November 2011 Blogs

SELLERS BEWARE OF REAL ESTATE AGENTS MAKING FALSE PROMISES JUST TO GET YOUR LISTING

Over Pricing:  This is the first and foremost demon in real estate agency ploys to convince unsuspecting homeowners that their home is worth much more than current fair market value. They'll promise you the moon and the stars. Many firms, large and small alike will use the logic of "let's see what we can get" just to falsely lead a homeowner to believe that their home is worth more than it really is just to hoard another listing. This strategy is toxic, not only to the marketability and salability of your home, but to the entire real estate market as a whole. Over pricing will cause your home to needlessly sit on the market, become stagnant and raise serious questions and doubts in any potential buyers' mind as to the quality and worthiness of purchasing your particular home, especially when they have so many more to choose from which may be much more fairly priced. It also reflects poorly on the true value of your type of real estate in any given marketplace.

What's even worse about this is that real estate agents will then proceed to use your property as a tool to get other listings in the price range they set for your property only to use you rather than work for you. This is a philosophy which any ethical real agent frowns upon tremendously. It is a disservice to the homeowner and an even bigger one to the credibility of the entire real estate industry.

Misrepresentation:  Many real estate agents, even after being taught and lectured every two years when they renew their licenses, that overstating square footage is a violation of accepted standards of real estate practice. Specifically, including basement area, garage area, enclosed swimming pool area, etc. are all huge mistakes which agents continually attempt to pass off to the public. It is a fraud and a deception, and sellers should not support, permit or condone this type of agent who would either encourage or recommend overstating square footage, gross living area (GLA).

More importantly, by misrepresenting square footage, when a potential buyer comes to see the house and discovers it to be much smaller than they expected, they will undoubtedly become angry and walk away with a lesser respect for you and your real estate agent, again damaging the reputation of the entire real estate industry.

Misrepresentation can take many forms, and home owners should always be careful to double-check their listing agent's information and methodology when marketing your home's facts.

Credentials:  Just because a real estate agent has sold other houses, no matter how many, doesn't necessarily mean that they will sell yours. Every house is unique and should be marketed and priced on it's own merits. Too many realtors are quick to flash their history, current or ancient, as a basis for justifying what they may do for you to sell your house. Even if they have sold other houses, have another realtor check out how many listings they had that were either cancelled or expired as a percentage of their overall track record. This may tell you if they are just listing hoarders or if they are truly working for their customers. Very often, they end up doing much less than they should as a result of resting on their own laurels and expecting you to put your trust and faith in them to do a 100% job. Instead they may only do 50% and you won't know it until it's too late. Be sure to address every detail as to what the agent will do for you now and in the future to market only your home. After all, the real estate agent is supposed to be working for you!

Real Estate Agent's location:  Don't be fooled by so-called "local" agents making claims that they are more qualified to sell your property just because they are located in your Town or City. That's not necessarily the case. A truly skilled agent can sell real estate anywhere, if they provide the correct professional service you deserve. Instead hire the agent who will work harder for you based on your feelings toward their presentation.

Marketing:  Some real estate agents will take your listing and only depend on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) to market your property. This is a major mistake and an offense to homeowners who place their trust in a real estate agent to do a professional job of marketing their home. Their is much more to selling a home than having a few open houses and relying solely on the MLS to get the job done. It just doesn't work in this distressed and competitive real estate market. You really need much more effort; some of it new school and some of it old school. Call MLSLincolnWestonRealty at (781) 272-4777 for additional tips and information on marketing strategies, even those which are used to compensate for the mistakes of past listings other agents have caused to damage your home's salability.

Listing Hoarders:  Watch out for these guys or gals! Any agent who has more than 6 active listings would be very hard pressed to service your listing effectively and professionally given what it takes in the current real estate market to sell a house. These are generally the type of agents who violate some, if not all, of the above mentioned criteria for listing a home. Ask the agent how many current listings they have and don't hire them if they have too many, because they surely won't be able to afford you the time investment required of an agent in whom you've placed all your trust to sell your most valuable asset, your home. When spread too thin, an agent simply can't do an excellent job for you and you may suffer as a result.

Don't go with the first agent who comes along until you have spoken to several. Choose the one that presents the most honest, ethical, believable, and above all, realistic facts to you and who will not compromise their integrity and that of the entire real estate industry just to get your listing by violating the criteria mentioned earlier in this article. If you really want to sell your house, this is the only, sure fire method of doing it.

5 Ways to Course-Correct When Your
House Hunt Takes Too Long:

Some people have home-finding stories that are the real estate equivalent of the skywritten marriage proposal tales. They drove by their dream home, knocked on the front door and the elderly owner offered it to them for a song. However, most recent home buyers have tales on the other end of the charming-and-easy spectrum; tales of year-long house hunts and fruitless offer after fruitless offer, followed by a nerve-wracking, hair-pulling, interminable negotiation with the bank are much more typical.

If you've been in the market for a home for what seems like a very long time to no avail, here are five strategies for getting things back on track.

1.  Know how long is (truly) too long.  If you've been saving up, primping your credit and fantasizing about your dream home for 5 years, then waiting for exact right moment in your life and the market to pull the trigger for 4, viewing 15 houses over 3 weeks might seem like an interminable amount of time.

And if you make an offer that is rejected? The agony of that defeat is outweighed only by the pain of your dream (home) being deferred.

Be aware that today's market is a very slow-moving one. It's completely normal in some areas for buyers to view dozens of homes over as many months, and have several offers rejected before getting into contract. Talk with your agent about how long local buyers normally have to prowl today's market before getting some home buying satisfaction.

2.  Identify where your process is breaking down.  In order to course-correct your wayward house hunt, you first have to figure out what the problem actually is. If you're looking at lots of homes, but not finding anything that suits you, you might have an expectation issue. These range from having champagne tastes on a beer budget to being part of a pair of buyers with conflicting expectations that no home will ever be able to satisfy (e.g., husband wants a fixer, wife wants move-in ready).

If you're finding places you like, but your offers are consistently being shot down, you might need to work on bringing your home picks into alignment with your budget by increasing your price range, decreasing your wish list, or looking at a lower price range and making higher, more competitive offers.

Fact: an experienced buyer's agent is an expert diagnostician of house hunt ailments. If your agent told you 7 months, 43 prospective homes and 9 offers ago that your expectations are out of whack or that you need to consider some compromises, you might circle back to that advice - and consider taking it.

3.  Remember how many houses are in the world, but don't try to see them all.   It's easy - but unproductive - to get upset about "the one that got away;" counter that frustration by reminding yourself that you are house hunting in a market relatively flooded with housing inventory.  On the other end of the getting-out-of-your-own-way spectrum, if you do find a home that really works for you in your price range, get over the idea that you have to see everything in town before you make an offer.

One more mindset reset along these lines: understand that the *perfect* house does not exist - at any price range. Petra Ecclestone just dropped $80 million in cash to buy Candy Spelling's Hollywood home and reportedly had the whole place gutted because the decor was not to her taste. In the same way people with curly hair wish they had straight and vice versa, people who have hilltop vistas wish they lived nearer to the grocery store and people who can walk to the store wish they had better views. No single home will ever satisfy every single one of your preferences, so don't hold out waiting for one that will.

4.  Rethink your deal-breakers.  The greater the number of absolute deal-breakers you've communicated to your agent, the fewer prospective homes you'll see. And the more flexible you can be about which listings you'll look at, the higher the chances you'll find something you like.  I recently read an article in an architectural magazine about a woman who house hunted ad nauseum in a very small neighborhood she needed to be in, only finding success when her agent showed her a fourplex she could convert into the single family home she was looking for.

If you think your agent simply doesn't understand what you want, ask them to remove all pricing filters and send you homes that reflect what they think your dream house really is.  Alternatively, drive around and find homes for sale or visit Open Houses that you think are closer to what you want - then investigate their list prices, or send the addresses of "suitable" homes that aren't for sale to your agent to find out what that house would go for today.

These exercises will get you and your agent communicating on the same page; will help you understand tradeoffs, wants and needs more concretely; and will very likely flick some of your mental switches around what you can expect from a property at various price ranges.  This strategy is especially useful for reality-checking the expectation of home buyers relocating to a town with a higher cost of living than their current hometown.

5.  Ignore the peanut gallery.  People who have not bought a home in your town, your desired neighborhood and your price range at the same moment in time you find yourself house hunting are not authorities on any of the following:

       (a) how dirt cheap 'those foreclosures' are,
       (b) how much of a discount you should be able to negotiate,
       (c) how much is too much for you to pay, or
       (d) how desperate the banks or sellers are to sell.

That lack of authority, though, will not stop your family members, friends and neighbors from chiming in and offering their own critiques, exasperation, suggestions, or "what I would do if I were you is. . ."-style analyses of your own home buying strategies. Many a would-be homeowner has remained just that - a would-be homeowner - by following the advice or suggestions of someone who read a headline but has no idea of the real market dynamics you face.

Depending on where you're buying, those dynamics might include:

  •  banks that refuse to do repairs and may take 6 months to green-light a short sale,
  •  sellers who are so upside down they can barely afford to sell for the list price -- and certainly can't afford to
     sell for less, and
  •  areas in which the norm is for foreclosed homes to sell above asking after receiving multiple offers.

So, check your own references - double and triple check where you are getting your information about what homes should cost and what you should offer, and make sure that the sources are expert and up-to-date. Don't let your home buying efforts be foiled by relying on the inaccurate advice of well-meaning loved ones.

5 Hypnotic Home Staging Techniques –
and How to See Through Them

We all know how important home staging is if you’re trying to sell a home. It’s equally important when you’re buying real estate for exactly the same reasons. Just like a person you meet on a blind date, staging is all about highlighting assets and deflecting your attention from any flaws. As a buyer, you have to learn to look past the staging and see what lies underneath.

That’s not as easy as it sounds because clever staging can be hypnotic. I once had a client who called this the "vortex of cute." If you hear yourself oohing and aahing over wall hangings or a fabulous sectional, watch out!  Even if you’re buying a furnished home, which is rarely the case, you're focusing on the wrong thing.

Understanding hypnotic staging techniques will help you break their spells. Here are five of the most common, along with corresponding tips that will help snap you back to reality so that you can really see what you’re buying.

Hypnotic Staging See-Through #1: Tiny Furniture.  I’m sure that you’ve gone through your closet at one time or another to put together an outfit that made you look smaller than you are (fine, then – I’ll speak for myself!). Well, house staging aims to accomplish the exact opposite. By opting for very small furniture, rooms can be made to appear much larger than they really are.

That can be a problem if those rooms don’t accommodate your lifestyle.

I’m not recommending you turn away from a potential home just because it won’t fit your Nana’s custom-made-for-her-13-kids-and-their-spouses dining room table. But if the 'kids bedroom" won’t fit a standard-sized bed and dresser,  or you’d have to be the size of a Barbie doll to fit on the chaise lounge that the living room is sized to fit, you’ve got a problem.

Should you fall in love with a place that's heavily staged with tiny furniture, bring measurements of your furniture and a tape measure on your second look to make sure they’ll actually, comfortably fit.

Hypnotic Staging See-Through #2: Camoflauge and Cover-Ups.  Just like baked cookies can make a house smell homey, gauzy wall and window coverings and soft music can make it seem positively dreamy. Downside: they can also camouflage a whole lot of nastiness. Don’t be fooled: investigate. You need to know what the natural light and sounds will be like after the gauze is gone, so ask for the music to be turned off and throw open the curtains. Then look outside the various windows to see what’s out there – I’ve seen power poles, neighbors’ patchwork roof repairs and even, once, a backyard dog fighting ring, obscured by gorgeous window coverings.

Speaking of looking, make sure you draw back any and all coverings, and open all closet and cupboard doors. I know a homeowner who only found out after she had purchased her home that the built-in microwave was powered by an extension cord. She hadn’t wanted to snoop, so (much to her electrician’s subsequent delight) she simply didn’t check behind door #17.

Hypnotic Staging See-Through #3: Activity Props You’ll Never Use.  Don’t you just feel all warm and fuzzy when you walk into a room with a lovely crib and a baby mobile? See a room with well-organized shelving and a craft table and you immediately imagine yourself scrapbooking or quilting. Yoga mats and meditation pillows almost make you want to find your mantra, but also make a room seem more serene than it will ever feel when you actually live there (considering you’ve never said a single ‘om’.)

Come on, now - this is you we’re talking about. Unless you have—or plan to have—a baby or already do crafts or meditate, you need a home that will fit your lifestyle, your needs and your wish list. So when you feel yourself being swayed, just make a list of the activities you actually do in your current home and want to do in your new one, and pay attention to whether a given prospective property actually has space for those items.  (I’ve heard that stamp collecting can take up almost as much space as cultivating orchids – who knew?!)

Hypnotic Staging See-Through #4: Any item that seems to be there strictly for appearances.   Décor can often hide or diminish the appearance of flaws that seem like small potatoes in light of the overall fabulosity of the place, but can actually prove expensive to change. So check for items that seem like they might have been put in just for looks—including curtains, rugs, paintings and doorways with no doors on them—and then don your sleuthing hat to figure out what flaws they might be concealing.  Water stains and wall cracks can be covered up (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not) by area rugs and wall hangings, and wonky floor plans can be staged as more open by taking the doors off their hinges.

Hypnotic Staging See-Through #5:  Neighborhood staging.  Before you get off investigative mode, you’ll also want to check out the neighborhood. Not the staged neighborhood -- the real thing, warts and cars on the lawn and screaming schoolkids and all. I've actually seen neighbors move their cars and refrain from their normal (noisy) activities when there’s an open house on the block. Even without that kind of intentional neighborhood staging, most open houses are held on a relatively calm days of the week and times of day, when traffic is light and noise is low.

To get the real scoop, make sure to visit the house at different times of day and on different days of the week in order to determine what the noise levels are like at evenings and weekend. You also want to make a point of showing up at the hours you’ll normally be coming and going, so you can check to see how easy it is to get in and out of the driveway vis-a-vis traffic and what the noise levels are like at evenings and weekend.

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