First-Time Homeowner

first-time homeowner

First-Time Homeowner

first-time homeowner

The older I get, the faster time seems to go, am I right?

With housing being one of the most basic human needs it stands to reason that you’re going to be paying for housing one way or another. You can either give your hard-earned money to a landlord or you can become a first-time homeowner. Becoming a first-time homeowner is easier than you think and here are the essentials to becoming a first-time homeowner. Here are the essentials for first time home buyers broken down. 

Stop wasting money and start investing in your future

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7 Real Estate Negotiation Tips for Sellers

7 Real Estate Negotiation Tips for Sellers

7 Real Estate Negotiation Tips for Sellers

Proper negotiation is an art form. Some of us love the thrill but for others, it can be difficult to sort through all of the options and know where to go once we have an idea of what we're aiming for. Here are some common real estate negotiation tips so you can learn how to negotiate when selling real estate.

Real estate agents are there to buffer the negotiations so you can get the best deal possible.

Here are seven real estate negotiation tips to use when selling real estate.

#1: Know what you want 

Do you need to be moved into another area by a specific date? Is there a price point you are shooting for? When selling real estate it’s important to know what matters most to you and what you can be flexible on. Real estate negotiation is about getting what you want and/or need, so the first step is knowing what that is. 

#2: Pre-Inspect 

There is a 98% chance that the buyer will want to do an inspection, so I suggest you do one too. A big piece of reducing stress when selling real estate is having a good idea of the items that the buyer may ask for during the inspection. This is the best time to discuss staging strategy and nail down a realistic timeline. 

#3: Timeline everything

During the sale a buyer will submit an offer. There will likely be an expiration date on the offer. If the offer does not excite you then you may want to counter that offer. A solid real estate negotiation tip for sellers is to put an expiration date on your counteroffer and stick to it. This will compel the buyer to set aside small issues and make a quick decision. 

#4: Use accurate data

Your real estate agent should be able to provide you with an area-specific current market analysis that shows average days on the market, price per sq ft, and the trend of the neighborhood. Creating healthy competition is an important part of getting the best possible price. Leveraging custom statistics scarcity is a great negotiation tool. An example of this is if there are 5 other houses exactly like yours on your block it may be wise to wait until the majority of them are pending. Knowing when the best time to sell a house and for how much will give you the best odds to get what you need out of the sale.

#5: Acknowledge emotions

but don't make decisions based on them. If you know what it is you need out of the sale then when you're in a highly stressful situation like selling real estate, it can be easy to let your emotions lead the way. You do not want to make an irrational investment decision. Lean on wise counsel when you're unsure of the right choice to make. A good real estate agent, just like a good friend, will help you stay focused on your goals.    

#6: Have a Win/Win perspective 

Buying and selling real estate can sometimes feel like going into battle and the problem with that is that in a battle there can only be one winner. In any real estate transaction, both the buyer and seller need to mutually benefit. Typically the seller and buyer both end up winning, but it's winning in different areas. The buyer wins the house, and the seller wins the equity. Another way for everyone to win is to make sure there is a home warranty included with the property. That way if something like the electrical panel or one of the appliances breaks the in first weeks of homeownership, the buyer isn't calling us asking for a refund, they're calling the warranty company to remedy the issue. Aiming for a win-win circumstance is the best perspective to have in any Real Estate Negotiation. 

#7: Friction can be your ally

One of the most difficult parts of any real estate negotiation can be the waiting periods. If you're a seasoned seller then you probably know that waiting out the full timeline can build suspense for the buyer and bring big financial rewards. No matter how tempting it may be, avoid talking about your stresses with selling - even if you are under pressure to make a quick sale. If a buyer is aware of your time pressures it can weaken your position. I find that deep breathing and physical distractions are some of the best ways to build patience in high tension situations. 

 

These are some common real estate negotiation tips when selling real estate. Understanding common real estate terms and how time works in real estate can be a big benefit. If you need more tools to sell real estate I’d suggest getting our free sellers checklist. If your goal is to get the highest return on your investment then find out what actually matters to buyers and appraisers.  

All the best,

Carmen Neal Signature

 

 

 

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Essential Real Estate Terms You Should Know

Essential Real Estate Terms You Should Know

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Every industry has its own acronym and real estate is no different. Real estate is full of jargon that can add confusion to an already elusive process. Whether you're selling or buying here are the essential real estate terms you should know.

Asking questions should not be intimidating. Would it help you to know that you’re not alone? Real estate is intimidating and overwhelming for most people. My goal is to make it as simple for you to navigate as possible. Let's dive in:

1) Pending

Once a residential buyer and seller have reached a mutual agreement on the terms of a sale, the property will then be moved from “Active” to “Pending” or “Pending Inspection”. The contract timelines are very important. 

2) Earnest Money (EM)

Once a buyer and seller have reached a mutual agreement on a contract, the buyer will then deposit a set amount into an escrow account. This earnest money (EM) shows the seller that the potential buyer is EARNEST about buying the property. When the property closes, the EM is then put towards the buyer’s down payment or returned.

3) Escrow

Escrow is a term that refers to a third party that is hired to handle the transaction, the exchange of money and any related documents. Placing Earnest Money, for example, into escrow means to place it in the hands of a third party until certain conditions are met; once the transaction has closed the escrow company will disburse the funds appropriately. 

4) Appraisal

An appraisal is an assessment done by a certified appraiser to determine the value of the property. The appraisal is usually based on an analysis of comparable sales of similar homes nearby. 

5) Dual Agency

Dual Agency is when one agent represents both the buyer and the seller, instead of just one or the other. Depending on state laws, real estate agents are able to represent both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction. There are some states that do not allow dual agency.

6) Bank Owned & Short Sale

When a property owner defaults on their mortgage, the lender will sometimes allow the seller to sell as a short sale. That means that the bank has agreed to let the home be sold for less than the balance on the current owner’s loan. A bank-owned property is when a  lender won’t agree to sell the property for less than what is currently owed on it, so the property has been foreclosed on and is now “Bank Owned.”

7) Comparative Market Analysis (CMA)

A CMA is an analytic report to help real estate agents strategize what the hyper-local market is doing in order to determine your property value. The analysis is conducted based on the active, pending, and sold values of similar properties in the same area within a specific time frame. The CMA report should help you in understanding what a realistic listing price is, and whether or not you’re buying a property for the right price.

8) Commission

Real Estate agents are paid on commission. This is an agreed-upon % of the sale price which is then divided between the selling and listing agent, it is typically 6%. Once a transaction closes, the seller will pay the originally agreed-upon percentage of the purchase price from the net proceeds of the sale. In Washington State, the seller pays 100% of the real estate commissions.

9) Equity

A property owner’s Equity is the difference between the fair market value of the property and the amount still owed on its mortgage or other liens. It is common for people to borrow against their equity to do property improvements. 

10) Encumbrance

An encumbrance is a claim against, limitation on, or liability against real property. Encumbrances can restrict the owner’s ability to transfer title to the property or lessen its value. Having an awkward conversation is worth it, guys.

Helping you understand real estate lingo is one of my favorite topics because it is SO important. If you have any Real Estate questions or pain points in your Real Estate journey, I would love to break it down into bite-sized pieces and serve you up a hot plate of awesome.

Leave a comment with any other terms or resources that you would find helpful!

All the best,

Carmen Neal Signature

 

 

 

P.S. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you don't already. Don't miss out on the tips, tricks, and sometimes just plain funny items I share on social media!

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5 Common Landlord Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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5 Common Landlord Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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Staying up to date with Washington State landlord-tenant laws takes a lot of time. Knowing what and how to prioritize can be daunting. With the goal of a high return on your rental investment, you’ll want to keep these 5 common mistakes in mind:

1. Having a non-existent or weak lease

Gone are the days of handshake deals. In Washington State contracts are void unless in writing so having an ironclad lease is so important. A property management company will have a standard lease that they use and making sure it has all the important pieces pertaining to your specific property is key.

2. Not conducting a thorough move-in and move-out walkthrough

A written checklist that clearly states the condition of the property prior to occupancy should be done before every new tenancy. When the checklist is completed the landlord or property manager and tenant should sign off on it. At the end of the lease term, both parties will need to review the property to see if there are any repairs needed and if any damage expenses should be deducted from the security deposit.

3. Renting to someone without a thorough screening

When you’re looking for a tenant you’ll want to do a thorough background check. You’ll want to research the new tenant and make sure you’re fully informed about what you are and are not allowed to ask.

4. Not knowing important and legal timelines

Keeping up to date with the most recent laws and rental agreement requirements could keep you from being sued. Knowing and reviewing the Washington state landlord-tenant laws is the best way to stay up to date on best practices.

5. Avoiding routine inspection

The best way to make sure your rental property is being well cared for is by conducting an annual inspection. Using the written checklist from the move-in can be a good guide.

At the end of the day, every property is different and has unique circumstances. If you need someone to speak with I’d be happy to help.

All the best,

Carmen Neal Signature

 

 

 

P.S. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you don't already. Don't miss out on the tips, tricks, and sometimes just plain funny items I share on social media!

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House Staging 101

House Staging Advice from a Pro

House Staging 101

A clean, uncluttered home is the foundation of house staging.

What do you think of when you hear the term "house staging"? A lot of us immediately imagine HGTV episodes and Instagram feeds filled with perfect spaces. Living rooms with just the right amount of lighting and uncluttered but cozy couches. Picture perfect kitchens with the latest designer trends on point. And then we look up from our screens to the spaces we're looking to sell or rent out, and...well, most of us don't have a house fresh out of Joanna Gaines' portfolio, do we?

But guess what—we don't have to! Right now, here in the local Fife/Milton/Edgewood market, you do not have to take on huge, expensive projects to stage your house to attract a buyer or tenant. Nor do you need to hire someone to bring in all new furniture (although you may need to move some out....). Read on for my tried-and-true 5 steps to house staging to help you sell your property or find the perfect tenant.

Staging Step #1: Draw attention to your property's best feature.

Every property has a diamond in the rough. Find it and make it stand out. Maybe it's gorgeous original hardwood flooring. Make it shine and arrange furniture and rugs to draw the eye to it. Perhaps it's a spacious kitchen with counter and cabinet space for days! Clear the clutter, and use pops of color to pull lookers into the space and make them remember it. Whatever your home's best feature, work it. 

Staging Step #2: Start packing immediately.

At the end of the day your goal is to invite people in. You want them to visualize themselves in the space.  If the space is jam-packed with your stuff, they won't be able to do that. 

Focus on creating white space. Remove personal items such as family photos, as well as collections of trinkets and doodads. Consider how much furniture is appropriate for a room, and remove something if there is too much for the space. Clear kitchen and bathroom counters, and create empty space in cabinets and closets. Less is better, I promise. And you’re going to need to pack anyway, so why not start before the pictures?

Staging Step #3: Maximize the use of lighting.

Let me shed some light on the facts (see what I did there?): Lighting sets the tone for how we perceive a space, so make it the right tone.

Natural light is king. For daytime showings, open up the shades and curtains in every room. Also make sure windows are clean as a whistle inside and out. The goal is to have no filtering of available daylight, to make the space feel as open as possible. And also to keep house hunters focused on the inside of the room, not the grime on the windows.

In terms of artificial light, in almost all cases white toned bulbs are preferred. Even in a small, windowless space, the right tone of light can change the feel of the area. If a room does not have an overhead light, or even if it does, add a tall lamp in a corner. Also make sure side and sofa tables throughout the house have appropriately-sized lamps, as well. Again, stick with white tones for the bulbs, but use lampshades smartly to reduce harshness and up the coziness factor in living rooms and bedrooms.

For evening showings, turn off your inner penny-pincher, and turn on all of the lights—interior and exterior—before you leave. Even if it's dark outside, you want the property to shine!

Staging Step #4: Manage smells.

I once walked into an inspection for a rental property in Edgewood, and an offensive smell hit me square in the face like a fly baseball. My eyes were watering, it was so bad. The unit was vacant, and it had been freshly painted, but it smelled like warm garbage had been fermenting for days. Since the smell was not there when we had originally viewed the unit I was determined to figure it out. Once the inspector opened up the crawl space we knew right away—there were some dead rodents. Yuck. So gross.

Clean. 

Just think clean, clean, clean. You simply want the place to smell clean. That means that your focus should be on removing sources of smells first and foremost, not just masking it.

Get rid of smelly furniture. Deodorize sink drains with baking soda and vinegar, and run some lemon peels through your disposal if you have one. Clean the fridge and take out the garbage every day, and especially when a showing is scheduled. Have the carpets and rugs professionally cleaned. And for sure make sure there aren't any animal carcasses in the crawl space!

In terms of adding pleasant scents, don't overdo it. This is not the time to run a diffuser or plug-in in every room. Less is more. I’m all for some lavender or citrus hibiscus but go as neutral as possible. You’re not trying to accommodate yourself. You're trying to reach the broadest audience possible.

That means that white linen, summer cotton, or straight-up bleach is the winner every time. Clean and fresh is the goal.

Oh, and that old trick of baking bread or cookies right before a showing? If you have the time to do it and clean up properly afterward, I have never met someone who disliked the smell of freshly baked goodies!

Staging Step #5: Play up accessories.

When house staging, it's bad business to spend money that won’t necessarily get you a strong return. If you’re planning on selling or renting your property out then maybe pass on the HGTV-style remodeling. Instead, find some cost-effective accessories to get the most bang for your buck. The idea here is to frame the room. Imagine you are telling a story in each room. Make your viewer want to join the house on its story.

Some effective and inexpensive ways to stage a house using accessories:

  • Place fresh hand towels in the bathrooms.
  • Add pops of color to the living room or bedroom with a few throw pillows or books with spines that color-coordinate with the space.
  • Create a cozy reading nook with an accent chair and side table. Don't forget the lamp, and perhaps some flowers or a little plant. 
  • Place potted plants and herbs at the entrance and around the patio.
  • Highlight your beautiful Pacific Northwest outdoor space with stringed lights around the patio, and add solar spotlights along exterior paths.

Every property is different just like every person is different. This list was created for very low level staging. 

If you are working with a more complex situation, like helping a senior citizen in your life downsize their stuff, then know that you are in good company. In that situation, I would encourage you to find an intermediary to help sort through the details of their situation. 

Regardless of your particular situation, you likely want a stress free real estate transaction. Sorting out the stuff BEFORE you're forced to is a tip I can hang my hat on. 

All the best,

P.S. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you don't already. Don't miss out on the tips, tricks, and sometimes just plain funny items I share on social media!

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Confessions of a Real Estate Agent

Confessions of a Real Estate Agent

Confessions of a Real Estate Agent

Confessions of a Real Estate Agent

Confessions of a real estate agent: this industry is complicated, energy sucking, and emotional. But when boiled down and distilled to its core, my job is to serve. Thankfully, I learned from my parents at a very young age that my job as a real estate broker is to listen, guide, and support my clients.

Here are three truths about any trustworthy real estate agent:

Confession #1: We’re straightforward because we care.

Blunt, curt, and straightforward are some of the labels I’ve been given over the years, and I’ve learned to take all of these as compliments! Here are some of the hard truths I’ve had to speak with clients about: 

  • The smell is a problem. 
  • Restricting showings to only 6 p.m. and later will probably double the days on market. 
  • The price is too high.
  • It's not the lighting in the picture. Navy blue carpets do clash with purple walls.

A good agent will tell you the truth about your property. Always. We will do it as gently and professionally as possible, but we will not lie to you to get a listing. It's not in your best interest or in ours. We care about you. So we'll speak truth.

Confession #2: It's your journey, we’re just invited to ride along.

As much as we do care, we cannot care more about your situation than you do. I’ve had to learn this the hard way. My job is to help you see what matters to you, and come along side you to make it happen. But you steer the ship.

Every person and every transaction has its special circumstances, so I strive to pull those out, name them, and put them on a timeline. Some common needs are a fast sale, a certain amount of money, or to be nurtured towards a real estate goal for years. No matter the circumstance, my job is to partner with you and ride along through the process to make it as smooth of a journey as possible.

Confession #3: Every day is a constant reviewing of priorities.

Missed family dinners, missed birthday parties, and long weekends. Tethered to a cell phone, working late evenings, and up for early morning emails, calls, and paperwork. All of these are a normal part of my life. I’ve stood outside countless events on the phone with a client while my husband manages our life so that my service and your outcome comes to fruition. And I don't regret it for an instant. I love my family. I love my work. The two are not mutually exclusive. It does mean that I am constantly assessing my priorities on a daily--sometimes--hourly basis. So if you see me kissing my kids as I shuffle them onto the ball field while negotiating on the phone with another agent to come to agreement on a sale, know that I am living my best life. 

I choose this Every. Single. Day.

I choose to embrace my straight forward personality.

I choose to join people on their roller coasters to make it as smooth of a ride as possible.

I choose to show my kids that their mom loves her job and serves people.

Every day.

How can I serve you in your real estate journey?

All the best,

P.S. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you don't already. Don't miss out on the tips, tricks, and sometimes just plain funny items I share on social media!

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Social Distancing and Real Estate

guidelines for social distancing and real estate

Social Distancing & Real Estate

Note: this information about social distancing and real estate in Washington State is based upon current guidelines as of May 8, 2020 as provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Washington State Department of Health, Washington State's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order" and related memos/orders, and the Northwest Multiple Listing Services. As the situation surrounding the pandemic changes quickly, please listen to state and local authorities for the most up-to-date information that may expand or reduce limitations for conducting real estate transactions. This post does not constitute legal or medical advice. If you need either, please contact an appropriate licensed professional. 

I think it's safe to assume that you have heard the phrase "social distancing" by now. But something you might need to know more about is how buyers, sellers, and agents are navigating their way through social distancing and real estate transactions. Well, you're in the right place. Let's get to it!

But first...

What is Social Distancing?

In case you've been living off the grid, and you're not sure what social distancing is, here's a basic primer:

According to the CDC, when outside of our homes we need to keep space between ourselves and others. When we have to be out, some of the most common practices are to stay at least six feet from other people, and avoid gathering in groups. 

In addition to minimizing in-person interactions, we are also encouraged to wash our hands frequently, not touch our faces, use face masks when out of the house, and disinfect hard surfaces frequently to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. 

So, how do we do all of that and still get properties bought and sold? Here are some best practices.

Social Distancing & Sellers

The good news is that licensed real estate agents like us are still allowed to show your property in-person. But we can do so only by appointment, and no more than two people can be onsite at a time, including the broker.

Obviously, that makes things a little cumbersome for couples and families to see a place together. This means that it is more important than ever to capture flattering photos of your property, and to post walk-through videos and 3D virtual tours online. Make those first (and maybe only) online impressions count!

For properties that are owner-occupied, we can utilize the multiple listing services scheduling program, ShowingTime. The goal of using ShowingTime is to avoid scheduling multiple showings at the same property at the same time. 

Other best practices for sellers to follow:

  • Disinfect all surfaces when you leave the property before each showing, and again when you return.
  • Make it easy for you to clean as you go by placing cleaning supplies around the property.
  • Finally, place hand sanitizer at the entry for house-hunters and showing agents to use on their way in and out.
  • If you or someone in your household is ill, please let us know so showings can be rescheduled.

Social Distancing & Buyers

Although in-person showings of no more than two people (including the broker) are permitted, we are strongly encouraged to share virtual tours of properties first. Additionally, the use of video calls during the showing is a great way to share the experience in real-time with others who cannot attend due to the two-person limit.

All in-person activities must be by appointment only, and the two people meeting must strictly follow social distancing guidelines provided by the CDC by remaining at least six feet apart at all times.

When viewing a home we need to touch as few surfaces as possible, use hand sanitizer and cloth face coverings, and always stay at least six feet apart. Finally, if you are not feeling well, please reschedule the showing or rely upon the virtual resources to make choices regarding your real estate purchase. 

Social Distancing & Closing

Title and escrow companies provide settlement services that support financial services and banking, so they are deemed essential under the Governor's orders. Although some title and escrow branch facilities may have modified their hours or closed, for the time being they are still able to offer remote online services.

One silver lining to all of this is that we have so many tools and resources to handle almost every single transaction detail remotely now. If this were happening 30-40 years ago it would have been completely different. I think we'd be hoarding fax machine toner instead of toilet paper! (Kidding...please don't hoard toilet paper...or anything else...).

 

For further information, here are some links to the referenced agencies and decision makers:

If you have specific questions about health concerns related to COVID-19, you should consult with a health professional.

All the best,

P.S. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you don't already. Don't miss out on the tips, tricks, and sometimes just plain funny items I share on social media!

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Curb Appeal that Sells

Curb appeal that sells is the best first impression you can make when listing your home.

Curb Appeal that Sells

Nailing curb appeal that sells is ciritical in attracting buyers to your home.

Not all curb appeal is created equal. Curb appeal is the impression someone gets when they are on the curb and looking at your property, and curb appeal that sells is very important.

Although HGTV has opened the eyes of future homeowners to the possibility of a diamond in the ruff, as a seller you will want to appeal directly toward your target demographic in order to get the highest return on investment. The number of tips and tricks to getting your house ready to sell can be overwhelming, so we’ve created this simple guide to help you focus your efforts on the items that will get you the biggest bang for your buck.

Catch Their Eye

First things first: put on your buyer's hat. For the next few moments, you are no longer the homeowner. If you want to sell, you need to think like a buyer!

Now, mosey across the street and look back at your property. What is the first thing your eye is drawn to? 

Is the mailbox falling off its post? 

Do you have a beautiful front door? 

Or how about the furniture and plants, how are those looking? 

The goal here is to highlight the good and touch up the bad. If nothing stands out to you in a good way, then make something stand out! Even just a simple flower pot with a pop of color will draw the eye and make people want to see more. 

Create Symmetry

Symmetry is an age-old design trick that is the simplest way to create something appealing. If you have something on one side of your door I’d encourage you to consider duplicating it on the other side.

In the sample photograph notice the hedges lining both sides of the stairs. This creates balance and draws buyers toward your door. At my own house, I have two big black pots on either side of my teal front door. I change our the flowers every year. One year, I even put beautiful chocolate tomatoes. It was beautiful AND delicious!

Windows, Fixtures, and Doorways 

It can be easy to pass through our days unaware that one of three light bulbs is out, or that the leaves have gathered in that corner again. My big oversight is spider webs. Josh, my husband, has walked through two spider webs in doorways over the past week. So guess what we’re doing this weekend...that’s right, we’re taking a broom to all of the outdoor areas. Getting the windows, fixtures, and doorways dusted off and wiped down won’t cost us a penny but it makes a big impact on curb appeal. A clean home, inside and out, is the fastest way to get curb appeal that sells.

Declutter

Depending on how much room you have, a good rule of thumb is to think “Less is more” at your entry way. Planters and seasonal décor are cute, but no one enjoys an abundance laying around the front porch.

My assistant is constantly battling with her family not to use their lovely, covered front porch as a storage for bikes and such. If this is your family’s habit, too, clear it out. Then set the boundary that while the house is on the market everyone is expected to have a place for everything, and everything in its place.

 

Increasing your curb appeal is not only for you to draw buyers in for a look. It also allows you to enjoy your property more when you are there. It increases the entire feel of the home and property. Simple and clean is typically the most appealing and attractive to any eye.

Do these simple tasks to give your home curb appeal that sells, and get your beautiful home noticed for the gem it truly is. Want some more inspiration? Check out this fun post with lots of DIY ideas to give your home's exterior that extra pop.

Sometimes a first impression is all you’ll get, so make it count!

All the best,

P.S. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you don't already. Don't miss out on the tips, tricks, and sometimes just plain funny items I share on social media!

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What Home Buyers Want

What Home Buyers Want is Clean and Move-In Ready Property

What Home Buyers Want

What homebuyers want is a clean and move-in ready house

It was a sunny Saturday morning in August 2007, and I was house hunting with some friends when I really realized what home buyers want in their new homes. If you're thinking of selling your existing home, read on, because I think this story might surprise you.

The Viewing

We had spent most of the morning looking at properties when we pulled up to our last property before lunch. It was a fully renovated 1990’s home in Fife, and I just knew they would love it. 

The outside was a deep green, there was rockery all around the landscape, and the door was a warm rust red. There was freshly laid bark, and the lawn must have just been cut because we could smell the grass clippings right when we got out of the car. It was the picture of inviting curb appeal.

The inside was just as great. We walked in and everything was brand new. New oak floors with matching trim, cabinets, and the list just went on from there. 

I could see my friend was excited, and I was pretty sure that I'd just found them their new house.

The Choosing

After that showing, we went to lunch to discuss next actions. We first reviewed their top 5 needs and wants. But I didn't think we'd really need that list, because I was pretty sure that they wanted that freshly remodeled home that oozed curb appeal. To be sure, though, we flipped through the houses that we had seen.

There were some great contenders, but I would have bet money on that remodeled home. And I would have lost.

To my surprise they quickly passed on the remodel! Instead, they went with another house that was less polished but was a great value. At the time I was really taken off guard because come on, who doesn't want a remodeled house!? I was shocked! Wasn't I supposed to know what home buyers want?

The Reasoning

It turned out that although they loved the shiny remodeled home, they were very nervous about the big price tag that went along with the beautiful upgrades. I asked more questions, and it turned out that they didn’t really like the brand new oak cabinets. Plus, it had only 2 of their top 5 needs and wants. The brand new floor, as beautiful as it was, was also a problem for them because they wanted carpet. 

I asked my friend why her reaction had been so positive when we had toured the house, despite it not really meeting their needs. She said that she was taken in not just by all of the new finishes, but really by how clean and move-in ready the house was. She knew that those two factors meant that they could move in right away.

At the end of the day, they choose to go with another clean and move-in ready property. It wasn't completely remodeled, but it did have 4 of their 5 needs and wants. They lived happily in that home for about 7 years. 

The Lesson

I have seen this situation happen over and over in the years since that day. I have concluded that willing and able buyers who are approved to pay fair market value for your property want two things: 

  1. CLEAN
  2. MOVE-IN READY

Notice that I didn't say freshly remodeled with a brand new kitchen and all new flooring. Nope. Most buyers will take "used" as long as it is clean and move-in ready. Of course, you can remodel your property and list it for a higher price…but what will your net return be? Will the headache of renovating be worth the return on investment? 

Generally, the answers to those two questions will be 1. not enough, and 2. no.

If a buyer wants brand new, they'll buy new construction. If they're looking at existing places, though, chances are they are willing and ready to take on some of the hassle to give the place a face lift after they purchase. Honestly, a lot of buyers prefer that. They can pick out the finishes and personalize the home for themselves. That's often part of the fun of buying an existing house!

So my advice to sellers is this: give your property a thorough cleaning and make sure that it is move-in ready. Do this and you'll be posed for a quick sale because you will be offering exactly what home buyers want.

Remember: move-in ready doesn't mean remodeled. It means completely functional and free of major defects. So yes, fix that broken drawer in the kitchen or replace that broken window pane in the bedroom. But don't buy into the myth that you have to gut the place.

As far as cleaning, I love a good checklist! Don't you?! Here is a simple cleaning checklist that should help you whether you're planning on selling next month, or next year. 

Oh, and don't forget to give me a call, too. I can give you an idea of how to prep your property to be listed. Work smarter, not harder! Before you do the heavy lifting, let me help you lighten your load! After years and years of doing this, I do know what home buyers want, and I can help you offer it to them.

All the best,

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How Covid-19 is Impacting Real Estate

How is Covid-19 impacting real estate?

How COVID-19 is Impacting Real Estate

How is COVID-19 impacting real estate

2020 started out as a prosperous and hopeful year in so many ways, particularly in the real estate industry. The spring market arrived early, and real estate was hot! Now, though, we are forced to pivot to the big question of the moment: how is Covid-19 impacting real estate?

It’s presence impacts every single person on the planet. First of all, regardless of how this stinker is affecting you, I am sorry. I am especially sorry if you’ve lost a loved one, or have had to nurse someone through this sometimes aggressive illness. I’m sorry if your business is hanging on by a thread, or you have had to file for unemployment. I'm just sorry. I wish I could wave a magic wand and fix it all. I really do.

However, I also want to offer some hope and encouragement to you, specifically regarding your real estate investments. The future of the market is uncertain, but there are some positive signs. And even when the questions are hard, there are options and I am here to help.

Here are the answers to three questions that have been asked of me a lot in recent days, with some links for further reading if you’d like to learn more. 

1. How has the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order impacted the real estate sales process?

Real Estate services are considered essential in Washington State. What this means is that although open houses and overlapping showings are suspended for the time being, all other real estate services are still permitted in accordance with the Stay Home, Stay Healthy Order. The Northwest Multiple Listing Service has put out a very informative release with more details on specific actions that can and cannot occur during the shut down, and you can view that here.

The bottom line is that real estate transactions are still moving, with just a few adjustments and accommodations to the ways we show houses and handle in-person contact.

2. How is the market reacting to the pandemic and the Stay Home Orders?

I'm not going to lie: it's a mixed bag.

Nationally, new listings are down 27% compared to the first week of April of last year. However, in the Seattle region listings are up 2.6%. In our area, people are continuing to sell homes!

Yet, the signs are there that the market is slowing down. Averaged over the past couple of years, when the local market has been HOT, only about 1 out of 5 homes sat on the market more than a month. But right now, it's closer to 2 out of 5 homes. So sellers should expect to wait a few weeks longer to sell their houses. So far, though, with over 60% of homes selling within a month of listing, the market is still moving along. That's not too shabby.

I don't have a crystal ball, though. There are still so many unknowns about not just the virus itself, but about how Covid-19 is impacting real estate and the economy at large. So my advice to someone asking me if it's a good time to sell, or a good time to buy, remains the same as it always is: the right time to buy/sell real estate is when it's the right time for YOU to buy/sell real estate.

It is such a personal decision, and I won't give a one-size-fits-all answer. That's not honest or authentic to who I am. So if you have a question specific to your situation, please reach out to me. I don't sell real estate—I help people through real estate transactions. So if it's not going to help you to buy or sell right now, I'll totally say that. But if you're positioned well for it, let's do it!

3. I am having trouble paying my bills right now. What should I do about my mortgage?

Okay, this is a heavy question, but it is reality for a lot of people right now. If this is you, first take a breath. I know this seems scary. You may or may not know that my husband and I lost our first home to foreclosure due to the 2008 crash. So I mean it when I say that I know what you're feeling, and I also know that this too shall pass.

Now that you've taken a breath here's what I would do: I'd Immediately call the bank that holds my mortgage and ask about forbearance option. The silver lining right now is that more than one out of twenty mortgage borrowers have been granted a pause on their monthly mortgage payments.

You should consider talking to your attorney about what's best for you.

Bonus Question: I don't feel well, but still need to view homes because we're on a time crunch to move. What do I do?

Please take care of yourself and stay home. We can figure out a way to get this done without you risking your health or that of others. Virtual tools and walk-throughs are a great option. I’ve taken a few clients on walk-throughs of houses using video calling. While Covid-19 is impacting real estate for sure, nearly every aspect of real estate transactions can be conducted virtually, if need be. And for those that can't, such as the inspection, if you can't be there I will be.

So, if you are not feeling well you should assess your symptoms, then call your doctors office to consult about next steps. The CDC has a helpful page about what to do if you are sick.  Once we all come out on the other side of this virus we will need to hit the ground running to keep our economy strong, but first things first… stay home, stay healthy.

Final Thoughts...

As we all continue to walk through this surreal time, I urge you to look outward and find ways to encourage those around you, whatever that may look like. In recent days, I am drawn to this John Wesley quote now more than ever:

Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.

If you have any other questions about how Covid-19 is impacting real estate, just general real estate questions, or questions specific to your situation, I am available! Please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

All the best,

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