Do this if you never want your house to sell

I showed a pretty nice house last night that is going to be very hard for the listing agent to sell.

It was one of the lower prices for a huge house on a gorgeous lot in a very desirable neighborhood.

You’d think that would be enough in any market, yet alone one starved for listings.

This is what it was like seeing the house.  You walk up to a freshly painted facade with recently mowed grass and fresh mulch.  You are feeling good about it.  You go inside.  The foyer is nice.  It is a little strange that you can’t see any rooms from the foyer, but not the end of the world.

You go towards the left and see the dining room.  Wall paper from the 90s.  You go into the kitchen next.  Red wall paper from the 90s.  You go into a really nice sunroom.  What do you see?  Murals painted on the walls.  You go back through all those rooms and then you enter the great room, which was super nice.  Then you see a bedroom.  Ok.  Then you see a bathroom that not only has wall paper, but wall paper boarders on the ceilings and top of the walls, as if they were making crown molding.  The shower curtain is heavy, like the dress Scarlett made in Gone with the Wind.  Then you enter the living room which is set up as an office and has way too much furniture in it.

Heading upstairs, you notice that all the bedrooms are painted a different color.  The basement is pretty normal.

The sellers furniture was nice, but they probably bought all of it when the house was new in the early 90s.  I am not bashing anybody’s stuff because my own house is probably the most boringly decorated house in the whole world, but I am not trying to sell it.  I would need to stage my own house if I were selling because my stuff would make my house feel as dated as this one did.  All of my furniture is stuff my parents gave me and that my wife and I put together from a box.  I’m just not into decorating……maybe that is why I can always see the house past the decor.

It sort of made me sad because I could picture the house vacant and with a coat of fresh paint.  It was nice.  Sure, the house would have still been a little outdated since it was about 25 years old, but it wasn’t terrible at all and typical for the neighborhood.

There was a stack of realtor cards on the table in the foyer.  That means all those people in addition to my buyers said “No” to this house.

What sellers never realize is that a buyer will walk through their entire house in about 20 minutes.  Having too much furniture in a room may suit the sellers needs, but it makes the rooms feel smaller to the buyer.  It is also hard to see the room past the furniture.  I always say that when you live in a house, the room exists to show off your decor.  When you are selling, the decor should show off the room.  Also, colors make a big difference.  A seller may be in one room of their house for a while and then go to another.  The buyer, when walking through the entire house, gets sensory overload if every room is drastically different.  A uniform color can also help when the house has a choppy floor plan too.

I am sure all the feedback on this listing has been that it needs too much work.  If this were my house, I would remove as much furniture as I could stand.  I would put a fresh coat of neutral paint everywhere.  People ask me all the time what is the biggest bang for the buck.  I always say fresh paint.  Nothing makes as big of an impact as fresh paint.

With all the wall paper gone, most of the dated furniture out, and a coat of fresh paint, the house would feel so much better.  The 25 year old finishes were neutral enough that buyers would find them acceptable in the absence of the 25 year old furniture and wall paper.

When I go to sell my current house, I am taking my own advice since my place is very similar to this one.

Best way to get top dollar for your house

I don’t really know how to say this without upsetting some of my realtor friends, but most of the current marketing trends are just hype.

Many agents are doing weekday open houses.  Like a Tuesday or Thursday from 5-7.  Often the house sells before the open house……and if the listing had hit the market that day, that is the exact time buyers would be scheduling their showing anyway.

Many agents are doing these “Coming Soon” listings.  After making everybody wait to see it, the house sells the first day on the market for full price.  Imagine that.  Just like every other new listing that is priced appropriately.

Some say that these are the best ways to expose the listing to a market that is already hungry for new listings, and at a time when there is a shortage of houses for sale.

Here is what I say is the absolute positively BEST way to know you got top dollar:

You put the house on the market late on a Friday.  Why?  So the listing gets fed to zillow and all the other real estate sites in enough time to get on every buyer’s radar but is too late to be shown that night.  Why again?  Because more people are available to look at a house on the weekend than they are during the week.  Why do you want that?  Because you want every buyer to not only see your house, but to also see every other buyer flocking to your house.  Nothing motivates a buyer more than seeing people coming and going during their viewing.

You show the house all weekend.

And this is where the rubber meets the road.  You tell all the agents that the seller is not making a decision until Sunday evening and to submit their client’s highest and best offer.  That gives time for the house to be seen by every interested buyer.  More interested buyers means more offers.  More offers means a better price and/or terms.

 

 

It was fun to be me this week

I kind of like the crazy days.

It’s been a busy week for me.  I’ve sold 3 houses, have 9 pending sales, and have been out with several new buyers.

This time of year always reminds me of that scene in Bambi where all the animals come out on the first day of spring.  I’m meeting new people and seeing old friends.  The days are getting longer and I am close to being back in shorts.

 

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Many of my past clients are calling to say they are thinking of moving.  Several of my past clients and friends have referred their friends or family to me.

I had one especially busy day this week.

I had to show a new construction home to a friend who has used me 3 times so far.  There was not a lockbox on the model home, so I had to find another model home with the same key, then return that key after the showing.

Then I had to rush to Winchester to see a house a friend and past client may sell.  It was out in the country in a beautiful setting.  I took my little M Roadster.  Back roads from Masterson Station to deep in Clark Co.  Lots of fun.

The whole time I was at that house, my phone was going crazy with texts and calls.  One was an agent telling me she was sending an offer on a listing of mine.  I already had an offer so I had to tell the other agent we were getting a new offer.

I check my email before pulling out of their driveway.  17 emails.  One was a new client who was referred to me from her daughter, who has used me a couple of times.  They were ready to make an offer on a house I had shown them in Clark Co the day before.

It was already well past dinner time and I had to get some work done, so I did the only thing that made sense.  I got a pizza and ate it in my car while I returned calls, texts, and emails.

 

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I’ve never eaten pizza in the dark, nor in such a small car.  All I can say is that I am glad the interior is black and I was wearing a red shirt.

I got home, wrote the offer for the Clark Co property, worked on the offers for my new listing, and finally got done about 10:PM.

This weekend looks pretty calm since I crammed about 3 days worth of work into that one day.  Saturday is Cars and Coffee, then Sunday I am going for a long drive in the country with some other car enthusiast friends.

The busy days make the not so busy days even better.

Glad it is almost spring!

What does this do to my property value?

I get asked that question a lot.

Believe it or not, most of the things we worry about don’t really have all that much effect on the value of a house….so no need to rush out of the neighborhood when there is a big change coming.

A friend of mine was upset because the city made part of his huge backyard into a retention basin to solve flooding issues.  He was worried that it would make his house worth less.

I told him that his backyard is so big, losing this space didn’t have any impact on how he or future buyers would use it.  There was still plenty of room for a pool, swing set, firepit or any outdoor thing people want in their backyard.  I told him that about the only person who might not buy his house now would be somebody who wanted to build a huge garage in that space.

I think part of what is hard for owners to realize is that the person buying your house when you sell won’t have the “Before” picture in their head of how it used to be.  Only the current owner will know what the good old days were like.

I had a friend say that Ball Homes building on the opposite side of the fairway from Greenbrier would hurt the property values.  I told her that while the view of a wooded hillside was preferable to seeing a new neighborhood, it was still nice to have a beautiful fairway to separate them, so it would not have any impact on value.  Only the current owners who remember the wooded hillside will ever know the difference.  The next buyers will say “Wow, look how pretty the golf course is” and how nice it is to have so much space behind your house in Lexington.

Then there are threats of new development.  Andover Hills and Andover Forest residents are afraid that if the foreclosed golf course fell into the hands of developers that their property values would plummet.  The residents of Squire Oak are concerned what several houses, townhouses and 3 story apartment buildings on the property along Armstrong Mill owned by Overbrook Farms would do to them.

There is no need to consider selling if you live in those neighborhoods.  Sure, it would be nicer to have less traffic, fewer homes, not lose the green space if you are lucky enough to back up to it…..but it will not have much impact, if any,  on property values.  Plus, Lexington is only going to become more dense.  We should all get used to it.  I often see houses with terrible lots sell for practically the same amount as houses with average lots.  There are several houses that back to New Circle Road, the interstate, a shopping center, a light industrial area.  They usually sell for within 1-2% of what the houses with average lots do.

This might be the time to discuss the difference between property values and desirability.  A house that used to back to a farm and now backs to a 3 story apartment complex had a prime lot and now has a below average lot.  The value might not change much at all, especially in a sellers market.  What it does do is make the house less desirable.  That just means it might take more showings before catching a buyer in a slower market.  Corner lots or houses on the main drag through their neighborhood experience this already but nobody notices.

Want to know something funny?  YOU have the most control over your own property value.  A clean, updated house that is move in ready will always sell for top dollar regardless of the market and what is around it.

5 things buyers & sellers should know

As we kick off the 2018 real estate season, here are a few things buyers and sellers need to know:

Buyers:

  1.  Make your best offer the only offer you write.  Everybody wants a deal, but the odds of you getting a bargain are slim.  You want to give your best offer because the market moves fast.  Plan on negotiating with the seller and odds are somebody else will make an offer while you and the seller are going back and forth.  This is especially true if it is a new listing.
  2. Get preapproved.  You want the seller to want to deal with you.  In a slower market, they would have to deal with you even if they didn’t feel like it.  In a fast market, they know there is always another buyer out there.  Don’t make them wonder if you can buy their house.
  3. Don’t write a letter telling the seller about yourself.  Most of the time when I have gotten those, we have multiple offers and the seller never gets around to reading it until after they have sold the house.  And do you know what most of them say to me after reading it?  “If they loved the house that much, they should have made a better offer.”  You want your offer to stand out?  Let the seller pick the closing date if you can, or do the type of inspection where you can inspect it but won’t ask for any repairs.  The seller will find that much more exciting that seeing a picture of you with your dog.
  4. Don’t ask for anything that wasn’t included with the house.  Sellers think it is strange that you went shopping for their personal items.  Also, if you write stuff that wasn’t offered in the listing that the seller doesn’t want give up, you force the seller to counter your offer without those items.  Meanwhile that gives time for another buyer to make an offer.  You might lose the house because you were trying to get the sellers coffee table or patio furniture.
  5. Don’t try to rush the seller.  If it is a new listing, odds are they are getting multiple offers.  The saying is the squeaky wheel gets the oil, but in real estate that just means you are annoying the seller.  Most agents know that if you are annoying now, you will likely be annoying throughout the entire process.  Think of it like a job interview.  The seller has a big decision to make and is going to decide based on how you present yourself through the offer and your actions.

 

Sellers:

  1.  Usually your first offer is your best offer.  When I was a new agent, I was told this and really didn’t believe it, but 13 years experience in all types of markets tells me it is true.  I might alter the saying to say the first “Reasonable” offer you get is usually your best.  Occasionally I do see these crazy buyers who must be watching reruns of real estate shows from 2007 when sellers were desperate to sell…..but they aren’t living in reality.
  2. Don’t feel rushed.  Buyer’s agents like to do things like give you 3 hours to respond to their offer.  They do this hoping to get the house before anybody else does.  The truth is in this time of having more buyers than houses, that buyer isn’t going to walk away.  Only a few times in 13 years have I seen where a buyer has two houses they want and needs a fast response because they want to buy their 2nd choice house if it doesn’t work out with you.  They usually will wait though since your house was their 1st pick.
  3. Think about what is most important to you.  Everybody wants the most money, but sometimes a slightly lower offer that closes sooner, or lets you stay in the house for a few days after the closing, is appealing.  Also, think about what you will accept before you get an offer.  Most sellers don’t think about this until they get an offer and they have a lot of stress trying to process it.
  4. Don’t over price your house.  Your house will eventually sell for what it was worth.  Starting out with a realistic number accomplishes two things.  One, it makes the process go faster.  That means less time cleaning up your house and having to leave for showings.  Two, you create a bit of a frenzy when it is a new listing.  Buyers flock to new listings.  They are afraid of losing it and will likely make their strongest offer.  Once you get past that new listing period, buyers know there isn’t a risk of another offer and will try to negotiate more.
  5. That surround sound system you are so proud of?  Leave it off during showings.   It isn’t as important to buyers as it is to you.  Don’t stink up every room with Glade Plug-ins.  Buyers think you are covering an odor.  People with allergies just want to leave your house.  The average person can only hold their breath for like 40 seconds, and that is not enough time to see your house.  Keep your house the cleanest it has ever been.  Seeing those dried up specks of toothpaste in the sink is sort of like looking at used cars and seeing coffee stains around the cup holders or a french fry under the seat.

 

Happy buying and selling!