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

Small houses and storage

There are some advantages to owning a small house:

  • Less expensive to buy
  • Lower heating and cooling costs
  • Fewer rooms to furnish
  • Less square footage to clean
  • lower maintenance costs

Those are some of the obvious advantages.

Most of us see having less storage space as a disadvantage but it doesn’t have to be.

Do we really need to own a lot of things that we never or rarely ever use but that we store? What about things that have sentimental value that we look at now and then?

Most of us don’t even know what we have or where it is. Have you ever run out and bought something that you already own but couldn’t find?

Living in a smaller house with fewer belongings can be life-changing. Having fewer belongings can mean more freedom. Downsizing from a larger house can be hellish, but is easier if you think in terms of having less stuff rather than about having less storage space.

We have small houses in St. Paul. They were built long ago during a simpler time when people had fewer belongings. People did not need huge walk-in closets. If you are planning on buying a house this year consider thinking small.

Also, see Still obsessed with tiny houses

Plan ahead, downsizing isn’t easy

Minimalists have more space

Will our children ever take their stuff?

Adult children leave stuff behind

Having less is hard work

What is clutter?

Real estate broker cooperation

It is common for an agent from one company to list a home for sale and an agent from another company brings in the buyer. It is called broker reciprocity. When your home is on the market and listed with a REALTOR thousands of local agents are competing with each other to find a buyer.

Broker reciprocity works because of the promise to pay the buyers agent. The agent who represents the seller charges a commission and shares it with the buyer’s agent who may end up getting paid more than the seller’s agent.

As far as I know, this type of arrangement is unique to real estate sales.

Often the agent who actually “sells” the house isn’t the agent who listed it and put the sign in front. The listing agent gets his or her name on the sign but the buyer’s agent does not.

People who are buying or selling a home are not required to use a real estate agent.

If you search for homes for sale on the internet usually the fine print on the bottom of the page will say that the listing is provided courtesy of XYZ company.

The days when only a real estate agent knew about homes for sale are long gone, yet we still add value to the process because an experienced agent has worked through many home sales. Finding a house that is for sale is one small part of the home buying process.

The home buying process should be more transparent than it is. If you are buying real estate and working with a buyers agent ask questions. Most people do not buy houses all that often.

tower
Brownstone

Also, see Agency in real estate

real estate commissions are always negotiable

You may have heard or you may believe that REALTORS and real estate agents all charge X%.

The truth is we are not allowed to know what other agents are charging and there is no central data repository where commissions data can be collected and analyzed.

Some real estate companies tell their agents to charge X amount. Real estate agents are independent contractors and can say no or move to another company.

Real estate commissions are always negotiable. It isn’t always easy to negotiate with real estate agents. We negotiate all the time. Most of us wake up unemployed each morning and spend the day looking for clients. Those of us who survive get to be pretty good at negotiating.

If you find real estate agent who will not negotiate find one who will. There are like a zillion agents who are qualified to sell your home and who would do a good job. There isn’t any reason to settle.

You want an agents who is easy to work with and one who can negotiate.

When negotiating commission agents are taught to tell homeowners that agents who will discount their commission will likely get less for your house. There is no data to back that up. It is the sellers who have the last word about which offer gets accepted, not the agent.

Some agents will tell you they are worth “X” % and show you a list of services they provide and ask you which services they should cut so that they can work for less. Go ahead and challenge the agent to tell you how much each of those services cost.

Buyers agents usually get paid by the seller through the listing agent. I for one have never asked a buyer to pay my commission directly but I certainly could.

If a home buyer asked me to give them part of the commission I would probably say no. What some buyers do not realize is that working with a buyer is a lot more work than working with a seller.

Finding a home for sale has gotten fairly easy but is only a small part of the job. Learning to handle the multiple offers, negotiations during the inspection period and getting it all the way to the closing table can be challenging.

When choosing an agent a home buyer or seller should be choosing an agent who has experience. Agents with no experience can charge as much as experienced agents charge.

When looking for an agent ask your neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers for a recommendation. Talk to a few agents and ask them how much they charge. Also, ask about any fees charged by the real estate company in addition to a commission.

Also see Oink!

How not to chose a real estate agent