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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FSBO, Boston Real Estate

Where to Advertise a FSBO? The FSBO Online Resource List

FSBO, Boston Real EstateReal estate agents deliver tremendous value to home sellers and home buyers.  I have a belief in the importance of my work and it seems my clients agree.  Yet, some homeowners want to venture into the world of For-Sale-By-Owners.  In another post of tips for FSBO’s, I’ve shared some key elements for success.

In this post I’ve compiled a list of online resources for FSBO’s.  Choose to work with those that best suit your property and budget.

  1. For Sale By This is the most well known website for FSBO’s, with a 14 day free trial.  You can post up to 6 photos, print flyers, write a description of the home.  Once you are a paying customer, your home can be advertised on and MLS.
  2.  Lot’s of online resources, high satisfaction rating, and a connection with and MLS.
  3. Craig’s List.  Post for free, but ensure you do not post your ad more than once a week.  Be aware that you will likely receive inquiries from bargain hunters.
  4. All The Post your ad for free, claimed to be search-engine friendly.  You have premium membership options.
  5.  Free advertising until the closing date.
  6. Claiming worldwide exposure for you ad, a free listing allows for 12 pictures, and $2 more if you want to be a “featured” listing.
  7. Virtual Offering flat fee MLS, and syndication to Google Real Estate and other FSBO websites.
  8. Free advertising for your property, wherever it is!
  9.  This website will remind you of what Craig’s List used to be.  Clean, simple, great place to find anything.
  10. And one more resource.  If you are selling your real estate in the Boston area, I’ll happily write a blog post about your home and promote it through my distribution channels.  Write me directly if you are interested.

Be aware when you search for where to post your advertisement for your home, some websites are a lead generation resource for Realtors.  This is not necessarily bad, but it is unlikely to fill your need for exposure for your home.

Good luck!

Doing the Numbers: Brookline Real Estate Months of Supply

“Months of supply” in real estate is the closest thing we have to a forecasting tool.  The months of supply measures how long it would take to sell the current number of homes on the market.   Low inventory, means demand exceeds supply, hence rising prices are a logical expectations.  Anything under a three months supply is considered low inventory and a seller’s market.

Brookline’s condo market is extremely tight!  There are 72 condos on market, which is just over 1 month of supply.   I’ve included a chart breaking down months of supply by price range for Brookline condos.  You’ll find the $300,000-$400,000 range with low inventory, with about two to three weeks supply.  The $500,000-$700,000 price range has only at about two weeks supply.

The slowest Brookline condo segment is in the luxury $1,000,000+ market.  But it is still robust!

Brookline Condos

Next, single family homes.  There are 70 houses on the market in Brookline, which is 3.6 months of supply.  Brookline’s house market is a  seller’s market, not as strong as the condo market, though.  In most price ranges, inventory is between 2-3 months of supply, with few exceptions.  The popular $800,000-900,000 price range has only a three week supply of homes.   Buyers in this pricing category are having a tough time finding a home that delights.

Brookline’s luxury house market is a different story.  Six months supply of homes priced $4,000,000-$5,000,000, and 21 months supply of homes priced $5,000,000+.  This market has different standards, thought, and a house in this category is expected to take longer to sell.

The statisticians among you will tell me there are all sorts of issues with the measurements, but it is the best way we have to look at the current inventory of homes and get a sense of where we stand.  For me, anecdotes are great, just not enough.

Pricing Your Home

Common Mistakes in Pricing Your Home in Rising Market


Pricing Your HomeIn a real estate market with rising prices, pricing your home can be a bit tricky.   I meet some home sellers who think it is easier to price a home in a rising market, but that’s not necessarily true.  The risk of mispricing is always the same, and leaving thousands of dollars on the table is at stake.

Prices are just starting to inch up around the country, but as usual, Boston real estate is a bit ahead in this regard.  Many of Boston’s neighborhoods and immediate suburbs are enjoying visibly higher home prices for some months.  And the vibrant market has encouraged many who’ve been waiting to sell.

So how much is your home worth now?  In pricing your home, ensure you receive top dollar by avoiding the following common mistakes.

Looking at sold home prices online.  Sold home prices are a great place to start your research on your home’s value, but there are some issues.  Although the information is public and generally accurate, it can be misleading when using the mapping features of Zillow or Trulia.  A house nearby of similar size could have sold for a vastly different price than what your home is worth.  Unless you know a house well, it is dangerous to compare it to yours.

Furthermore, don’t confuse recent sold home prices with the “Zestimates” on Zillow.  Those are generally useless in Newton and Brookline, and many parts of Boston.  I’ve written about my reservations about Zillow as a data source before in my article, “No More Zestimates for Newton and Brookline.

Pricing too high.  You may think pricing a bit high in a rising market is not a big deal, but remember, we are just coming off a pretty ugly real estate slump.  Market is just starting to perk-up, buyers still hold some cards.  First-time home buyers are moving the market, and they are buying on a tight budget.  There is less negotiation, so do not assume that if you price high, you’re leaving “room to negotiate.”  Instead, you’re leaving room to sit on market and wait for an inevitable price reduction.

Pricing too low.  Some real estate agents will tell you there is no danger in under pricing a home because there will be multiple offers, and you’ll get the full value of the home as buyers bid up the price.  Bologna.  Agents say this because a cheaper house is easier to sell.  There is a strategy involved in multiple-offer situations, and it involves some thought.

Generating a multiple offer situation is never a guarantee, and can be risky when you are depending on the multiple offers to bring you the full value of the home.  Here’s a post I wrote about the dangers of under pricing.  A neighbor of one of my properties under-priced for a quick sale, and after the bidding war, the condo sold for about 10K short of top dollar.

Asking the wrong agent.  Real estate is not neurology, but it does require expertise.  This expertise is labor intensive, including looking at homes, meeting with buyers, writing offers, learning the market, reading the news, etc.  Ask the wrong agent, and you’ll get the wrong answer.  Speak with local agents who seem to know what they are talking about, preferably more than one if you have reservations.  A competent agent will be able to give you a price or a price range, with some precision and confidence, and back it up with recent sales and inside knowledge.

Input from a professional will always be the best place for you to price your home.  Make sure you don’t get caught up in the mistakes outlined, and you’ll sell your home for top dollar in no time.

If you are curious about how much your home is worth, click here.


The First Seven Steps Your Realtor Must Take

Brookline RealtorsYou’ve signed the listing agreement, now what?

Between the signing of the listing agreement and the second week your home is on the market, there is an enormous amount of work for the listing agent.  Done right, completing these tasks lays a solid foundation for a successful marketing plan for your home.

Here are the first seven things a listing broker must do once a new listing is signed.

  1. Paperwork.  There is lots of paperwork.  Some paperwork is mandated by the Commonwealth, some of it is by the company.  The agent has to have all of the paperwork complete and in order.  I even fill out paperwork for the sign installation, but some agents in very small firms will install the sign.  If your agent is not highly organized and complete, it may reflect on a sloppy company or other sloppy work.
  2. Preparing the home for sale.  It is you duty to prepare the home to look it’s best.  But it is your agent’s duty to be helpful.  Your listing agent should spend time with you and either advice or referring you to a staging professional.  It is vital you take your agent’s advice or hire a staging professional.  The home you live in should not look like the home you sell.
  3. Photographs.  The listing agent’s third order of business is to arrange to take photographs of the property.  Preparing the home for sale and great photos is the groundwork for a successful marketing campaign.  Photographs, and any other media such as floor plans and home tour, are the materials necessary to market the home online and to attract the right buyers.
  4. Calendar.  You should know when the agent plans to hold open houses and establish a schedule for showings.  Some people refuse to show homes on Saturdays or need a day or two notice.  Your agent must know your limitations and work with them.  You should know what happens when, including any promotions, mailings, office tours, broker open houses, etc.
  5. MLS.  With photos in hand, the agent is ready to enter the home into Multiple Listing Service.  If done right, this takes some time.  A complete MLS entry is the goal, including room measurements, building and area information, public records data, description, related documents, etc. The MLS entry of your home must look perfect the first moment it is published.  Once it’s “live”, it is send to anyone in the system looking for a home like yours.  People tend to skip homes with incomplete information and bad pictures.  The very first days of the listing are most important to your marketing plan!
  6. Online Promotion.  MLS and some brokerage firms syndicate listings all over the web.  Listings will feed into websites such as, Zillow, Trulia,, etc.  These syndication are the lifeblood of the online marketing campaign.  When 88% of home buyers searched online for homes last year, this is a big piece of successfully marketing a property. Tech savvy agents who understand the importance of online marketing pay for their own syndication feeds which override any company or MLS feed.  This gives the listing agent more control over what the audience sees and allows buyers to directly contact the listing agent, rather than the office.
  7. Direct Mail.  A “just listed” card to a radius around your home should be sent the first week the home goes on market.  Just listed cards peak neighbors’ interest and they spread the word about your home in their beloved neighborhood.  This is also a perfect marketing opportunity for a neighbor considering a new home who want to stay in the area.

There is so much to do the first few weeks of a listing.  After that, the work load is lessened until the offers come.  Still, you should expect updates on activity and a regular marketing effort that continues through the life of the listing.

To receive a copy of my Home Selling Plan, click here.

Brookline Real Estate Update

There has been a lot of talk about the shrinking supply of homes in the market.  The shift in this critical market condition is nicely shown in the months of supply of Brookline’s single family houses chart.  In May 2o11 there was over 10 months of supply – meaning, it would take 10 months to sell all the homes if no new ones came on market.  Last May, this number was under 8 months.

Although average house prices in Brookline were down over 9%, the shrinking inventory is a sign of a healthier market.   Months of supply tells us how many homes are on market and the level of demand.  Lower months of supply is great news if you are planning to sell your home soon.  More interested parties, less competition, maybe (MAYBE) higher asking price.

But this information means something else if your house is already on market.  If you are currently trying to sell your house in Brookline, the good news is you have less competition and more potential buyers.  The bad news is that while all the other homes are selling, yours is still on market.  If you home has been on market much more than four months (average market time), it may be time to discuss alternative marketing options or a price adjustment with your listing agent.

Brookline single family homes have an average price of $1.3 million.  Lower price ranges have sharper drops and much lower inventories.  Brookline condos are down to 3.2 months of supply last month.  More on that next week.

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.


7 Marketing Methods a Listing Agent Must Offer Before You Hire

When interviewing listing agents to sell your home you’ll receive books with marketing plans telling you about all the amazing things the company will do for you. Some of it is great, some of it a bunch of nonsense, and the most important stuff won’t be in there at all.

There are essential marketing strategies that must be incorporated into promoting your home when it comes on market. Ensure all of this is included before you say “Yes” to any agent:

1. Professional photographs. Agents are not photographers, usually. I don’t care what camera an agent has, a professional photographer will do better. If you think this is not important, go online and look for yourself.
If you are selling a smaller home or condo, this service is even more important, although less likely to be available to you. Smaller spaced demand excellent photography, otherwise your home will look smaller in pictures.

2. Staging your home. There is always something to be done to improve how the home looks. This doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate, but your agent should either give you a to-do list of getting your home ready, or insist you hire a staging professional. Otherwise, the photos won’t look nice, buyers are less likely to come, and buyers will pay less for an un-staged home. You are losing thousands of dollars if you don’t invest the time and money to get the home ready to be photographed and shown.

3. Floor plans. Buyers looking online often have specifications they want and room dimensions are extremely helpful. For example, when a buyer needs a living room large enough for a grand piano, without a floor plan the listing will be skipped even if it is a perfect fit. Giving potential buyers and their agents as much information as possible helps bring the right buyers in and keep the wrong buyers from wasting your time.

4. Video. We love videos. So much information is consumed through video, and it is easier to connect with a property through a video.

5. Online Exposure. By far, the most important way to reach buyers is with online exposure to your home. Your agent must be aware of where the listing will be uploaded by MLS, or through the company through syndication, like Google Base, Zillow, Trulia,, etc. There are other sites, such as Craig’s list, that require a weekly update. And what about a single listing website? Those are a great way to promote a home on the market yet few agents are using this service. Ask what the agent and the company provide and how well they are versed with the online marketing strategies of listing a home. Keep away from anyone claiming technical ignorance. Failing to understand the internet’s role in marketing property unacceptable. You don’t have to know it, but your agent does.

6. Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Every agent will put your listing in to Multiple Listing Service. But how will it be done? MLS plays a huge role in the sale of your home. First, it is the means of communication with other agents. Second, it is sent directly to buyers. Third, it is syndicated to other popular websites where buyers search for homes. But put together a poor MLS listing, and you have squandered your most important marketing opportunity.

Bad MLS behavior includes posting a listing without photos, not including all information, poorly written or uninspiring description, or posting open houses late, (like Saturday night instead of Thursday morning). If your agent is not going to take MLS seriously, run.

7. Marketing to Agents. Marketing proposals from agents will say a lot about how to present homes to buyers. But the overwhelming majority of buyers will be represented by an agent. Everyone overlooks the importance of marketing direct to agents. A broker open house is just part of it. Other parts include flexibility to show the house, paying a premium commission and direct mailings to agents.

Marketing your home is the role of your listing agent. A marketing plan must include updated methods and a full spectrum of services. Think of every failure to meet one of the standards above as lost money, because it is.

The Newton and Brookline Market Downturn

My friend was telling me how the market downturn was an opportunity to find a bigger home in Brookline. Unfortunately, she didn’t find the home she wanted. (She wasn’t my client).

Yes, the market took a turn. Everyone in the country knows about our real estate downturn. But in Brookline and Newton, this downturn disappointed many hopeful buyers.

While Massachusetts real estate numbers are showing us in a continued slump, Newton and Brookline have proved remarkably resilient. I’m looking at the Multiple Listing Service statistics for the years 2007-2011. In Brookline, the downturn single family house prices dipped from their 2007 peak of $1.43 million to the low of $1.32 million in 2009. In 2011 the average Brookline house price was back up to $1.41 million.

Condos, on the other hand, experienced a price hike. On average, a condo in Brookline cost $503,600 in 2007, and in 2011 the price was up to $562,100. This is approximately at 12% increase in condo prices and a leveled single family market.

In Newton, the numbers for a single family are different but point to a similar trend. In 2007, the average Newton house cost $936,100, dipped all the way to $842,100 in 2009 and in 2011 went back up to $908,900. The volume is still lower, 617 houses sold in 2007 versus 518 sold in 2011. But this Spring’s market has been extremely busy, and multiple offers are common. Sorry, buyers. Hooray sellers.

Digging a bit deeper, though, you find some interesting details. The hottest segment of the single family homes in the Newton market is those in price ranges lower than the average price. While the larger homes take longer to sell, and go through more price reductions and negotiations, the smaller homes are selling fairly quickly.

These numbers tell me this is a great time for a move-up. If you are both buying and selling in Brookline or Newton, don’t feel you missed the boat for an upgrade. At least request an updated market analysis on your home.

A market analysis is a free service most Brookline and Newton real estate agents provide. I recommend you get a couple of opinions. Zillow doesn’t count!!!