The following paragraphs are items that I have run across over the years which will help you with a smooth sale and escrow for your home. If you have any questions about any of these, simply contact me and I will help however I can.
Remember that as a seller you are competing with every other seller in Santa Rosa or Windsor area that is in your same price range. And today, there are plenty. This means that if you want to attract a buyer faster than the next person (or perhaps at all), you have to do something different. In my opinion, you have to do EVERYTHING different. By this I mean there is no one single trick, brochure, web site or gimmick that will allow you to win this battle. What DOES work, however, is if you employ every imaginable legal and ethical activity or idea to sell your home, you have a tremendous edge on the other sellers in your market. The particularly good news, at least at this point in the market, is that most of the For Sale By Owners are doing a really poor job of marketing their homes. Add to this, the number of sellers that are using part-time real estate agents to sell their home or did not take the time to select a GREAT real estate listing agent, and you start to realize that the competition is sleeping. The end result is that if you apply yourself to the concept of doing what you do CORRECTLY, this will get you a long way.
When working with a real estate listing agent in the Santa Rosa / Windsor area, I think it is important to obtain a copy (monthly) of the Bay Area MLS listing which shows all the information that cooperating real estate agents in the Sonoma County area would see about your home. I frequently see information in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for a home that is several months old and no longer applicable. Often there are only two or three photos when there should be twelve. Be sure that the information in YOUR listing is in sync with your expectations for the transaction, and if not, have a conversation with your real estate listing agent.
For that matter, I strongly recommend that every seller should proofread the original listing, as well as other marketing materials generated by their real estate agent. It's amazing how pervasive a simple error on one form can be, and propagate to other documents. Not to mention misspelled words. Should YOU have to be the one performing spell-check on the documents? Of course not. However, based on the large number of listing agents in Sonoma County who seem to believe that spell-check is optional, I do recommend that you do this because poor literacy and mistakes reflect badly on your property.
I spent many years working for new-home builders. The vast majority of these companies have (through trial and error) determined that a home with carpeting in it will sell faster than the same home with no carpet installed. This is true even though the buyer KNOWS they get to pick their own flooring on a home without carpet. The home with the carpet sells faster every single time. Why is this? It's not as if these builders have a magic chart that shows the perfect carpet for that particular home. They certainly don’t. What is true is the fact that most buyers do not have enough home buying experience to "visualize" what the home would look like with the carpet installed. Instead, they just feel that the home doesn’t appeal to them and they go to the next house. The key message here is that if there is ANYTHING in your home that you think needs to be repaired or replaced or repainted, do it before you go to market. This cannot be overemphasized in the strong buyer's market that we have today. If you think it would cost you $2,000 to make the required changes to your home, you can either spend the $2,000 before market, or discount the listing price by $6,000. You DO NOT get a one-to-one valuation from buyers, they always double or triple the estimated cost.
A common mistake seller’s in the Santa Rosa area often make goes like this; My home needs a $10,000 repair. If I make the repair, I can sell the home for $610,000. Therefore, I will not make the repair and just list the home at $600,000 (reduce the listing price by the cost of the repair). This absolutely never works. A buyer “might” be willing to buy it for $550,000 because they ALWAYS feel that if they have to put time and money into the home they (rightfully) should profit from it. In many situations, a seller can invest an additional $5,000 in their property allowing them to sell it for $15,000 more, or leave it as is and sell it for $15,000 less. There are not very many opportunities in life where you can leverage $5,000 into $30,000 price difference so quickly.
CAUTION: Don’t just throw money at your home and think it will add value to a buyer. There are plenty of things you could do to your home that cost $2,000 and add NOTHING to the re-sale value of your home. If you are considering adding money to your house prior to market, be sure to talk to an experienced real estate agent FIRST. A good real estate agent can advise you on things that add value and things that don’t. There is also good information available from many sources such as Remodeling Online.
I always recommend that a seller include a home warranty in the sale of their home, regardless if a buyer asks for it or not. The home warranty is part of your risk mitigation plan. This is because a home warranty not only helps protect the buyer from unknown problems with the home, but also helps protect the seller. You never know what might keep you out of a lawsuit, and a home warranty is a relatively inexpensive way to add another layer of protection. For more information on this topic read my article “Sellers Risk Mitigation Plan”.
Question: Does offering a higher co-broke fee in the Bay Area Multiple Listing Service (MLS) increase the number of showings on a property? Answer: probably, but I don't know this for a fact. What I do know, is that people in general are motivated by money, and real estate agents are kind of like people. Well, some are like people. Anyway, I doubt that the increase in showings is very significant, because if the property is right for the client, most agents would show it anyway. Probably in some situations, a loser-agent might try and convince their client that a higher commission home is right for the client when in fact it is not, simply to get a higher commission.
Of course in the Santa Rosa area, agents like these are not very successful because the client will ultimately be dissatisfied and will rightfully blame the agent. My personal philosophy is that I pay no attention whatsoever to the amount of commission offered and focus exclusively on finding the best property for my client regardless of the commission structure. I truly believe that in the long run I make more money with this approach than any other. So, my advice for a seller is to consider incentives for the buyer, not the agent. These could include a home warranty, mortgage buy-down, closing costs, etc. I think any of these are money better spent than a higher real estate commission.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that starting your house with a high price so that you have room to negotiate is a very bad approach. There is also recent statistical evidence to support this reality. The Otteau Valuation Group, a New Jersey property valuation firm, did an analysis of 4500 homes sold in a test market and determined that homes with an initial listing price that was too high, sat on the market longer and ultimately sold for less than similar homes which were realistically priced. For more information on this pricing strategy read my article “How to Price Your Home in Santa Rosa”.
If you plan to interview three or four real estate agents in your home prior to selecting an agent, make absolutely certain your house looks good before you do the interviews. If you selected your “prospective” agents properly, they are local agents from the Santa Rosa area that have good references. This means that the real estate agents you DO NOT select to represent you, may very likely represent a potential buyer for your home. If they saw your home in a messy condition, they're more likely to believe that your home is overpriced, and therefore less likely to bring a prospective client. So clean up your act. Also, be polite, even if the reason you did not hire them is because they seem a little dense, you never know, they might run across a buyer for your property. Don’t say to the agent; “You are not smart enough to sell my property”, but rather you might try; “You are so smart, now run along and find us a buyer”.
In a buyers market such as we have now in Sonoma County, it is not uncommon for sellers to receive an offer that is below the sellers "minimum acceptable" amount. This calls for a counter-offer. A good real estate listing agent will make sure that they talk to the buyer-agent to find out as much as possible about the buyer BEFORE they write the counter offer. It's good to know whether or not this buyer is a first-time buyer, move-up buyer, et cetera. This information will help when structuring a counter offer that is more likely to be accepted by the buyer. For example, a first-time buyer will be very interested in the financial terms of the sale. This includes things like having the seller help with closing costs, pre-paid HOA dues or landscape maintenance. A move-up buyer tends to be more focused on the price and the condition of the home. The more you know about your buyer and what their needs are, the more opportunities you have to structure a counter-offer that speaks to the buyer’s needs increasing the possibility of acceptance. Learn what you can before you counter-offer.
Current statistics show that approximately 80% of the buyers today began their search for a new home on the Internet. This includes finding a real estate agent on the internet. Suppose they see your real estate listing agent’s yard sign, and then went home to find what properties the agent has listed, including your home. How easy is it to find your prospective real estate agent on the Internet? Try to Google the real estate agent’s name, what do you get? Often it isn’t as easy as it should be, and if you can’t find the agent easily on the internet, neither can your potential buyers.
One way to know how long a house has been listed is to look in the brochure box in the front yard. At first it is full, but as the house sits on the market the box frequently sits empty, often dirty and in disrepair. Your real estate agent should take responsibility to maintain the box, but the agent can’t always be there to add flyers, so you need to help. Keep it full. Empty box = seller has given up and may be desperate. If the sign or box needs any maintenance, let your real estate agent know immediately so they can make the corrections.
I don’t recommend it, unless your home has something really unusual (in a good way). The goal in all listings and advertisements is NOT to “sell” your home, the goal is to get people to come to your house and walk through it. Nobody is going to buy your house because you have a spiffy brochure; they have to go through the home and like it. Oddly enough, too much information in your advertisement can sometimes hurt you. I have found that most people don’t relate well to blueprints or floor plans, they just can’t visualize very well. Not to mention that with an “average” home you are more likely to loose a potential buyer than gain one. Just my opinion. Make them come to the house and decide if the floor plan works for them. Hopefully, some other unique feature in the house will captivate their attention.
I recommend that you do not tell a prospective listing agent what you think your property is worth before they prepare a Competitive Market Analysis (CMA) for you. Just so you know, they will usually ask you for this information before the CMA. My concern is that once the real estate agent knows what your number is they are much more likely to let this influence their CMA, or in some cases completely lie about the value, just so they can get your business. What you are looking for with a Competitive Market Analysis (CMA) on a Santa Rosa or Windsor property, is an unbiased, professional valuation of your home based on research. NOT simply an opinion. You certainly will need to have a conversation with your real estate agent about your opinion on the value of your home, but wait till after the Competitive Market Analysis (CMA) has been done and the agent suggests a price.