8 Unwritten Etiquette Rules Every Home Seller Should Know.

selling-etiquette

David Sacks/Getty Images

If you’re trying to sell your home, you’ve probably scrutinized it, staged it, and scrubbed it down from floorboards to rooftop as if the folks from Architectural Digest were stopping by for a cover shoot. OK, so it’s in immaculate shape—but your home isn’t the only thing under scrutiny here. You are, too! That’s right: No matter how nice your home is, your behavior can also affect how buyers feel about making an offer.

Last week we told you the secret etiquette rules that every home buyer needs to know in order to nail the deal. Today we’re focusing on the selling side of the equation. Here are the (previously) unwritten etiquette rules sellers should follow to show their home—and themselves—in the best possible light.

Leave

Sure, you’re dying to know if prospective buyers will love what you’ve done with the kitchen, but Realtors® agree sellers should not be there lurking in the shadows during an open house or showing.

“Buyers don’t feel as comfortable when the owner is at the home watching their every move,” explains Nicholas Kensington of Scottsdale Real Estate. “Get out of their way so that they can start to picture themselves living there instead of being spied on.” So take a powder. Or at least hide.

Take your pets with you

You think Humbert is the cutest labradoodle ever, but not everyone is bound to share that opinion. In addition to having allergies, some home shoppers may not be in the market for a run-in with an animal they don’t know.

“Imagine, as a buyer, having the background music set to ‘barking dog’ while you are trying to take in the home’s nuances that you, as the seller, have worked so hard to hone,” says Brenda Hayward, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker. “To say nothing of the stress it puts on your beloved pet. Take your mutt for a car ride, to the dog park, or for a long walk. It will do you both good.”

Betty Clark, who claims an “irrational fear of birds,” says she was shocked by how many open houses she ran from due to unexpected tweeting and chirping from caged and uncaged feathered friends. Don’t alienate would-be purchasers by forcing your pets on them.

Move your car

“Make it easy for visitors to park and view the home,” Kensington notes. “No one likes parking issues. Having them is a sure way to get a viewing off to a bad start.” In fact, if potential buyers have to park a block away and walk, they may just skip taking the tour of your home. Or if they’re willing to make the hike, they may be in a lousy mood by the time they enter your home. Why risk it?

Lay out important documents

If questions arise while buyers are on the premises, it may help them decide to put in an offer that much faster if they can find answers quickly and in writing.

“Leaving necessary documents in an easy-to-find spot isn’t just good for selling, it’s also good selling etiquette,” says Kensington. “Put out the home inspection report, appraisal, home warranty, monthly bill information—gas, oil, electric—and proof of any major repairs are all good things to let people look through when they are considering buying your home.”

Offer some refreshments

House hunters can get parched and peckish. You can help!

“Putting out a few small bottled waters in a small bowl of ice is always appreciated, along with some light, easy grab-and-go sort of refreshments like mints or cookies,” says Cara Ameer, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker.

Be patient waiting for feedback

Of course, you’re dying to know what buyers thought of your home, but that information may not flow back to you instantaneously. Buyers often want to process what they’ve seen and think it over before making an offer. If one comes through, don’t worry, you’ll hear about it!

“It is reasonable to ask for feedback from your Realtor after the showing, but understand it may take a day or two for the buyer’s agent to respond,” Hayward says.

Don’t be greedy

Who doesn’t want top dollar for their home? But an unwillingness to negotiate can kill a possible deal and keep your home on the market long after you were hoping to be unpacking at your new place.

“Focusing on your bottom line is always important, but greed can lead to disaster. Remember a little of something is better than a lot of nothing. Generosity will lead you to your promise land,” says Josh Myler, a Realtor with The Agency.

Listen to the professionals

If your Realtor has some suggestions for improvements that may help sell the home faster, take them to heart but don’t take them personally.

“Don’t shoot the messenger,” says Caroline Gosselin, a Realtor with Sotheby’s Prominent Properties. “Keep emotions out and listen to what a licensed, trained, professional has to say about the house, be it a Realtor or an inspector. It’s immature and unmannerly not to be able to take criticism and be able to move on.”

By
Liz Alterman

How to Write an Offer Letter That Will Win the House

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By
Cathie Ericson

You love the house sooo much. The problem is, lots of other people probably do, too. How can you stand out in a competitive environment? Try writing an offer letter that knocks the seller’s socks off.

“Making the highest offer is typically the best way to win a bid, but when a seller is faced with two very similar offers, a letter can oftentimes tip the scales toward yours,” says Realtor® Mindy Jensen of Longmont, CO.

So how do you use writing to woo a seller to your side? Check out these snippets from winning offer letters, then learn how you can follow in the footsteps of these real-life buyers.

A winning game plan

The words that wooed: After seeing a number of properties that have not “spoken” to us in a significant way, we were delighted to discover your home, with its mixture of charm and warmth. We envision family gatherings within its open living area and drinking coffee while watching our children play in the pool. As basketball is in the family blood (Steve is a former employee of the National Basketball Association), I’m sure there will be plenty of pick-up games for everyone.

Why it worked: “My clients were up against a better offer from a builder, but the seller couldn’t bear the idea of their house being torn down,” explains Anne West, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Winnetka, IL. “They wanted to sell their home to someone who would raise their family there and who would love it as much as they had, and my clients were able to articulate that they were just that family.”

How to do it yourself: Find out some backstory about the owners or other bidders if you can. The tidbit about the builder, for example, was crucial knowledge. But for any property, most sellers who have taken good care of their homes want to make sure they will be loved by the next owner, too, so let your enthusiasm shine to gain the edge over pricier offers.

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Must love dogs

The words that wooed: My husband and I have been searching for our first home, and we believe your house will be the perfect place to raise our growing family. Our son is due in September, and I know he will be so happy playing in the fabulous backyard with our two dogs.

Why it worked: “The seller appreciated her praising specific things that were obviously installed by the homeowners,” says Mindy Jensen, a Realtor in Longmont, CO. “But the tipping point was when she included a picture of her dog with the letter. The seller specifically allowed her to match the highest offer, based solely on her dog.”

How to do it yourself: Make yourself relatable. Take a cue from the lovingly tended roses or, in this case, a dog, and try to glean what the seller values. It could be kids, a dog, or even a love of gardening. If you share those same interests, offer them up. You never know what phrases may spur the seller to choose your offer over another.

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This way to Easy Street

The words that wooed: We are not looking for a bargain, just a fair price for something nice. This would be a cash sale, and we could close quickly or at a convenient time for you. 

Why it worked: “This was a no-brainer for the seller, because you can tell these folks are clued in, and money talks,” says Bruce Ailion, a real estate agent with Re/Max Atlanta. “This letter makes it clear that this is going to be an easy transaction: cash sale, market price, close quickly or on your timetable.”

How to do it yourself: Get your ducks in a row before you make an offer. Even if you’re not doing an all-cash offer, have a pre-approval in hand. Especially in a seller’s market, make it clear that you are going to be easy to work with and that the seller can call the shots.

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Sentiment sells

The words that wooed: We grew up in the city and our parents live very close by; one of them is living very close to your home. It’s important to find a home close to our family, so that when we start our family, our children will be close to their grandparents.”

Why it worked: “If the seller has raised their own family there, they have an emotional connection to the house,” says David Feldberg, broker/owner of Coastal Real Estate Group in Newport Beach, CA. “Talking about several generations plucks those heart strings.”

How to do it yourself: Include details about your family and connection to the area. And always include a photo. When the seller is considering multiple offers, the photo makes your offer stand out from the pack.

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Flattery can get you everywhere

The words that wooed: From the moment I walked in, I knew this place felt like home. (Well if I am being honest, I fell in love with the wallpaper in the bathroom first!! ha-ha.) I also really appreciate the attention to detail in the upgrades you made: the stain on the floors, the wall colors and the charming lights, and I absolutely love your furniture selection.

Why it worked: “My client clearly admired the seller’s decor decisions,” says John Michael Grafft with Berkshire Hathaway Koenig Rubloff in Chicago. “It turned out she was an interior designer. Everyone appreciates a sincere compliment.”

How to do it yourself: Find details that you love about the home and mention them so it’s clear you’re not sending a generic letter to every potential property seller. The seller chose those design elements, so find something you love that you can mention sincerely. Even if you are planning to change everything about a place you consider a fixer-upper, compliment the fact that the seller took great care of the home.

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Short and sweet

The words that wooed: Semper fi.

Why it worked: “The rest of the letter was great, but in all honesty, that phrase at the end of his letter sealed the deal. He and the seller were both Marines,” says Mindy Jensen, a Realtor in Longmont, CO.

How to do it yourself: Common interests can make all the difference, but don’t lie. That goes for military service, of course, but also other details. Don’t tell the seller that you want to raise your children there, if you don’t have any. Instead, if you hope to eventually have a family, you can say, “I hope to someday be able to raise my children in this beautiful home.”

Home Selling 101: So You Want to Sell? Here’s What You Need to Know

As the housing market continues to rebound from the depths of the Great Recession, many homeowners find themselves ready to make a move.

There are several things driving home sales. One of the main strengths of today’s market is in move-ups, according to Budge Huskey, Coldwell Banker Real Estate CEO. Existing homeowners are looking to upgrade to bigger or more luxurious homes from the starter homes they purchased in their younger years. Many have waited until they were sure their homes would sell for a decent price.

“More sellers are confident about putting their homes on the market because of the solid growth of the economy,” he said.

Adding to the sales volume of existing homes is that many graying boomers are downsizing from their family-sized empty nests into smaller places more suited to their current needs.

A third factor buoying sales is that the warming economy has more people moving because they found a new job, been reassigned by their companies, or to look for work.

Whether they’re relocating across country, downsizing from an empty nest or trading up to a bigger house, homeowners intent on selling have a lot to think about.

Among the many recent trade-up sellers are Jessica and Matt Allcock, a 30-something couple from Cincinnati with a three-year old son and another boy on the way. Jessica thought for years about a new home, but the coming addition to the family pushed her to make her dream a reality.

The couple’s three-bedroom ranch, which they bought eight years ago, was just a little too compact at just over 1,000 square feet and she craved more closet space.

The first step was to find an agent. There are three basic choices: Selling it yourself; selling through a fee-for-service brokerage; or opting for a full-service brokerage. The Allcocks asked friends and relatives for recommendations and decided on a full-service brokerage, the Oyler Group with Coldwell Banker West.

“We weren’t comfortable with the idea of handling a lot of the sale ourselves,” said Jessica.

They bonded with agent Scott Oyler right away, who, they felt, gave them good advice from the start.

“Homeowners are emotionally invested in their homes,” said Oyler. “That’s one good reason to have an agent for their sound, objective advice. Even when I sold my own home, three years ago, I had a couple of our agents go through the house for a good gut check.”

In the Allcock’s case, Oyler met with the couple and examined the house, a well-kept brick ranch on a big lot in a suburban area within city limits.

“He told us what we needed to do to get the house ready to sell: Do some repainting; declutter, paint the deck,” said Jessica. “It took three months.”

Plan ahead

Oyler said it’s important for sellers to take their time getting a home on the market, like the Allcocks did. Just as sellers have an emotional attachment to their homes, buyers can fall quickly in love with a property. But there are condition issues that can turn off buyers.

“I make a list of all the things they need to do to prepare the house for sale,” said Oyler. “If something needs to be fixed, get it fixed. I would rather a seller take time to get a house fully prepared for the market rather than try to go for a quick sale.”

The prep paid off for the Allcocks.  “When he came back to see it, he thought he could sell it for more than we originally thought,” said Jessica.

Millennials and Personal Finance: New Technology, Old Challenges

Millennials and Personal Finance: New Technology, Old Challenges
Millennials have conflicted feelings about their personal finances; they are uncertain but lean toward optimism. This conclusion is in accordance with a recently released Experian report originating from a survey of more than 1,000 millennials, ages 19-34, about a variety of personal finance topics – from their future views, to loan status, to credit knowledge, to use of technology.

The survey follows a July 2015 report from Experian that analyzed credit bureau data and placed millennials last in generational credit score rankings.

Topline survey results include:

  • A surprising number lack knowledge about credit – or show apathy toward it
  • A majority have had their credit, loan or lease attempts impacted – positively or negatively – by credit scores
  • Millennials embrace technology and are quick to try new offerings – at the expense of loyalty

“Millennials are coming of financial age at a very unique time,” says Guy Abramo, President, Experian Consumer Services. “They’ve experienced a recession and the explosive advancement of personal technology. As a result, they’ve developed different views toward managing money, using credit and how they expect financial services to be delivered. The survey also showed that millennials will abandon loyalty for better products and services, which is something the entire financial services sector should consider; the pressure is on to keep innovating.”

Perception vs. Reality:

  • Millennials miss the mark when estimating their generation’s average credit score (654 [est.] vs. 625 [actual]), average debt $26,610 [est.] vs. $52,210 [actual], and average debt, excluding mortgage ($12,580 [est.] vs. $26,485 [actual]).

Current Debt:

  • Despite being associated most closely with student loan debt, credit card debt takes first position as the most common millennial debt (38%), followed closely by student loans (36%). Others, in descending order, are: auto loans (28%), home loans (20%), personal loans (17%) and “other” (14%).

Pushing the Edge of Personal Finance:

  • The majority of millennials (57%) use financial mobile apps to manage their finances
  • Millennials have, on average, three financial apps on their phones
  • Most (57%) millennials are willing to use alternative companies/services that innovate to better meet their needs
  • A significant number of millennials (39%) are familiar with “non-bank” lenders (e.g., Prosper, Lending Tree, Upstart) and 13% have already used such a service
  • Nearly half (47%) will likely use alternative lenders in the future, citing easier application process, not dependent solely on credit score, more accessible, faster review process and digital savvy

Loyalty to a Financial Brand Is a Tough Sell:

  • Many millennials (46%) look for new financial companies/services that better meet their needs
  • More than 3 out of 4 millennials will switch financial accounts if they find a better alternative
  • Most frequently mentioned reasons to switch include: better interest rates (47%), better reward programs (43%), better identity protection (32%) and better customer service (35%), among others

Credit Knowledge Deficit:

  • Most millennials feel confident of their credit knowledge (71%); however, 32% don’t know their credit scores and 67% have questions as to how their scores are created
  • Among those who check their reports less than every three months, reasons for not checking reports and scores include: not necessary (35%/37%), afraid it will hurt their scores (24%/22%), unsure how to check their credit reports/scores (19%/18%)
  • Millennials are very aware of how credit scores impact them; nearly 3 in 4 had a lending or leasing experience helped or hurt by their credit scores

Youthful Angst, but Optimism Prevails:

  • Despite most having a handle on their finances (73%), more than half feel that they are “going it alone” (59%) and that “the odds are stacked against them” (57%)
  • Top financial future concerns are supporting a family (30%), retirement savings (28%) and financial independence (25%)
  • Nearly 3 out of every 4 survey participants had their loan, credit or rental applications impacted – positively or negatively – by their credit scores
  • Despite the concerns, 83% of respondents says being debt-free is an attainable goal; 71% feel confident about their financial futures

View the full report here.

For more real estate information, including a FREE Home Market Analysis and Market Area Statistics, please contact me at Sarah.McKendry@kappelgateway.com or on my mobile phone at 707-337-6938.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2015. All rights reserved.

10 Ways to Winterize Your Home

10 Ways to Winterize Your Home
Whether winter proves mild or brutal, colder temperatures can cause major damage to your property. To avoid potential repairs come springtime, take the time now to carry out these 10 winterization steps.

1. Insulate – Proper insulation is essential to keeping heat in and cold out of your home. Insulation tends to be lacking in attics and basements, so evaluate these areas and, if needed, retrofit with cost-effective, energy-efficient injection foam insulation.

2. Weatherize – Weatherization prevents ice dams from damaging your roof.  To do it effectively, be sure to have a qualified professional ventilate, insulate and seal the attic.

3. Test – Take the time to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors—these early-warning systems are crucial to your family and home’s safety. Replace batteries if needed.

4. Swap – Dirty, clogged air filters in your furnace can result in unnecessary wear-and-tear on the system. Before turning on your furnace for the season, swap in a new air filter to ensure functionality and efficiency all winter long.

5. Install – Homes with single-pane windows are susceptible to cold outdoor air. If your home has single-pane windows, installing storm windows can help block the cold, saving you the expense of unnecessarily heating your home.

6. Switch – If your home has ceiling fans, switch them to rotate clockwise to keep heat from rising to the ceiling during winter.

7. Clean – Gutters free of debris will ensure winter precipitation properly drains away from your home. Clean out your gutters when the last leaves have fallen.

8. Mow – Mow the lawn one last time before winter hits. Don’t forget to leave leaves on the grass—they provide vital nutrients.

9. Trim – Before winter storms strike, assess your property for dead trees, limbs or other plantings that may cause accidental damage. Be sure to trim back branches away from your home.

10. Drain – Water in your garden hose may freeze if left out in the cold, which could cause it and the home’s spigot and pipes to burst. Take time to drain your garden hose before storing.

Source: RISMedia’s Housecall

For more real estate information, including a FREE Home Market Analysis and Market Area Statistics, please contact me at Sarah.McKendry@kappelgateway.com or on my mobile phone at 707-337-6938.