How to Interview A Listing Agent

Is interviewing a Real Estate Agent such a daunting task?

Not really.

Too many people rush into choosing a Listing Agent. Once the idea of selling pops into their minds, they may choose the first Agent that crosses their path, whether via postcard, a Facebook Ad or billboard. In fact, 72% of home sellers contacted only one Real Estate Agent before deciding on the ‘right Agent’ they like sell their home through.

The big question here is how does one avoid choosing the wrong Real Estate Agent for the job?

Either you interview a Real Estate Agent and decide to hire him right there and then; or you opt to interview a couple of Real Estate Agents. Whichever route you as a home seller decide to take, make sure you have prepared at least a handful of questions, which should quickly determine whether your decision to hire that Real Estate Agent was the good one (or not)!

Most Real Estate Agents will not expect you to be asking these types of questions!

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This list of 10 questions to ask when interviewing a Listing Agent will come in handy in separating the wheat from the chaff:

Question #1: How long have you been a Real Estate Agent?

As much as enthusiasm and passion a beginning Real Estate Agent might bring to the table, when it is time for contract negotiation, it will be the (negotiation) experience of the Agent which will bring the deal to a successful close!

The more contracts a Real Estate Agent has written over the years, the more experience he will have in detecting, avoiding, preparing, anticipating potential pitfalls! As any experienced Real Estate Agent can attest, there’s no such thing a ‘simple contract’ – every contract is unique and will require a customized legal frame work, making sure the terms and conditions of the deal are ironclad!

Of course, you’ll always have these superstar Agents who are making a killing in their first year of real estate, but those are the exception to the rule!

The other nine questions below will filter through whether you’re dealing with such a super-talented Agent or just a fly-by-night individual!

Question #2: How many real estate transactions did you close last year?

This might perhaps be seen as a rude or inappropriate question to ask if it were asked in any other field than real estate.

Real Estate Agents are always talking amongst one another about production numbers, as it’s an integrate part of their business models, annual goals, and getting more business!

Whereas the abstract figure won’t necessarily tell you a lot (other than give you a rough idea how much commission the Agent made), it does give you an idea of how active the Real Estate Agent is.

It might be tempting to look at the total number and use it as the sole measuring stick on how successful the Agent was, but one needs to put it into perspective:

The Real Estate Agent who sold the lower number of properties over the past 12 months might not immediately be your first choice, neither should the Agent who sold 50 properties in a particular year.

And why might that be?

Agents who give the highest listing price, do get a lot of business from home sellers, who don’t necessarily know any better, until it’s too late and the property has been exposed to the market for way too long! The overpriced properties you see lingering about for months on end, and plenty of expired listings are proof of that.

In other words, the ratio of houses the Agent eventually sells versus the (overpriced) properties that he still has on the books (which is called the sales-to-listing ratio) will be an important number to watch.

Thus, while not immediately evident by hearing a raw number, put into context, it is very revealing who is the better Agent: a Real Estate Agent who sells 16 out of his 20 listings compared to another Agent who sells 35 out of 70 listings!

Question #3: Is being a Real Estate Agent your full-time job?

There is this misconception that being a Real Estate Agent must be such an easy job, which offers lots of free time, days off, and can make you bundles of money. But if you interview a Real Estate Agent who’s been around the block, you will more than hear something completely different!

While one might initially be going through training and learning the ropes on a part-time basis, providing a professional service to your clients does require a full-time Real Estate Agent.

How is the part-time Agent going to handle all the incoming viewing requests, specific property inquiries by home buyers or property valuations for home sellers if he’s too busy working another job?

Nevermind what might happen if there’s talk of writing an offer at the ‘wrong time’ for this part-time Agent. Time constraint? Availability? Imagine as a home seller to be losing such an interested home buyer because the (part-time) Agent’s agenda can’t accommodate!

Needless to say, hiring a part-time Real Estate Agent is not advisable!

Question #4: How often can we expect feedback from you?

Perhaps the line of questioning ought to go in the direction of who will be providing the feedback!

Is the Real Estate Agent working on his own, together with a personal assistant or is there an entire team behind the scene? And more importantly, who will end up being the person you, as the home seller, will get all the feedback from?

It’s only normal for a home seller wanting to know what the home buyers have been saying about their property during the viewings over the course of the week. Most well-oiled teams have this part covered with a feedback system to make sure the home seller gets proper, timely information about buyer feedback!

Not only before the property is sold, but also during and afterwards, it’s vital for the Agent to keep the home seller in the loop of where they stand in the process: is a home inspection due or is the bank appraisal taking place soon? Plus, will the Agent be present during those activities as well?

RELATED: 10 Ways to Prepare for A Home Showing in Under An Hour

Each of those events, as small or big as they may be, requires feedback to the home seller. This is where a professional Real Estate Agent (and/or team) stands out from the crowd! There’s no such thing as too much feedback!

Question #5: How do you normally communicate with your clients?

Depending on how the Agent responds to the previous question, you’ll lead right into this one.

Once you’ve established the frequency or timing of the feedback, you need to figure out which communication medium your Agent uses with other clients.

When you interview a Real Estate Agent, you need to make sure to inform the Real Estate Agent of your preferred method of communication!

Some people are stuck on a personal phone call following every showing appointment, others might be too busy and rather prefer you to send them a text message or email them a summary of what happened during the viewing.

Having said that, one of the biggest complaints people have against Agents is the lack of communication.

If an Agent happens to be in a client meeting and can’t pick up the phone, we all know that those things happen and a return call afterwards will set everything straight. However, I’m referring to the blatant lack of respect on part of a lot of Real Estate Agents who believe returning phone calls the same day is something of an unnecessary luxury. This Agent is in control of the sale of your life’s most expensive asset, so the least he can do is treat you with respect by returning your call(s) ASAP!

Question #6: Can you provide us with a recent list of client references?

There are pretty much two options you could go with:

(1) ask the Listing Agent for a list of recent client references, which is something he’ll more than likely have written out on a personal testimonial page on his website. You can also check sites like Zillow and Google for online reviews that the Agent cannot filter.

(2) maybe a better option would be to request the details of the last few homes he sold and consequently contact those people yourself. It might take a little bit more time and effort, but the feedback you’ll get from these previous clients will more than likely be quite informative, and more importantly, be unprepared by the Agent!

Question #7: How did you determine the asking price of our home?

Here, you have a couple of popular ways to arrive at the market value:

The most commonly used method (as well as the best one) is the Comparative Market Analysis (CMA), which allows the Agent to look at the recently sold properties in your immediate vicinity, as well as the current properties for sale, all within a similar size, look and price range, in order to arrive at a fair market value!

RELATED: The Importance Of Proper Pricing

As you interview a Real Estate Agent, nothing stops you from asking him to show you some proof regarding the CMA’s conclusions.

RELATED: About the Comparative Market Analysis

Question #8: Will you personally be taking pictures of our home?

How often have you browsed a property portal and come across some incredibly bad pictures? What was the Agent thinking? And how did the seller approve that marketing material?

This makes you stop and think who could have possibly have taken those unprofessional photos?

RELATED: Mega Tips for a First-Time Home Seller

Whereas there are Agents who have particularly good photography skills and appropriate equipment to present your home at its best, the majority of Real Estate Agents don’t.

The importance of having great photos as part of your marketing cannot be stressed enough!

Bottom line: unless this Real Estate Agent is half a pro at taking real estate photos himself, insist on a Professional Real Estate Photographer.

Question #9: Which advertising tools will you be using to market our home?

Besides the traditional advertising tools, such as ads in newspapers, magazines, postcards, billboards etc., any decent Real Estate Agents needs to have a strong online presence.

Marketing should be happening all over! Your property needs to get exposed to as many potential home buyers as possible!

As a quick reminder, 90% of the home buyers start their home search online!

RELATED: Your Unique Marketing Plan

The internet is where all the researching and reading up happens, months before the home buyer even contacts the Agent!

Through the Agent’s online activities across many social network platforms, his personal website, and an active blogging calendar, chances are very good that the home buyers will keep running into that Agent’s content during their information-gathering phase. And who will they more than likely be contacting to help them find homes for sale on the Jersey Shore once they’re ready? After all, without even having met the Agent, these home buyers already have quite the impression of him due to this dominant online presence!

Question #10: Do you provide any additional services?

Sometimes it’s nice to know whether the Agent can offer you something different from the other Agents.

Any experienced Agent will immediately suggest helping out with the presentation of your home: from the cleaning & decluttering, to some of the needed repairs to the house, to getting that garden up-to-date, with extra attention pruning the shrubs & trimming the lawn.

Provided that the Agent has been working in the local area for many years, he’ll be able to set you up with a list of vendors as well, ranging from local handymen, attorneys, moving companies, to name but a few.

Keep in mind that the better Agents have your best interest at heart and don’t mean anything personal or hurtful if they point out potential negatives throughout the house.

The Real Estate Agent’s advice shouldn’t be taken lightly, as it is in their interest as well to have a more desirable and saleable product to present to buyers!

YOUR TURN

Have you recently interviewed a Listing Agent to sell your home? What did you learn? Did you rush through the process with regrets? Share your story on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE™ eNewsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

 

What Is a Real Estate Agent’s Commission?

Ever wonder what exactly a Real Estate Agent does? Are they worth the commission? Ever wonder if you’re paying too much for commission? Even consider going it your own via FSBO?

You may have a great Agent and they don’t communicate with you all they’re doing. Or, you may also have a rock star agent and who’s doing so much it hasn’t even occurred to you all the fine details going into your home sale.

Is a Real Estate Agent Worth the Commission

Here are a few facts that might help you sleep at night and have some peace about residential real estate commissions:

1. Real estate agents are sole proprietors

That means that even if they are a part of an agency, they are small business owners and cover all their own costs and carry all the risk. Do you own or have you ever owned your own small business? Then you know you wear ALL the hats and all the responsibility falls to you. Not to mention, your rather high tax rate!

They invest in you and your home. If they take on a listing, that means they’ve calculated the cost of marketing, photos, and time – lots and lots of time. High quality marketing – online and offline – and maybe even virtual tours. All that cost money. There’s considerable overhead if you are active in the field.

They have no salary and no real predictability in income. One deal may have to last them many months or maybe even longer.

2. The sale of your home may be covering for the loss of another

Deals fall through ALL. THE. TIME. Your particular sale may go pretty smoothly – great! I guarantee you it has ended up covering for a major loss on another deal. It’s the nature of business.

3. The real work begins once a contract is accepted

It may feel like all an agent does is show up sometimes for an open house here and there and put a sign in the yard. Or every time they come over, they’re telling you things you need to spend money on. But the real work is done behind the scenes and is intensified once an offer is accepted. Getting to the closing table is more and more challenging.

CASE STUDY

 

Pat Vredevoogd-Combs, a former president of the National Association of REALTORS, testified before the House Financial Services Committee on Housing to stark federal complaints about residential real estate industry pricing.

She submitted a list of 184 things that Listing Agents do in every real estate transaction as a part of her testimony to the committee. She stated, “By all accounts the general public is not aware of all the services that agents provide to sellers and buyers during the course of the transaction, probably because most of the important services are performed behind the scenes.”

Here is the list of (just) 184 things residential real estate agents do:

Pre-Listing Activities

1. Make appointment with seller for listing presentation.

2. Send a written or e-mail confirmation of appointment and call to confirm.

3. Review appointment questions.

4. Research all comparable currently listed properties.

5. Research sales activity for past 18 months from MLS and public databases.

6. Research “average days on market” for properties similar in type, price and location.

7. Download and review property tax roll information.

8. Prepare “comparable market analysis” (CMA) to establish market value.

9. Obtain copy of subdivision plat/complex layout.

10. Research property’s ownership and deed type.

11. Research property’s public record information for lot size and dimensions.

12. Verify legal description.

13. Research property’s land use coding and deed restrictions.

14. Research property’s current use and zoning.

15. Verify legal names of owner(s) in county’s public property records.

16. Prepare listing presentation package with above materials.

17. Perform exterior “curb appeal assessment” of subject property.

18. Compile and assemble formal file on property.

19. Confirm current public schools and explain their impact on market value.

20. Review listing appointment checklist to ensure completion of all tasks.

Listing Appointment Presentation

21. Give seller an overview of current market conditions and projections.

22. Review agent and company credentials and accomplishments.

23. Present company’s profile and position or “niche” in the marketplace.

24. Present CMA results, including comparables, solds, current listings and expireds.

RELATED: Why You Need An Agent To Sell Your Home

25. Offer professional pricing strategy based and interpretation of current market conditions.

26. Discuss goals to market effectively.

27. Explain market power and benefits of multiple listing service.

28. Explain market power of Web marketing, IDX and MLS.

29. Explain the work the broker and agent do “behind the scenes” and agent’s availability on weekends.

30. Explain agent’s role in screening qualified buyers to protect against curiosity seekers.

31. Present and discuss strategic master marketing plan.

32. Explain different agency relationships and determine seller’s preference.

33. Review all clauses in listing contract and obtain seller’s signature.

After Listing Agreement is Signed

34. Review current title information.

35. Measure overall and heated square footage.

36. Measure interior room sizes.

37. Confirm lot size via owner’s copy of certified survey, if available.

38. Note any and all unrecorded property lines, agreements, easements.

39. Obtain house plans, if applicable and available.

40. Review house plans, make copy.

41. Order plat map for retention in property’s listing file.

42. Prepare showing instructions for buyers’ agents and agree on showing time with seller.

43. Obtain current mortgage loan(s) information: companies and account numbers

44. Verify current loan information with lender(s).

45. Check assumability of loan(s) and any special requirements.

46. Discuss possible buyer financing alternatives and options with seller.

47. Review current appraisal if available.

48. Identify Home Owner Association manager is applicable.

49. Verify Home Owner Association fees with manager–mandatory or optional and current annual fee.

50. Order copy of Home Owner Association bylaws, if applicable.

51. Research electricity availability and supplier’s name and phone number.

52. Calculate average utility usage from last 12 months of bills.

53. Research and verify city sewer/septic tank system.

54. Calculate average water system fees or rates from last 12 months of bills.

55. Or confirm well status, depth and output from Well Report.

56. Research/verify natural gas availability, supplier’s name and phone number.

57. Verify security system, term of service and whether owned or leased.

58. Verify if seller has transferable Termite Bond.

59. Ascertain need for lead-based paint disclosure.

60. Prepare detailed list of property amenities and assess market impact.

61. Prepare detailed list of property’s “Inclusions & Conveyances with Sale.”

62. Complete list of completed repairs and maintenance items.

63. Send “Vacancy Checklist” to seller if property is vacant.

64. Explain benefits of Home Owner Warranty to seller.

65. Assist sellers with completion and submission of Home Owner Warranty application.

66. When received, place Home Owner Warranty in property file for conveyance at time of sale.

67. Have extra key made for lockbox.

68. Verify if property has rental units involved. And if so:

69. Make copies of all leases for retention in listing file.

70. Verify all rents and deposits.

71. Inform tenants of listing and discuss how showings will be handled.

72. Arrange for yard sign installation.

73. Assist seller with completion of Seller’s Disclosure form.

74. Complete “new listing checklist.”

75. Review results of Curb Appeal Assessment with seller and suggest improvements for salability.

76. Review results of Interior Decor Assessment and suggest changes to shorten time on market.

77. Load listing time into transaction management software.

Entering Property in MLS Database

78. Prepare MLS Profile Sheet–agent is responsible for “quality control” and accuracy of listing data.

79. Enter property data from Profile Sheet into MLS listing database.

80. Proofread MLS database listing for accuracy, including property placement in mapping function.

81. Add property to company’s Active Listings.

82. Provide seller with signed copies of Listing Agreement and MLS Profile Data Form within 48 hours.

83. Take more photos for upload into MLS and use in flyers. Discuss efficacy of panoramic photography.

Marketing the Listing

84. Create print and Internet ads with seller’s input.

85. Coordinate showings with owners, tenants and other agents. Return all calls–weekends included.

86. Install electronic lockbox. Program with agreed-upon showing time windows.

87. Prepare mailing and contact list.

88. Generate mail-merge letters to contact list.

89. Order “Just Listed” labels and reports.

90. Prepare flyers and feedback forms.

91. Review comparable MLS listings regularly to ensure property remains competitive in price, terms, conditions and availability.

92. Prepare property marketing brochure for seller’s review.

93. Arrange for printing or copying of supply of marketing brochures or flyers.

94. Place marketing brochures in all company agent mailboxes.

95. Upload listing to company and agent Internet sites.

RELATED: Your Custom Home Marketing Plan

96. Mail “Just Listed” notice to all neighborhood residents.

97. Advise Network Referral Program of listing.

98. Provide marketing data to buyers from international relocation networks.

99. Provide marketing data to buyers coming from referral network.

100. Provide “Special Feature” cards for marketing, if applicable/

101. Submit ads to company’s participating Internet real estate sites.

102. Convey price changes promptly to all Internet groups.

103. Reprint/supply brochures promptly as needed.

104. Review and update loan information in MLS as required.

105. Send feedback e-mails/faxes to buyers’ agents after showings.

106. Review weekly Market Study.

107. Discuss feedback from showing agents with seller to determine if changes will accelerate the sale.

108. Place regular weekly update calls to seller to discuss marketing and pricing.

109. Promptly enter price changes in MLS listings database.

The Offer and the Contract

110. Receive and review all Offer to Purchase contracts submitted by buyers or buyers’ agents. 111. Evaluate offer(s) and prepare “net sheet” on each for owner to compare.

112. Counsel seller on offers. Explain merits and weakness of each component of each offer. 113. Contact buyers’ agents to review buyer’s qualifications and discuss offer.

114. Fax/deliver Seller’s Disclosure to buyer’s agent or buyer upon request and prior to offer if possible.

115. Confirm buyer is pre-qualified by calling loan officer.

116. Obtain pre-qualification letter on buyer from loan officer.

117. Negotiate all offers on seller’s behalf, setting time limit for loan approval and closing date.

118. Prepare and convey any counteroffers, acceptance or amendments to buyer’s agent.

119. Fax copies of contract and all addendums to closing attorney or title company.

120. When Offer-to-Purchase contract is accepted and signed by seller, deliver to buyer’s agent.

121. Record and promptly deposit buyer’s money into escrow account.

122. Disseminate “Under-Contract Showing Restrictions” as seller requests.

123. Deliver copies of fully signed Offer to Purchase contract to sellers.

124. Fax/deliver copies of Offer to Purchase contract to selling agent.

125. Fax copies of Offer to Purchase contract to lender.

126. Provide copies of signed Offer to Purchase contract for office file.

127. Advise seller in handling additional offers to purchase submitted between contract and closing.

128. Change MLS status to “Sale Pending.”

129. Update transaction management program to show “Sale Pending.”

130. Review buyer’s credit report results–Advise seller of worst and best case scenarios.

131. Provide credit report information to seller if property is to be seller financed.

132. Assist buyer with obtaining financing and follow up as necessary.

133. Coordinate with lender on discount points being locked in with dates.

134. Deliver unrecorded property information to buyer.

135. Order septic inspection, if applicable.

136. Receive and review septic system report and access any impact on sale.

137. Deliver copy of septic system inspection report to lender and buyer.

138. Deliver well flow test report copies to lender, buyer and listing file.

139. Verify termite inspection ordered.

140. Verify mold inspection ordered, if required.

Tracking the Loan Process

141. Confirm return of verifications of deposit and buyer’s employment.

142. Follow loan processing through to the underwriter.

143. Add lender and other vendors to transaction management program so agents, buyer and seller can track progress of sale.

144. Contact lender weekly to ensure processing is on track.

145. Relay final approval of buyer’s loan application to seller.

Home Inspection

146. Coordinate buyer’s professional home inspection with seller.

147. Review home inspector’s report.

148. Enter completion into transaction management tracking software program.

149. Explain seller’s responsibilities of loan limits and interpret any clauses in the contract.

150. Ensure seller’s compliance with home inspection clause requirements.

151. Assist seller with identifying and negotiating with trustworthy contractors for required repairs.

152. Negotiate payment and oversee completion of all required repairs on seller’s behalf, if needed.

The Appraisal

153. Schedule appraisal.

154. Provide comparable sales used in market pricing to appraiser.

155. Follow up on appraisal.

156. Enter completion into transaction management program.

157. Assist seller in questioning appraisal report if it seems too low.

Closing Preparations and Duties

158. Make sure contract is signed by all parties.

159. Coordinate closing process with buyer’s agent and lender.

160. Update closing forms and files.

161. Ensure all parties have all forms and information needed to close the sale.

162. Select location for closing.

163. Confirm closing date and time and notify all parties.

164. Solve any title problems (boundary disputes, easements, etc.) or in obtaining death certificates.

165. Work with buyer’s agent in scheduling and conducting buyer’s final walkthrough prior to closing.

166. Research all tax, HOA, utility and other applicable prorations.

167. Request final closing figures from closing agent (attorney or title company).

168. Receive and carefully review closing figures to ensure accuracy.

169. Forward verified closing figures to buyer’s agent.

170. Request copy of closing documents from closing agent.

171. Confirm the buyer and buyer’s agent received title insurance commitment.

172. Provide “Home Owners Warranty” for availability at closing.

173. Review all closing documents carefully for errors.

174. Forward closing documents to absentee seller as requested.

175. Review documents with closing agent (attorney).

176. Provide earnest money deposit from escrow account to closing agent.

177. Coordinate closing with seller’s next purchase, resolving timing issues.

178. Have a “no surprises” closing so that seller receives a net proceeds check at closing.

179. Refer sellers to one of the best agents at their destination, if applicable.

180. Change MLS status to Sold. Enter sale date, price, selling broker and agent’s ID numbers, etc.

181. Close out listing in transaction management program.

Follow Up After Closing

182. Answer questions about filing claims with Home Owner Warranty company, if requested.

183. Attempt to clarify and resolve any repair conflicts if buyer is dissatisfied.

184. Respond to any follow-up calls and provide any additional information required from office files.

YOUR TURN

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8 Things Interior Designers Notice the Instant They Walk Through Your Door

If an interior designer were to walk through your front door, like, right now, what would this professional think of the place you call home?

We’ll tell you right now: plenty. And that’s even before you’ve given the pro the grand tour. Interior designers, with their sharply honed sensibilities, can take in a space in seconds. In fact, these pros can’t help but make a ton of snap judgments—and typically these first impressions aren’t all that good.

Interior Design Tips

In case you’re curious about what jumps out at interior designers when they first enter a home, here’s an unsettling glimpse. But don’t beat yourself up if you recognize your home in some of these scenarios; these flaws are common and entirely fixable. Read on for an inspiring home decor wake-up call.

1. A Wonky Flow

Does the furniture placement in your home promote good flow of traffic? Most living and family rooms have a focal wall that’s anchored by a fireplace or television, which means the chairs and couch should be arranged to face this point without causing you to walk awkwardly around them.

This can be a challenge with an open floor plan, with pieces defeating the whole ‘open’ idea.

The solution: Less is more. Remove extraneous chairs and side tables to create a natural path in and out of the space.

2. Poor Lighting

The wrong lighting can ruin even the best interior design.

If the overall look of your home is dark and drab it’s usually because there’s not enough of the right kinds of light.

Of course, we can’t all be blessed with a flood of natural light, but you can install what you need rather easily. Sit in each chair or section of the room, and determine whether you can read easily. If not, add in the missing table or floor lamps; don’t rely on one big overhead light. And opt for bulbs that boast a more natural feel.

3. Insane Clutter

Interior designers dream of a streamlined, junk-free look, which means their eyes will immediately come to rest on the hot mess that is your bookshelf.

RELATED: 9 Decluttering Tasks You Can Do in 30 Minutes Or Less

Good rule of thumb… just because you have it doesn’t mean it needs to be on display. Pick and choose a few sentimental or interesting pieces to show off and put the rest away.

4. A Lack of Theme

Style continuity is a big one for design pros. If your pieces don’t work well together or there’s no unifying color or theme to the rooms, the whole look can feel off.

This seems to come from a lack of understanding of the style elements and characteristics of the pieces in the room. Too many colors, in particular, can create a sense of disorder. Make it better by choosing a neutral palette and then introducing just a couple of coordinating hues.

5. That (Ahem) Smell

Interior designers make snap judgments not just on what they see, but also on what they smell. As a homeowner, you’ve become inured to your own odors, but an outsider can nail a scent right away.

Pets are the most obvious offenders, followed by cooking smells and odious candles. Fortunately, the remedy is an easy one; open the windows as often as you can to air out stale spaces (especially in bedrooms and the kitchen).

6. The State of Your Loo

The hard truth: Your bathroom must be pristine!

Interior professionals (and potential buyers) will look with a critical eye at every bathroom in your home, and a dirty one will convince them that the entire home isn’t clean, even if it is. Towels must be fresh, grout should be clean, and definitely clear your counters of personal items (makeup, hair dryer, toothbrush).

7. No Sense of Scale

We’re talking tiny lamps on huge tables, or king-size beds squeezed into too-small rooms.

Layout and scale is more noticeable than you think. Sometimes it’s a result of buying a whole package at the furniture store instead of choosing complementary items in the correct sizes for your home.

To fix this, try to mix and match your styles and the stores where you shop. You’ll end up with a more interesting, inviting space.

8. A Lack of Personal Style

Let it shine! A lack of personality in a home means your space will appear boring or sterile. Even worse is a look that’s been copied directly from a catalog. A designer can certainly help you develop a style, but you can also jazz up your abode with art you love, mementos from a faraway trip, or a collection that has special meaning.

YOUR TURN

What’s your biggest interior design challenge? What have you completely aced you’d like to boast about? Share your comments and pictures on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, Twitter or LinkedIn, or on our Instagram feed. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

5 Reasons You Should Never Buy or Sell a Home Without a Real Estate Agent

You’re DIY’ing this real estate thing, and you think you’re doing pretty well—after all, any info you might need is at your fingertips online, right? That and your own judgment.

Oh, dear home buyer (or seller!)—we know you can do it on your own. But you really, really shouldn’t. This is likely the biggest financial decision of your entire life, and you need Real Estate Agent if you want to do it right.

Here’s why…

1. They have loads of expertise

Want to check the MLS for a 4B/2B with an EIK and a W/D? Real estate has its own language, full of acronyms and semi-arcane jargon, and your Real Estate Agent is trained to speak that language fluently.

Plus, buying or selling a home usually requires dozens of forms, reports, disclosures, and other technical documents. Real Estate Agents have the expertise to help you prepare a killer deal—while avoiding delays or costly mistakes that can seriously mess you up.

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Complete Home Buyer Guide

2. They have turbocharged searching power

The Internet is awesome. You can find almost anything—anything! And with online real estate listing sites such as yours truly, you can find up-to-date home listings on your own, any time you want. But guess what? Real Estate Agents have access to even more listings. Sometimes properties are available but not actively advertised. A Real Estate Agent can help you find those hidden gems.

Plus, a good local Real Estate Agent is going to know the search area way better than you ever could. Have your eye on a particular neighborhood, but it’s just out of your price range? Your Real Estate Agent is equipped to know the ins and outs of every neighborhood, so she can direct you toward a home in your price range that you may have overlooked.

3. They have bullish negotiating chops

Any time you buy or sell a home, you’re going to encounter negotiations—and as today’s housing market heats up, those negotiations are more likely than ever to get a little heated.

You can expect lots of competition, cutthroat tactics, all-cash offers, and bidding wars. Don’t you want a savvy and professional negotiator on your side to seal the best deal for you?

RELATED: Patrick Parker Realty’s Refined Negotiation Strategy

And it’s not just about how much money you end up spending or netting. A Real Estate Agent will help draw up a purchase agreement that allows enough time for inspections, contingencies, and anything else that’s crucial to your particular needs.

4. They’re connected to everyone

Real Estate Agents might not know everything, but they make it their mission to know just about everyone who can possibly help in the process of buying or selling a home. Mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, home inspectors, home stagers, interior designers—the list goes on—and they’re all in your Real Estate Agent’s network. Use them.

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Complete Home Sellers Guide

5. They’re your sage parent/data analyst/therapist—all rolled into one

The thing about Real Estate Agents: They wear a lot of different hats. Sure, they’re salespeople, but they actually do a whole heck of a lot to earn their commission. They’re constantly driving around, checking out listings for you. They spend their own money on marketing your home (if you’re selling). They’re researching comps to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

And, of course, they’re working for you at nearly all hours of the day and night—whether you need more info on a home or just someone to talk to in order to feel at ease with the offer you just put in. This is the biggest financial (and possibly emotional) decision of your life, and guiding you through it isn’t a responsibility Real Estate Agents take lightly.

YOUR TURN

Did you try the DIY route and the go Agent? Tell us about your experience. Sound of on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, our Twitter or LinkedIn Feeds or on our Instagram account. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Assessed Value vs. Market Value: What’s the Difference?

Homes don’t come with sticker prices set in stone. Rather they are moving targets – that’s what makes buying and selling real estate so fun! (Or frustrating, depending on your perspective.) And, as a buyer or seller, you will likely hear two “prices” thrown about: assessed value and market value. So what’s the difference?

While assessed value and market value may seem similar, these numbers can be different – typically assessed value is lower – and they’re used in distinct ways as well. So, let’s clear up any confusion so you can wield these terms to your advantage.

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What is Market Value?

The technical definition of market value is “the most probable price that a given property will bring in an open market transaction.” Or, in plain English, “It’s the price that a buyer is willing to pay for a home, and that a seller is willing to accept.”

Real estate agents are trained to pinpoint a home’s market value, which is done by looking at a variety of characteristics, including the following:

• External characteristics: Curb appeal, exterior condition of the home, lot size, home style, availability of public utilities.
• Internal characteristics: Size and number of rooms, construction and appliance quality and condition, heating systems, and energy efficiency.
• Comps or comparables: What similar homes in the same area have sold for recently.
• Supply and demand: The number of buyers and the number of sellers in your area.
• Location: How desirable is the neighborhood? Are the schools good? Is the crime rate low?

RELATED: WHAT’S MY HOME WORTH? GET A FREE COMPARABLE MARKET ANALYSIS

A home’s market value often is a good starting point for all kinds of things. For one, listing agents use market value to help sellers come up with a fair asking price for their home. And, since buyers shouldn’t just trust what sellers say their place is worth, their own agent can also estimate the home’s market value and come up with a different price that they think their clients should offer. No number is right or wrong; the ultimate deciding force is what price a buyer and seller are willing to shake hands on to close the deal.

What is Assessed Value?

When trying to understand the assessed value of a property, you must know who is doing the assessing and why the property is being assessed.

Municipalities, mostly counties, employ an assessor to place a value on a home in order to levy property taxes on it. To arrive at a value, the assessor (similar to a real estate agent) looks at what similar properties are selling for, the value of any recent improvements, any income you may be making from, say, renting out a room in the property, and other factors – like the replacement cost of the property if, God forbid, it burns down in a fire (which sounds dark, but assessors are thorough professionals who consider every possibility).

In the end, the assessor comes up with a value of your home. Then, he multiplies that number by an “assessment rate,” a uniform percentage that each tax jurisdiction sets that is typically 80% to 90%. So if, say, the market value of your home is $400,000 and your local assessment rate is 80%, then the assessed value of your home is $320,000.

That $320,000 is then used by your local government to calculate your property taxes. The higher your home’s assessed value, the more you’ll pay in taxes. You can check with your local tax assessor for a more exact figure for your home, or search by state, county, and ZIP code on publicrecords.netronline.com.

What Assessed and Market Values Mean to You?

While a home’s market value can rise and fall precipitously based on local conditions, assessed values are typically more immune to fluctuations. (Some states prohibit the assessed value from rising more than 3% a year even if market value increases.)

But the bottom line is, don’t get bent out of shape if you hear your assessed value isn’t as high as you’d hoped. Assessed value is used mostly for property tax purposes. Home buyers and sellers, on the other hand, look more to market value instead.

However, assessed value can come up when you buy or sell a home because this number, unlike the more subjective market value, is public knowledge contained in property records. So, rising assessed values bode well when home sellers try to justify their sale price to a buyer: “Hey, the assessed value is $310,000, and I’m only asking $320,000.” Likewise, buyers can use assessed value to justify a lower price: “Hey, the assessed value is $260,000, and you’re asking for $300,000. What gives?”

But the thing to remember with both assessed and market value is that at the end of the day, the price of a home is all in the eye of the beholder. The only number that matters is what a buyer and seller can agree sounds right, so don’t take any number you see too seriously.

YOUR TURN

What has your experience been with market value vs assessed value when selling or buying your home? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time. 

7 Important Things Home Sellers Often Forget to Do

When you’re selling your home there’s so much to do: find a Real Estate Agent, do touch-ups, get that balky air conditioner fixed, look into staging… It’s no wonder that sometimes things fall between the cracks. Big things. (We’re not pointing fingers, promise!)

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Our arsenal of experts—aka real estate agents who have worked with many home sellers—identify the to-do’s that sellers typically overlook. We promise you, these tasks are well worth the time it will take to complete them (which isn’t very long at all).

FREE DOWNLOAD: The Ultimate Guide to Selling Your Home

Heed this sound advice, and there’s a good chance selling your house won’t be nearly as stressful as everyone tells you it is.

To-do No. 1: Google your address

Not all sellers scour the Internet to find out what’s being said about their property, but they should. Nearly all buyers – 90% – search online during their hunt for a home, according to the National Association of Realtors. You should be aware of what your online listing looks like, since it will influence the kinds of impression, questions and concerns buyers will have.

For example, Google Maps’ street view of your property may not show improvements that you’ve made, so you’ll want to be sure to include those updates in your listing.

To-do No. 2: Account for improvements and issues

If you’ve owned your home for a while, make a list of all the problems you’ve solved while you’ve lived there. This could include chimney fires, water damage, or a flood in the basement. Whether you solved the problem or not, you should disclose this information to the buyer so you don’t wind up in a lawsuit after the sale. Disclosing “invisible improvements” that you’ve made, like re-grading or adding a French drain system, can also be a great source of comfort for buyers.

To-do No. 3: Check your real estate agent’s references

An agent’s bad behavior or incompetence could cost you time, money, and peace of mind, so it’s well worth taking extra steps to find the best real estate agent for you. Ask friends for recommendations and check online reviews.

RELATED: Read Patrick Parker’s Online Reviews

Check that the Agent’s you’re considering have a current real estate license – with no complaints filed against them. Meet with the Agent and reach out to a few of their references directly.

RELATED: Why You Need A Real Estate Agent to Sell Your Home

Real Estate Agents should be happy to provide a number of references for a new client to call. As far as talking to your friends about a Real Estate Agent recommendation or reading online reviews, here are some things to look for:

• Did you have confidence in your Real Estate Agent?
• Do you think he/she had good knowledge of the local market?
• Did your Agent communicate well and keep you informed during the entire transaction?
• Do you think that he/she negotiated well on your behalf?
• Did your Agent have good vendors who could assist you?
• Did your Agent return calls/emails in a timely fashion?
• Would you recommend this person? Why? (Or why not?)

To-do No. 4: Insist on social media marketing

You staged your home beautifully, picked a competitive price, and listed the property, but there’s something else you’ll need to prepare before you’re fully ready to sell – a social media marketing plan. Video tours, floor plans, and photo galleries promoted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are must-dos.

RELATED: Your Comprehensive Home Marketing Plan

You want to make sure that your Agent is using all avenues to attract the right buyer for your home. Make sure your home has a presence on your Agent’s website, their agency’s website, and is promoted on various sites that will market the home and give information about open houses.

To-do No. 5: Make sure the doorbell rings

Ah, attention to detail. It’s those little cosmetic repairs that could cost you your home sale. If buyers see that you can’t even be bothered to repair a busted doorbell, they’re automatically going to think about what else may need fixing and view the home negatively.

First impressions make all the difference. A well-kept home, starting with the view from the curb, gives the perception that the seller has great pride in the home and has taken good care of it – which translates into less energy and costs for the buyer as they prepare to move in.

To-do No. 6: Clean inside everything

Storage is a huge selling point for homes. So be warned: Buyers are going to poke around inside closets, drawers, cabinets, ovens, refrigerators, and even the dishwasher, whether they’re cleaned or not—so you’d better make sure they are clean.

Spending the money on a service to deep-clean your home will come back to you at least 10 times in your sales price. Even if you’ve swept up and scrubbed all surfaces to a shine, you’re not done until dust, crumbs, and creepy crawlies are cleaned out from within the small spaces too.

To-do No. 7: Clarify which items are not included

You don’t want a buyer to fall in love with your house because of the custom window treatments and then rescind their offer when they find out the curtains aren’t for sale.

The law says that anything bolted to the wall or ceiling goes to the buyer unless specifically excluded in the contract. If you want to take your flat-screen TV, chandelier, or custom pot rack, be sure to label it as soon as the house goes on the market, so that buyers don’t bank on owning that item and wind up disappointed.

YOUR TURN

Are you a recent seller who with items to add to our to-do list? Are you a buyer with feedback for sellers on how their property could have further won you over? We want to hear from you! Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

6 Bad Habits to Avoid If You Hope to Sell Your Home in 2017

Everyone has a few flaws. But if you plan to sell your New Jersey home in 2017, these foibles can literally cost you—we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars. What’s more, many homeowners may not even be aware that certain actions can hurt their odds of selling their home (that is, until it sits on the market with no takers).

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To help clue you in, here’s a list of regrettable blunders to kick to the curb starting now, even if you plan to put your home on the market next year:

Bad Habit No. 1: Overimproving your home
Dying to install new kitchen cabinets or retile your master bath? Home sellers often assume any upgrades they make to their home will pay them back in full once they sell, but that’s rarely the case. On average you will recoup just about 64% of the money you spend on renovations once you sell—and certain improvements can actually work against you if they’re unusual or undesirable in your market.

For instance, as much as you may be dying for a bidet in your bathroom, many others may not. Likewise, even if you consider a new swimming pool a plus, many homeowners don’t want the hassle of maintaining it (or the dangers if they have young kids).

Do this instead: Check out blog post on Home Improvements that offer the Biggest Return on Investment to see which upgrades provide the best value – and ask your Agent for advice on which amenities are hot (or not) on the Jersey Shore.

Bad Habit No. 2: Renovating without permits
We know it’s a pain to apply for permits before you knock down that wall or add a deck, but this corner-cutting will come back and bite you when you decide to sell. Without proper permits, buyers may worry whether the work done on your place is up to code—and as a result refrain from making an offer.

Do this instead: Don’t be a scofflaw; pull necessary permits. Usually, building permits are required for any renovation that involves opening/building walls, electrical, and plumbing changes.

Bad Habit No. 3: Limiting showing hours
Sure, no one wants to leave their home at dinnertime. But buyers are busy juggling work, family, and looking for a new home. If you limit showings to a few hours on weekends, you might miss a potential sale.

Do this instead: Stay flexible and cooperate with buyer’s agents who want to show your house, even if it’s inconvenient.
Plus, limiting showing times gives buyers the impression that the you may be a “difficult” seller. That can turn them off even more.

Bad Habit No. 4. Overlooking curb appeal
Even if you lavish tons of attention on prepping the inside of your home for buyers, it’s easy to overlook the outside. But keep in mind, your curb appeal is the very first impression buyers have of your home, so it pays to put some elbow grease into prettying up the exterior, too.

RELATED: The Importance of Curb Appeal When Selling Your New Jersey Home

Do this instead: Make sure your paint job is pristine and your lawn is tidy and mowed. Also replace dead shrubs, prune trees, put out some potted plants, mulch garden beds, and freshen mailboxes.

Bad Habit No. 5: Relying heavily on open houses
Open houses were a great way to sell a house in, like, 1975. These days, the vast majority of houses are sold through the Internet.

Do this instead: While you can and should hold open houses, don’t depend on them too much. Look for Agents who mine for buyers by using the Internet and Social Media.

RELATED: The Custom Marketing Plan to Sell Your Home

Bad Habit No. 6: Not following your Agent’s advice
Sure, you no doubt know more about your home than anyone else. But your Real Estate Agent knows more about how to sell it. And your Agent may make some suggestions you might not like to hear, like that you need a new paint job or that the asking price you had in mind needs to be lowered a bit. It’s tempting to take offense or just ignore this advice, but if you do, you could risk seeing your house sit on the market and grow stale.

RELATED: The Importance of Properly Pricing Your Home

Do this instead: Listen to your Agent. That doesn’t mean blindly following all advice. But when it comes to pricing, consider the comps your agent presents, not your gut feeling or wishful thinking. Agents buy and sell hundreds of houses in their career; you’ll probably buy and sell a handful in your lifetime. You’re paying for their experience, so follow their advice.

YOUR TURN

Want advice about selling your home? Contact us today for a free consultation or visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE™ email newsletter for articles and tips like these delivered straight to your inbox.

 

5 Reasons Why Homeownership Is a Good Financial Investment

According to a recent report by Trulia, “buying is cheaper than renting in 100 of the largest metro areas by an average of 37.7%.”

That may have some thinking about buying a home instead of signing another lease extension, but does that make sense from a financial perspective?

buying-a-home-investment

In the report, Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia’s Chief Economist explains:

“Owning a home is one of the most common ways households build long-term wealth, as it acts like a forced savings account. Instead of paying your landlord, you can pay yourself in the long run through paying down a mortgage on a house.”

The report listed five reasons why owning a home makes financial sense:

1.  Mortgage payments can be fixed while rents go up.

2.  Equity in your home can be a financial resource later.

3.  You can build wealth without paying capital gains.

4.  A mortgage can act as a forced savings account.

5.  Overall, homeowners can enjoy greater wealth growth than renters.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Buyer A Home

YOUR TURN

Are you a first-time home-buyer reaping the rewards of homeownership? Or are you a renter looking to better understand your options surrounding homeownership? What questions or concerns do you have? We want to hear from you!

You can contact one of our expert Buyer’s Agents and sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn profiles. And don’t forget to sign up for our monthly HOME ADVICE™ email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

Zillow’s 6 Housing Market Predictions for 2017

Well, as many had been wishing for, 2016 is officially behind us. And as the year came to a close, predictions for the 2017 housing market came pouring in.

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It’s hard to say what the new year will bring with the newly-elected President-elect Donald Trump. Zillow points out in its predictions how some of his policies could affect housing next year.

Here are Zillow’s six predictions for 2017:

1. Cities will focus on denser development of smaller homes close to public transit and urban centers.

2. More millennials will become homeowners, driving up the homeownership rate. Millennials are also more racially diverse, so more homeowners will be people of color, reflecting the changing demographics of the United States.

3. Rental affordability will improve as incomes rise and growth in rents slows.

4. Buyers of new homes will have to spend more as builders cover the cost of rising construction wages, driven even higher in 2017 by continued labor shortages (this could be worsened by tougher immigration policies under President-elect Trump).

5. The percentage of people who drive to work will rise for the first time in a decade as homeowners move further into the suburbs seeking affordable housing – putting them further from adequate public transit options.

6. Home values will grow 3.6 percent in 2017, according to more than 100 economic and housing experts surveyed in the latest Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey. National home values have risen 4.8 percent so far in 2016.

Other predictions for next year include this one from Redfin, predicting the fastest real estate market ever, this one from Kroll Bond Rating Agency, this one from Realtor.com and this one from Bank of America.

Like Patrick Parker Realty on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty HOME ADVICE eNewsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

6 Reasons To Sell Your Home In 2017

Planning to sell in the new year? Get a head start by listing early.

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Being early has its benefits: “The early bird catches the worm” or “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” You get the idea. So if you’re thinking about listing your home for sale in Monmouth County or on the Jersey Shore in 2017 — or if you already know you will — why not do so early, as in January or February? By getting in on the real estate market at the beginning of the year, you could benefit in some unexpected ways. Here are six of them.

1. There’s low inventory

When inventory’s low, it’s usually a great time to put your house on the market. Your new listing could cause buyers to pounce when there’s little competition, especially if your home is in a desirable neighborhood. Research conducted by Trulia revealed that 2016 was the year of low inventory.

2. There’s more urgency

There are plenty of reasons people need to get in a home fast. Many companies transfer employees at the start of a year, for one. Whatever the reason, if you encounter a homebuyer in the dead of winter, they probably need to buy sooner rather than later. And unless you’re in a hot climate, January and February are not the months most people want to be out hitting the streets to browse. Winter buyers often have a sense of urgency — when they find what they’re looking for, they’ll make an offer.

RELATED: Why Winter is A Great Time to Sell Your Home

3. Spring starts early in warm markets

If your home is in a warm climate, you could really benefit by listing your home for sale in early spring. “Traditionally, our real estate website has at least double the number of visitors starting the day after Christmas,” says Patrick Parker, Broker/Owner of Patrick Parker Realty.

“While homebuyers may not be personally visiting houses as quickly, they will be looking online. We advise that listing a home earlier helps a home stand out in the market.”

Also, when the weather outside is frightful, retirees and people in the market for a second home seek a more temperate climate.

4. There’s early movement for lower price points

The lower-price-point markets move a little earlier. If you’re a first-time homebuyer and are currently saving in preparation to buy, you might have earmarked that tax refund coming to you for the purpose.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Get A Deal During Real Estate’s Off-Season

“When these potential buyers get a refund on their taxes, they’ll sometimes use that as a down payment to roll into a purchase,” says Parker. The sooner you turn in your tax return, the sooner you’ll get your refund, usually in fewer than 21 days.

5. There’s a new administration

Speculation and uncertainty abound whenever a new administration takes the helm. If you think the Trump administration will make it tougher for people to buy a home, you might want to sell early in the year.

It is common for people to worry when reforms laid out by the new Republican platform could potentially force buyers to fork over larger down payments. This could be a challenge for many home sellers as the pool of eligible homebuyers begins to shrink. Of course, speculation is just that. But if you believe this to be true, it makes sense to sell your home now.

6. There’s a potential interest rate hike coming

Some people are concerned about rising interest rates this year. If homebuyers think rates will rise, they might buy sooner rather than later.

The interest rates have been very low for a long time, as they begin to tick up, you will start to see consumers’ buying power drop because of the cost to cover mortgage payments. It is all an unknown, but there is some thought that rates could continue to rise in 2017 like they have been doing slightly at the end of 2016.

YOUR TURN

What tips for selling your home in early 2017 do you have? Share your suggestions on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feed. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.


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