Help! I Want to Sell My Home and Don’t Know How to Start…

One of the most stressful things we do in our lives is to sell the family home.  It affects so many core parts of our world.

♦Financial (“will I get enough money?”)

♦Physical (“I have to get it ready and how do I ever start?”)

♦Legal (“how on earth do I go about a contract or finding the deeds to the house’)

♦Emotional (“I have all these memories here?”)

♦Personal Angst (“what if no one likes my house”)

♦Trust (“Oh wow – I am handing this all to a complete stranger and hope they will do the right thing by me”)

You are not alone.

A trusted real estate advisor does more than just rock up to an open house and hold the door open for buyers. The selling process can start several months before the first buyer even hears about the home.

So here are a couple of stories of people, just like you, who didn’t know where to turn, or how to start, and here’s how a real estate agent can help:

♦ 70 something year old couple Mr & Mrs S. had lived in their house for nearly 40 years and were ready to downsize and have a more manageable garden. They had no idea where to start. We recommended a local solicitor to begin the contract of sale. The house was basically in good condition and had recently been carpeted and painted so no tidy up needed.  Just some specific advice about decluttering, changing the bedding to a fresher, more youthful style, moving some furniture around to increase floor space visibility. Small changes to increase the saleability. Took down the heavy curtains and the nets. We arranged a photographer to take photos and to also measure the house for the floorplan. We discussed strategy and whether auction or private treaty would work best and some advice about the best, cost effective places to advertise. For these clients, no newspaper and private treaty – an advertised price. We achieved their dream price in the first four weeks.

♦ Mr and Mrs D. had a rental property with a sitting tenant who had given notice. We helped the tenant organise to move out to make it as pain-free as possible for the tenant, organised a pest and building report so the out-of-area owner knew the shortcomings of the home and had the rotten deck repaired. They wanted to paint but we advised it wasn’t necessary. Suggested the massive bush at the front door be cut back to let in more light. Styled with a local company, photos and video done for this one. Auction for this one and lots of internet advertising. Sold in the first week.

♦ Mr. H. owned a small 2 bed rental unit and had some ‘harsh’ tenants. We organised the holes in the doors to be patched, the damaged carpet to be replaced and the walls painted (I even brought my own outdoor furniture and cushions to decorate the patio as the home was now empty of furnishing.)  Advised against a new kitchen. The owner wanted a quick sale so we advertised to our extensive data base before the work was even finished. Sold at the first open house.

♦ Mr & Mrs M.  owned two neighbouring properties both used as occasional weekenders, both very stuck in the 80’s. We organised a colour consultant, painter, carpets, gardener, tiler, electrician and handy man. Plus, a styling company and four months of careful hand holding later it was ready to go to market. Even though we didn’t recommend big changes, this owner wanted everything done to a high quality and replaced the dishwasher, the stove, the benchtops, the tiles, the toilets and the shower fittings. A big cosmetic freshens up which helped both properties far exceed the original expectations.

♦ Mr T.  loved his immaculate cottage which was firmly placed in the 70’s. He had an image of how the house once was and was not interested in changing a thing. We assisted with referrals to solicitor and he let me move some of the furniture around. No paint, no new carpet, no fancy stylists, no video, no signboard, no open houses, he wanted to write the advertising copy. I took my own outdoor furnishings, blankets, cushions for the bed, even a pot plant and lamp to help style the home. After a few weeks of gentle encouragement, he trusted me enough to write the copy for him and invite a few people in to see the home. He was thrilled with the result, as was the new purchaser.

♦ Mr & Mrs E. owned a weekender cottage. Little. Unassuming but crammed with 25 years of holiday furniture. And no closets. We suggested moving out some of the furniture and arrange for a removalist quote, and a tip run. They decided to take everything out and we helped with a styling company to bring in a fresh new look. No newspaper advertising, this one sold at auction for dramatically over the reserve.

So massive remodel on one end of the spectrum, to sweeping the front step on the other end, your agent should be trusted enough to advise you how to maximise your result.  Sometimes you don’t need to paint or recarpet because it won’t bring you in any more money.    Sometimes you just need to rearrange the furniture a little and trim back that one shrub.      But call in the agent even before you think it necessary because that big reno you are undertaking just to sell, may not be needed at all.  And whether you need a solicitor, a painter, a landscaper, a handyman, a cleaner, a styling company, a carpet quote, an exterior house washer, or just to think things through your trusted agent will supply all that and more.

And don’t forget, if you are after some advice, do not hesitate to call me on 0438 802 648. I have a myriad of contacts, and experience of course!

Bad Bathrooms and other You-Have-Got-To-Be-Kidding-Me Real Estate Photos

Sometimes the competition makes me look amazing because they are so bad.

Its no surprise that good photographs are the first step to attracting quality buyers to a property.Get the light right.  Move the furniture around a little.  Get rid of the clutter.  Frame the image well.  This all helps to attract a prospective purchaser. 

.I have even been known to take my own lamps, throws and cushions to enhance a property, and if you scroll through the photos of a few homes I have sold, you might see the same coffee table re-occur, and that’s mine.  And yes, that pillow turns up a lot. Not every family can afford to bring in a full professional styling crew, so I will help where I can. See my blog about hiring a professional stylist.  Always worth the cost.

I use a professional photography company I trust implicitly to shoot great images for me, and then to balance with colour and light for the finished article.   No photo shop but careful editing.

 So here’s my question..  Do you think THESE agents put terribly much thought into their photos. (yep, these are real photos taken from real estate web sites)  

Firstly.  The Feature Toilet.

I mean, sure its hard to take an elegant photo of a loo, but really!  Would you bother (and if you did bother, please take away the cleaning products. And trash can.

Pay no attention to the man behind the flash.

Apparently they’ve got a few spare items in this bathroom, not least an amateur photographer.

Shower curtain and towel, not included

Not sure about the flowery bit on the side either

Mirrors make everything look bigger

The toilet roll next to the bath is handy too.

Be wary of damp clothes after your shower

I suppose the wardrobes must be lacking in this home?

Have a chat

When you really, really can’t wait to talk to each other

DO not enter with a hangover

Nothing worse than stumbling into this with a headache.

Another agent who doesn’t know how mirrors work

Really my friend?  Really?

No.  Just No.

Too creepy for words. (and they don’t belong in the bedroom either)

Teenagers may have been here earlier

But Muuuuuuuummmmm.  I’ll clean it later.

So many choices. So little time.

Described as a Family home, I suppose?..

No, don’t worry. There will be plenty of pink pai….

Could you at least move the bleach?

I am sure these homes saved some cash by DIY-ing everything, including the photography.  And No, I am sure it didn’t cost them a penny!  But you know what they say –  pay peanuts, get monkeys. (although that may be an improvement)

Stories from the Trenches: Real Estate is not for the Faint Hearted

I totally understand that real estate agents have a bad reputation historically all over the world, not just in Terrigal or North Avoca.  I’m not so sure I understand it but certainly there has been room for improvement over the years.

Hopefully the industry has pulled its collective socks up and real estate is now heavily legislated and all the shonks and scoundrels have changed professions (into local government perhaps?…!)  Hopefully now, every buyer and seller is well treated and every client is made to feel special. Especially by real estate agents in North Avoca.

But you know there is another side to the coin… How the Agent is treated?

My very first listing appointment in real estate I rocked up to the apartment building, ready to conquer the world and to appraise the property of an older gentleman who I had met at an open house.  It was a good quality apartment building – high end price bracket and just across the road from the beach.  I thought this was going to be the launch of my stellar real estate career.

Little clip-board in hand (well, yes, this was a few years ago now…) I rang the doorbell and went up to the fifth floor. The unit door opened and I was greeted by his excessively hairy gray chest peeking over the top of his shortie robe… ugh.   He lounged suggestively on the couch while I commented on the view.  For those following along and not gagging, I kept my eyes on his eyes, signed the paperwork and listed and sold my first property. Not in Terrigal but in Santa Monica, but I am sure this same vendor exists on the Central Coast.

You would think that would be my first and last experience of vendor in a state of dis-robe – but yet, no, sadly it has happened more than once.

When I arrived for an open house in Terrigal (nicely 6 minutes early admittedly) for my gorgeous but slightly eccentric 75 year old lady, she shouted through the closed door that she wasn’t quite ready.  She threw open the door, then toddled off completely nuddy leaving me at the front door watching her retreating rear.  Starkers, I tell you.  What is that old joke about “I don’t know what she is wearing but it needs ironing?”…  I called her from the driveway from then on.  And yes, sold that one too.

I’ve been abused by tenants, unhappy that THEIR home is being sold.  That’s tricky because it turns out the home OWNER has some say in this matter.  Tricky.  I know its not the tenants property but it is their home so the piggy in the middle agent has to tread a fine line.

I have had a North Avoca tenant refuse to let me in for scheduled open houses, and one who deliberately left dirty dishes and dirty clothes, including grundy undies, everywhere to put off buyers.  This backfired horribly by the way, because the investor who ultimately purchased the property wanted these slobs out of his new property.

One tenant with a very large, barky dog tell me to let myself in… “if I dared” (I didn’t dare) and another who just sat there watching really loud television with his two room-mates for the duration of every open house.

I have had prospective clients insist on meeting me on National Holidays – then just not show up when I have left family BBQs to get to the office in time.  Buyers furious they didn’t secure the property because they weren’t the highest bidder.  (Which offer do you think the vendor wanted to accept?)

Mostly I think my career is a matter of Do Unto Others –  treat others as you would like to be treated. Not that hard really. Especially in North Avoca and Terrigal.  We are all decent folk.

So a synopsis:  put your clothes on.  Pick your knickers up if you know strangers will be walking through your house.  Take your snarly dog out for a walk on North Avoca beach or Terrigal dog park.  If you arrange to meet me,  show up or reschedule.  Make your best offer if you don’t want to lose out.  And if you are renting and the person who owns the house wants to sell, be gracious and allow them to sell THEIR home.

Do Unto Others.  Simple.

7 Minimums of Standard You should expect from your Real Estate Agent

What is fair and reasonable when you are weighing up expectations for your real estate agent?

I mean we all make assumptions of our phone company ( Get good reception… Not have to wait on hold for twenty minutes) and of our schools (Nurture and protect our children, help with socialisation. Educate, right?) but what are our expectations of a real estate agent?

Mostly I think it’s the Do Unto Others policy.

Just treat others as you wish to be treated.

  1. It’s reasonable to expect they will give you good advice regarding the presentation of your home.

We agents have seen hundreds of houses, probably many many more than you have, and we should have a good idea of what is, and what isn’t, desirable to a buyer. And more importantly, what is not acceptable to a buyer, which is a completely different thing.

Obviously this depends on the home. A buyer seeking a luxurious home in a multi-million dollar price bracket will have different expectations than a first-time home owner at the lower end of the price spectrum.

Expect your agent – or a good agent – to help guide you. Generally neutral colours are desirable.  Holes in walls, bad smells and dangerous structures are not. And for the love of Moses, get rid of those bad smells!

  1. It’s fair to expect they will hire a professional to take photos of your house. Gone are the days of happy snaps on an iPhone.  If all of your competition -that’s what all the other properties on the market are to your house-  if all the competition hires a professional photographer and your agent clicks a quick shot of the bedroom on his phone, which photo do you think the buyer will gravitate to on the internet?

Even subconsciously they will choose the well balanced, light adjusted professional shot. And videos are now a compelling and cost-effective way to showcase a desirable house.  Expect this to should be an option available to you. And not just a series of still photos spliced together with music. That’s not a video.  That’s a series of still photos spliced together. (With music.)

  1. It’s fair to expect they will expose your property to the greatest possible market, within the confines of your budget.

If you are able to pay for a sky writer to spell out the address and inspection times, great!  But the vast majority of clients simply want their house exposed on the internet, in print ads, some people want sign boards outside, a video, some flyers distributed, an active data base contacted in a timely manner.

 Pretty much, where they themselves look for property when they are searching.  A knowledgeable agent should guide you here.  It’s not the same for every home and you should expect your agent to tailor the marketing to your house and budget.

  1. It’s reasonable to expect your agent will protect your asset (and all the little assets lying around).

When welcoming others into your home, its fair that you should have an expectation of due diligence and that the potential buyer is not walking around with a spray can and marking all the walls.  Similarly, that the same stranger is not riffling through your drawers or pilfering your jewellery box.

You would rightly assume that your agent is paying attention to who comes through the house, taking names and contact details and is monitoring their behaviour.    I mean, obviously don’t leave $50 notes on the counter top or your diamond earrings on the bathroom bench.

Let’s be smart about this. Your agent should ask someone to finish their dripping ice cream before they go in, and to rein in those four running and screaming rambunctious pre-schoolers. (Honestly, who goes house shopping with four kids under the age of five? Find a babysitter for three hours!  And if you have four under five and find a baby sitter, you might choose a nap or a pint or two of wine instead of an open house.)

  1. When the agent receives an enquiry, it’s fair to expect they will contact those enquiries within a reasonable amount of time and accelerate that interest.

It would not be fair to expect your agent to go to the house at six o’clock on a Sunday morning or 10:30pm at night to accommodate a buyer who can’t be bothered to give up their lunchtime to view the property. But emails and phone calls?  Its fair to assume your agent will contact those buyers in a timely manner- say within a couple of hours. (We do sometimes have other business to attend to.)

And inspections? Sure, sometimes it’s possible to accommodate after hours inspections but most agents also have lives outside of their career.  It’s true I have responded to an online enquiry at 1:05am but frankly that was more to do with a movie marathon ending at that time, than a regular enquiry check-up.

  1. I think it’s fair to expect that if you interview and hire “X agent” then THAT is who you are hiring.

Sure, all successful agents have people on staff to help manage paperwork or assist with back end admin work.  But to meet all buyers, attend all open houses, negotiate all offers? – that’s your agents job!

Not to sign you up under false pretenses, then fob you off to all the minions while they rush off and sign up the next one.  Even writing the description… How can someone who has never stepped into your house, adequately describe the benefits of your particular property.

So for me, I think it’s fair to expect that your hired agent is the face of your property.  (This is a contentious issue with the bigger agents –  they will suggest that when you have a medical problem the surgeon is the one who does the actual surgery and a big team does all the rest.  But this is not brain surgery.  And one poor comment made by an assistant, or a badly run, sloppy open house, can cost you thousands.  Or the right buyer.Make sure you get the person you hired.

  1. The greatest asset your agent brings to you is their ability to negotiate, it is fair to expect they will negotiate like Mandela on your behalf!

True, we are not trying to stop war or free people, but a good agent should be able to negotiate to achieve an extra little bit of gravy on top of the meat and veg.  $1,000, $22,000 or $63,000 – this push to extract the last few dollars is what separates a good agent from a sign stuck in your front garden saying ‘For Sale by Owner’.

And don’t be fooled but the budget companies that have sprung up. Many charge a flat fee and could care less if you get $50,000 lower than market value. And how would you ever know?

I once sold a house for $1,617,250.   The extra $17,250 made little difference to the buyer once it was added to his home loan, but made a lot of difference to the seller who was retiring and moving to his last home.  The buyer should walk away feeling like they got a good property, not a great deal.

Your property is most likely your biggest asset  (besides your children of course).  Your service expectations should be met, possibly exceeded.  A good agent cannot change the market to get you a fabulous price – but they should be able to effectively manage the process to get you a fabulous result.

Why settle for anything less?

Giving it all away?

I love Christmas.

I really enjoy this time of year.

The excitement and build up. 

I liked it when it was cold and snowy in the first 30 odd years of my life, and I have loved the past 17, in the hot hot Aussie summer. Pretending to tan on North Avoca and Terrigal beaches.

I even love the Christmas Carols.  But more than all of that, I love the family time and the coming together and hanging out, eating too much, throwing away far too much gift wrapping, but all just being there.  Stopping for just one day and breathing.

This year I have a very special person who won’t be there and its heartbreaking.  It will be a different type of Christmas this year.  Still a punctuation point to indicate we are at ‘that’ time of year, but maybe less joyous singing and more reflection on what we have had, what we have gained, who we have lost.

My favourite holiday is the American Thanksgiving because there is no stress of gift giving, its not religious at all, just a national holiday when the entire country stops and gives thanks for their lot, whether that’s spiritual, or financial, or the new relationship, or baby, or house.

And see, there?!…  House.  I did it.  Houses.   That’s what I am really supposed to write about.  You probably don’t care much about my thoughts on family or Christmas and gifts.  But houses?!  Yep.  That’s my area of speciality.  I reflect on the houses I have been through this year.  The reasons they sold.  The people who were buying.  The families who were selling and what it meant to them.

I sell lots of houses and meet all sorts, different ages, careers, length of time in the property but many of the home owners are quite nervous about selling.

I understand.  You have to prepare for sale, finish the lingering jobs, the landscaping, the painting, keep it neat and tidy through the sale, sweep the paths, make the beds, what if someone doesn’t like it enough, what if NO one likes it at all, what if you don’t get enough money to take the next step, what happens if?…

And more than all of that, if you have lived in a house for many years, you worry about the memories.  What happens to all those memories of Christmas mornings, parties and gatherings, babies being born then going off to college. What happens to all those feel good feelings – where do they go?I have sympathised and empathised with many owners over the years, including the 92 year old lady who recently moved from her home of 34 years, and reminded them that the feelings stay with you.

If you find you are stressed about selling your family home, don’t worry.  The warm and fuzzy memories are stuck tight in your head and your heart and you don’t need an orange formica benchtop to help you remember them.  Its terrifying but true.  The memories are yours forever.

This year I am giving away the stress.  Giving away the panic of not finding the right gift.  Giving away the angst of insufficient food and trying to please everyone.

I am keeping my happy memories and enjoying my down time with family and friends.

I’m going to hang onto that image in my head of previous gatherings around our dining room table, that glow I feel when I recall the laughter and the funny stories.

I will give away the sadness of missing those who are absent, still raising a glass, and maybe shedding a tear, but remembering instead the giggles and the joy.

Whether you rent a one bedroom studio, or are lucky to own a 7 bedroom mansion.  Remember whats important about it.

Houses are bricks and mortar.  Its the people who make it into a home.

Enjoy yours.

When you get ready to move on, give me a call to discuss how I can help make it as seamless as possible.