Selling

QUESTION: My best friend just got her real estate license. Should I list with her?

I read somewhere that the average person is friends with 5 real estate agents. If that’s true, the good news is you'll have 5 people you know and trust who can help you buy or sell your house. The bad news is you can really only work with one of them.

The other bad news is that most newbies don't last very long in the business. The attrition rate is high, with 87% dropping out in the first 5 years. And of the agents currently working, most of the real estate “business” that you see around you (an estimated 80%) is being conducted by the top 20% of the agents in the area.

Listing with a friend can be a high-pressured situation, especially if he or she is new to the business. Of course, you want to help them but the truth is, they are learning the ropes on your largest financial asset – and that’s something you need to be aware of going in. Because an agent’s “education” can hit a seller in their wallet.

We’ve all gotten the call from someone we adore: “Hey, I just got my real estate license!” But it’s still wise to ask ourselves: Of the 5 real estate agents you may know, who's still learning on a the job? Who's getting ready to drop out because it just isn’t as easy as it looks? Who's in the 80 percent, struggling to put together a few deals a year?  Who's selling real estate only on weekends and after their day job on Tuesdays?

I can tell you from my 13 years experience and over 200 homes I’ve sold, the more you’ve “seen” in real estate deals, the better equipped you are to service your clients.

Your Questions Answered: What's the Deal with "Teams"?

People often ask me to explain how “teams” work in real estate agencies, and what it means for them as clients. The short answer is, it depends what kind of team it is.

“Small Teams”
Many agents discover that, while they may be great at educating clients about homes and negotiating deals, they are not as well-suited to the administrative work. So once they become established enough, they quickly hire an assistant to take on non-sales tasks. This is great for the agent, freeing her up to do more face-to-face client work. And it’s great for the client, because the support person is usually very detail- and deadline-oriented. This arrangement is technically a “Small Team”, however it’s usually not referred to as a “team” at all because even though there may be several people working on the client’s behalf, there is only one “public-facing” agent.  

“Named Teams”
Named Teams are typically bigger and advertise themselves as a "team." This structure is often comprised of an experienced lead agent (whose name is in the "team name"), one or more less experienced “buyer’s agents,” and an administrative assistant. Sometimes the lead agent will handle mostly sellers and the newer agents may handle mostly buyers, especially those looking in lower price ranges.

The newer agents are provided prospective buyers and mentorship from the lead agent and in exchange, any clients they bring to the “team” become the “property” of the lead agent. As a buyer or seller, this type of team may or may not be beneficial to you – it largely depends on the experience level of the specific agents handling your business and the ability of the lead agent to oversee the quality of the team’s work.

“Family Teams”
This might be a husband and wife team, a mother-son team, or a man and his nephews. The implication is: we’re family, so we’re close and work well together. Sometimes that’s true. But these “teams” can often form because a successful agent is trying to help out a loved one who’s in transition (unemployed, new to the area, etc.). And in those cases, a client isn’t always getting someone who’s fully committed to this very service-oriented business.

Pros and Cons
There are definite advantages in working with a team. Namely, that people are usually doing the jobs they are best suited for. The main disadvantage is the confusion around not having a “single” person accountable for your business. Who do you go to with a problem? The administrator? The lead agent (whom you may never have met)? The person showing you around?

In my opinion, the agent/client relationship is more important than who or how many are on a “team.” If you’re looking to buy, look for an agent who can educate you about every aspect of the process: the market climate, the town, the neighborhoods, renovations and remodeling, and the context in which to determine the value of your purchase.

If you’re looking to sell, seek out an agent who is knowledgeable about the town’s real estate culture, is an experienced marketer and pricing strategist and one who can also guide you through the difficult process of getting your house ready for market.

And, if on top of all that, you find an agent who understands a perspective that can add even more value to your purchase or sale – say, the walkability perspective – well, that person may be your MVP. :)

Free Consultation For Down-Sizers

Once upon a time, I lived in a big house by the park. It was the perfect place to raise my children. Then one day, with my children older and beginning to leave home, my house seemed too big for my life. So I moved to a smaller place.

This is not an original story. Most people will tell this story one day, or one just like it. It’s common for people to down-size. But the difference these days is that it’s become more difficult to get rid of our “stuff.”

I came upon a blog post the other day – “Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff” – and it was as if someone looked into my mind and recounted many of the conversations I’ve had with my seller clients. People get ready to move themselves, or their elderly parents, and discover that all those “valuable” belongings – books, china, heirloom furniture, art – that they’re finally ready to part with, don’t have anywhere to go.

I happen to enjoy the activity of figuring out “what's next” for possessions that don’t serve me any longer. But many of my clients do not!

I offer my listing clients a free 4-hour consultation with a professional home organizer who will help them decide what to keep, what to throw out, as well as arrange for appraisals, donations, and even online sales.

Once upon a time, it used to be so easy to find a new home for our “stuff,” and now, not so much. But the real story is this: if you have the support of someone who is both knowledgeable and likes the process, you can enjoy those happily-ever-after moments that arise when your lifestyle and your possessions are once again in sync.

 

 

What Millennial Home Buyers Are Looking For

open kitchen

When I moved to this area, close to 30 years ago, it was all about the detail. Whether a home was big or small, most of us were looking for craftsmanship -- a house with good bones. And this area is brimming with them!

But this generation of buyer isn’t looking for the same things most sellers were looking for when we purchased our houses decades ago. So, if you’re a seller who is considering doing some work before listing this season, you can really increase your home’s “appeal” by paying attention to what today’s buyers care about most.

If you’re going to renovate, open spaces are more desirable than lots of smaller rooms. For example, an open kitchen is a big draw. But it doesn’t need to be a big, fancy kitchen! Millennials seem to prefer cleaner lines and more light over fussy architectural details. Bigger windows, not bigger moldings!

In fact, it doesn’t have to be a big house at all. Millennials would rather have a home office than a formal dining room. They're drawn to things like energy efficiency, low VOC paint, smart tech accoutrements (WiFi-enabled lights, thermostats, locks, and garage doors). And, need I say it – walkability!

Also, the lower the maintenance, the better. Examples would be Hardie Board siding vs. wood clapboard exteriors, or Trex for decking over wood. This crop of buyers want to spend their weekends entertaining friends, not staining the deck.

I’ve been helping sellers prep their homes for years. I have a background in architecture and a passion for construction details. If you want to get ready for market, I’m delighted to partner with you in any way you need. 

And if you’re looking for a home in a great, walkable suburb, I can help you turn whatever you find into the home of your dreams!

 

 

Pricing Your Montclair Home: What's the Sweet Spot?

5-back-iconWhen you're pricing your home, it's always tempting to ask for a bit more than you expect - to leave a little room for negotiating. But this strategy actually doesn't work.

According to industry experts, houses priced 10% over their ultimate selling price typically receive no offers. In fact, even houses priced a mere 5% too high will typically get showings, but no offers. If you start too high, you'll have to gradually lower your price over time until you find someone willing to buy.

In real estate, "gradually" is not great.

No one wants their house to sit on the market. Not you. Not your agent. The DOM (Days On Market) of a home is the leading indicator as to whether it is priced appropriately.

In Montclair, the average DOM is 50.

Examples of homes priced too high: 363 Park Street - Original price: $1,450,000; DOM-370 Offers started when price was dropped to $1,199,000

18 Capron Lane - Original price: $1,200,000; DOM-170 It sold when the price was lowered to $989,000

Even a house listed at its "correct" price - that is, the price it is likely to sell for - may not be ideal for the seller. Studies show that the market responds most enthusiastically when houses are priced just below their true value.

When a home is listed at about 5% under its ideal sales price, the property nearly always sells for more than asking, and often substantially more. This doesn't make complete logical sense, so it requires a leap of faith on the part of the homeowner. As a seller, you need a strong stomach and a good realtor who knows the market and how to price at that sweet spot.

Here's what happens when houses are priced to sell:

117 Haddon - Listed $699,000; Sold $826,000; DOM-11 19 Windsor - Listed $699,000; Sold $838,000; DOM-9 131 Wildwood - Listed $899,000; Sold $111,0000; DOM-10

When clients ask me how much negotiating room there should be when pricing their Montclair home, the answer is none.

If you'd like to talk about home pricing, or get a better sense of the market, call me. I love to talk real estate! 973.809.5277

*Studies performed by Jeffery Otteau of the Otteau Valuation Group www.otteau.com

5 Home Staging "Rules of Thumb"

living roomHome Staging has become one of the biggest buzzwords in world of selling real estate, yet many sellers are still perplexed by the concept. "Why do you want me to dismantle my photograph wall?" a client will ask. "It's one of my favorites parts of the house!"

Plain and simple: staging a home allows a buyer to more easily envision himself living in the space. And the more of "your" stuff that's around, the less of "his" stuff he can imagine there.

There are many suggestions I make when I meet with a client about getting ready to sell, but a few are worth noting as Staging Rules of Thumb - small changes you can make that will make your home show better and sell faster.

  1. Don't Overdo It. Many people think of staging as bringing things in - furniture, rugs, accent pieces - but most of the "work" of staging is taking pieces out. The more "available" square footage in a room, the more easily the buyer will be able to see her own furniture there.
  2. Create Conversation Spaces. Sofas and chairs do not need to line the perimeter of the room. Consider furniture arrangements that allow people to easily converse and socialize. Let the buyer to imagine all the lovely entertaining that she can do in your home.
  3. Keep Accessories Tasteful. Small, thoughtful additions can go a long way in making a space feel homey and inviting, especially gentle smells like potpourri in the bathrooms. Best, though, to keep additions neutral; controversial material - like political or religious books - is better off out of plain sight.
  4. Focus on the Main Rooms. Staging is crucial for the Big 4: Living Room, Kitchen, Master Bedroom and all Bathrooms. The other rooms - kids bedrooms, guest rooms, den - can simply be pared down and filled in by the buyer's imagination.
  5. Let a "Blank Slate" Be Your Guide. Your personal photographs and children's artwork is no doubt amazing, but they are just going to muddy the waters when it comes to helping a buyer visualize herself in your home. Put away your personal effects, but please, don't take it personally.

These rules are general so if you're in need of a personal staging consult, don't hesitate to call me. 973-809-5277

4 Things Every Home Buyer Should Know About Montclair

As a real estate agent, and a person who loves living in Montclair, much of what I talk about focuses on the experience of being here (and walking here!). But there's plenty to know about the landscape of Montclair when buying a home, and here I'm not talking about lawns and shrubbery.

  1. Montclair homes appreciated 8 percent in 2015. I tell my clients all the time: do not look at your home as an investment. This is because there are so many factors that affect the market. I advise my clients to buy in a place that they love. Still, it's always great to hear that your home has gone up in value.
  2. On average, Montclair homes sell for 4 percent over list price. This is good information to have when you're about to make an offer. When montclair-welcomeyou do find the home you love, an experienced agent can guide you both through buying trend data and personal knowledge of the market.
  3. Currently, the median price of a home in Montclair is $600,000. This comes as a surprise to many buyers who think Montclair is out of their price range. I can show you houses in wonderful neighborhoods, whatever your budget is.
  4. The average time to sell a house in Montclair is 41 days. Knowing this helps set up realistic expectations if you're selling, but it's also useful information for buyers as well. Houses here don't tend to linger. If you see something that speaks to you, act on it. Don't snooze and lose.

The most consistent piece of feedback I get from clients is how well I'm able to educate them about all aspects of home buying and selling. It's one of my favorite things about my job. So if you want to talk about what your home is worth, or how to strategize your next move - or even if you just want to walk around and take in the landscape - call me: 973.809.5277

My Accessories Are Your Accessories!

IMG_4866Rugs. End tables. Vases. Patio Furniture. The back of my garage looks like an aisle at Home Goods. Am I getting ready for a yard sale?

Au contraire. I'm getting ready to sell your home.

Today's buyers expect a house to be presented to the market in its very best light. No one wants to see "grandma" furniture and doilies when they're house hunting. In fact, buyers sometimes don't respond well to anything that doesn't feel "fresh" or "new."

When I'm with buyers, part of my job is to help them envision what can be done to a house to make it their own. I have a background in architecture and have done several personal renovations, so I am skilled in providing this information as part of my service.

But when I'm with sellers, I need to help them look at their home as a buyer would - which is to say, critically. I maintain a large inventory of staging items that can fill a whole room (if it's empty) or just fill in the gaps where needed.

Most sellers are not able to prepare their home for sale without help. And a good staging can generate more interest and a higher selling price in the market. I employ a professional stager and include one free day of staging with all my listings!

Call me and let's talk throw pillows. 973.809.5277

Relocation, Relocation, Relocation!

Atlas Van LinesOne of the most frequent pieces of feedback I get from my clients is that I'm very knowledgeable about and good at explaining the ins and outs of real estate sales. I think that's probably true, largely because I believe the more people know, the better they are at both buying and selling.

So, today, I want to pass on some information about relocating.

If you or your spouse are making a work-related move, the employer may offer a relocation package. They may offer to pay for your closing costs, pay for your move, even buy your house if it sits on the market too long. Most of the big corporations use a relocation company, like Cartus, which provides various services and resources - one of which is to set you up with one of their contracted real estate agents, usually one from a corporate-owned real estate company.

However, you are not obligated to use their recommended agent or agency.

The reason I mention this is because it's often not made clear to sellers that Cartus will work with any agent, usually with no financial ramifications to the seller. Meaning, if you worked with a real estate agent that you really liked when you bought your house, you can use that same agent to sell your house - even if a corporate relocation package is part of the picture.

This comes as great news to many sellers who have already built a trusting relationship with a local agent. Or to those who prefer to use an agent recommended by a friend.

If you're selling your house for a business move and you've been offered a relocation package, let's talk. I can explain to you how the system works so you can make decisions that make you happy. I've been told I'm very good at that kind of thing! 973-809-5277

How Accurate is Your "Zestimate" ?

This LA Times article about Zillow estimates is from a year ago, but it recently resurfaced on my social media pages and seems worth sharing. For homeowners, Zillow seems like the best thing since sliced bread. A do-it-yourself tool to determine home values. Unfortunately, it's not the last word in valuation and is often controversial.

Zillow uses an Automated Valuation Model  (AVM), which is an algorithm that takes into account location, price per sqft, lot size, etc by relying on publicly available data from comparable properties. Sometimes this data is old or just simply wrong.  It's not a bad system for very general ideas about home value, but it doesn't account for anything unusual (good or bad) about your home.  AVMs tend to overstate the value of homes that are in poor condition or in an awkward location (like next to a gas station).  Similarly, they understate the value of homes that have fabulous recent renovations or are walkable to the NYC train.  It's a little like the real estate equivalent of an automated telephone customer service system. It's good for only the most basic information gathering.

And, as this article points out, "Zestimates" aren't even especially accurate - on average they are off by 8%.

Working with an experienced agent (i.e., me!), you'll have access to all the same type of automated information available through Zillow AND the expertise of someone who knows what the inside of the comp homes look like.  So, together, we can make a smart marketing plan if you're a seller, and realistic decisions about bidding if you're a buyer.

I'm happy to come over and tell you what your home is worth. Buying and selling homes is nuanced and subjective. It's not about algorithms. It's about lifestyles and dreams.