Do you know what your real estate agent is doing?

lowertown buildings
Downtown St. Paul

I have been writing about the seller’s market and lack of homes for sale for a few years now. It has changed the dynamics from the days when we used to “woo” buyers.

Yesterday I sent an email with a question a buyer has about a home that is being listed by a big real estate team. I got an immediate reply from an autoresponder thanking me for my offer.

I am still trying to reach the team. I think they will get offers and they don’t care about the question.

Some listings have information about which days they will look at offers and present them to sellers. I contact my home seller clients as soon as I receive an offer.  I work around my clients schedule not my own.

The real estate buying process has changed a lot. There are rules, deadlines, and ultimatums being set by sellers agents. If these agents can spend less time and money on each listing they can make more money.

Real estate agents represent their clients. Often the buyer is ticked off and even distrustful of the seller and frustrated with the process before the seller even gets the offer.

I know several successful real estate agents who treat everyone fairly and with kindness. No one has to hire a jerk to get their real estate sold.

There isn’t any advantage to home sellers in having an agent who is a jerk. I can not see any business reason for treating other agents or their clients any differently than we treat our own clients.

Showings were down in March

A couple of my data sources show that showings were lower in March of 2019 than they were in March of 2018. According to ShowingTime, they were down 9.2% in the midwest.

ShowingTime is the online appointment solution we use locally to schedule showings which are appointments to tour homes for sale.

In the Twin Cities homes on the market got an average of 6.8 showings in March as compared with 7.1 in March of 2018. One possible explanation could be that homes are selling so fast in the metro area that they are not on the market long enough to have many showings.

If I look at average days on the market in March of 2018 Vs. March of 2019, the numbers are 26 in 2018 Vs. 23 in 2019. Which means my theory has some merit.

Often with numbers, the cause and effect are not well established. A random metric is chosen and we are supposed to draw a conclusion.

There are more buyers than there are sellers. I think this trend will continue for the next several years. The trend impacts all of our metrics.

If you are interested in selling your house, please contact us for a free consultation. 

Longer inspection period may benefit sellers

When buyers make an inspection contingent offer they need to specify how long the inspection period will be. I encourage my buyers to ask for a ten-day inspection period. Often sellers prefer a shorter period and will counter.

Sellers mistakenly believe that a shorter period is in their best interest. If something goes wrong they can get the house back on the market quicker and perhaps get another offer.

A shorter inspection period for the buyers also means a shorter period for the sellers. If the buyers are unable to get an inspector because inspectors are super busy during the home buying season the inspection might be scheduled on day 4 or 5.

If the buyers find an issue the sellers might not have enough time to find out how much a repair might cost or do any research to find out if the repair is needed. Sellers may end up saying yes or no to a repair that ends up being expensive or unnecessary or both.

When the inspection period is too short and sellers agree to repairs without at least researching the cost or checking to see if there is someone who can do that work they may be in for a surprise when they get the bill or find out that the work can not be completed for months.

This time of year contractors and inspectors are busy. Getting work done can be a challenge and getting an estimate quickly isn’t always possible.

Inspections slow down the home buying and home selling process but they also help protect both buyer and seller. After the inspection, all parties have an understanding of the condition of the house.

Either party can ask for an extension of the inspection period during the inspection period if needed.

what is happening in your home during the open house?

Last weekend I ended up attending a few open houses with some clients I was house hunting with. I had made appointments to see the homes and the appointments just happen to be at the same time as the open house.

When I go into an open house I introduce myself and my clients and I had the agent a business card.

One of the agents I met did not know anything about the house and could not answer buyer questions. He was also rude. He was young and did mention that it wasn’t his listing. Open houses really are for agents, not home sellers or buyers. They are a great way for new agents to meet homebuyers and attempt to get them under contract.

At another open house, I mentioned an obvious defect to my clients. The agent conducting the open overheard me and told me I was wrong. There was some back and forth and my clients were highly amused.

It isn’t wise to state that something isn’t broken. Agents and homeowners should never try to conceal defects. Saying that something is in working order is almost like a warranty and is certainly beyond the expertise of most real estate agents.

If she felt she had to say something she could have just acknowledge the remark without comment.

In another open house, two agents were talking to each other and totally ignored us after I handed them my card and introduced my clients. The better practice would be to ask the buyers if they have any questions and let the agent know she can call with questions if they come up later on. A pro might even give a pitch for the house and point out a feature that is special.

Open houses are supposed to be welcoming and they should be conducted by someone who is professional and knowledgable about the property. The person or persons should be outgoing and friendly to all who enter the home.

I don’t do open houses myself. Mainly because I do not enjoy them and I think it shows.  When I ask someone to do an open house for me I only consider people who are good at it. I know people who absolutely love doing opens and are able to act as gracious hosts.

We are in a strong seller market. All of the houses except that one overpriced house that we saw last weekend have offers on them. Which means that open houses probably are not necessary and a bad open house won’t ruin the chances of getting an offer.

You might be ready to sell but is your kitchen ready?

Getting a house ready to sell is often about cleaning, painting and small repairs. Your kitchen may need extra attention and deeper cleaning. Here are some suggestions on what you can do to get your kitchen ready.

  1. Clear the countertops.  Remove anything that doesn’t need to be there and about half of the stuff that does need to be there. (My own math but it works)
  2. Clean cupboards inside and out. Put in some shelf liner.
  3. Remove any items from the cupboards that you will not be used during the next six weeks and then remove half of that.
  4. Clean out the fridge. Try to keep it clean with the minimum amount of food in it.
  5. Run the cleaning cycle on your oven(s). If you don’t know how to clean it find the model number, usually inside on the door frame and ask google for instructions. (Don’t ask Facebook, that takes too long.)
  6. Wipe everything down. Make those appliances sparkle. Clean that countertop and the windows too. Scrub the floor.
  7. Find a vanilla scented candle that can be left in the middle of the stove or cooktop during showings.
  8. If your kitchen is smallish remove any throw rugs.

Make sure that all light fixtures have light bulbs in them. Check the walls and ceilings for grease and dirt. Clean them if needed and repaint if necessary. Consider using a plug-in air freshener.

Personally, I like the candles that smell like various baked good or like apple and cinnamon.  Anything vanilla scented will remind the buyer of fresh baked cookies.

Some stagers like to put fake fruit and cookbooks in kitchens. Today’s buyers especially the younger buyers often prefer a more minimalist approach and kitchens with less in them look bigger.

Kitchens really do sell houses, make the most of the space.

kitchen

Love letters from buyers and fair housing

I don’t make the rules but I follow them and occasionally I write about them too.

We have had a few listings that have gotten multiple offers. Some of the buyers making an offer send ‘love letters” along with the offer. The letters say how much the buyers loved the house and how they plan to fill it with children. Buyers include pictures of themselves and of their children.

They also include information about the buyers marital and familial status. Sometimes the letter will mention a local church or parish school that the family plans to attend.

There isn’t any rule against buyers writing letters to the seller but I always advise my sellers to ignore the letter until after they have chosen an offer. It is against the law to favor one offer over another based on the race, religion or familial status of the offerer.

If the seller accepts the offer because they like the buyers the best and it wasn’t the best offer that could lead to a fair housing complaint. Sometimes the offers are similar but one offer has a letter with it. It is tempting to use the letter as a tie breaker but I strongly advise my clients against that.

Sometimes home sellers will tell me they really want to sell their house to a family with children. I have to explain to them that it doesn’t work that way and I can not help them. I can not advertise to families with children or any other demographic.

It is important to look at selling a home as a business transaction and to look at the terms in the offers and what kind of financing the buyers are using.

Sellers view love letters with caution