Category Archives: Realtors

2017 Home Design Trends

Housing styles emerge slowly and typically appeal first to cutting-edge architects, builders, and interior designers. As a trend spreads and gains wider interest, it may go mainstream, become almost ubiquitous, and eventually lose its star power. Just look at once-favored granite, which now has been replaced by the equally durable and attractive options of quartz and quartzite.

2017

The economy, environment, and demographics always play a big role in trend spotting. But this year there are two additional triggers: a desire for greater healthfulness and a yearning for a sense of community.

1. Community Gathering Spaces

Why it’s happening: The combination of more time spent on social media and at work and the fact that fewer people live near their family members has caused many to feel isolated and crave face-to-face interactions.

How it will impact you as a real estate pro: Multifamily buildings and even single-family residential developments are rushing to offer an array of amenity spaces to serve this need. Some popular options include clubhouses with spiffy kitchens, outdoor decks with pools and movie screens, fitness centers with group classes, and drive-up areas for food-truck socials. At its Main+Stone building in Greenville, S.C., The Beach Co. began hosting free monthly events such as its “Bingo & Brews.” Make sure you know which buildings, communities, and neighborhoods offer these sought-after social events and gathering spaces so you can help clients connect.

2. Taupe Is the New Gray

Why it’s happening: White remains the top paint color choice due to its flexibility and the fact that it comes in so many variations (PPG Paints has 80 in its inventory, according to Dee Schlotter, senior color expert). Though white has been upstaged by gray in recent years, this year many will be searching for a warmer neutral, which is why paint manufacturer Sherwin-Williams named “Poised Taupe” as its 2017 Color of the Year. “Poised Taupe celebrates everything people love about cool gray as a neutral, and also brings in the warmth of a weathered, woodsy neutral and a sense of coziness and harmony that people seek,” says Sue Wadden, the company’s director of color marketing.

How it will impact you: Dallas-based designer Barbara Gilbert considers taupe a smart alternative since it still performs as a neutral with other colors, cool or warm. She expects to see taupe on more exteriors — blending well with roofs, doors, window frames, and surrounding landscape — but it also will turn up indoors on walls, ceilings, kitchen cabinets, furnishings, and molding. It might even work to help update a listing clad in gray, she says, as the two colors work well together.

3. More Playful Homes

Why it’s happening: Americans work harder now than ever, with many delaying retirement or starting second careers, so they want their homes to be a refuge and a place to unwind.

How it will impact you: Be sure you’re asking buyers how they like to spend their free time. Spaces that encourage play are trending higher on their wish lists, whether it’s a backyard bocce court (the latest outdoor amenity to show up in residential backyards) or a putting green. And sports don’t have to be relegated to the outdoors. says Gilbert; technological advances have allowed for rapid improvement in indoor golf simulators, for example. While some of her clients have installed modest models, she’s working on a dedicated golf room with software that gives homeowners virtual access to any golf course in the world. Though landscape architect Steve Chepurny of Beechwood Landscape Architecture in Southampton, N.J., designs putting greens with synthetic grass that range from $12,000 to $30,000, he also notes he’s seeing more playfulness outdoors in the form of non-sports amenities, such as pizza ovens.

4. Naturally Renewable, Warmer Surfaces

Why it’s happening: The pervasiveness of technology throughout homes has resulted in a corresponding yearning for more tactile surfaces and materials that convey warmth. Natural cork is a perfect expression of these needs, with the bonus of being low-maintenance.

How it will impact you: In recent years, cork, a renewable material harvested from the bark of cork oak trees, has resurfaced as a favorite for myriad uses, and for good reason. Some credit designer Ilse Crawford’s introduction of cool, edgy cork pieces in her “Sinnerlig” collection for IKEA for the resurgence. Aside from aesthetics, the material is appealing since it’s resistant to mold, mildew, water, termites, fire, cracking, and abrasions. Moreover, cork can be stained and finished with acrylic- or water-based polyurethane. Chicago designer Jessica Lagrange likes to incorporate cork to clad walls and floors. “It’s an especially effective and forgiving choice since dents bounce back and floors retain heat,” she says.

5. Surface-Deep Energy Conservation

Why it’s happening: As energy costs continue to increase, the search is on for ways to save. Incentives to do so only increase as states and municipalities enact new, stricter energy codes. While energy-wise appliances and more efficient HVAC systems are still appealing to homeowners looking to save on their utility bills, less costly surface upgrades are gaining in popularity.

How it will impact you: After New Jersey increased its requirements for insulation, architect Jason Kliwinski, principal at Designs for Life and current chair of New Jersey’s AIA Committee on the Environment, went looking for new options. He found new low-E window film that can double the performance of glass at one-fifth the cost of a full window replacement. Several options for this film are on the market now, and Kliwinski says manufacturers such as EnerLogic are producing versions that are invisible when installed. Other surface-change artists that lower energy use and that are cost-effective and relatively easy to apply include a ceramic insulating paint coating for walls and a thermal energy shield for attic interiors. Tesla, the innovative manufacturer of electric cars, is just debuting solar glass tiles that resemble traditional roof materials such as slate and terracotta, but provide passive heat gain.

6. More Authentic, Personalized Use of Space

Why it’s happening: As home prices escalate — up 5.5 percent, according to CoreLogic Case-Shiller — and baby boomers downsize to retire or cut costs, every inch of available space counts more than ever. To make the best use of space for each resident, design professionals are zeroing in on how clients want to live rather than thinking about how people use space generically. “One size doesn’t fit all any longer,” says Mary Cook, whose eponymous Chicago-based design firm specializes in amenities, public spaces, and model home interiors.

How it will impact you: You and your clients are likely to see a greater variety in terms of layouts, building materials, home systems, color palettes, and furnishing choices, both in model homes and in houses staged for sale. Listing agents can take the cue from this trend by helping sellers highlight the flexibility of their spaces when putting a home on the market. Buyers’ reps should similarly showcase a range of living options in each home-shopping session.

7. The Walkable Suburb

Why it’s happening: Urban centers have long been a magnet for residents wanting to walk rather than drive to work, shopping, and entertainment. But the trend is now spreading to the suburbs where being close to a town center — and public transit into a larger city — offers similar appeal.

How it will impact you: A high walk score has become a recognized real estate marketing tool. Real estate salesperson Stephanie Mallios of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Short Hills, N.J., has seen a huge uptick in interest and value in single-family homes and townhouses close to town centers, especially those near a train station if residents commute to a large metropolitan area. “Most homes for sale in my area list the number of blocks and steps to public transit in their marketing materials. Homes far from everything have become less valuable,” Mallios says. The most appealing towns also incorporate individually owned shops rather than chain stores.

8. Healthier Homes

Why it’s happening: Consumers have been increasingly aware of hazardous indoor environments over the last few years, but news of the lead-tainted water crisis in Flint, Mich., raised awareness to a nationwide level in 2016. Homeowners are actively seeking out healthy water supplies, purifiers, and HVAC systems, along with nontoxic paints and adhesives. A newer element to this trend in 2017 will include enhanced environmental testing.

How it will impact you: A growing number of builders, remodelers, architects, and interior designers expect health to influence their business decisions due to consumer demand, according to studies from both the Urban Land Institute and McGraw-Hill Construction. You should expect to see more buyers hiring health experts to examine listings and requiring in-home contaminant removal prior to a sale. Your clients will also have greater access to additional home products that promote healthy sleep patterns, such as those featuring UV and LED circadian lighting.

9. Shifting Hearths

Why it’s happening: The traditional log-burning fireplace has lost some appeal as homeowners realize it’s less energy-efficient and can send more particulates into the air. But there are a number of replacement options waiting in the wings.

How it will impact you: Homeowners have been switching out their log-burning fireplaces with new gas models for many years. Newer on the market are the ventless alcohol-burning fireplaces that can be placed almost anywhere and without costly construction, says Los Angeles–based designer Sarah Barnard. Another increasingly popular solution is to build a fireplace outdoors, according to landscape architect Chepurny.

10. Counter Options

Why it’s happening: Much like granite did, quartz and quartzite are predicted to be kitchen favorites until another material comes along. But other green laminate options are gaining in popularity, and they’re no longer just for the budget-minded consumer.

How it will impact you: A new countertop can make a big difference in the appeal of a room. Sally Chavez, senior product designer at Wilsonart in Temple, Texas, which manufactures engineered surfaces, says laminate options that mimic stone, wood, distressed metal, and concrete are gaining in popularity. But she recommends avoiding designs that include the “spots and dots” or speckled patterns from decades past. Some newer countertop options offer an additional perk: They lessen the time and cost of installation and also eliminate the need to discard the old countertop. Trend Transformations, an Italian manufacturer with a U.S. manufacturing facility, incorporates recycled granite, glass, and even seashells in its surfaces, which are installed over an existing countertop. Installation can be finished within a day, and prices are competitive with quartz and quartzite. Because these countertops are less porous than traditional stone, they’re also more resistant to stains and scratches.

11. The Transforming Office

Why it’s happening: Regular work-from-home time among the non–self-employed population has grown by 103 percent since 2005, according to Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, a San Diego–based research and consulting group focused on workplace change. Her organization estimates that number will continue to grow at between 10 percent and 20 percent a year.

How it will impact you: More of your clients are likely to need a work-from-home space, but due to the diminished size and highly transient nature of technology tools, there’s less need for a dedicated, separate office. Brad Hunter, HomeAdvisor’s chief economist, says almost any area of a house can become a workplace, but the most functional ones incorporate built-ins and furnishings that serve a dual purpose. That same desire for flexibility may someday translate to layouts that can easily change to a homeowner’s whim, such as the KB Home ProjeKt movable wall concept in its “Home of 2050” at the Greenbuild Conference and Expo this past October.

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Housing Shortages Stifle Sales Contracts

Pending home sales mostly held steady last month as supply and affordability issues capped any larger boosts, the National Association of REALTORS® reported Wednesday. NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, showed contracts were on the rise in the Northeast and Midwest, which were mostly offset by drops in the South and West last month.

“With only the Northeast region having an adequate supply of homes for sale, the reoccurring dilemma of strained supply causing a run-up in home prices continues to play out in several markets, leading to the last two months reflecting a slight, early summer cool-down after a very active spring,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Unfortunately for prospective buyers trying to take advantage of exceptionally low mortgage rates, housing inventory at the end of last month was down almost 6 percent from a year ago, and home prices are showing little evidence of slowing to a healthier pace that more closely mirrors wage and income growth.”

Yun says that until inventory conditions improve, many prospective buyers will likely encounter situations of either being priced out of the market or outbid, due to the limited number of homes that are for sale. That said, the retreat of investors in the market may help some traditional buyers become more competitive. Sales to investors were at 11 percent in June, the smallest share since July 2009.

“Limited selection of homes at bargain prices is reducing the number of individual investors willing or able to buy,” Yun says. “This will hopefully open the door for first-time buyers, who made some progress last month but are still buying homes at a subpar level even as rents increase at rates not seen since before the downturn.”

Overall, NAR’s PHSI inched up 0.2 percent in June to a reading of 111, compared to May’s 110.8 reading. Pending home sales are 1 percent higher than a year ago.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

Rising Prices, Rates Subdue Mortgage Activity

Mortgage activity – for both home purchases and refinances – plunged 11.2 percent last week compared to the previous week, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday. Despite the latest sizable drop, application volume remains up 42 percent compared to the same week a year ago.

Rising interest rates means fewer and fewer home owners stand to benefit from refinancing. Applications to refinance dropped 15 percent last week, but remain nearly 72 percent higher than a year ago.

“Despite the 30-year-fixed mortgage rate being almost 50 basis points lower than a year ago, refinance activity has been extremely sensitive to rate increases as the pool of borrowers who can benefit from refinancing continues to diminish,” says Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s chief economist.

Meanwhile, applications for home purchases were down 3 percent for the week, now at the lowest level since February. But some economists say this may have more to do with increasing home prices than rates.

The average on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose to 3.69 percent last week, up slightly from 3.65 percent, MBA reports. Nevertheless, about half of mortgage agencies report actual rates higher than 4 percent, Inside Mortgage Finance reports.

Source: “Mortgage Applications to Buy and Refinance Drop 11%,” CNBC (July 27, 2016)

Mortgage Rates Remain at Historic Lows

The latest report from Freddie Mac shows that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.61% last week, slightly down from the week before (3.66%), and nearly 20 points lower than a year ago (3.80%). This is great news for homebuyers who are dealing with rising prices due to a low inventory of homes for sale in many areas of the country. Freddie Mac expressed their optimism for the rates to remain low throughout the spring in a recent blog post:

“We expect mortgage interest rates to stay well under 4% as we head into the heart of the spring homebuying season. We’re predicting it to be the best one in 10 years, which should provide even greater opportunities for first-time homebuyers.”

Below is a chart of the weekly average rates in 2016, according to Freddie Mac. Mortgage Rates Remain at Historic Lows | Keeping Current Matters

Rates have again fallen to historic lows yet many experts still expect them to increase in 2016. One thing we know for sure is that, according to Freddie Mac, current rates are the best they have been since last April. Sean Becketti, Chief Economist for Freddie Mac recently explained:

“Since the start of February, mortgage rates have varied within a narrow range providing an extended period for house hunters to take advantage of historically low rates.”

Bottom Line

If you are thinking of buying your first home or moving up to your ultimate dream home, now is a great time to get a sensational rate on your mortgage.

8 Things Realtors Do Behind Your Back

realtor-behind-backHave you ever wondered what on Earth your real estate agent is doing behind your back?

No, we don’t mean anything underhanded, naughty, or downright felonious—far from it, in fact. So relax. What we’re talking about is a mystery: In the sometimes confusing, occasionally hectic, and always stressful world of buying and selling, what are your agents really doing behind the scenes?

We’re here to shed some light! For every hour an agent spends in your presence, he or she will spend an average of nine hours out of eyesight working on your behalf. Why? Because agents don’t get paid if they don’t close the deal! Unlike lawyers who bill by the hour, agents won’t receive a penny until (or unless) a sale comes through. It’s all a gamble, in which they could shoot snake eyes and come away empty-handed. This is the business.

So if you’re wondering what that 6% commission is actually going toward, we’ve compiled a list of things agents do when you’re not watching (or should be doing—if they’re not, maybe you need a different agent!).

They shop property online

Don’t we all? And yet, their real estate research goes beyond oohing and ahhing over a few photos on a Saturday night. Darbi McGlone, a Realtor® with Jim Talbot Realty in Baton Rouge, LA, estimates she spends about two hours each day researching potential properties.

“This could include looking up flood zones, previewing the homes for out-of-state clients, or any number of specific things,” she says.

Plus, listings come and go fast in the real estate world, so agents need to check their multiple listing service database constantly, or else they’ll miss out. Sometimes the process of matching up properties with clients can take a very long time.

“I have a client who wants a Mid-Century Modern house in Carlsbad, but there aren’t many there,” says Rachel Collins Friedman, a Realtor with Sotheby’s International Realty in San Diego, CA. That means that she’s been searching the database regularly for that particular kind of property for three years (here’s hoping all that patience pays off).

They go prospecting

Of course, there’s nothing like seeing a house in all its brick-and-mortar glory, which is why most Realtors worth their salt spend tons of time driving around checking out new listings. In Friedman’s San Diego area, they call it “caravan day.”

“It’s a good way to preview properties, and it’s a good time to network with other agents and talk up your listing,” she says.

They attend pitch sessions

Agents don’t spend all their time sizing up homes. According to Friedman, they also spend tons of face time with other pros at pitch sessions—gatherings of local agents at cafes where they swap listing info in order to spread the word about your property if you’re selling, or to find the house that checks every box on your wish list if you’re buying.

They spend their own money on marketing

In addition to not getting paid until a deal is done, selling agents also spend their own money on marketing: magazine and newspaper ads, fliers, hiring a photographer, glossy prints, and premium placements on listing sites.

“Agents can spend thousands marketing a property,” says Friedman.

They write up offers and counteroffers

Offers and counteroffers are an extremely important part of the transaction, as they can save or net you thousands of dollars on a sale. Yet getting to the right price requires written offers and counteroffers every step of the way.

“It’s time-consuming to be writing them up, explaining to the client how to counteroffer and the ways to do so, and just keeping track of it all,” Friedman says.

They stick around for inspections

You might not be present when it’s inspection time, but a good agent will be. This gives the agent an immediate knowledge of what’s going on. Anything from termites to an iffy foundation can be relayed to the buyer immediately, according to Friedman. McGlone estimates inspections take roughly two hours.

They smooth bumps in the road

Not every sale goes smoothly—buyers and sellers get difficult all the time—but good agents try to shield their clients from the high drama unless there’s a reason to fill them in.

“It’s called putting out fires,” says McGlone. “It’s just fixing issues that a lot of times buyers and sellers never needed to be made aware of.”

They keep you calm when the pressure’s on

Good agents don’t just hand you a house. They can also act as a therapist, making your sale much less stressful.

“People get emotional. You have to be a problem-solver and keep a positive approach and come up with a positive solution,” Friedman says. “It might not take a lot of time, but it takes emotional energy.”

Tell that to your therapist.

Why Empty Homes Don’t Sell

Every morning on social media news feed, I see acres and acres of empty rooms posted by real estate professionals. So many empty dining rooms, breakfast rooms, kitchens, living and bedrooms. Do I stop and click on the photo, intrigued to have a look at the room, the house, the property? No, I just scroll on by … Do I read the eloquently written description? Do I appreciate the professional photography? No, I just scroll on by … Why? It’s that they all look the same; devoid of any senses, any flavor, any style.

WHY?

#1. An empty home leaves an empty canvas to paint negative thoughts on. Prospective buyers will find imperfections or they’ll not be interested or overlook features. An empty home amplifies negative thoughts.

#2. Empty homes lack a vision of its layout. What is this room? A staged home shows off how the home flows and how each space can be used.

#3. An empty home is void of imagination and feeling. People buy homes on emotion. An empty property is just a HOUSE, a staged property becomes a HOME. Home staging creates the emotion that your prospective buyers envisioned.

#4. The National Association of REALTORS 2015 Profile on Home Staging found that 81 percent of buyers find it is easier to visualize a property as a future home when it’s staged.

“A staged home may seem like it has furniture that’s fixed in place; but what is going on in the buyer’s mind is a very kinetic process. With a home that is staged, they see a family – celebrating home.” – Julea Joseph

See the difference for yourself: Here are some before and after photos of staged homes.

Family Room BEFORE - www.EdgemontRealEstate.Wordpress.comFamily Room AFTER - www.EdgemontRealEstate.Wordpress.com


Kitchen BEFORE - www.EdgemontRealEstate.Wordpress.comKitchen AFTER - www.EdgemontRealEstate.Wordpress.com


Living Room BEFORE - www.EdgemontRealEstate.Wordpress.comLiving Room AFTER - www.EdgemontRealEstate.Wordpress.com

This post originally appeared at Julea: Reinventing Space. Copyright 2015.


Top Home Buying Myths

homebuyingmyths2

Whether you’re a real estate professional or first-time home buyer, the home buying process and real estate transactions can be stressful.  There tends to be some common misconceptions in this process, so it’s very important that you’re well informed of what is fact and what is fiction.  We’re here to set the record straight.

Myth #1:  You don’t need a REALTOR®.

Before you bravely take on one of the biggest purchases or sales of your life, remember this: it’s not as easy as it looks.  REALTORS® know all the ins and outs of the local area as well as the market in which you’re looking to buy or sell.  Picking up the phone and calling a REALTOR® may be one of the best decisions you’ll make.

Myth #2:  The bigger the downpayment, the better off you’ll be.

Buyers’ immediate reflex is to put as much cash down as they can when buying a new home because they’ll borrow less, lower the monthly mortgage payments, and won’t need to buy mortgage insurance.  However, putting 20% down is not a requirement and it’s not for everyone.

Thanks to Federal Housing Administration Loans (FHA Loans), you can put as little as 3.5% down.  With this method, you’ll potentially have a lower interest rate, giving you more flexibility.  Your money is not all tied up in your house like in a traditional down payment that can leave you with little or no extra cash to spend on home care, improvements, or any other unforeseen circumstances.

Myth #3:  Appraisers set the value of a home.

The role of the appraiser is to produce a credible opinion of value that reflects the current market.  Appraisers are not responsible for setting the value of the home and they also do not confirm a home’s sale price.  According to David S. Bunton, President of The Appraisal Foundation, “Appraisers provide an analysis of the collateral, so that lenders understand the value of a property when making the loan decision.”

Myth #4:  You need perfect credit.

Most people assume that you must have absolutely golden credit in order to get a loan, but that just simply isn’t the case.  If buyers have less than perfect credit, lenders are often willing to work with them to get the best possible loan.

Credit is not the only thing that lenders look at when deciding to approve a loan, but your score will have an effect on the interest rate on your mortgage.  Make sure you review your credit report and if any errors are found, they should be reported to the credit reporting bureaus before applying for a mortgage.

by Courtney Soinski

Top 10 Worst Home-Showing Offenses

When it comes to presenting a home to buyers, some sellers are clueless. Are your sellers’ homes leaving buyers with a bad impression? REALTOR® Magazine received more than 50 responses from buyer agents who revealed their pet peeves when touring homes with clients—offenses that, they say, have buyers racing for the door.

After 20 years of showings, Elke W. McMenemy, ABR, CIPS, broker-owner at St. Augustine Real Estate Inc. in St. Augustine, Fla., has practically seen it all, from the “fully loaded litter boxes” to the “roach-infested ovens.”

“These situations have proven to be frustrating and embarrassing to my buyers and me,” McMenemy says.

Mary Lynn Stenzel with Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty in Scottsdale, Ariz., suggests agents be proactive in discussing with their sellers the cleanliness and presentation expectations for showing appointments upfront. Don’t assume your clients know what to do. Also, agents might want to arrive early to a listing appointment to double-check that everything is in show-ready shape.

Here are the 10 most common responses from buyer’s agents when asked about the worst mistakes they see when presenting for-sale homes to clients:

1. Leftover home owners

By far, one of the top offenses cited by buyer’s agents was home owners still lingering around when agents arrived with clients to preview the home. Awkward encounters ranged from buyers finding sellers taking a shower, asleep in the bed, to even the “stalker sellers” who liked to follow buyers and the agent all over the home to see what they thought.

With the exception of the “stalker seller,” many of the home owners who were still at home blamed their listing agent for not giving them enough advance notice about the appointment prior.

2. Pets and their messes

Numerous agents also cited the not-so-friendly dog and kitty encounters as a top offense. Even pets left in a crate can pose a distraction since they might make noise the entire time others are in the house. Plus, if they seem mean, the buyer might not even step in the room.

Vicki Robinson, ABR, CRS, broker with Fonville Morisey Realty in Raleigh, N.C., says she recently was given showing instructions from a listing agent who told her the family’s “friendly dog” would be at home. But when Robinson unlocked the front door with her client for the showing, a pit bull was staring down at them from the top of the staircase, growling. “We closed the door and left!” she says.

3. Bad smells

A displeasing smell can really turn buyers off. Common offenses include cooking smells lingering around the home, such as garlic, fried bacon, or fish. Also, watch for cigarette smoke and animal smells, agents say.

“Sellers get immune to the smell that their pets have embedded on their property,” says Halina Degnan with Gables & Gates, REALTORS®, in Knoxville, Tenn. “Anyone opening the door will smell it immediately — even if there are air fresheners trying to cover up the smell. If you have a pet, there will be an odor. Don’t send your buyers away: Paint and clean the carpeting. Take the odor seriously and do what is needed, even if it means replacing the carpet.”

4. Critters running wild

Wild animals and pests roaming around is a surefire way to send buyers running. Agents described worms crawling on the floor and bats and raccoons lounging in the attic. “I showed a house in Utah once with a baby alligator/crocodile [in a cage] in the dining room,” Kristi Hutchings, ABR, SFR, with the Wendy K Team The Real Estate Group in Utah.

5. Odd home makeovers

Do-it-yourself disasters were also prevalent, like doors opening the wrong way or unprofessional paint jobs. Also, rooms not being used for their intended purposes can confuse buyers, such as an office being used as a bedroom even though it has no closet, says broker Elaine Byrne with Elaine Byrne Realty in Austin, Texas.

6. Dirt and clutter

There were a number of offenses cited when it came to cleanliness: Dirty laundry piles, unflushed toilets, dishes on the counter or in the sink, unmade beds, clothes scattered about, soiled carpets, dirty air conditioner filters, and overflowing trash cans.

“One of the worst things I have seen is piles and piles of clothes in every room,” says Chris Leach, ABR, with Medel & Associates Realty in Riverside, Calif. “It was like an obstacle trying to walk around the mess.”

7. Personal information left in plain sight

Sellers should be careful not to leave in plain sight important documents that may pique buyers’ curiosity. Some agents say they’ve seen personal information like bank and credit card statements—even mortgage payoff notices—left on the kitchen counter.

“Buyers are nosey,” says Christopher Handy, ABR, GREEN, broker-associate with Bosshardt Realty Services LLC in Gainesville, Fla. “I’ve even seen the contract for the sellers’ next purchase sitting on the kitchen countertop or ‘final notice’ bills.”

8. Too dark

Dark or dimly lit houses aren’t showing the home in the best light.

“Particularly [homes lit with] CFL bulbs,” says Yvette Chisholm, ABR, CRS, associate broker with Long & Foster Real Estate in Rockville, Md. “By the time [the bulbs] light up, the buyer is gone.” Energy efficient bulbs need time to warm up before they are at their brightest, so staging professionals usually recommend agents arrive early to a showing to turn on any light fixtures with CFL bulbs at least 10 minutes prior.

9. Keys missing from lockboxes

All too often, agents arrive at a listing appointment with their client only to find there’s no key to get in. “I actually had a [seller’s] agent who wanted me to open the door for my clients by going through the dog run as a large dog barked like crazy,” says Hutchings.

10. Distracting photos

Watch the photos displayed on the walls too, agents warn. Tara Hayes, ABR, e-PRO, with Rector-Hayden, REALTORS®, in Winchester, Ky., recalls showing a family a home that had life-sized, nude photos hanging, which left her clients racing for the door covering their eyes.

Similarly, Angela Gandolfo, ABR, SFR, with Citywide Real Estate & Investment in Phoenix, recalls showing a home to a client, who was staring at a painting in the master bedroom of a woman in lingerie. “Isn’t that the owner?” the client asked. “She was also the real estate agent!” Gandolfo says.

Getting Your Sellers to Pay for Advertising

 

In Australia and New Zealand, real estate professionals do something rather interesting — they ask the sellers to pay the total cost for a professional media mix advertising campaign, often amounting to many thousands of dollars.

Now, before you read further, I would point out that not all real estate agents in Australia do this. Only the best agents present this in their marketing plan — those who have the skills to achieve great results are the ones who obtain substantial advertising dollars from sellers. Other agents, many of whom cut their commissions to win listings when times are tough, pay all the advertising costs (albeit very small campaigns, as it is coming out of their pocket), which reduces their commission further.

The better agents, though, are not only retaining full commission, but those with substantial amounts of advertising dollars are putting together very effective advertising campaigns to generate the best results. What do you think that does for their profile? It goes absolutely through the roof.

That is one of the main reasons newspapers in these two countries are still such powerful tools for the real estate industry, carrying hundreds of millions of dollars in glorious, full-color real estate advertising. As an example, where I now live in the Gold Coast of Queensland, Australia, our daily newspaper has a Saturday real estate supplemental section that usually contains between 70 and 200 pages of ads.

 

I have heard many times in the United States and Canada that “newspaper advertising doesn’t work.” Not true! As long as newspapers have readers, then the right message put in front of them will achieve results. This is particularly true when ads are managed as part of a media mix campaign using Web sites, social media, and other print advertising, as I have discussed in previous articles.

Research Down Under shows the more sellers paid for advertising, the better the campaign, with more sales at higher prices in a shorter amount of time. As proven across the Australian and New Zealand markets, sellers will pay if they believe they will achieve a better end net result. You’re also guaranteed to achieve a much higher listing-to-selling success rate and retain full commission.

What’s more, the Real Estate Institute of Queensland came out in support of seller-paid advertising several years ago. This is the industry association the public listens to and trusts.

In Australia and New Zealand, the aim for the advertising budget is between 1 and 2 percent of the selling price.

Warning: If you don’t believe you can achieve a better net end result (that’s the money in the seller’s pocket after all commission and advertising costs have been paid) by using their money for advertising — then don’t do it. Sellers don’t deserve to pay the money and you don’t deserve to get it.

Starting This Trend in Your Marketplace

I believe real estate professionals can start this advertising practice where it currently doesn’t exist.

If a proper, professional advertising campaign is presented to the seller as an option, and if the clients can see the dramatic difference between this and the usual campaign, then they can be influenced to invest in a better potential result for them.

Example: In Calgary, Canada, there was a property priced at just under $1 million that had expired, and the owners desperate to sell. What happened next? The price could have been dropped many tens of thousands of dollars to sell the property quickly. However, a local real estate professional suggested the seller give him around $2,000 to produce a better advertising campaign. The result was a record sales price for that area, with an overjoyed seller. Was that a good investment for them? You bet!

Price Reductions: All too Common

In a previous article I mentioned John McKenna from Pennsylvania, who won a listing that had been on the market for three years. The previous agent couldn’t sell the property for $259,000. In desperation, who knows how many thousands of dollars the sellers could have dropped the price to sell their property.

However, not only did the sellers not have to drop the price, but McKenna was also able to achieve an extra $30,000 for them, selling the property quickly at $289,000. Good advertising did that for them, and, as you could appreciate, the sellers would have been more than happy to invest in advertising that would produce those results.

If you are asking sellers to contribute advertising dollars, you may be wondering how you can compete with real estate professionals who offer to do the advertising for free. Let’s take a look at an example from Western Australia, where the practice of sellers contributing towards advertising is very rare.

A long-time agent friend of mine, Mark Passmore from Passmore Real Estate, works in the Western Australia city of Perth. He’s very good at what he does and has been in the top 2 percent of Century 21 practitioners worldwide. Passmore has been using my advertising system for more than 10 years now. He said that over his last 10 listings, he averaged more than $6,000 in owner advertising contribution for each. In every instance, he was competing against other agents who said they would do the ads for free, but Passmore’s professional advertising approach convinced the sellers they would achieve a better end net result with him. He can hardly keep up with his repeat and referral business.

With success after success, his job has become easier with hundreds of client testimonials to draw upon. Passmore currently enjoys a staggering 95 percent market share in his area and charges the highest commission in the state. (Watch his recent video on my Web site.)

Of course, to make this a reality, you have to become an advertising expert who knows what you’re doing. You must demonstrate a systematic professional approach to sellers that gives them the confidence to entrust their hard-earned dollars with you, their agent. Your clients must have the knowledge that you will achieve the best possible end result for them.

Don’t Get Left Behind!

Be careful of saying things like, “We don’t do that here … the sellers would never pay … it wouldn’t work in our marketplace … it wouldn’t work with our commission structure.” Very simply, if an investment of $3,000 gave a return of an extra $10,000 or more, then it would work in any marketplace with any commission structure.

For those of you in markets where this practice doesn’t currently exist, I ask you to open your minds and consider the possible benefits. Don’t get left behind and then find that others are doing it. Yes, it is already happening in the U.S. and Canadian marketplaces. We are becoming global and ideas and business practices tend to spread around the world. Look to being a leader, not someone who says, “I never thought it would work here.” If you need some input, just contact me, Ian Grace, at: amazing@iangrace.com.au.

In my next post, Bonus Tip No. 11, I will cover how to test your ads for effectiveness. I will also give you some great dialog to use when welcoming potential buyers at an open house, which will help you stand out in their minds among all those agents they may have seen at open houses that weekend.

This article is part 10 in a 10-part series on writing great real estate ads. Read more here:

Part 1: Effective Advertising: It’s All About ‘HOODOO’
Part 2: Write Ads That Sell
Part 3: Match Powerful Photos With Powerful Headlines to Get Ads Noticed
Part 4: Show What It’s Like to Live in a Home
Part 5: Humanizing Your Ads
Part 6: Different Ads for Different Markets
Part 7: Media Match: Make all Your Ad Media Work Together
Part 8: Keep the Same (Good) Ad Running

Part 9: Pricing: Take Your Sellers for a Ride
Part 10: Getting Your Sellers to Pay for Advertising

Study: Lenders Spend More on REOs in High-Priced Areas

 

Lenders improved about a third of their foreclosed properties prior to sale, spending $6,500 per home, on average, according to a recent study by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.

Lenders allocated more per property in improving its distressed properties in higher-priced markets prior to sale, according to the report.

In 2011—the data most recently studied—lenders invested considerably more per property in higher-priced markets like Denver, Los Angeles, Portland, Raleigh, and Washington, D.C., than lower-priced housing markets. The disparity is believed to be because the properties in higher priced markets often need to be in better condition to sell at a competitive price within a reasonable amount of time.

Lenders spent $1.7 billion in 2011 on improving distressed properties, according to estimates by the Joint Center. Atlanta, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, and Riverside, Calif., posted the highest shares of spending.

Meanwhile, improvement spending per REO property in markets like Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh, was less than a third compared to the more competitive markets.

“Renovating foreclosed or abandoned homes benefits the entire neighborhood,” according to the study. “Joint Center research has shown that home prices in neighborhoods with higher levels of improvement spending appreciate more rapidly, explaining why investing in blighted neighborhoods has been a national priority in dealing with the foreclosure crisis.”

Source: “Harvard Study Reports on Recent Trends in Home Equity and Housing Stock,” RISMedia (Jan. 28, 2013)