taking your house off the market

Sometimes home sellers change their minds and they want their home taken off the market before the contract with their real estate agent ends. In that case both parties, the real estate agent and the seller have to agree to cancel the contract. A real estate agent can say no to a contract cancellation.


Listing contract

During our current sellers market I have been offering shorter contracts for my clients. Most homes can be sold in less than three months so I offer a three month contract. When the contract expires if the home isn’t sold the seller can leave it off the market or re-list it with me or with someone else.

Keep in mind I do not get paid until the house is sold and the sale closes. It is possible to spend quite a bit of money and have a sellers change their minds.

Usually if a seller asks to cancel a contract I let them out of it without any hassle but I do not have to. A contract is a contract. People do change their plans or sometimes there is an illness or some other emergency that causes people to put their plans on hold.

I have occasionally started the conversation about canceling the contract myself. Sometimes I can not get the homeowner to cooperate and it compromises my ability to sell the home at a price that is usually higher than the value.

Selling a house without the owners cooperation is difficult. It is even spelled out in the contract that they need to grant access to people who want to see it and cooperate in other ways. Sometimes sellers want to list their home for a lot more than it is worth and they agree to future price reductions, but when the time comes they won’t reduce the price. Sometimes a homeowner agrees to certain repairs but they won’t make them and they want to price the home as if they did make the repairs.

The homeowners who get the most money for their home are often those who work with me and take an interest in the details of the process and the suggestions I make.

If the goal is to just take the home off the market for a few days or a few weeks there is an easy way to do that. The home can be made temporarily not available to show. In that status it will not how up on the internet as being for sale and real estate agents will not make appointments to see it or show it. The home can not be advertised as being for sale.

If you are working with an agent and you want to get out of the contract you will need to get the agent to agree. If the agent does not agree you may have to ride it out. Please read the contract before signing it.

Getting ready to sell


We are still in a strong sellers market in St. Paul. There isn’t any need to wait until Spring to sell but many people will wait and while they wait there are some things they can do to get their home ready to sell.

I talked to a home seller who had been talked into replacing all of her kitchen appliances before putting her home on the market. None of the appliances she replaced were new but none of them needed to be replaced and they all looked just fine. It was a needless expense and those appliances were replaced by the buyer after the home was sold.

Older appliances rarely keep buyers from buying a home and in this case they were about average for a home in the price range and neighborhood.

If buyers were looking at the home but not making offers because of the appliances new appliances could be part of the negotiating process . In general I don’t like to see home sellers spending any more money than they have to when getting a home ready to sell. Some of the expenses are just plain silly and expensive too.

If the appliances are ancient and past the average life span for appliances it might be best to replace them. It is amazing how upset home buyers get when they move in and find out the 25 year old washer in’t working properly.

Cleaning, making repairs and painting are the three things that I recommend sellers spend money on because I know they will get at least a 100% return on their investment and probably more.

Declutter and depersonalize. Put those family photos and the glass figurines away.  If you have a huge collections of what every you have a collection of, put it away. If necessary rent a storage locker.

The popularity of colors and styles changes over time. Shades of white and grey are more popular than earth tones and jewel tones. Blues and greens are always in style. White ceilings make rooms look bigger and brighter.

A kitchen can be dressed up with new window treatments, a back splash, a new light fixture, a coat of paint and new hardware. That can all be done for a fraction of the cost of replacing appliances.

If you would  like more tips or would like to know how much your home is worth, contact me. 

Plan ahead, downsizing isn’t easy

I have had friends, family and clients over the years who have moved from larger homes to smaller homes. Sometimes moving was part of a plan and other times it happened because of a medical issue.

Moving to smaller quarters or moving at all is a lot of work for those who have lived in the same home for 20 to 50 years.

Planing ahead of time makes it so much easier. One of my clients started planning and eliminating excess stuff three years before the move. She started before she even knew where they would move to or exactly when they would do it.

Occasionally I work with families that did not plan on moving. Dealing with decades of accumulated belongings can be overwhelming.

If you have been thinking about moving start exploring the basement and other storage spaces. Are there boxes that have not been opened in a decade? Start going though the stuff, and sort it into three categories:

  1. Keep
  2. Not sure
  3. Donate, toss, recycle or sell.

Once the basement is under control start working on the closets and then the kitchen cupboards and then then dressers and drawers. For one elderly couple who needed to move quickly we contacted 1-800-GotJunk. They will remove just about anything from your home, for a fee but they do the sorting, donating and recycling. For a few hundred dollars the couple was able to empty their garage and they even took the 20 year old queen size sleeper sofa.

The “not sure” pile will be the biggest challenge. Most of it will end up in the “donate, toss or recycle pile”. Sorting is a great way to start the downsizing process. It is about starting and doing something as opposed to being overwhelmed by the task.

Some items can be sold. Try Facebook market place, Amazon, eBay or Craig’s list.

Moving is much easier when everything is organized a head of time. People who have adult children should not be shocked when their children say no to family heirlooms and other items they might want to unload.

Old bike
Old Bike

Will you retire with a mortgage?

paymentsPersonally I don’t plan on retiring. At some point I will cut back on the amount of hours I work each week and only work with certain types of clients.

“More Americans are expected to still owe on their mortgage by the time they reach retirement. The share of Americans 65 and older with mortgage debt increased from 22 percent in 2001 to 30 percent in 2011, according to data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” according to an article in   Realty Times

According to the same article loan balances have doubled and more people will be making mortgage payments after retirement or will be retiring later because of mortgage payments. A lot of it has to do with all of the refinancing and borrowing and of course with the great recession and the crash of the housing market.

One study found that older American’s did more refinancing than any other group which to be honest kind of makes sense because older Americans own more real estate.

Nearly a third of all American’s own their homes free and clear. [LA Times]  There are two schools of thought on paying off a mortgage. One school says don’t do it and the other says pay it off. Personally I don’t see any advantage to owing money and paying interest on top of it but apparently some people see it as an advantage.

Many people will hit retirement age and still have a mortgage. The monthly payments may be a bargain compared with rent and are sure to be much lower than assisted living or a nursing home.

Real estate agents who won’t write

Tappan 4000
Mid-century modern home has working Tappan400 cooktop and oven. Cabinets have original hardware.

My job requires a lot of reading and writing. I need to be able to communicate repairs, write amendments and provide remarks for my listings on the MLS. I need to be able to create property flyers that market homes.

Advertising is most often in writing and so are responses to emails that are sent by clients, lenders and other agents.

There are real estate agents who do not write. They answer emails with phone calls. They make a call to follow up on written feedback about their listings, and they leave a lot of messages.

Most home buyers constantly look at homes for sale on the internet. Photography matters more than words but words are needed. Pictures need descriptions and comment fields in our MLS should not be left blank.

We call the words advertising. They explain the home and point out features and benefits. The best practice is to take advantage of every field in the MLS where words are allowed.

Being able to read is also extremely important, but I won’t go there. 🙂

When choosing an agent choose one who is willing to write.

Having less is hard work

Back in 2012 I stated the process of getting rid of some of our excess stuff. I made some progress but then through a series of events ended up with all of my parents stuff and somewhere a niece came to live with us for a few years.

Five years later I am again making progress. Buying things is fairly easy getting rid of things is a lot harder. I have given items away and have had them recycled. I make regular donations to the thrift shop down the street. Occasionally we leave items by the curb and wait for them to disappear.

The next generation mostly isn’t interested in my stuff. I feel like it is my responsibility to keep it out of the landfill.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend and client who is in the process of getting ready to move. They are down sizing and will need less in their new home. She started the downsizing process three years ago and is happy that she did. She now has fewer items to move and fewer to get rid of.

Most of us accumulated stuff over a period of decades. The best way to get rid of the excess is to plan ahead and pare it down and start getting rid of anything that isn’t needed or that you don’t love.

With my parents stuff I did not have a lot of time to make decisions. Their home had to be emptied and there was a hard deadline and they couldn’t take it all with them.

This year far more has left my home than has come into my home. In fact I try to move two things out for everything I bring in.

If you are over 55 and have not moved for a few decades now is the time to start getting rid of any excess stuff. It is alright to call your children and ask them to move their stuff out of your basement.

pop corn popper
a gift from the last century – never used

At this point I could also post pictures of empty cabinets, shelves and drawers too.