piece of the American Dream. If you are reading this book, you’re likely considering selling a home, and I’ve got plenty to tell you. I’m not trying to sell you anything, although my hope is that you will want me to sell something of yours (your house) a ft er reading this book. However, I’m pleased to be of service either way. Later, if you want me to help you sell your property, we can talk. In the meantime, take advantage of the information in this book to get up-to-speed on selling a home for more money. I’m giving you the bene fi t of experience and professional advice I have garnered working with both sellers and buyers. I have worked on both sides of the street, which is helpful in getting around and lessening a seller’s stressors. Most sellers don’t venture alone into selling their home, instead fin ding it better to have a knowledgeable, experienced real estate professional with whom the sellers are comfortable. I wrote this book to provide some of that comfort without the direct stressors of salesperson-to-person contact, allowing you — someone interested in potentially selling a home — to learn, re fl ect, and
consider leisurely. At the end of this book, you’ll fin d material on why you should consider professional services in selling your home. I want the prospective or active home seller to independently achieve a better understanding of the home-selling process without stress, while getting to know the professional services I provide. I’ve also provided actionable insight into how best to
market your home and avoid critical mistakes. HOW TO LOOSE $36,000 ON A HOME SALE: NOT ALL HOME SALES ARE EQUAL
Now, I’m going to introduce my Big Idea, the main premise of this book. Th ere’s a widespread myth that any home will sell within a narrow price range compared to other more-or-less comparable homes in the market at the same time in the same area. Allow me to shatter that myth to pieces. No, everyone does not sell their home basically for the same price, and it’s not, like they say, all location, location, location. It is anything but that! You can sell your home for more pro fi t than someone else might sell the same piece of property, or sell a comparable home in the same neighborhood for a sign ifi cant pric e diff erence from what the owner of that home sells it for. It’s what you do before to make the sale that determines how much, and that is the Big Idea of this book — how to maximize your sale potential. Let’s put this into an example to drive my point home. Chuck wanted to sell his home. Word got around that Chuck was slated to be relocated; however, he had not started the process of selling his house. It wasn’t listed, and he didn’t have a real estate 3
agent. He hadn’t really given thought to that part of his promotion and move. A fast-moving buyer’s real estate agent contacted Chuck and got him excited by telling him that someone wanted to buy his house before he even put it on the market. Th e buyers were o ff ering $285,000 and were approved for a loan. As the buyer’s real estate agent put it, this would be an easy, quick, and painless sale. Th e agent put on the pressure. “If you get a real estate agent, what you get for your home will be reduced by 6% and the deal won’t be as good. Besides, the house around the corner sold for $280,000 just 60 days ago. So? Will you sell your home?” On the surface, it seemed like a great deal. Chuck could sell his home quickly and avoid the inconvenience of the standard selling process. Chuck accepted the $285,000 o ff er and moved on with his life. Th e sale Chuck accepted was quick and easy, as the buyer’s agent said it would be. But it wasn’t painless. A few weeks later, Chuck’s neighbor sold his house for $321,000. Th e neighbor’s house was slightly smaller than Chuck’s, but otherwise comparable and in similar condition. Why did Chuck sell his house for $36,000 less than his neighbor did? What features made his neighbor’s house ~10% more valuable? Was it because it had a red door? Was it because the grass was cut? Why did Chuck bother to work so hard to pay down his mortgage? Why did he work so hard to keep his house in tip-top shape, only to sell it for less than it probably was worth? 4
Why? Because, unfortunately, Chuck didn’t check with anyone to fin d out what his house was truly worth on the market. He didn’t get an appraisal or a second opinion. His great mistake was not talking to a real estate professional other than the buyer’s agent (who, of course, is looking to maximize the deal for his/her buying clients). Really, it was because Chuck was an amateur in the real estate game, up against a professional. Here is my tip on how to avoid having this happen to you: Obtain a second or even third opinion on the value of your home before you put it on the market. Valuing homes for sale is a range game; both art and science are involved in the process. But there’s a lot of art — probably more than you think. If you don’t price your home correctly, you risk selling it for less than it’s worth and/or wasting time while your home sits on the market because it’s not priced correctly. Your objective is to price your home so that it sells quickly and for the highest price possible. Each of us probably has a skewed idea of the worth of our home. Either we think it’s far more marvelous than it is, or we’re so tired of it that we think of it as a horrendous cross to bear that no one would ever want. Add to that your hopes and dreams of what to do with your money once you sell, and pricing your own home is a total danger zone. Th is is indeed an area where a real estate agent comes in handy. However, it’s certainly not the only area. Th roughout the rest of this book, I’m going to “take you to school.” We’re going to take a trip through Real Estate Selling Land. Th rough the rest of Part 1, we will take up Home-Selling Basics: 5
Understanding the Home-Selling Process, Pitfalls of FSBOs (For Sale By Owner), and Common Mistakes to Avoid. Part 2 is devoted to Proven Strategies to Sell Your Home for More (i.e., professional marketing strategies adapted for unique situations; thinking like a buyer; knowing and addressing what buyers want; and marketing in the new online era, with chapters dedicated to Better Marketing, Top-Quality Pictures, Curb Appeal, Staging, Home Improvements Th at Make Sense, and Negotiating.) Part 3 wraps up Special Home-Selling Situations that sellers may face, including issues with Th e Vacant Home, Th e Distressed Home, Th e Inherited Home, and Home Sales When Divorce Is Involved. And only a ft er all that will I try to sell you something — my very professional real estate services in selling your home for more money with A Last Word: Why You Should Hire Me to Sell Your Home.
CHAPTER 2 Understanding the Home-Selling Process
Financially and emotionally, a home is o ft en an individual’s or family’s largest single investment. Th at makes selling a home — whether a single-family residence, duplex, or condominium— the single largest, most complex transaction a person will undertake, and for most people, no more than two or three times in their lives. It involves new terms and concepts, fin ancial acumen, and large r fig ures than people usually deal with. Emotions can overtake good judgment. As a seller, you might think, “Surely, my home, where I invested so much money and sweat equity, and raised my children, is worth more than ‘you people’ [appraisers, prospects, and buyer’s agents] think it is. You aren’t considering that the neighborhood was named ‘Most Livable’ in the local paper!” (fi ve years ago, and the old neighborhood has since changed). Emotions almost always lead to problems in a sales price negotiation. Further, real estate transactions involve multiple decisions points and o ft en substantial investment in the homeowner’s time, energy, and money. As a seller, you want to fin d that home shopper who simply can’t resist buying your house at the highest price. However, to do that, you must provide potential buyers a striking home sales presentation that outshines other homes on the market. Th is requires creating a fantastic fir st impression, giving 8
buyers an immediate feeling that they’re traveling up the front walkway of “their” new home for the fir st time, and not visiting someone else’s. Selling a house is about falling in love at fir st sight, from the curb, in those initial (an d fl eeting) seconds. As I said before, here’s the big news — everybody doesn’t get the price they could when selling their home. For example, take two little ranch houses across from a well-kept cemetery in a nice suburban city near Cincinnati, in Southwest Ohio. One of them, 25 Cemetery Road (3 beds, 1 bath, 936 sq. ft ., built 1957) was described as: “Neat as a pin and ready to go. Complete remodel kitchen w/SS appliances, breakfast bar, fl attop stove, beautiful tile. Complete bath remodel. Hardwood fl oors, replaced windows. Great fenced yard, covered rear patio.” It was being fought over at $124,000+. Meanwhile, a comparable 3 bdrm/1 bath, 936-sq .-ft ., 1956 single- family home located at 19 Cemetery Road, had the same 3 bdrms/ 1 bath, approximately 936 square feet, and was built in 1955. It sold for $111,800. Th at’s enough of a diff erence (almost $15,000!) for the owner of 25 Cemetery Road to pay the cost of his real estate agent’s commission and pocket some pro fi t. Frankly, that commission was money well spent, because it was hiring the real estate agent and following the plan that made all th e diff erence. We’ll talk more about that as we move through this book; however, it was the advising, planning, staging, pre-marketing, marketing, negotiation, and professional know-how that sealed the deal. THE BASIC HOME SALES PROCESS 9
We begin our look at “Selling Your House for More!” with a practical examination of what the home-selling process is, and how it works. We’ll examine how listing prices are determined, and look at various ways that a listing price is set. I will discuss online valuation, professional appraisal, and the great bene fi t of a Current Market Analysis (CMA) by a Realtor®. I’m also going to drive home the importance of the seller’s time, e ff ort, “sweat-equity,” fin ancial investment, and working as a team with a carefully selected real estate agent. It’s not a hire-me-and- you-are-done transaction. To get the most money for your house, you’ll have to invest in touchups, improvements, staging, keeping the grass cut, and many other items. LISTING PRICE SETTING Setting a listing price is a strategic exercise that aligns the seller’s goals to the selling approach. If the seller is in a situation in which the house must be sold quickly, that calls for a price that will move the home quickly. However, it may forfeit selling for the most money. Where the house is an inherited property and not in the best of condition, but is in a great location, that takes another kind of pricing strategy, and might involve repairs and staging to get the best price. As you see, there are plenty of factors that go into setting a listing price. Th erefore, it’s critical for home sellers to know the considerations that determine a home’s price. Th ere is both an art and a science in setting a listing price. Setting the price at which to sell your home is not a formula, nor simply mathematical. Th ere are many factors that go into the decision — for example, location (even location on the same street), condition, features, and unique amenities.
A calculated home value isn’t necessarily what you believe your home is worth. Recognizing this helps avoid overpricing, a major factor that leaves homes languishing on the market or unsold. MARKET VALUE, APPRAISAL VALUE, AND ASSESSED VALUE Th e price at which to list a home is the seller’s decision, although a savvy seller will solicit professional advice or work with a trusted real estate agent to arrive at that decision. Knowing the real estate concepts of “market value,” “appraisal value,” and “assessed value” allows the home seller to more meaningfully engage with a real estate agent in coming to a determination of a home’s listing price. “Market value” is the probable price a property should bring in a competitive, open market under conditions requisite to a fair sale. Essentially, this is a pre-negotiation opinion of what a house should bring in its local market — i.e., its geographical area, generally an area such as a suburb or neighborhood. In other words, in what range do similarly situated houses in the area/ neighborhood sell for? “Appraisal value” is an evaluation of a property’s worth at a given point in time that’s performed by a professional appraiser. Appraised value is an important factor in loan underwriting and determines how much money could be borrowed, and under what terms. For example, the Loan to Value (LTV) ratio is based on the appraised value. Where LTV is greater than 80%, the lender generally will require the borrower to buy mortgage insurance. “Assessed value” is the amount local or state government has designated for spe cifi c property and frequently diff ers from market value or appraisal value. Th is assessed value is used as the basis of property tax and when a property tax is levied. Th e 11
assessed value of real property isn’t necessarily equal to the property’s market value. Approximately 60% of U.S. properties are assessed higher than their current value; however, this doesn’t re fl ect what the homes will sell for. WHAT IS YOUR HOME WORTH? Th e fir st step in selling your home is knowing the diff erence between value, worth, and price. Let’s examine the determining factors at work. Understanding those factors allows them to be leveraged . Th ere are several ways a home’s value is derived. ONLINE HOME VALUATION A place to begin researching a rough estimate of a home’s market value is online. Several free online tools provide an estimate of your home’s current value based on recent comparable home sales in your area using a comprehensive database. Th e downside of these systems is that the assessment is based on available public data, with no guarantee of accuracy and o ft en using an algorithm that simply averages comparable sales in the geographic area. Th ese are quick and easy, but do not answer questions regarding factors like location and current local trends. Be aware that in practice, the prices arrived at might be highly inaccurate. For example, a home in Ohio was put into one such system, Re dfin (https://www.re dfin.c om/what-is-my-home-worth). Th e home last sold for $180,000 in 1998; it was appraised for re fin ancing in 2015 at $275,000. In 2017, Re dfin ’s calculator valued this 1890 Victorian home (4 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, and 2,100 sq. ft .) in a four- block area of “Grand Old Ladies” at $158,000.
Th e apparent reason is that the six “comps” (comparable recent sales) include only two homes in this desirable neighborhood (over $300,000), while four others are outside this small neighborhood, although close, and sold for $150,000 to $199,000. Information that would be known to real estate professionals in the area is missing. Th ese tools are worthwhile for obtaining “comps” of area sales; however, they aren’t accurate enough to use in arriving at a listing price. PROFESSIONAL APPRAISAL Real estate appraisal (a.k.a. “property valuation”) is the process of developing an opinion of value for real property. Th is is the “market value,” or what a willing reasonable buyer would pay for the property to a willing reasonable seller. Real estate transactions almost always require appraisals because they occur infrequently on a given property and every property is diff erent or unique in features and characteristics. An appraisal helps in various decision points. Th e seller can use the appraisal as a basis for pricing. Th e buyer can use it on which to base an o ff er. Lenders use appraisals to know how much money to credit to their borrowers. Th e most important factors in a house appraisal are: • dwelling type (e.g., one-story, two-story, split-level, factory-built) • features (including design); materials used and the type of structure present and how they were built • improvements made • comparable sales • location — type of neighborhood, zoning areas, proximity to other establishments • age of property 13
• size • depreciation
Condition, of course, is a crucial factor in valuation. Location is also a factor, but as property can’t change location, it’s o ft en upgrades or improvements to a residential property that can enhance its value. A professional appraiser should be a qua lifi ed, disinterested specialist in real estate appraisals with expertise in your region. Th eir job is to determine an estimated value by examining the property, looking at the original purchase price, and comparing it with recent sales of similar properties. Th e fee for this service is usually between $300 and $500.
CURRENT MARKET APPRAISAL BY A REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONAL
Th is home valuation is free from real estate professionals and more helpful than automated online o ff erings. It provides detailed information on each house sold in your area over the last six months, along with the fin al sale price. It also includes the spe cifi cs of all the houses for sale in your area, including the asking price. Th ese homes are your competition. Th e real estate professional will also answer any questions and help you price your home realistically. Along with an understanding of how the worth of a home is determined, the current market has to be considered. By utilizing a professional real estate agent, you can rely on proven expertise to market your home at the best listing price. I’ll be happy to provide you with a Current Market Analysis (CMA). See the last page of this book if you would like more information on how to request a free home valuation. EXAMPLE OF DIFFERING HOME VALUATIONS: 14
Let’s say a buyer is interested in a home listed at $420,000. Th e online valuation determines the house is worth $440,000. Based on that estimate, the buyer o ff ers the asking price. When a professional appraisal comes in at $400,000, and the existing tax records assess the home at $300,000, the buyer wonders why the values are s o diff erent, and if he overpaid. Th e house was listed at $420,000 because at that price, the home would sell in a reasonable amount of time. Why wouldn’t the appraised value be whatever a buyer was willing to pay? Th e fact that they paid $420,000 doesn’t mean that is the true value of the home. Certain factors may weigh in (undesirable businesses located near the property, for example). Online valuations can’t take into consideration the condition of the property, or the qualities of the neighborhood. Since an assessed home value is for taxing purposes only, it can be much more or much less than the market value. Ideally, they should be the same, but usually they aren’t. It’s based on a percentage of the appraised value determined by a professional. From legal descriptions to onsite inspections to comparable home-selling prices, the assessor will take all these items into consideration when appraising a home. Location near industry, high tra ffi c, or potential development will also a ff ect the appraisal.
A CRITICAL PART OF SELLING YOUR HOME FOR MORE IS YOU
We’ve seen that there’s no calculable certainty in setting the value of a home. Th ere can be wide diff erences between the seller’s assessed price, the asking or listing (market price value), and the price at which the home sells (sale price). A market in which homes sell within six months of listing is considered balanced or neutral, meaning enough homeowners are 15
selling and customers buying that neither has an advantage. A variable, such as a major retailer entering or leaving the area, will tip the scale toward sellers to make a “fast” market or toward buyers to create a “slow” one. Th e average time in a fast market might be 30 days, and the average time in a slow market could be a year. Typically, any number below six months is considered a seller’s market. Let’s touch on what the homeowner/seller can do to elicit o ff ers at the listing price, or even above, in a competitive market. As mentioned earlier, the partnership between seller and real estate agent will make an enormous diff erence in results. Th e agent can professionally market a house, bring in a qua lifi ed prospect, and then the deal is blown because the seller didn’t clear his garage of his taxidermy hobby during a critical showing. Or because the snow isn’t cleared, or because the walls are painted kind of “funky.” Th ere’s only so much even the most talented real estate agent can do. Th e seller’s time, e ff ort, and investment are the most important parts of the process. Th e seller’s willingness to adequately prepare the home for presentation by improving, freshening, landscaping, and generally making the home pristine — and to live in that presentation readiness state for the time it takes to sell the property — will greatly a ff ect both the sale period the price at which the home sells.
CHAPTER 3 Pitfalls of FSBOs
You’ve sold a few automobiles in your day without trading in to a dealer, and you sell antiques on eBay. You’ve done well by both and consider yourself an astute horse trader and businessperson. So, now the time has come to sell your home, and you fin d yourself considering the options of selling it For Sale By Owner (FSBO) to save the commission fee. True, some people can sell their property outside the con fin es of a contractual agreement with a Realtor®, but the harsh reality is that most can’t, and don’t, and will spend sign ifi cant time and e ff ort spinning their wheels while qua lifi ed buyers come and go, without giving their property any serious thought, or, worse yet, never even knowing it was available. FSBO is the process of an owner selling a piece of real estate without using a real estate broker or real estate agent. While in an FSBO transaction, a seller may employ the services of marketing or online listing companies or market their own property, there’s no commission paid on the sale. Th is is the perceived value of an FSBO. However, sellers o ft en need the services of attorneys to traverse the documents and intricacies of a real estate sale, and that cuts into th e fin ancial bene fi t. Although still out of the mainstream in real estate transactions, FSBO transactions seem to be increasing. Zillow reports a doubling of FSBO listings between 2012 and 2014 (up to 4%), ForSaleByOwner.com seeing 24% growth in 2013, and StreetEasy reporting NYC FSBO listings increasing by nearly 30% in that same period. According to a 2016 report by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) regarding home buyer and seller
trends, Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report 2016, 8% of surveyed real estate transactions between July 2014 and June 2015 were FSBO. Th at said, fully 92% of home sellers prefer the use of qua lifi ed representation (i.e., a Realtor®) in such a major transaction. THE TIME FACTOR OF FSBO One detriment to the seller of a FSBO transaction, and a bene fi t of engaging a real estate agent, is that in the process of selling your house, you’ll spend an incredible amount of time showing it to potential buyers. Unfortunately, most of them aren’t interested in buying your home . Th is is a waste of your time. On average, it takes three to four hours to show a home. Most owners show their home at least 8 to 10 times before making a sale. Sometimes more than 30 times! Th e average owner spends 24 to 40 hours showing their home. It can easily take 80 to 120 hours to complete the process. FSBO homeowners jump at the chance to show their home to anyone and everyone. When a buyer calls, they drop everything. Th is reactive approach is a big reason it takes them anywhere from 8 to 30 showings to fin d the right buyer. Th e process will consume your life. Over time, stress begins to build. Not just on you. Repeated showings are stressful for your entire family. It gets worse, as casual buyers continue strolling through and walking away, undecided. Do you have children? Pets? Showings create chaos in their lives, too! Kids are quickly rushed o ff to a friend’s or family member’s 19
house or whisked away to the park. Toddlers are parked in a playpen, so you can begin the hurried cleaning process. Maybe your pet gets locked in a crate, sent to the basement, or tied up in the yard. Your dog can’t run around during the showing or even while you clean house. Th e poor pooch is cooped up for hours every time a buyer wants to stop by. Children and pets don’t appreciate chaos. Th ey might start misbehaving or need extra attention to counter the stress. Th e house needs to be spotless from top to bottom. Someone has to rush around frantically cleaning and organizing every time a buyer calls. Chances are, you’re going through all this stress to prepare for someone who was never serious about buying in th e fir st place. THE (IN) EXPERIENCE FACTOR OF FSBO SALES When I started in the real estate business, I made a good living chasing FSBOs. I would call them, fin d out what price they were asking, and determine whether I could sell the home for more on the MLS. I sold a lot of homes and netted the former FSBOs more money in their pocket. Th at’s because I’m a real estate agent, and the sellers were not. It really is that simple. Unless you’re a real estate agent selling your own house, you’re entering a complex fin ancial and legal transaction without competent assistance. An FSBO seller is analogous to self- performed dentistry or putting up a pro se (self-represented) defense in a murder case. Th e downfall of giving it a try yourself is that once you price a house, it’s easy to reduce the price, but nearly impossible to increase it without the herculean e ff ort of starting a bidding war. 20
If you get it wrong the fir st time, the only place to go from there is down, and you may end up selling for a lot less than the true value of your property. You might be a great sales professional in your own right and thoroughly knowledgeable in your own area of expertise, but unless you’ve gone through the rigorous training and education to become a licensed real estate professional, you don’t know what it takes to prepare, correctly price, market, and sell a home both quickly and legally. Yes, there are sales techniques that are transferable in any transaction, but a pharmaceutical representative wouldn’t know how to sell a house and a Realtor® would have a great deal of trouble deciphering the world of pharmaceuticals. In fact, both could get into a lot of trouble if they tried and made legal — or lethal — errors! While you might think that “location, location, location” is all you need to sell your home, that’s simply not true. Yard signs only attract 10% of all home buyers. It’s even worse for print advertising; only 1% of buyers fin d their homes through newspaper marketing. You must employ a technically savvy marketing campaign to compete with all dedicated websites, blogs, and social media advertising that bombard the Internet and attract buyers. If none of the above has dampened your resolve to go the FSBO route, another thing to consider is the security concerns of going it alone. Craigslist can be an e ff ective sales tool, but you must be oh-so- careful about the scammers, criminals, and dangerous people you could be potentially letting into your home. Real estate agents have more secure resources on which to market 21
your property than you have access to, including highly qua lifi ed sites such as the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), Zillow, or Realtor.com. Zillow no longer allows FSBOs to post listings directly to their site. A licensed agent has to post the listing in their MLS, then let the system syndicate to Zillow. As an FSBO, you’ll have to work within the con fin es of your accessibility on unknown or unqua lifi ed sites. Th is can be expensive and even confusing and scary. If you’re acting as your own sales agent, how will you determine who is a credible buyer and who is just browsing? Shoppers who cruise the FSBO section of your local newspaper are usually the type of shoppers who are looking for a deal at rock-bottom prices. A seller’s agent has been trained to ask the right questions about the qua lifi cation of the inquiry in order to save time showing to “looky-loos” who aren’t really serious or fin ancially equipped to buy a house. Let’s imagine that you do manage to fin d your perfect buyer on your own. Now, you’re in water so deep that you might be in over your head. Th is is where you need help from an experienced professional, who will attend to every detail, mandatory disclosures, inspection reports, title searches, etc. At the very least, you have to engage a real estate attorney to satisfy all legal requirements. Real estate agents take care of it all, and you can relax, knowing that you aren’t going to face any potentially serious legal repercussions. Th e intent of this chapter is to provide the non-professional with a broad overview of what’s needed to get organized for selling a home — and the diffi culties — without the services of a licensed real estate agent. FSBO is not for the faint of heart! Many fin d it far more productive to partner with a real estate agent because once you start infusing money into preparing your home with the upgrades and repairs, your budget for marketing might be lean. It’s to your utmost advantage to hand the task over to a professional 22
who will foot most of the bill for the marketing. NEGOTIATING AND THE FSBO SALE
An amateur negotiator — or a person with negotiating experience, but who is transacting business on his/her own behalf — is prone to several negotiating mistakes. FSBO sellers o ft en tend to take negotiating personally and are o ff ended if the prospective buyer makes repair demands or asks for credits. Keep ego out of the transaction and let your smarts and intelligence come into play during negotiation. Th is is a bene fi t of a professional real estate agent’s assistance in the home sale transaction. Negotiation is covered in more detail later in Chapter 11.
CHAPTER 4 Common Mistakes To Avoid
Th is chapter compiles frequently made mistakes sellers make in the home-selling process, whether working with a real estate agent or not. Note the items here carefully, and learn from those who have gone before, so you don’t make these errors yourself. Save yourself time and money by avoiding these pitfalls. GUESSING INSTEAD OF RESEARCHING Basing your home price on what the neighbor down the street listed their home for is not a reliable method of pricing your home for sale. Th e Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) is your best source for setting an asking price. If a home in your area sells for a lower price, don’t automatically assume yours is worth the same. Your home might have something to o ff er that the other one didn’t, or the other may have been inadequately or incorrectly marketed. Let the CMA be your guide, and get the advice of a real estate professional.
HIRING A REALTOR® BECAUSE THEY SUGGEST THE HIGHEST LISTING PRICE
Choosing a real estate agent because they want to put a high price on your home isn’t in your best interest. Th e real estate agent should know more about the market for your home than you do, so select an agent who can provide you with real numbers and solid marketing plans for your home. Th e professional you hire to sell your home should be
knowledgeable, trustworthy, and quick to answer any questions or concerns regarding the entire selling process. Avoid this mistake by interviewing agents and selecting the one who o ff ers detailed sales data and a strategic listing price — not just a higher one. SUBJECTIVE PRICING You have enjoyed living in your home for years; however, you’ve decided to move on. Th en don’t let emotional attachments to the home a ff ect how you price it. Memorable moments spent in your home are priceless — literally, because they do nothing to add to the selling price! Selling your home is a business transaction between a qua lifi ed buyer and you. Th e most objective listing price will come from the CMA provided by your real estate agent, subsequently re fin ed by negotiation with a qua lifi ed buyer. It’s also unrealistic to add dollars because of the labor spent making the house into your home; the new owner neither bene fi ts from, nor cares about, your e ff orts. By focusing on the CMA results and maintaining a business-like and professional attitude, you can keep emotions at bay. FIRST DAY HIGH-PRICE BLUES Th e most crucial time for your home is the fir st 10 days on the market. Once your home is on the MLS, you’ll see how much interest is generated. If your price is too high, buyers will pass you by because the home is out of their price range. By the time you decide to lower the price, they will have moved on to other properties. As your home sits on the market, buyers will 25
wonder why the home hasn’t sold, concluding that it’s undesirable in some way, and passing it by without a second glance. Price it correctly initially to generate interest and gain attention from buyers to sell faster. Unrealistic pricing costs money in the long run. TESTING THE MARKET WITH A HIGH PRICE Even if you’re not in a hurry to sell, it’s not a wise move to “test” the market by listing your home at a high price to see how it goes. Serious home shoppers may take months to fin d a new home, so they are continually looking for new listings, not ones that have been sitting on the market. Th inking that the market will turn in your favor might not prove reliable either. If prices in your area end up dropping instead of rising, you may lose money. By pricing your home based on current market values, you can sell your home more quickly and for more money. PRICE DROPPING Another pricing trap to avoid is insisting on a price for your home far above other homes in the area. If your home doesn’t sell a ft er three months on the market, you might decide to lower the price. Th at’s okay in a stable or increasing market, but if the market in your area is declining, you could be forced to reduce the price even more to catch up to the falling market. Price competitively from the start. Don’t hesitate to reevaluate your local market. Work with your real estate agent to determine the fair market value of your home. NOT OBTAINING REPAIR ESTIMATES Whether you plan to repair any faults in the house before listing or 26
leave undone, obtain estimates for necessary or desirable repairs, and get them from more than one source. Th is will give you leverage in negotiations since you know exactly how much the repairs will cost. SHUTTING OFF UTILITIES Keeping utility services on will prevent weather damage. Additionally, a house without lights is diffi cult to show and gives buyers the impression that the house needs more repairs than it really does. Keeping utilities on will make it more comfortable for anyone seeing the house. VIEWING HOME STAGING AS AN EXPENSE RATHER THAN AN INVESTMENT What you spend on staging your home can actually boost the sale in terms of time on the market and price received. It can help you make more money. A typical home-staging expenditure might range from 1-3% of the listing price of a home. On the other hand, it may result in selling the house for 5-10% more. Don’t underestimate the miraculous impact that staging can create. NOT REPAIRING OR CLEANING THE HOME You’re going to lose money on the sale of your home if you’re not prepared to make repairs before listing it for sale. When you act ahead of time, it’s less expensive to fix things, and it’s an embarrassing (and expensive) proposition to let potential buyers see the faults of the property during the open house. Likely, prospective buyers will o ff er less or demand a credit for the expense of the repair work that needs to be done before the deal closes. Experts say clutter is the culprit that eats at the equity and kills 27
deals. Decluttering your property can create a sense of a spacious home. Clearing o ff the kitchen countertops, over fl owing closets, and fi lled shelves in the den doesn’t cost much, but brings ample reward. Clear the home of all unwanted things. Completely declutter the home immediately, before listing. NOT DISCLOSING ADEQUATELY Where you choose to sell the home without making repairs to systems or structures (e.g., leaky roof, rusty hot water tank, or not- to-code electric), ensure to disclose all maintenance and repair issues. You could be liable for problems you didn’t disclose even in an “as-is” sale, and importantly, this will help you save money and time if the buyers end up discovering the problems themselves Sales that are timed for fin ancing or tax purposes that miss the timeline even by a single day can cost you extra in taxes or other costs. Th erefore, missing a day can mean losing dollars. You need to schedule the deal a ft er consulting your accountant well in advance to fin d out whether any tax breaks can apply for long- term capital gains. SELLING BEFORE GETTING QUALIFIED YOURSELF Entering a contract to sell your home before you get qua lifi ed to buy another is problematic. Your fin ancial circumstances may have changed since your last home purchase, and you might not be able to qualify for a loan. Or, your current home might not sell for an amount that allows you to buy the replacement house you have your heart set on. You could end up renting or buying something that was far from ideal. and you must deal with them during the closing. NOT FOLLOWING THE TIMELINE PERFECTLY
Before deciding to sell the house, get preapproved by a lender you trust. Also, do some research on your prospective housing market to get a good idea how much you’re likely to spend. Make plans in case you need to move right away. WASTING TIME ON UNQUALIFIED BUYERS It’s wasted e ff ort to show your home to someone who can’t buy it. An example is the seller who spent two weeks preparing his home for an acquaintance who wanted to buy his home. Th e seller spent $1,000 removing an old shed and met with the prospect several times to discuss price and terms. It was well into the process when the seller found out the prospect couldn’t qualify for a loan. Real estate agents spend considerable e ff ort weeding out showing to nonqua lifi ed and unqua lifi ed home shoppers. “HOVERING” Lurking sellers make buyers nervous. Whenever possible, don’t be home when showing. Th is is impossible or impractical if you’re selling the home yourself, though. Buyers may feel they’re intruding and then rush through. Th ey could be hesitant to talk about changes to the home or features they don’t like. Th ey’ll feel uncomfortable closely inspecting the house in front of the owners. It’s easier for buyers to visualize themselves in the home when they’re able to walk through and discuss it on their own. If you must be home, try to stay out of the way and answer questions only when asked. If you can avoid it, don’t ask your agent to be present for showings, either. Th at will limit your activity. Other agents want privacy with their buyers, and they don’t usually have time to work around your agent’s schedule. NOT TAKING THE FIRST QUICK BID 29
Th is happens repeatedly. Th e seller gets a bite early on and is suddenly fi lled with con fi dence that the house will easily sell and maybe even get involved in a bidding war. It feels like you’re standing over a pond packed with a hungry fi sh. Th e fir st o ff er doesn’t seem great and you naturally assume there must be bigger, juicier fi sh to be had. So, you throw the not-so-small-a ft er-all fi sh back in. Big mistake . Th at little guy is o ft en the “catch of the day.” BECOMING FRIENDS WITH THE BUYER It’s appropriate, even important, to be friendly, but don’t let the personal nature of someone being in your home allow you to get into too many long discussions with the buyers because personality con fli cts o ft en cloud judgments. Watch what is said in discussing items related to the house and neighborhood. Remember, this could be their new home. You’re no doubt excited about moving. But buyers will start second- guessing. A casual statement about the house “really being too small for a growing family,” or “the schools are going through some changes” might be enough innocent chatter to squash their interest. UNDERESTIMATING CLOSING COSTS Many sellers only consider the money they’re selling their home for. Th ey don’t appropriately calculate all the costs associated with the sale and overlook the following items:
• Real estate commission • Advertising costs
• Attorney or closing agent fees • Excise/gains tax (if applicable) • Prorated costs for things like property taxes, homeowner
association fees, and utilities • Any other fees sometimes paid by the seller (appraisals, inspections, buyer’s closing costs, etc.) SPENDING EARNEST MONEY GIVEN TO YOU Don’t believe for a second that earnest money given at the time an o ff er is accepted is yours until the deal has closed and been recorded. Too many stories tell about sellers who spent the deposit money prior to closing. When the transactions didn’t occur for reasons such as fin ancing contingency or failure of inspection or repair issues, the buyers had t o fig ht or sue for a refund. Another advantage to using a real estate agent is that the agent is a neutral party who can keep the deposit safe until closing day, and make sure your contract dictates what should happen to the funds if the transaction falls through. FORGETTING TO CANCEL/SWITCH UTILITIES AND INSURANCE Many sellers overlook notifying utilities that they’re moving or applying for utility service at their new home. Call your utility and insurance companies as soon as a contract is signed. Find out how many days of not ifi cation they need to switch or cancel service, then let them know when you hav e a fir m closing date. LETTING EMOTIONS TAKE OVER Keep calm during the entire home-selling process, especially during the inspection. Be realistic and understand that there will be issues. It’s not unusual to have to take care of some repairs. Don’t let the buyer’s demand to complete a small repair kill the deal. On the other hand, don’t commit to fixin g anything in advance 31
(e.g., “Sure, we can put on a new roof ”), unless you’re committed to handling it emotionally and fin ancially. Decide what type of repairs you can realistically complete. Repairs can end up costing more money than anticipated.
CHAPTER 5 The #1 Secret Strategy to Sell Your Home for More Before we get into the nitty gritty of using better marketing strategies to get the most out of your home sale, you need to learn about this high-end tactic to sell your home for top dollar. Th e rich and famous use this secret strategy to sell their homes. In one instance, a real estate agent reported that this strategy resulted in one condo selling for $110,000 more than a similar condo in the same building. Th is real estate agent mentioned having intimate knowledge of both condos. Neither listing was bank-owned, a short sale, or a distress sale. Th e only plausible explanation as to why one home sold for that much more than the other was the seller’s use of this secret home-selling strategy. Th is strategy is e ff ective in any market, no matter what type of property. It applies equally to houses, apartments, townhouses, or condos. Agents and sellers using these tactics have a greater chance of closing a sale for more money. Th is real estate agent discovered the secret strategy, almost by accident. He met a wealthy executive who was interested in selling his condo. Th e owner was willing to hire the agent, on one condition. Th e real estate agent must agree to use the man’s secret method to sell the condo. It sounded crazy. Th e agent was naturally skeptical. On the one hand, selling the condo would bring a handsome 34Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Page 5 Page 6 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9 Page 10 Page 11 Page 12 Page 13 Page 14 Page 15 Page 16 Page 17 Page 18 Page 19 Page 20 Page 21 Page 22 Page 23 Page 24 Page 25 Page 26 Page 27 Page 28 Page 29 Page 30 Page 31 Page 32 Page 33 Page 34 Page 35 Page 36 Page 37 Page 38 Page 39 Page 40 Page 41 Page 42 Page 43 Page 44 Page 45 Page 46 Page 47 Page 48 Page 49 Page 50 Page 51 Page 52 Page 53 Page 54 Page 55 Page 56 Page 57 Page 58 Page 59 Page 60 Page 61 Page 62 Page 63 Page 64 Page 65 Page 66 Page 67 Page 68 Page 69 Page 70 Page 71 Page 72 Page 73 Page 74 Page 75 Page 76 Page 77 Page 78 Page 79 Page 80 Page 81 Page 82 Page 83 Page 84 Page 85 Page 86 Page 87 Page 88 Page 89 Page 90 Page 91 Page 92 Page 93 Page 94 Page 95 Page 96 Page 97 Page 98 Page 99 Page 100 Page 101 Page 102 Page 103 Page 104 Page 105 Page 106 Page 107 Page 108 Page 109 Page 110 Page 111 Page 112 Page 113 Page 114 Page 115 Page 116 Page 117 Page 118 Page 119 Page 120 Page 121 Page 122 Page 123 Page 124 Page 125 Page 126 Page 127 Page 128 Page 129 Page 130 Page 131 Page 132 Page 133 Page 134 Page 135 Page 136 Page 137 Page 138 Page 139 Page 140 Page 141 Page 142 Page 143 Page 144 Page 145 Page 146
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