Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Clean and Decluttered - getting the best price

While you’ve heard the ancient Real Estate axiom Location, Location, Location, Realtors often fail to stress the role condition plays in the marketplace.

Since location never changes, Realtors can use comparative market data to value a particular area. However, once a buyer opens the door to a location, a home’s value often circles around its condition.

Sellers want to hit the market with a home in optimal condition! To accomplish this, they should remedy maintenance issues, like peeling paint or stained carpeting, and declutter rooms with too much furniture, extraneous boxes, or open hobby or work stations.  They should scour away pet and food odors, remove garbage, and keep the house as neat and clean as possible. A well decorated, decluttered, clean, neat, and odor-free home can raise a home’s value and produce a relatively quick sale.  

While some maintenance issues cost money to remedy (replacing carpet, for example), cleaning and decluttering are relatively cheap. However, as Realtors, we’ve seen the benefits, but more often the detriments, of a house not ready for prime time.

Have a look at the great before and after photos above. The stager removed the coffee table to showcase more floor space in the living area, but otherwise, she simply uncluttered the rooms of toys, the laundry basket, the computer, a breakfast tray, etc. You’ll notice that the angle of the uncluttered photo eliminates the bookcases altogether. Hopefully, the stager organized the shelves as well, but a picture without the bookcases will draw in more buyers with its minimalist lines and comfortable breathing space.

Sellers often complain about the difficulties of living in a museum, and it’s true, keeping a house ready for lookers can get old. However, if a seller lists her home with a dedicated Realtor at a competitive price, doing her part to maximize the home’s condition can really pay off!    

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Think Outside the Billboard

You're choosing a Real Estate agent, and you see the signs - the same smiling face plastered on billboards, bus stops, maybe even a sporty Corolla. It’s tempting to board that same train with the usual crowd, but big names don’t always equal big service.

So what are some of the steps to finding the right Realtor for you?

Investigate the brokerage firm. Do they have a solid reputation for integrity and teamwork?

A great broker rallies his/her agents into more than independent contractors pushing up the sales ladder. For example, John Rea Realty hosts weekly meetings where agents discuss new listings, price reductions, contract and legal changes, loan news, new technology advancements, and community happenings - all with an eye towards better serving each agent’s individual clients. For example, recently an agent announced that she would enter a new listing in a quick selling neighborhood at a rock bottom price later that morning. 10 minutes after the meeting ended, four agents had set up appointments for their clients. In companies that don’t meet regularly, agents often miss hot properties that barely hit the MLS before receiving contracts, or agents have less knowledge of technology updates that make home purchasing quicker and easier.

Can the Realtor devote the time, attention, and technology to market your property?

The community once turned to one of two sources for all real estate information - the local newspaper or their Realtor. Now, Realtor.org reports the current marketing sources as:

  • Internet: 44%
  • Real estate agent: 33%
  • Yard sign/open house sign: 9%
  • Friend, relative or neighbor: 6%
  • Home builder or their agent: 6%
  • Directly from sellers/Knew the sellers: 2%
  • Print newspaper advertisement: 1%
While Realtors still market homes directly to clients searching for the perfect fit, the Internet drives 44 percent of all sales. Those familiar with the big internet sites may think Realtor.com, Trulia or Zillow direct all of the home sale traffic, but with the rise of social media, Instagram and Facebook are breaking new ground with sponsored ads that appeal to people not actively in the market for a home but intrigued by photos and captions. Your Realtor should know the latest technological advancements and marketing niches such as Facebook and be using sponsored ads to boost your home’s online profile.
Direct mail has also gone high tech with internet sites able to send postcards to the perfect audience for your home with a touch of a button. Your Realtor should know how to access these resources and use audience targeted direct mail to market your home.  

Can you reach your Realtor quickly, day or night?

Communication propels Real Estate sales, and a missed call can mean a missed sale or a missed deadline. While agents working with other clients may need to return the occasional call, no client should wait more than 3 hours before their agent returns a phone call. In fact, with the rise of texting, most agents can at least shoot a text back to their client telling them they are currently showing homes or in a meeting and will return their call ASAP. And, it’s not just clients that need quick attention; lenders, attorneys, and cooperating agents should have swift access to an agent. Take note of your early communication with a potential Realtor and hold your Realtor to high communication standards at all times.

Will your Realtor go above and beyond?

Selling a house from afar? Have jobs with little-to-no flexibility? The right Realtor will help with showings whenever possible. They swing by to turn on the lights or disable the security alarm. While few (if any) Realtors double as housekeeping services, many will help sellers organize their homes for a pleasing aesthetic, and some will even semi- stage a home they are selling. Motivated Realtors will also host (and heavily advertise) open houses and add Realtor Open Houses to the mix.  At Realtor Open Houses, listing agents invite community Realtors (and their available clients) to a weekday walkthrough of the home. The agents often have comment cards available allowing other Realtors to anonymously offer critiques on the location, price, and condition of a home.  The listing agent and seller can discuss this feedback and determine new price points or condition updates.

When searching for the right Realtor, think outside the billboard and get the service you expect!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Counting a Realtor's Blessings... I'm sure I missed some!

The John Rea Realty Family! 

In Thanksgiving

Every year we gather as friends, family and co-workers to count our blessings, and as a Realtor with John Rea Realty, I have so many blessings to count!

  1. To John Rea, the lovable Dad of our bunch whose self-deprecating style and accidental shoe mix-ups belies an inner fierceness to get the best deal for his customers, protect his employees, and promote and grow his community!   
  2. To Barbara, the wise sister whose attention to detail beckons you to follow her example much like her charismatic love for God pulls you into a higher connection with Him instead of frightening you away. The subtleties of her gift define her as a true teacher.
  3. To Cindy and Beverly, the faces of John Rea Realty and the ladies who maintain the family atmosphere and organize and disseminate tons of information all while while keeping the copier and the coffee stocked… well, way more than just the copier and the coffee, but they alliterate!  
  4. To Selene, the serene Mom who tiptoes around the office and never shouts about her skill as an office manager or grandmother.
  5. To my fellow agents who form the backbone of John Rea Realty and willingly share their knowledge and talents: They volunteer, donate, and work for so many causes outside of real estate, but when fellow co-workers experience difficulties - financial, emotional, health, etc. - they rally together in action and spirit  to raise up their friends in need. 
  6. To the cooperating agents and lenders I've worked alongside: You've challenged me to work hard, work smart, and work together!
  7. To my clients who have honored me with the privilege of representing them: I count each of you as friends and look forward to a long-term connection with you as you journey through life and experience changes that may (or may not) require a new home!

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!   

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Three little words

 A top of the line kitchen!!!
Three little words...

Newly married couples dream of it, commercial jingle artists sing of it, and busy businessmen fantasize about it… those three heart stopping words that spin the world! Priced to Sell! Interestingly enough, getting to those three words in real estate means evaluating with your head and not your heart.

In real estate, proper pricing makes the difference between a fast sell and a home languishing on the market while the owner incurs months (even years) of extra mortgage and insurance payments, typical maintenance headaches, and pounds of Swiffer wet wipes.

Quite simply, the market establishes price through the condition and location of a home. While Realtors talk of, “location, location, location”, the phrase “condition given a home’s location” more accurately determines the buying price. Current building trends dictate the condition as new/updated or out-of-date. New/updated homes vary by the workmanship of the construction - from top-of-the-line to builder’s grade. Outdated homes vary by the finishes of the period and the level of workmanship applied during the original construction.

Homeowners expect their Realtors to analyze a home’s location and provide market data. Those numbers feel solid, real, unchangeable in the immediate future. However, Realtors can also objectively evaluate a home’s condition through their knowledge of the marketplace and building trends. Condition standards change every few years - often much more quickly than variables in location. Meanwhile, homeowners put  down roots and develop deep emotional ties to their homes - almost like a family pet. They know their quirks and bad habits, but they love them unconditionally, and by golly, they expect everyone else to love them too. Yes, they brush them for the party, but perhaps they didn’t invest in a Westminster groomer. Worse, perhaps they invested in that groomer a while back, and although the perfect style grew out, they’re still paying for it.  Frankly, no one wants to hear the show judges declare that Fifi’s poodle cut is outdated! She’s the sweetest, cutest, most loving animal on the planet! SHE’S THE BEST IN SHOW!

Most Realtors have been there- they’ve been sellers themselves - loving that family home that buyers now walk inside and critique and judge and poo-poo. In many ways, Realtors exist to bridge feelings and emotions between buyers and sellers. However, motivated sellers, those ready to price a home to sell it, dismiss their emotional attachments to a home and ask their Realtors for the honest facts. They look at comparisons and listen to their Realtor discuss the differences between man-made marble and granite, wood floors and carpet. Even if they personally prefer the cozy warmth of carpet in their master bedroom, objectively, they understand that buyers as a whole value wood over carpeting. Homeowners willing to face the facts will price their homes accordingly and hear those other three favorite words: We Sold It!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

 Does Size Matter?

Titillating and controversial, the "size question" arises in many interesting conversations... including real estate! The airport hanger required to keep Kate Plus 8's kids from full scale warfare eclipses the Manhattan man-cave flaunted by your typical Bachelor contestant, even if sometimes they cost the same amount! In most cases, size correlates specifically to need. The "little old lady who lived in a shoe" definitely needed a wacky hairdo, an agent, and a reality show! 
But with most of the non-celebrity US population downsizing, what can we expect from real estate? The new-build spec size houses in our area usually fluctuate between 1800 heated square feet up to 2,400 and offer 3 to 4 bedrooms and 2, 2 ½, and 3 bathrooms.  Builders often place that 4th bedroom in a 3-split configuration for a single story home (master on one side, two guest/children’s bedrooms on another wing, and a bonus bedroom on yet another wing of the home) or tuck it away upstairs with a small bathroom. These arrangements allow this 4th bedroom to serve as an office, man-cave, children’s living area, or private guest suite.
            And just as the old adage suggests, quality, not quantity, can dictate marketability. Rambling around a sprawling 1970’s home chopped up into add-on after add-on updated in vastly different eras is a bit like a trip to a haunted house. You don’t know what’s gonna pop out next – parquet flooring, pink tile, forest green wallpaper? And what did they need with all of those rooms? It’s like when they stopped liking the blue carpet in the den, instead of replacing it, they glassed in the back patio, laid Mexican tile, and declared it the new hang-out spot. The den became the Mrs. Havisham of the house – its single brass ceiling light casting shadows on the glass grapes and driftwood sculpture. After the southwestern theme sputtered out, the homeowners abandoned the erstwhile porch, closed in the carport, added funky carpet tiles and an air hockey table and declared it the game room. Such were the excesses of the 80’s and 90’s…lots of square footage, even when it’s unused. Today’s designers recognize that modern families live in about 1800 square feet of house, daily. That’s the kitchen, living room, bedrooms, bathrooms, and utility room. 
            So how do builders package this space for maximum impact? For one, they look at what types of space sells, like storage; homeowners love a good closet! While bedroom space is shrinking, closets have expanded, exponentially. Young, mobile homeowners shun the highboys, lingerie chests, and armoires of yesteryear. They realize that heavy, expensive, matching bedroom sets follow a person worse than a bad tattoo. At least a long sleeve can cover the ex-boyfriend’s initials. It takes a king sized bed sheet to conceal that claw-footed, lion-carved chest of drawers! Frankly, moms would much rather pack underwear into Target plastic drawers hidden in the kids’ walk-in closets.
Kitchens often maximize their storage through using all of the space between standard upper cabinet heights and the 10 to 12 foot ceilings typical today. Yes, you’ve gotta drag out the ladder to access the highest kitchen cabinets, but homeowners pack these with Christmas dishes, grandmother’s cut glass punch bowl, the football themed taco platter… the Margaritaville… the bread machine….
            So how does size figure into the market value of your home? Real estate professionals compare nearby recently sold homes to estimate listing/buying prices for clients. They strive to find houses with comparable square footage and finishes because larger, older homes today tend to suffer from the law of diminishing returns on square footage. For example, a layperson may point to a 2200 square foot home that recently sold for $250,000 and insist that the 3,000 square foot home next door should be worth at least $339,000. However, using a common Realtor formula, the comparison would only add up to $295,500. Furthermore, in the actual marketplace, the larger house may have an awkward glassed-in sunroom that radiates heat and adds little overall value to the home.

            In real estate, size does matter, but just like Kate’s latest hairdo, it’s often controversial and in the end, always a matter of personal taste! 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

"You, Light Up My Life ..."...

     Yes, Debbie Boone’s song headlines a crowded list of the cheesiest 70's wedding songs ever, but thousands of married couples and Real Estate agents alike swear by the power of "light" to start a happy home!
     I've toured lots of houses, and by far, the worst selling point in many of them is the lack of light showcasing the home.There's nothing worse than fumbling around in the dark searching the wall for switches, vaulting over a bed to yank the fan string, and illuminating that one working bulb that casts eerie shadows on a massive carved wooden headboard. Buyers nervously glance left and right, pretty sure Chucky or Freddy, or some killer clown is right around the corner. This horror story won't likely end in a sale.
     The lesson here is: Let there be light, and more light! Before listing your home, make sure every bulb in the house is working and align lights with switches instead of pull strings. You may have saved money by keeping bulbs to a minimum, but it's worth spending a bit more on electricity throughout the listing process to get top dollar for your home.
     Speaking of energy savings and light, homeowners often use blinds, drapes, and shades to keep homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter. While window treatments serve this purpose perfectly, closed blackout drapes kill all natural light and make rooms seem much smaller to a buyer. If the home has gorgeous landscaping, a pool, or a woodland view, closed shades and blinds prevent buyers from experiencing these property extending and enhancing features. In a highly competitive market, open blinds could be the difference between a sale and a fail.
     So how should sellers use light to best showcase their homes to potential buyers? A house that shows the best is one with all of the lights turned on and all drapes and blinds open. Sellers should only close blinds or shades if views are particularly unattractive. However, in this case, consider purchasing great sheers that allow the natural light to filter through the room while obscuring an unpleasant view.
     Sellers often say, "But I'm at work all day," or "I don't live there anymore," to point out the difficulties of lighting up a house for potential buyers. This is a great time to speak to your agent about how he/she will help you prepare your home for buyers.
     Agents know the market and where your house slides into the market spectrum. Homes reaching for top dollar in competitive or slow areas require special touches, like perfect lighting, to set them apart in the crowd. If an owner can't turn on the lights, a forward thinking agent will offer to go over to the home before it's shown to switch on the lights and open the blinds/drapes - especially if the buyers have returned for a second showing!
     When selling real estate, never underestimate the power of light!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Gloria Vanderbilt meets Chip Gaines

          Is the world ending when a cockroach eating, costume wearing Texan dictates America’s new home construction and decorating style? Possibly… but then again, it could forecast a new world order – an era where you don’t need a pedigree, but you gotta ooze charm!
         Chip and Joanna kick down every wall that doesn’t conceal a bed or toilet and then undress the fussy formal rooms – well, now room – with shiplap siding and white paint. It’s so fresh the Property Brothers want a piece of the same action, but their non-accents keep them from cart wheeling with the same goof-ball spirit that Chip can muster! And bless her, Flip or Flop’s Christina El Moussa, aka Barbie, clearly shops at the Silo before strapping on the stilettos for an Open House. Score one for the South!
            What does all of this say for local Louisiana style? First, while imitation may fatten the wallets of the Gaines’ Magnolia Market, it can’t hurt builders and renovators. Everyone wants an open concept floor plan. Deconstruction should top the list of renovation projects - but only if you’re spotlighting the new kitchen design. Is granite still everywhere? Yes. Whether Joanna hauls in concrete or her children’s artwork under glass, granite reigns supreme. With overuse comes price stability – even Mike Rowe’s dog can install this stuff – and it’s a super durable natural stone. Wealthy New York taste-makers might crown engineered animal hide as the next big thing, but for resale, nothing beats granite. In the hopes of stirring up appliance sales, stores keep predicting the death of stainless steel and yet it continues to be the little black dress at the party. Timeless.  Similarly, that scarred wood flooring Mom covered with trendy avocado green shag in the 70's now epitomizes high style. Tumbled stone, Carrera marble, teak, cork... if the good Lord made it, it will hold value longer than any chemical concoctions can.
           How does technology figure into today's renovations and new construction? Well... a lot AND not much! Obviously, smart builders use the latest proven systems and materials. Over the last decade, tankless water heaters encouraged the endless shower, air conditioning units slimmed up and shut up, and toilets soared to new heights. However, the home gadget industry, like the housing bubble, splattered all over investors in the late 2000's. If you built with whole house music systems; complicated phone, security, and internet wiring; built-in speakers; remote control lighting; high tech televisions and the like; the new WiFi routers, tiny shelf speaks, smart phone apps, and the next generation flatscreens eclipsed the old technology in price point, ease of use, and quality. Those twenty-five CAT-5 drops that made your house an internet lover's dream in 2003, now uselessly clutter the wall as surely as phone jacks in a cell obsessed culture. The lesson gleaned from the nation's huge technology advances? Shake each building or remodeling choice through the gadget sifter and ask yourself if this "latest" system will outlive the next I-phone upgrade.
         Now... with Chip chiseling down walls in the home and gadgets joining dinosaurs at the disco party, what classic features maintain a home's value? Nothing says ageless like interior brick. Smart renovators cover that old 70's brick fireplace with a white wash of paint just like Sam Smith samples Tom Petty and packages it for the next generation. Interior brick feature walls have outlasted skylights, sliding glass doors, and spindles. Whether it's a beautiful brick recovered from a 1800's chalet or a brick that screams "paint me", you can't go wrong investing in the texture of interior brick. In the South, a dining space, not necessarily one walled with antique china cabinets (or walled at all), but a dining space that seats at least eight people preserves the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving fantasy rooted as deeply as the sprawling oaks.
          Outside of the open concept living spaces, each room should perhaps own a closet and some semblance of privacy to preserve the home's resale value. Unless you have a 50 percent equity interest in the home or an income that gets you to that point quickly, consider steering clear of dedicated hobby nooks, formal living rooms, play rooms, sun rooms, and exercise rooms when building. This doesn't mean you can't turn one of your bedrooms into an office, it just opens the home to a wider variety of future potential buyers if you maintain its flexibility. By all means, lay that wood floor in the "office," but just build a closet and adopt a layout that avoids a foyer opening. This way, the next owner can make the room fit his or her needs.
          Often either home sites and/or owners require specialized rooms and features, but what rooms appeal to the wider real estate market? Home offices top the list of dedicated room demands although with smart phones, I-pads, and cloud storage, a cool designer will soon create the home office chair complete with an all-in-one computer mount hiding in one arm rest, a keyboard and office tray sliding down the other arm, speakers and a microphone in the head rest, and paper storage and a wireless printer under the seat... (patent pending... well, not really, but I wish) . Parent's also request dedicated television and game rooms for teens hoping to isolate the machine guns assaults from their Call of Duty missions. A second living space can transition from children's playroom to teen gaming to hobby room to exercise room, to man cave if carefully placed in the floor plan.
            Just remember, if you're building or renovating, the smart money sticks to HGTV. Luckily, you don't have to funnel cockroaches... just study style, and maybe a few of Joanna's well practiced eye rolls!