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Top Five Mistakes Sellers Make

It can be a tough market for selling a home, but those conditions can get even worse if sellers aren’t careful. While a seller doesn’t control the real estate market, their actions can significantly contribute to how long and how much their home is sold for.

Underestimating Cleaning Up: It may seem obvious, but I can tell you real estate agents everywhere are nodding their heads in agreement as they read this. Inviting potential buyers in to see an unkempt home is like going on a job interview without freshening up after you cleaned your garage. How can the employer notice your fantastic talents and skills if they’re hidden underneath a sloppy exterior? How you show your home tells the buyer what type of care you, the seller, has put into the home?

 

If you can’t take the time to wipe the grime off the refrigerator doors, tidy up the kids’ rooms, take out the messy diapers, put away the food, and take the dogs out of the house for a while, then you’ll likely find buyers will quickly move on to the next home on their list.

Lingering During Showings: Yes, we all want to know how the open house or showing went, but hanging around during either of those events is not a good idea. Sellers who tend to linger during showings often make the buyers uncomfortable. Buyers like to have time to explore the home at their own pace and without feeling any pressure. Sometimes buyers want to sit on the porch or out in the backyard as they discuss the home’s possibilities. And if buyers are willing to sit for a bit and talk about the home, that’s a great sign. However, the chances of them doing that with the seller present is unlikely. Many times buyers will say, “Let’s skip the home if the sellers are there.”

If you’re selling your home, do yourself a favor and hit the road for a bit. Take a walk or head to the coffee shop. As soon as the showing is over, you can get all the details from your agent. That’s why you’re paying your agent! Let them do their job. Just make sure that your agent has all the home’s selling points and any additional features that make this home standout.

For Sale By Owner (FSBO) Trap: Some people are convinced that they can do it on their own. Maybe they can sell their own home, but it likely won’t happen without some headaches. Trained specialists are called “experts” for a reason. An expert real estate agent knows the market, has connections, guides you through the process, negotiates on your behalf, and will make the process of selling your home simpler.

One potential land mine that FSBOs face is the flood of people popping in to see their home. It sounds great that there’s so much traffic, but the problem is many times the people who pop into FSBO properties aren’t actually qualified for a mortgage or may not be serious buyers. Instead they’re just looking and satisfying their curiosity at your expense. Agents know to ask the right questions to make certain the lookers are truly potential home buyers.

Not interviewing agents: If you have kids, chances are you interviewed the nanny or babysitter. Taking time to seek out top real estate agents in your are. Setting up interviews with them is equally important. Choosing the wrong agent for the job will be a headache and slow the process down. There must be a connection, understanding, and good communication between the seller and the agent. There are lots of things that go on during the sale of a home, communicating with the agent should be one of the easier tasks.

Pricing a home incorrectly: This could be the worst mistake sellers make. Yet, this is where so much help can be found. Real estate agents see homes every single day. They know the neighborhoods and the comps. They are there to help you understand what homes have sold for in the recent past and what they’ll likely sell for during the current market conditions. Get a market evaluation from your agent and understand that what is a fair price for your home in today’s market.

Renovate or Sell As Is?

Should I Renovate or Sell As Is?

When prospective home sellers invite me for a consultation, the most common question is not,”What is my home’s value?” but, “Should I renovate or sell the house as is?”

selling house in Newton MA

If your house is on a large parcel, it may be worth more than you think!

Several considerations are made to answer the questions of renovating or selling as-is.  At the top of the list is the local real estate market conditions.  No one answer can be given to this question, and discussing the house without a understanding the market is futile.

The advice here applies especially to South Newton MA, Chesnut Hill MA and Brookline MA, as well as parts of Boston, where land is scarce and the houses are old.  There is a great demand for luxury housing in the Boston area, which drive the pressure on the land and tear-down markets.

Brookline MA, for example, has a very high demand for land and tear-downs.  An old house which can be taken down can be worth more than a bigger house, if the land is larger and buildable.  Furthermore, the zoning of a parcel dictates how many units can be built and the size of the homes.  This is key knowledge to the equation.

Once the local real estate market and the town zoning is understood, review the considerations below to learn how I advise my clients.

In order for me to recommend renovations to a Brookline or Newton house, these are the things I look for:

1. The home owners have energy, patience, interest, and financial resources to make changes.

If a you some cash and bit of interest in renovating things, some projects may yield a return greater than 100%. Make sure you do ONLY those projects.  Don’t make these common home improvement mistakes.

2. The home is in generally good shape already.

Maybe you already have a new kitchen, so modernizing the bath would increase the value of the home. Or the home is in perfect condition other than some old carpeting, then I recommend changing the carpet. Another scenario is if the inside of the home is updated, but the exterior is a bit shabby. Here I recommend investing in making the house look great outside.

3. Market conditions favor home buyers.

Home buyers, to distinguish from investors or developers, tend to want to do less work. Walking into a house which is ready is highy valued by young families and overworked professionals.

In order to recommend selling your home as is, I look for the following:

selling land in Brookline MA

Your property’s value depends on the town’s zoning code.

1. If you can’t do the work, or it will be a great burden, then don’t!

Even projects which may be a good financial investment re not worth your stress and exhaustion.

2. The home needs too much work.

If your house hasn’t been updated many years, or if the house is in a consistent condition throughout, then sell the home as it is, to the right buyer. Don’t waste time and money on renovating a pink, mud-back tile bathroom if the kitchen is to remain avocado color and the wallpaper is peeling in the dining room.

It is likely the next owner will take on a major project and your bathroom may be turned into a pantry. Don’t put money into a part of the home, when the rest will remain outdated.

3. The market favors developers.

A developer is not paying a premium for upgrading something. If the devlopers are the strength in the market, they may be able to offer you more than a home buyer. Always speak with a local and highly experienced agent before you may any such decision.

4. Your house is in the immediate Boston Area and you are sitting on a chunk of land.

On a large lot in Boston, Newton, or Brookline, the house is almost always secondary. If the lot can be subdivided, if it can be turned into a multi-unit property, or if your house is small – the value is in the potential, rather than the house.

Whenever you consider selling your home, you must first speak with a real estate agent who can identify the strengths of the house. Learn the current market value of your home (Zestimates do not count), and who is the most likely buyer for your home. Only then decide to renovate or sell as is.

Thinking of selling your home?  Interested in a free market evaluation of a property?  Contact me today!

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finding best real estate agent

3 Tips to Negotiate Real Estate Commission

finding best real estate agentIt’s a common situation all real estate agents experience. We are discussing the benefits of our services with a perspective seller, and the commission bomb is dropped: “Is the commission negotiable,” the homeowner asks.

“Some agents will do this for 4%,” is another comment I hear often in Brighton.

While most agents fear the commission questions, I welcome them. It is my opinion every perspective seller who did not ask about it, wanted to do so, but didn’t feel it appropriate. It’s on everyone’s mind.

Here are three tips on how negotiating real estate commission, and the replies to expect from the agents you interview for to sell your condo or house in Brookline, Brighton or Newton.

1. Invite more than one real estate agent for a presentation. More options will give you leverage. Tell the agents you are interviewing others.  Knowing this, some agents may offer you a better commission price on the spot or expect to negotiate.

The best real estate agent you will interview will be unfazed by competition and follow-up when you finish interviewing. A highly qualified real estate agent who believes in what she does will not offer a discount.

2. Ask for a specific discount. When home sellers ask me the vague question, “Is the commission negotiable,” my answer is, “Only if you want to pay more.” Everyone laughs, subject is dropped.

When you ask for a specific commission reduction, “Can you reduce it by 0.5%?” for example, the answer must be more specific. A weak real estate professional will be caught off guard and likely say yes.

Your best candidate will say no, and tell you why. The commission breakdown should be transparent. You’ll understand why a 0.5% break for you is a 25% discount in the listing agen’ts compensation. Would you take a 25% pay reduction from your boss? You’d probably look for a better job.

3. Don’t be timid. Most home sellers interviewing real estate agents are uncomfortable negotiating and shy about asking for the discount. Many real estate agents rely on your timidity to get paid full price. If you do not ask the hard questions, you may not find your best candidate.

The best real estate agent to sell your home will never offer a commission discount up-front, and will not yield on negotiating the commission. An agent ready to negotiate commission will be all too ready to negotiate the price of your home and terms and conditions for your sale. If you can easily negotiate with an agent, you should be wary of hiring him to represent your interests.

Instead, use the real estate commission negotiation question to find a confident agent who can handle uncomfortable questions and demonstrates the value of her commission.

Do you have a commission question?  Are you considering curious about the costs of selling a home?  Write me below:

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bathroom boston condo

Bathroom Renovation and Resale Value for Your Condo

bathroom boston condo

Original subway tile are chic!

Tight space, tight budget, and the fear of sinking money you won’t get back.  Bathroom renovation resale value is not always 100%.  When getting ready to sell your Boston condo, you can make small inexpensive changes with a big impact.

A bathroom is a small space which can make or break a sale.  If it’s yucky, the whole place will be perceived to be a run down home.  A dreamy bathroom can sell the condo. In bathrooms, details can be glaring.  Yet, you can avoid spending tens of thousands of dollars on a complete bathroom renovation, money you won’t get back.

Changing the common mud-back tiles can be very expensive and exhuasting, and completely unnecessary.  Here are the components you need to consider in a small bathroom.  Complete this checklist and you can have a bathroom which will help sell the condo and make you more money.

1.       Medicine Cabinets: If your medicine cabinet can’t be cleaned to a spotless shine, or if it has worn edges, ANY rust, or if it is not stylish, GET RID OF IT.  A medicine cabinet is where the eyes go when you enter the bathroom, and it makes the first impression.  Medicine cabinets which suit your Boston condo can be budget friendly or very spiffy.  Go for something simple and in-line with the condo’s value.

I suggest also getting something with clean lines and big.  Buyers want storage and it will draw the eyes away from the imperfections

brighton condo sold

New curtain, towels and vanity.

beyond repair.

2.       Paint: Peeling paint from excessive moisture, or any discoloration, you must paint.  A sloppy paint job is unforgiving in the bathroom, so take the time to do it right, or hire a painter.  Choose a color which isn’t too weird, please.

3.       Fluffy towels: Buy new towels, and hang them on the towel racks and stack them if you have the space.  Fluffy things make us happy.  Make the buyer happy, it’ll cost you $40.

4.       Clean: Really really clean.  The corners, the spaces behind and in-between, the door, window, tile, top of the medicine cabinet, light fixtures.  If  you don’t feel like Cinderella, you are not cleaning hard enough.

5.       Glaze Tub: If your tub is very dirty, grimy, and stained, glazing can do the trick for only a few hundred dollars.  Just mild discoloration may be overlooked with some non-slip decals.

Note, this is a simple cosmetic issue.  Never ever cover-up or draw attention away from damage to the home.

brighton condo sold

New curtain, medicine cabinet, and lighting.

6.       Vanity: This is one of the pricier items on the list, but if your vanity is outdated, the whole bathroom is outdated.  Invest a few hundred dollars in something new.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  Once of my clients switched from a tiny vanity which was very low, to a more substantial one, and a bit higher for $300.  The whole bathroom looked new.

7.       Toilet: You know when you need a new toilet.  Take a long hard look at your toilet and ask yourself, “is it time?”

8.       Shower Curtain: All homes going on the market need a brand new shower curtain.  Shower curtains come in such a variety of colors and styles, and in fabrics which can change the look and feel of every bathroom in minutes and for as little as $30.  It will be one of the best investments you will make getting your condo ready for sale.

selling boston condo

New shower curtain and a good cleaning.

9.       Lighting: Bathrooms need bright lights to create a cheerful atmosphere.  Light bulbs must work, and the fixtures either clean or new.

If you have odd colored mud-back tiles, (Avocado, Mustard, Pepto), the shower curtain, towels and paint are an opportunity to tie them into something more neutral and modern.  It’s no longer dated, now it’s vintage!

Follow these tips and your bathroom renovation resale value for your Boston condo will be well over 100%!

Click on the link for more advice for home sellers.

contingency to sell home

Contingency to Sell Home: Selling a Condo and Buying a House in Boston

contingency to sell home

Caught Between Two Properties?

If you need to sell your condo in order to buy a house in Brookline, Newton and the Greater Boston area, you are not alone. With housing so expensive, not many can manage to keep both mortgages, or pay for the house without the proceeds from the condo.

A contingency to sell your home is a common way to protect you in this situation. You make an offer with a contingency on an accepted offer, purchase and sale, or closing of the condo you are selling.

Sounds like a plan, right? WRONG!

In today’s market you are competing with other buyers, and a contingency to sell a home is a great way to RUIN your chances of securing the property of your choice. Put your home-seller thinking cap for prospective for a moment.

An offer with a contingency to sell a home is a high risk offer. Regardless of the type of property to sell or how easily it will sell, it is far removed from the seller and the seller’s agent. Furthermore, such an offer is likely to have delays and it comes with too many unknowns. Why accept such an offer when there are better ones on the table, or will be coming?

It is worth it for the seller to wait for another offer while you work on selling your condo. From the seller’s point of view, you can come back after you sold and your offer will be accepted then. Why risk taking the home off market now?

So what do you do when selling a condo and buying a house in the Boston area, with our current market conditions?

1. HIRE AN AGENT who has done this several times and knows how to protect your interests while securing a property.
2. Work on selling first and prepare to buy quickly once you have a P&S in hand.
3. Sell first, with a flexible closing so you have time to find your new home.
4. Work with your agent and mortgage broker. You may be able to take a bit of risk and make an offer without selling and without a contingency. Learn all the facts and how it may work.
5. Present an offer with a very long closing giving you time to sell the condo first

The bottom line is that you will have to stay flexible. You may or may not have to take financial risk – it depends on the properties, finances and closing dates. Most importantly, hire a real estate agent who knows how to work under pressure and protect your interests.

Feel free to schedule a free consultation to learn how to best manage your risk while buying and selling a home.

Brighton condo market update

Brighton MA Condos: 2012 Market Summary

Brighton MA real estate picked up steam in 2012, and here are the numbers to prove it.

Below notice how both the number of sales and prices in Brighton MA have gone up, while the average days of market sank by nearly 40%.  The average sale price to list price ratio is also up, meaning sellers are getting nearly 98% of their asking price.    The pie chart shows sold Brighton MA condos in 2012 by their price range.

2011 2012 Change
Number of Sales 243 269 10.7%
Average List Price  $  286,500  $  297,000 3.7%
Average Sale Price  $ 276,310  $ 290,000 5.0%
Median Sale Price  $  246,000  $   257,000 4.5%
Average Days on Market 94 59 -37.2%
Average Sale Price / List Price 96.4% 97.6% 1.2%

Brighton condo market update

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boston real estate

Holiday Shopping: Boston Real Estate

One of the best examples of a self-fulfilling prophecy is in the seasonality of the Boston real estate market.  Every year, as boston real estateThanksgiving approaches, home sellers ask me, “Does it make sense to put the home on market now? There are no buyers looking.”

From potential home buyers I hear, “ Should we wait until Spring to buy?  There are no homes on the market now.”

Yet, despite the expectations for a quiet holiday season, almost every year I am on the phone putting together a deal while checking-up on my stuffed Tofurky.  This year the real estate market seasonality will be less pronounced than ever.

Both buyers and sellers will find advantages of pursuing their real estate goals during the holiday season.

Home Seller Advantages to Holiday Home Selling

Low Competition: Inventory shortage is what characterized our Boston real estate market the past few months.  Newton, Brookline, Cambridge, Arlington and Brighton have all had too few homes for sale to satisfy demand, leaving many buyers still looking.

My friend Marilyn Messenger wrote a great article, The 5 Reasons the Sell Your House Now! She outlines the benefits of selling your home during the holiday season.  One of the top reasons is the lower competition as many home sellers decide to wait or take their home off market for the holidays.

Serious Buyers: Marilyn also reminds us the buyers coming through a home between Thanksgiving and New Years’ are serious.  These are determined buyers, who are not going out in harsh weather during overscheduled holidays to look at a home for kicks.

This year, home sellers can expect buyers who are eager, ready to buy after losing out on multiple offer situations in September and October.

Holiday Home Buyer Advantages

Fewer Buyers Looking: The worry of fewer homes on market is balanced by many buyers exiting the market and new ones waiting until 2013.  Fewer buyers translate into fewer multiple-offer situations, and home sellers who are more likely to entertain your offer and work with you.

Shorter Mortgage Queue: Underwriting mortgages is taking weeks if you get stuck with the wrong bank, and closing delays are common.  Much of the refinancing business will waiting until January, leaving your attorney with more time to work for you.

Homes are Ready to Sell:  There will be two types of properties on the market. First, the “leftovers” from the busy fall market.  These homes haven’t sold because of poor marketing or they were overpriced at critical moments. Neither of these reasons reflects poorly on the houses, but gives you an opportunity to negotiate.

There will also be new listings.  Savvy home sellers want to take advantage of the low inventory and serious buyers.  It’s a perfect time to match home buyers and home sellers who are ready to move on.

My advice to my clients has been and always will be to first work around your own schedule.  You never know if your ideal home buyer / home seller has plans matching yours.  Real estate surprises us regularly, as not everyone conforms to the same self-fulfilling prophecy, and not everyone celebrates the same holiday season.

(Coming in July 2013, an article entitled, “Boston Realtors Gone to Cape.  Please Resume Your Real Estate Activity After Labor Day.”)

Newton Ma Houses for Sale

Newton Houses in High Demand, But Are You Positioning Your Home Correctly?

Newton real estate is in high demand and in analyzing the market for Newton houses; you find almost across the board, the market is newton, ma housesfavoring sellers.  Inventory of houses on market in Newton is just meeting demand or falling shy of it in some price ranges.

The price range with most pressure is the $800,000-$899,999 price range in Newton, with only one month of inventory.  Houses in this price range are sitting the least time on the market at only 51 days.

Alternatively, luxury Newton homes priced $3,000,000-$3,999,999 have 16 months of supply.  This means the sellers can expect their house to sell in 16 months, even if their home is the best of the lot.

What does this mean to you if you are selling your house in Newton?

First, you can use this information to set expectations on roughly how long it will take to sell your home.  The months of supply tell you if you have a lot or little competition in relation to the demand in recent months.  Many people thing the average days on market is the best indication for how long it will take for a home to sell.  But average days on market don’t always go hand in hand with months of supply.

Second, if you plan to price your home near the top or bottom of a price range, it may make sense to price higher or lower just a bit.  For example, if you plan to price your Newton home just over $900,000, it may be worth to price your home at $899,999 where you’ll have less competition and more buyers.

No matter where your home is priced, and regardless of competition, there is a guaranteed way to a quicker and easier home sale.  To beat the competition you must offer the best value in the price range.  This doesn’t mean you should have the biggest, newest, prettiest house, but the one offering the most solutions for buyers for every dollar they spend.

Next, the house needs to be marketed correctly, online exposure being the single most important element of property marketing.  Regardless of the low inventory and high demand, to attract a better buyer faster who’d pay top dollar for your home, your house must stand out in the crowd of 152 Newton houses.

A home priced correctly and marketed properly, should be the first one sold in the price range, within the period of months of supply.  Newton houses may be a hot commodity in most price ranges, but there are still houses lingering on market for months without an offer.  Don’t be the home seller of such a house.

Newton-Houses-On-Market

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Zen and the Art of Increasing Your Home’s Value

home-value-minimalismRaising two kids and running two businesses, our home can get very messy, very fast.  I used to easily fall into feeling overwhelmed and crowded in my own home, thinking it’s time to move and find more space.  My temporary solution would be to do some cleaning-up, weeding out and organizing to feel better.

But in order to really fall in love with my West Roxbury home again I had to do a lot more.  I started embracing aspects of minimalistic living, rethinking my relationship with all the stuff in our home.  Inspired by the blog Zen Habits, the book The Joy of Less, and Throw Our Fifty Things (I only read the cover), I began the process.

For three months I set a goal of getting rid of fifty things monthly.  Sounds hard?  The first month was easy, the second required a little thought, and the third month was tougher but more fun than the previous two.  It became a game, a personal challenge, and I found things accumulating dust and holding bad memories.  Getting rid of those was liberating.

Changing my relationship with stuff has increased my home value in two ways.  First, I fell in love with the space again.  I enjoy the home more and feel no need to move in the foreseeable future.  A larger home has no use or appeal anymore.  This home is more valuable to me than ever.

The second way in which I’ve increased my home’s value is by the way it looks to others.  With fewer things to store, there is more space to live.  If we ever decide to sell, (or more likely rent), our home will be easier to present.  Sure, we can prepare the home for sale, de-clutter and organize, but then we are faced with the challenge of storing things in the basement.  We’ll feel uncomfortable without our usual things around us, rather than just living our normal daily lifestyle.

What we really want to do in our homes is enjoy time with family, play, dance, cook, eat, read, and sleep.   The more stuff we have the more we spend our time at home cleaning, sorting, and organizing.  I think of each possession, however small, as an added responsibility.  As if just paying the mortgage isn’t a big enough responsibility!

It’s an ongoing process.  I didn’t wake up one morning and enjoyed getting rid of things it took 36 years to accumulate.  But now I can only recommend it.  You can be liberated and find more value in your home.

Enjoy your day.

By the way, if you are thinking of buying a home soon, take a look at my post from last summer, when I began my process of de-cluttering.  Minimalism to Home-Ownership talks about how to minimalism can help you become a homeowner faster.

Brighton Condo Inventory and Time on Market

This is not the first post I am writing about Brighton condo market getting tighter.  A few weeks ago I wrote about dwindling inventory of condos available for sale and the huge drop in time on market, which I named, “Brighton Feels like 2004.”

Inventory and days on market go hand in hand.  These indicators are usually interpreted as the homeowners’ belief in immanent rising prices.  Time on market fell from 70 days on market in May 2010 to 33 days on market this past May.

Steady downward trend, with lower peaks and lower valleys.

Time on market for sold condos in Brighton.

 

If the claustrophobia in your Brighton condo is getting a bit much, give me a call at 617-291-0323.  This may be your opportunity for a  move-up.