When do you know you’ve found the right house?

“We pretty much know as soon as we walk in.”

I was covering for an agent that was on vacation this week.  This is what one of her buyers said to me when I commented that they didn’t spend much time in the first house I showed them.  I often hear this from my own buyers.

You know what this means?

A lot of people base their decision on how they feel.

I’ve always said you could find a house with all of the items on a buyer’s must have list, but they still might not buy it.

This is why that first impression when a buyer walks through the door is so important.  If your house isn’t perfect, you are better to have the the rooms a buyer sees in the first few minutes looking better than the last few rooms they see. If a buyer likes what they see at the beginning, they are more forgiving of little things they don’t like later.  It doesn’t work in reverse.

I recently sold a house in one of my favorite neighborhoods.  It sold for about $3-4k more than it should have.  Sure, the market is hot, and we did get multiple offers…..but I think we got TOP TOP dollar for it because the seller’s decor was so attractive.   They had the right colors, the right furniture and everything else just right.  The house felt good.

And I bet the two buyers who made offers the first day on the market both  knew they wanted it as soon as they walked in.


Do you need a realtor to sell in a hot market?

A seller-client of mine posted on Facebook that she was about to list her house.  We had two showings before it officially hit the market and sold it.

If you think all a realtor does is find a buyer, then I would be considered totally useless in this deal.  Getting paid for nothing.  Unfortunately, the public seems to think that the realtor’s work is done once we get to this point……heck, some realtors think their work is done at this point too!

All that was left to do on this deal is negotiate the offer, then negotiate the inspection repair list.  Coordinate the closing and be done with it.

But it didn’t go that smooth.  The appraisal came in very low.  In fact, it came in LESS than my people paid for it almost 3 years ago.

The deal was about to fall apart.

I tried to get the appraiser to up his value since one of the comparable sales he used was 11 months old and there was a non-listed sale that was only two weeks old.  He refused to budge or consider using the newer sale.

The buyer’s agent and I discussed alternatives.  I knew getting a new appraisal with the buyer’s same lender would not work.  Assuming the new appraisal would have come in higher, the underwriter for the loan would be forced to pick between a lower and higher appraisal.  Underwriting is all about minimizing risk and covering your own rear end.

The buyer had a big down payment.  I thought maybe she would be willing to pay the difference in cash.  Nope.

So, here I am in a hot market with a lousy appraisal.  I don’t want to lose this buyer, but the only chance we had of getting a higher appraised value would be to have a new lender.  Any other option was too risky.

I sent the release to void the contract.  The buyer decided to change lenders.  Bingo!  That was what we needed because the underwriter for the new loan would never know about the low appraisal.  (And I was sort of hoping sending the release might make the buyer realize that she was about to lose the house she wanted.  The release shows the other party that you have really done all you can do.)

My client was concerned about the appraisal.  She wondered if we should lower the price to make it more likely to appraise.  I said no, that I would rather have the appraiser shoot for the contract price.  If he could justify that value, then all would be well.  If it came in lower than the contract amount, we could renegotiate with the buyer at that time.

There was another listing up the street that was 100 square feet bigger.  I called that listing agent to see how it was going.  She told me that her seller had turned down two offers close to the list price (which was similar to my listing) because the seller wanted to move out after the end of the school year.

Armed with that information, I told the new appraiser about the other listing getting offers well above the first appraisal we had.  I told him that the market value of the neighborhood has outpaced the recent sales.  Keep in mind, that market value is right NOW.  Recent sales just tell you what the market was doing in the recent past.  That helped him out, and also told him nicely that I wasn’t going to be easy to deal with if the value came in light.

The value came in just fine.  Crisis diverted.

Not every deal has a big problem like this to navigate.   This deal would have fallen apart if it wasn’t for the right combination of experience, wisdom and luck.

So yeah, even in a hot market, it is good to have a realtor.

Picked my listing to buy sight-unseen…..WHY?

I’ve always told people the goal of a listing’s pictures and marketing remarks was to sell a showing, not to sell a house.  LOL, looks like I have been a little wrong because I just had one of my listings sell to a buyer who has NEVER SEEN THE HOUSE.

The buyer is from out of town and only based his purchase decision on pictures and marketing remarks.  I had plenty of professional pictures.  Besides putting comments with each picture, this is what I said about the house:

” Ok, so I’m with the photographer getting pictures for this house, and you know what I’m thinking about? I’m thinking about how easy it would be to live here. This one isn’t just about good looks & move in ready condition. I can really see you living here & appreciating the seldom seen features that you would grow to appreciate more & more. Like what? Look at the kitchen. Count the cabinets. Not only a lot of them, but you’ve got drawers for big pots & sheet pans. Eating? Options are the island, the breakfast area or the dining room that offers a panoramic view of the whole first floor. Big Laundry room. HUGE bedroom upstairs that could really be used for anything….even an upstairs Family Room. The wide tiled hall between the garage & kitchen would be a great spot for cubbies. The driveway is flat & there are no houses behind you. You’re all the way back at the end of a Cul-de-sac. Listen. Silence because you back to a farm, but, you’re 5 minutes away from the by-pass.

This house had been listed with another agent right before I got it.  It is a very nice place, but like I usually do, I asked the sellers to make a few adjustments.  We rearranged some furniture, cleared out a few things.  The bathroom had stained wood cabinets and matching panels around the garden tub.  The edges of the wood were a bit worn.  Not bad…..unless you are trying to sell your house in a market where buyers think a house has to be perfect.  Simple solution was to paint them white.  What a huge difference it made.  I think I told them to paint the bathroom a beachy blue color too, unless I am starting to confuse my listings!  Any way, the bathroom and the whole house looked amazing once the seller got all the work done.  (I think my next blog post might be about how the seller has as much to do with the success of selling their house as anything else.  Even in the terrible market of the past, I could sell any house if the seller would take my advice on price and presentation.)

I am sure this buyer studied every house that looked interesting to him.  I can’t help but think that the extra effort I spent to present the house and explain its unique features made it easier for him to make a decision.  Don’t you feel sorry for the sellers whose houses were poorly presented?  They might have been perfectly nice houses, but to a guy who was going to buy without seeing it, they didn’t stand a chance.

Was it me or St. Joseph?

Benz on snow

Back when the market was terrible and buyers had a ton of choices in any price range, I said that you had to have the online presentation perfect because buyers would not take the time to come see the house if you didn’t.  I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I also thought that if we ever had a hot seller’s market again that buyers would come see any house that was in an area they liked, regardless of the presentation.  I was wrong.

Here we are in such a market.  Good houses are selling very fast.  Overpriced houses and ones poorly presented are collecting dust.  It is like buyers are not willing to go backwards in their searches.  Like they see a new listing and either go see it or totally forget it forever.  I think some of this is because buyers are setting up saved searches on sites like Zillow or realtor.com.  They are only really looking at the new listings.  In the old days, you know, around 2011, people would scroll through all the listings everyday just to see the new listings.  You really need a price reduction or status change to get back in their portals.

Here is an example:  I’ve got a listing that we put on the market during all the snow we had this past winter.  The seller wanted me to wait to update the pictures until a certain tree was in bloom.  We hardly had any showing since the outside picture had snow on the ground.  This house has an amazing backyard.  Mentioning it in the marketing remarks did not matter much without a picture to show it.  The picture above was taken the day my photographer did the shoot.  There was nowhere to park so I made my own space.  Once the snow melted, we had maybe 3 showings in 45 days.

Finally, the seller agreed that it was time to update the picture.  The tree had pushed out it’s blooms.  I got my photographer back out.  I deleted the listing and put it back on as a new listing with the new pictures.  That was less than 48 hours ago and I have confirmed 4 showings since then.

The seller, a good friend of mine, credits the statue of Saint Joseph she buried.  I get no respect ;-(