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Saturday, March 25, 2017

I approved a showing request. What is my role in that?

Understanding the Real Estate Process from A – Z – A Seller’s Guide to Real Estate – Part 5

This is the fifth post of a series in an FAQ format that I hope will help would be sellers better understand the real estate process that they are about to go through. There will be a follow-on series for real estate buyers.

FAQ – I approved a showing request. What is my role in that? Also, my agent wants to do an open house this weekend; what do I do for that?

Great, you’re getting some showing activity and your Realtor is executing a part of his/her Marketing Plan by scheduling an open house. Your role during each event is the same –BE GONE! As I mentioned in part 4 of this series of posts, you have an ongoing role to maintain the 3-C’s for the
house – Condition, Clutter and Cleanliness.  That is true for either of these events. Since you never know when a showing request will come in, you need to leave the house in show-ready every day, especially if you are off to work for the day.

Having your house listed and being always ready for showings is extra work and a hassle for some, but it is a personal sacrifice that you have to be willing to make as part of the selling process. If you’re into self-pity, selling your house will provide you with a woeful field day of opportunities to lament your fate. If, instead, you tend to get angry at being inconvenienced by all of those inconsiderate buyers who are trying to see your house, just don’t take it out on your Realtor. Go to the gym and hit the big bag for a while.

If you have pets, they need to be provided for. If they can be crated for the day, that is a good way to keep them out of the way for showings. If they are too large to put in a crate for the day or that just doesn’t work for them, you may try a day care program at your local pet care facility or arrange for someone to go over and take them out for the time of the showings. Locking your pet into a small room, like a laundry room, for the day may not work out as well as you hoped. Some pets go stir
crazy ad start scratching or chewing on the woodwork or other things in those rooms.  Visitors are also put off by the barking that will occur, by not being able to see that space in the house and by their concern and empathy for the pet (which may translate into bad thoughts about you as the pet’s owner).

Before you leave, also turn on and leave on the lights in the various rooms of the house, especially those table lamps and other lights that do not operate off a light switch. Leaving the lights on for the day is not going to significantly run up your electric bill and will make the house more inviting and easier to show, especially in winter months when it might be getting dark out before you get home. Most Realtors will try to turn off as many lights as they can at the end of their showing appointment. If you have multiple showings scheduled leave a note for the Realtors to let the earlier showing agents know to leave the lights on for the next showing.

If you are going to ask visitors to remove their shoes (or use over-shoe booties) during the visit you should provide a chair or bench for the visitors to sit on while removing or putting on their shoes or putting on the removing the booties. It is also a nice, and considerate, touch to provide a rug by the front door for the visitors to leave their shoes on. Other nice touches that you might consider is putting out a plate of fresh cookies and some bottled water for your visitors. Your Realtor should provide flyers of the home for visitor and any other documentation that he/she thinks might help - a plat map or survey for houses on larger parcels, for instance. Most Realtors are required to make the Sellers’ Disclosure and Lead-Based Paint Disclosure available on the MLS, but having those available for visitors in the house is also a good idea. You don’t have to put the Association By-Laws out for these events, but be aware that they will be requested for review by any really interested buyer, so make them available to your Realtor. If you have a survey of the property that is a good thing to copy and leave out. Visitors will want to know what the lot boundaries are, especially for bigger parcels.

The preparation for an Open House is basically the same as for a showing, so far as the 3-C’s are concerned. I advise that owners/sellers make an extra effort to put valuables away or, at least, out of sight. Visitors at an open house are not normally accompanied by a buyers’ agent and there may
occasions where there are multiple groups in the house at the same time. Your Realtor will do his/her best to watch everyone and try to protect your stuff; however, if you leave small, but valuable items laying out where they can be seen there will always be a few bad eggs who might take advantage and may rip you off. Put your valuables away for the open house. That includes things like jewelry, game cartridges in the kids’ rooms, DVD’s, memory sticks for computers, prescription drugs, small religious items (crosses and rosaries) and anything else that someone could easily slip into a purse or pocket. Whether you read it or not in the listing contract there was probably a sentence or a paragraph that specified that the agent is not responsible for any theft from your home during showings and open houses.

Neither your Realtor or the showing agent is held liable for injuries that visitor may suffer while visiting your home. Those injuries would have to be covered under your home owners’ insurance policy (so make sure that is up to date and paid up). Many homes have hazards in them that the owners get used to dealing with, but which unsuspecting visitors may fall victim to. Falling is the most common hazard. That little 5-6” drop into your sunken living room is something that you are used to, but I have seen visitors miss that step down and fall into the room with disastrous results. I usually recommend marking that drop with caution tape on the floor. Missing hand rails on stairs are another hazard that your family might have learned to live with, but which pose a danger for visitors; and which, by the way, you will have to fix if the buyer is going to use an FHA or VA mortgage; so fix it before it becomes a health hazard or a mortgage issue. Another hazard for visitors can come from opening a closet door to peek inside and being hit by falling objects from the overstuffed closet. Make sure that your closets don’t attack your visitors. They will open the doors to see how big the closets are.

What about the smells in your house? Visitors will notice the smell of your house before they notice anything else. Most owners become nose-dead to the pet odors than may linger in the house or to the smell of a litter box. Owners who smoke (and smoke in the house) are nose dead to how nicotine reeks in the house; buy, non-smokers can tell instantly that the house is smoked in and for many that
is a show stopper. Some owners with ethnic backgrounds may also be nose-dead to the smells in the house that are left by cooking ethnic foods. There is certainly nothing wrong with any ethnic group or even their foods, but visitors may not wish to share the aromas that can linger. Special attention needs to be paid to that issue if you are the owner and enjoy strong ethnic cooking in the house. See if Febreze will work, otherwise you may need to take stronger steps to deal with this issue. For houses that have been smoked in it may take the drastic step of washing down all walls and ceilings with a strong cleaner and then painting them with Kilz, before painting them whatever color you choose.

Other odors that can cause concern for visitors include strong musty odors in the basement, any gas smells that indicate leaks, or even strong odors from cloths piled in a laundry room or hamper. Some home owners try burning scented candles to mask any odors; but, that can have just the opposite effect on visitors who may wonder what the home owner is trying to hide. Some visitors will even get ill from the smell of the burning candles, which can themselves become overpowering, especially if the home owner has used multiple candles. There is still merit in the old advice to bake an apple pie the day of a showing, but if the place is getting lots of showings you won’t be able to keep up eating pies. The best thing is if the house smells neutral, which most visitors will equate to being clean. If the visitor happens to notice a feeding dish or a litter box, the best compliment that you could get as a homeowner is for them to say, “Wow, I didn’t smell a pet at all in here.”

For showings you should plan on leaving 30 minutes before he scheduled tome and returning 30 minutes after the scheduled end of the visit. Realtors try hard to stay of the schedule of the visit, but that is sometimes impossible, especially if your house is one in the middle or near the end of a busy day of visits to multiple homes with a client. It is very easy to get off the schedule by ½ an hour or more sometimes. You need to be flexible and accommodate those reasonable changes to the showing times. Open houses are a little easier to control, so you only need to leave about 15 minutes ahead of the open house start time and you should be able to return within 15 minutes of the end time. You may still encounter those open house visitors who have lingered at the end, but that’s usually a good thing. Your Realtor may leave you a note or call you later to tell you how the open house went, how many visitors went through and whether any of them seemed interested. He/she should have picked up lots of valuable feedback which they will share with you and discuss any changes that may need to be made.

Showings and open houses should have been your goal when you decided to list; so these are good things. No one is going to buy your house sight unseen, so do whatever you can (and whatever your Realtor asks you to do) to make them a success.  Good Luck with your showings/open houses.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

FAQ – I signed the listing documents and the house is on the MLS; what’s my role now?

Understanding the Real Estate Process from A – Z – A Seller’s Guide to Real Estate – Part 4

This is the fourth post of a series in an FAQ format that I hope will help would be sellers better understand the real estate process that they are about to go through. There will be a follow-on series for real estate buyers.

FAQ – I signed the listing documents and the house is on the MLS; what’s my role now?

There’s a tendency to think that you have no role in the marketing of your house; but, that is not CONDITION, CLUTTER and CLEANLINESS? That was not a one-time commitment on your part to get the house ready for the market; those three things must be maintained through the listing period and until closing. Success during the listing period is dependent upon the “three P’s” of real estate – PRICE, PERSISTANCE and PERSERVERANCE.
correct. Remember the “three C’s” from the second post in this series –

If you followed the advice that I gave in the first post you got yourself a GOOD Realtor® and during the listing process, he/she produced a Market Analysis that gave you good advice on the market value of your house. Hopefully you heeded that advice and have priced the house properly IN the market Price is not an issue. If he/she hasn’t already done so, you might assist them in taking the interior pictures. If it’s winter now, perhaps you might have some summer pictures that they could use. The main thing is that is be straightened up and neat for the pictures.
and not just thrown it ON the market at some overvalued price. So, let’s assume, for the moment, that

That leaves Persistence and Perseverance, which are things that the agent is counting on you for during the listing. You must persist everyday with the necessary straightening up and cleaning that are necessary to make sure that the house is show ready when you leave for work or start the rest of your daily tasks. The realtor is also counting on you to preserver through the persona hardships that may occur during the listing. Life cannot go on with “business as usual” when you rare listed. There will be showing request that conflict with something else that you or the family would like to do. Those requests must take precedence, since every showing request was made by the person who will want to buy your house (or at least that is the way you must think). 

Listing the house can be especially hard on families with small children or with pets. They don’t understand what is going on and it can be frightening and traumatizing for both children and pets.
Some families have turned the morning routine of straightening up and putting away toys and things into a game with their children to help make it easier on them. You will need to make a special effort to help children understand why you are selling the only home that they may have ever known and why it’s going to be alright, maybe even better, where you plan to live next. It’s also a time to get them used to packing up their stuff for the coming move. That will help de-clutter the place for showings, too. 

It is important that visitors be alerted by the Showing Appointment Center that there are pets in the house, if they are to stay in the house during showings. Some visitors may have severe allergies to the dander in the air from pets and need to be alerted. Don’t be surprised if some showings get canceled because of that issue. It may be necessary to arrange for pets to go to day care at a local kennel, if you can’t take time out to go home and remove them for showing or crate them for the day. Cats pose their own problems for Realtors and visitors (would they have it any other way?) and it may be necessary to confine them to certain rooms if they behave aggressively with visitors or may
aggressively try to escape when visitors open the door. Even docile cats who may run and hide when strangers come into the house and may surprise visitors later if they run out from under a bed or hiss at a visitor who gets too near. Certainly extra attention must be paid to cat litter boxes during the listing, so that the odor does not become an issue for visitors.

Many Sellers ask what their role in during showings and the answer is simple – BE GONE! I’ll cover that role of the seller in more detail in a follow-on post.

Another role for the seller during the listing is working with their Realtor to evaluate the feedback that they are getting and to take the necessary steps to adjust the listing. The adjustment recommended most often is to the price, but there may be other suggestions that come out of the feedback, perhaps about something that was missed during the preparation to list and still needs to be fixed. Perhaps the feedback will finally convince the seller to clean to replace the soiled carpeting or do something now about the cracks in the basement walls. It is likely that a GOOD Realtor would have already mentioned those items, but was initially ignored by the owner/seller.

Your Realtor will be executing his/her marketing plan, which will include publicity and exposure in a variety of media but that doesn’t preclude you from letting your friends and family know about it being listed. Quite often someone in that circle may have had a secret desire to get into your neighborhood for year, maybe they even wished they could be in your house. Help make their dreams come true by telling them it is for sale. They may have friends who have told them to keep an eye open for any homes that come up in the neighborhood.

One thing that you can be almost certain will happen is that would-be buyers will want to know what your utility bills run per month and for the year. If you haven’t already done so, save some of those bills and go back and see what you paid during the winter months for heating. Buyers will also ask to see the Master Deed and By-Laws, if you live in a condominium complex (including site condo developments in Michigan) or just the HOA By-Laws if you live in a platted sub with a mandatory HOA. You should have those or can get them from the association. Make a copy and get that to your listing agent.

Another thing that might help with buyers is a list of the improvements and updates that you have done within the last 2-3 years. Don’t go back 5-10 years because those improvements will be old by now. While a new roof or a new furnace are important, they are considered to be more about maintenance than upgrades. A new granite counter top or an updated bathroom will be more important to would-be buyers. A fresh coat of paint is not an update; it is just something that is almost expected when you go to sell a house.

So, your role, now that the house is listed is to be diligent about keeping it in great, show-ready shape, being patient and persistent, and working with your realtor to make it as easy as possible for buyers to go through. I’ll cover more on that in a later post.

Monday, March 20, 2017

FAQ – I’m ready to list. What does the listing process involve?

Understanding the Real Estate Process from A – Z – A Seller’s Guide to Real Estate – Part 3

This is the third post of a series in an FAQ format that I hope will help would be sellers better understand the real estate process that they are about to go through. There will be a follow-on series for real estate buyers.

FAQ – I’m ready to list. What does the listing process involve?

In some cases, all of the things that were in the first two posts will be condensed into one visit by the Realtor. I don’t like to do business that way, because things can get rushed and a client might feel pressured to sign the listing documents before they are ready. I will normally do at least two visits – one to look at the property and provide advice about getting it ready and a second to go over the Market Analysis that I have created, based upon that first visit and to go through the listing process and take care of the Listing paperwork, if the client is ready.

So, just what makes up the listing process? There are two main sets of paperwork to go over and get signed and some physical work that needs to be done during the listing visit. The most important
piece of paperwork is the listing contract itself. I usually go over each page of the contract line-by-line. Our contract is 4 pages long, but some other companies use even longer contracts. It is important that the sellers understand that this is a legal contract between them and the broker to sell the property. The contract has several obligations that they must agree to, not the least of which is they cannot discriminate in any way against anyone who may wish to visit or to make an offer to buy the property.

In the listing contract the obligations of the broker (and me as the agent) and the sellers is clearly laid out. By signing the contract, the sellers agree to those stipulations and to abide by the terms of the contract. In conjunction with the contract, a set of Agency Disclosure documents must be signed by the sellers, acknowledging that they understand the role defined in the listing contract of Seller’s Agent that the broker and I will be playing. In the case of my company, Real Estate One, there are also disclosures to the Sellers about the other ancillary companies that the broker owns – a title company, a mortgage company and an insurance agency – which they might also end up doing business with, but which they are not required to use for any of those functions. However, we are required to disclose that we own them and that the broker may receive compensation from those companies if the Seller does business with or through them. The agent gets nothing from that business.

A second set of documents accompany the contract and agency disclosures and constitute the Sellers’
disclosures of information about the condition of the property. One is the Seller’s Disclosures and One is the Lead-based Paint (LBP) Disclosure. Both are mandated by Real Estate Law in the State of Michigan and the Lead-based Paint Disclosure is required by the Federal Government. These are (and should be thought of as) legal affidavits being made by the Sellers as to the current state of the property. Both use questions, which the Sellers must answer truthfully about what they know about the condition of various systems and components of the house, the history of the house and, in the case of the LBP Disclosure, the presence or absence of paint with lead in it anywhere in the house. Owners/Sellers are expected and assumed to know about those things and to answer honestly. Failure to honestly answer the questions or falsely answering the questions can lead to legal problems later and/or charges of fraud. So we I go over those documents with the Sellers line-by-line and help them understand the questions. There can be no blank lines left on those documents when they are done.

The process of going through the listing contract and disclosure documents can take anywhere from ½ an hour to an hour or more, depending upon the questions that come up.

Next in the listing document packet is usually the MLS Data Sheet. The Multi-List Service (MLS) in each area or state may have slightly different data gathering requirements;, but, generally they all need to capture lots of information about the property, such as – when was it built, how big (in Square Feet) it is above grade and how big is the basement, what materials are using on the exterior, how
many bedrooms and bathrooms and lavatories (1/2 baths) are there, how is it heated and cooled, how big is the actual land that the house sits on, what size garage does it have, what school district is it in, and on and on. You get the idea. Our MLS Data Sheet is four pages long. In addition, at least in my MLS, there is a requirement to measure and record the size of each room and the floor covering for each room. In the old days (just a few years ago) I would ask the Seller to help me with the room measurements by holding one end of the measuring tape. These days I use a laser measuring device. We also record what floor of the building (or the basement) the rooms are on.

We may also discuss the Sellers requirements or restrictions for showing appointments at this time, or a little later. These Showing Instructions are given to the Showing Appointment Center (if the company uses one) or to the people who answer calls and set appointment at the listing office. Sellers have the right to define when they will allow showings and how much advance notice they need. They also define who needs to approve each showing request and what means of communications are required – voice contact via phone, messaging to a phone or email. Some Sellers have family or pet situations that require lots of advanced notice and may require that someone go home to remove a pet for each showing.

Obviously having showing instructions in place that are too restrictive can hurt the marketing effort and discourage would-be buyers. We may discuss this until we reach some agreed upon compromise and I make sure that the Sellers understand the consequences (intended and un-intended) that may result from any restrictions on showings. I also advise them that Buyers (and their agents) do not like to have the Sellers hanging around during showings. It makes the Buyers feel uncomfortable and they
feel like they can’t discuss things out loud while on the visit. Some would-be buyers won’t even visit a home if the seller is going to be there.

In some listing appointments I also arrange to take pictures of the house, both outside and inside; but in many that is another visit. It just depends if the Sellers feel ready for pictures or need more time to “stage” the house for pictures. The minimum that I need to place the house on the MLS is a picture of the front of the house from the street. The interior pictures, and any other outside pictures that I take, are used on the MLS and in the marketing flyer that I will create later. If I am to take pictures during the listing appointment, the appointment can take up to three hours. Without taking pictures that day, the appointment is usually over in about two hours. I usually take 60-70 pictures and chose to use 40-50 on the MLS.

The final things that I will usually do on this listing appointment is to put the sign on the front lawn and put a lock box on the front door, with a house key in it. It is surprising how many would-be sellers have to scramble around to find a front door key or may have to have one made because they can no longer locate one. Most sellers get used to entering and leaving their homes through the garage or a side door. I usually ask for a second key or go have a copy made of the one that is in the lock box. It is amazing how many times the key that is supposed to be put back into the lock box by the showing agent either gets lost or is locked into the house as the agent leaves the showing. There are a variety of different lock boxes, but the idea is the same with all of them. A code is given to showing agents when they make a showing appointment and that code allows them to get into the lock box and use the key that is stored there to get into the house. Sometimes (but rarely) a home may have a punch code lock already on it and we can just use that instead of a lock box.

Most agents in our company use what are called “pitchfork” signs which we can put into the ground by just stepping on the bottom of the sign, which drive the two tines at the bottom into the ground (thus the name pitchfork) to hold the sign up. Some of our agents and most other companies’ agents will order a wooden post to be installed on the front lawn, with a sign hanging on it. That takes a day or two to be installed by the sign service company and may leave a big hole in the front lawn when it is removed, since they dig the hole for the pole with a power auger. I will return within a day or so and also place a flyer box next to the sign to hold the flyers that will have created for the house.  I usually put some flyers in the house, too.

Some clients have requested that their homes be listed but that no sign be put on the lawn. They are apparently worried about nosy neighbors or just don’t want the general public to know that it is for sale, for some reason. It is certainly their call on the sign, but I always advise against that restriction. A significant number of real estate sales are kicked-off by the buyer seeing a sign on the lawn and calling on it. Buyers still cruse neighborhoods looking to see if they like the area and if any homes are for sale in the sub or development.

That pretty much take us through the listing appointment/process itself. Next we’ll start discussing the Sellers’ role during the listing. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

FAQ - How can I determine the market value for my house?

Understanding the Real Estate Process from A – Z – A Seller’s Guide to Real Estate – Part 2  

This is the second post of a series in an FAQ format that I hope will help would be sellers better understand the real estate process that they are about to go through. There will be a follow-on series for real estate buyers.

FAQ - How can I determine the market value for my house?

The Market Value of Your House -

Hopefully you have already taken the advice from the first post in this series and found a GOOD Realtor® to help you understand what needs to be done to get the house ready to list. That same Realtor is the key to determining the best market value at which to list the property to assure a successful outcome. A successful outcome is one that gets the seller the maximum amount that the market will support, as quickly as possible and with the least amount of hassle.

So, how do you determine the market value for your house? Well, here are some things that do not play into that determination –

·         What your neighbor down the street got for his house last year.
·         What you Dad or Uncle Bob tell your they think it is worth.
·         What a friend at work sold his similar size house across town for last month.
·         What you saw in the paper that another house in town with the same number of bedrooms just sold for.
·         What the Zestimate says it’s worth on Zillow.
·         What you “need” from the sale.

None of those things can give you an accurate estimate of what you house is worth on the market right now. Why Because they don’t reflect the market that you will be competing in right now and they do not take into consideration what condition your house is in right now as compared to those houses that sold in the past.  If there have been several sales in your neighborhood over the last 3-6 months, that may give you a good ballpark idea of the potential value of your house, but it is only a ballpark. Only a Realtor can evaluate what your house might be worth today in the market in which it will be competing.

Just how big is the house?

One of the factors that plays a big role in determining the market value is its size in square feet. There are many differences within the various groups who may try to determine the size of houses for a variety of reasons. The original builder, local tax assessors, insurance agents and realtors may all come up with different figures for the square footage of the same house. The original assessment visit may be the only time that the house was measured for the Public Records Database (PRD) which is what most people (including most Realtors) use when ask about the size of a house. One other thing that happens often is that owners add square footage over time (some with and some without building permits) that don’t get recorded in the Public Records Database. If there is any doubt as to the size or differences between what the PRD record says about the house and what the owner says, your Realtor should take the time to measure the house. 

A GOOD Realtor will know how to measure the house properly and probably will ask you to help
(you can hold the other end of the measuring tape). Even then, the Realtor will have to make some judgement calls about things such as how much of the second floor space to include, if the house is a
Cape Cod style, with dormers and slanted roof line ceilings in the upper floors. The Realtor should almost never include any of the basement square footage in the stated size of the property. There are exceptions to that rule, if three of the four side of the basement are above grade; however, that is rare and just because the basement may be a walkout and may be fully finished, it should not be included in the stated square footage of the house. There is a place in the comments to talk about the finished square footage of the basement. Bedrooms that are located in the basement are also not officially counted as bedrooms in most places. In many places they would be considered to be illegal anyway.

Comps – really?

Your Realtor should do a thorough analysis of the local market and look at houses that are similar to yours that have sold within a reasonable distance from your address, as well as homes that are currently on the market. They will try to find sold examples that are within 3 miles of your home and that have sold within the last 3-6 months. Usually they will try to find similar sold and active homes in the same school district. You will hear the word “Comps” used by some agents. That stands for
houses that are Comparable to your home. I tend to use the word “similar” instead of Comps because neither I, nor most other Realtors, do the level of detailed analysis or site visits that an appraiser goes through to insure that a house is really comparable to the house that I’m listing. I use factors like the square footage, number of bedrooms and baths and other amenities like garage or no, finished basement or no, materials and finishes, and the 3-C’s from yesterday’s post – Condition, Clutter and Cleanliness. If I’m lucky, I may have been through some of the similar homes that are on the market, so that I have a better feel for the competition; but, many times I just have to depend upon the MLS listing information and the pictures that might be posted on line about those homes. I do generate a bunch of statistics so that I can see the average and median sold and active prices. Those statistics help define the “ballpark” that your house will likely play in and the competition that it will face.

What adds and what detracts from Market Value?

When I visit a home that is a potential listing I look for the things that I know will add to the market value or may detract from that value. I usually include a Franklin Chart in my Market Analysis report back to the owners. That chart lists the Pluses and Minuses that I saw and that I believe that potential buyers will see in the house. Those pluses and Minuses obviously add or subtract from the perceived value of the house. I go over those pluses and minuses in detail with the would–be seller. Many of the minuses are things that the seller might be abler to correct before putting the house on the market; however, some minuses are so “baked-in” to the house that they cannot be changed. The architecture
of the house is one such item. Houses that are ranch style or colonial never seem to go out of style and these days the Cape Cod style house is the builders’ and buyers preferred style. But, what about split level houses or raised ranch styles. Those style 60’s and 70’s and into the 80’s; but they have fallen way out of favor with both builders and buyers. So, if a house is a tri-level or quad-level or maybe a raised ranch (also called a bi-level), it starts with one strike against it in the modern market. That is a negative that the owner cannot do anything about, but which does factor into the market value. Things like fresh paint, crown molding, granite counter tops, new flooring, updated windows, new furnace and/or water heater and other improvements/upgrades and updates all add to the value. Conversely, if those things have not been done, they detract from value.

The most common mistake that sellers make –

Overpricing is the most common issue that Realtors into and usually it’s based upon bad advice that the seller has gotten from someone else or from the seller’s belief that they “can always come down, but they can’t go up in price.” That is not only not true in many cases, but it actually hurts them, because they scare off good buyers by being overpriced. Seller will say that they want to leave themselves some “wiggle room”, so that they can negotiate; however, they end up just wiggling away on the market while other, well-priced homes are selling. Eventually they come down in price, but usually not before the listing has become stale and buyers have become suspicious that “there must be something wrong with the house, because it has been on the market for so long”.

The market doesn’t care what you need.

Sometimes I hear the phrase “I need this much out of the sale”; maybe because of the need to pay off a mortgage, or because the seller is trying to get enough from this sale to allow them to buy another home. In either case, I have to tell them that the market really doesn’t care what they “need” from the sale. The market only cares about what this property is worth relative to other, similar properties in similar condition.  If you really can’t afford to sell your home unless you get that sale price that you “need” and it is significantly different than what your Realtor is advising you on the market value, perhaps you really can’t afford to sell right now.

Don’t make those mistakes; listen to your Realtor on pricing. He or she has you best interest at heart and is trying to advise you on a price that will result in a successful outcome. And if you put it in the market and it sells in the first week, it was not because it was underpriced; it was because it was
properly priced. In many cases a properly priced house may attract multiple offers which will drive the final sale price up. An overpriced house will just attract crickets which the owner can listen to as they sit there.

IN the Market vs. ON the Market –

A well-priced house will find its place IN the market, occupying a position where its price matches the perceived market value for the property. The first 3-6 weeks that a house is listed are considered to be “the Golden Time” for the listing, the time when the “newness”of the listing draws attention and the majority of the buyers who have been looking at similar houses will flock to see it – if they perceive that it is priced right. The goal should be to delight those visitors and not to disappoint them. An overpriced house will be ON the market at a price that draws poor reviews and feedback and possibly even drive would-be buyers away. You want the reaction of buyers to be Wow and not Whoa.

Buyers leave every visit to a house with a mental list of things that they saw that they think they will need to fix or change. The buyers assign dollar and time values to those items and make a quick determination of whether they want to take on the cost and time commitment necessary to complete those projects. Today’s buyers are often very busy people and the prospect of spending lots of time and money after they have bought a new place is just a big turn-off. Those who may be willing to take on the projects will add up the costs that they have mentally calculated and take that off their offer price. The key to being IN the market, instead of just ON the market is finding that listing price at which the perceived value that visitors will arrive at is equal to the asking price. At that price, there is nothing stopping the buyer from making an offer and the best way to find that happy price is to listen to the advice of a good Realtor. If you find a Realtor who agrees to list your house at whatever price you want, no matter how outrageous; run, don’t walk, away from that person. That is not a good Realtor. 

The bottom line…

A GOOD Realtor will get you IN the market at a price that will immediately attract would-be buyers;

so, find a GOOD Realtor and listen to his/her listing price advice. Remember that Realtors (especially the GOOD ones) are acting as fiduciaries for you, which means that they are acting in your best interests, not their own. They want to get you the most that the market will bear for your property in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of hassle – they want a successful outcome for you. You and they both know that a successful outcome for you will mean a payday for them and that is a win-win situation for both of you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

FAQ - What do I need to do to get ready to sell my house?

Understanding the Real Estate Process from A – Z – A Seller’s Guide to Real Estate - Part 1

This is a series of posts in an FAQ format that I hope will help would be sellers better understand the real estate process that they are about to go through. There will be a follow-on series for real estate buyers.  

FAQ - What do I need to do to get ready to sell my house?

So, you’ve decided to sell your house. Great! Before you even get into the real estate process itself, you need to do a few things to get ready for selling your house. These next two posts will be about things that you need to do in order to get ready. While the order of doing these things could be reversed, I believe that there is great value in doing them in the order in which I will present them.

Find a good Realtor® agent to work with.

This may initially seem self-serving, since I am a real estate agent; however, most people don’t truly GOOD real estate agent; one who will work with you, and for you, weeks, sometimes even months, before you are ready to list.
understand al of the things that a good agent can do on the front end of the process, before the house is even listed. The value of having an agent list your house has been well proven over time to bring a higher sale price in a shorter amount of time; but what is the value before it is even listed? That pre-listing value does vary by agent, which is why I said to find a

What does he/she do ahead of the listing?

A good real estate agent will be willing to walk through your home and, based upon their observations, give you a list of recommendations of things that you may need to do to get the house ready for the market. Realtors look at your property the way that a buyer might and they see the things that you’ve become “nose-dead” to in the house. Not only may they be able to give you a to-do list of things that need attention, but most good Realtors can also supply some leads to tradesmen in the area who might be able to do the work, if it is beyond your DIY capabilities. A good Realtor will
be completely (some might even feel that it is brutally) honest with you about what needs to be done to get your home ready to list. They will normally explain the updates and deferred maintenance items that they see need to be done and give you some idea what the impact will be on the potential sale price of you chose not do the work.

What are the 3-C’s of Real Estate?

I use what I call the “3-C’s” of Real Estate as a mechanism to provide the advice that I usually give would be sellers about the things that they are responsible for doing to get ready for the market. The 3-C’s are:

Condition – This “C” deals with the state of the house as it compares with a house in the market area that is in an excellent, market ready state. This category covers both the deferred maintenance items that I might see and the updates, or lack thereof, that buyers will be looking for in the house. I will point out to you the things that you’ve gotten used to living with that need to be repaired or painted or replaced – the missing plug covers, the rusted old front porch light, the shabby looking front door that you never use or the overgrown foliage that started out as cute little shrubs. I will alert you to the missing handrails and the need for GFCI circuits in kitchens and baths that may not have been required when the house was built.

I will also go over with you’re the updates that may be missing from your house that will impact the
market value. It is probably not the time to put in granite counter tops or a whole new kitchen, now that you’ve decided to list; however, it might be, if the negative market value impact of not doing that will be great enough. Other things like flooring updates, new windows and new roofing can also be discussed. Usually I do not recommend major updating expenditures at this point, since the seller will not recoup the cost; but, again we will assess the negative impact of those updates being needed. Would-be buyers will almost certainly make lists of those same things and come to their own conclusions about the possible hassle and costs of making those upgrades later. They almost always come to conclusions that are higher than it might have cost you to just do it and that take those costs off their offer price. We will discuss the impact of the disappointment that buyers might have, at the price point that you will be at in the market, if your house does not live up to the expectations that they will come in with. Those expectations are set by visits to other listed homes and by people watching too many MTV shows.

Clutter – The second “C” is clutter, which almost always the biggest issue that I face with sellers, especially those who have been in the home for 320-30-40 years or more. People just naturally accumulate stuff; and that stuff is usually everywhere in the house. Walls may be full of family pictures.  Shelves are full of knick-knacks and vacation mementos. Rooms are full of furniture. Basements are full of everything that didn’t fit upstairs anymore, plus all of the stuff that the kids left years ago and some of the items that you got out of your mother’s house and all of the left over stuff from hobbies that were abandoned long ago.

My challenge is to get you to de-clutter. People need to be able to see themselves living in this house. They are not there to admire and share your family/vacation pictures. They need to be able to freely move through the rooms and imagine their stuff in them and not just see all of your stuff. They expect to be able .to open a closet door without being attacked by a cascade of your stuff tumbling out. They need to see the space in the garage for their cars, not how much stuff you were able to stuff in there. They need to be able to see how big the basement is and not just gaze at a wall of boxes of your stuff. They need to be able to SEE! So, I will be recommending that you de-clutter. Moving is a perfect time to get rid of stuff that you haven’t used in years. Don’t worry the kids will never come back for their old stuff – they’ve moved on and it is time that you did too.

Cleanliness – Even very meticulous housekeepers can probably use some advice and maybe some help with the deep cleaning that may be needed to get the house ready for selling. While would-be
buyers won’t be going through the house with white gloves on looking for dust; they will notice the corners that have been forgotten long enough to collect cobwebs or the dusty blinds or ceiling fans. When buyers see a house that is less clean they make a mental leap (right or wrong) that it is probably less well maintained too. This is an area that I can recommend that you do spend a little extra and hire a good cleaning company for a one-time deep clean prior to listing it. Hopefully the seller is still able to maintain the house clean during the listing; otherwise I might recommend a cleaning service at least once or twice a month until it sells.

In my next post I’ll go over the pre-listing market analysis work and the pricing decision that needs to be made before you list. Nothing is more important for a successful outcome that being properly positioned IN the market and not just ON the market. For now, there will be plenty of things for you to work on before we get to that step. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

New loan products from John Adams Mortgage

Sometimes we just need a second chance and now John Adams Mortgage has a loan product called the Fresh Start Loan  that can give that chance to those who may have fallen on hard times in the past.

No, we're not back to the easy money days that caused the Great Recession, but John Adams Mortgage does recognize that many hard working and trustworthy people have been shut out of the housing market by overly tough mortgage lending practices and rules; so they have created the Fresh Start Loan program to offer new mortgage loans to those who might have had a foreclosure, a deed-in-lieu transaction, a bankruptcy or  short-sale in the immediate past, but who might otherwise qualify.

Note also that they have a new program for Investors and also have a program to deal with non-warrantable condos - A non-warrantable condo is a condominium property in which the loan is not eligible to be sold to Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae, and as such, mortgage financing for this type of property is considered by most banks to be more “risky.”

From the BAC Florida Bank web site comes this explanation of non-warrantable condos - Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae would consider a condo to be “non-warrantable” if, for instance, the condo:

  • Is in a development which has yet to be completed
  • Is in a development which allows for short-term rentals
  • Is in a development where one person or entity owns more than 10% of all units
  • Is in a development where less than 50% of the occupants in a complex are the owners
  • Is in a development involved in litigation of any kind regardless of whether the building is suing another party, or is the party being sued.

Some of the common property types which fall into the non-warrantable category include condo-hotels, time shares, fractional ownership properties, and other projects which require owners to join an organization, such as a golf club.

So, if you need a fresh start or are trying into buy a condo in a complex that is non-warrantable, give Chris Knocke a call today and see if these programs might work for you.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Am I buying a time bomb?

Many first time buyers, or perhaps buyers moving out to the country for the first time, encounter something that they have little or no idea about – a septic system. Many people have lived their entire lives in cities of communities that have sewer systems. They never worried about where things went when they flushed the toilet, nor did they concern themselves about hiring someone to come pump out a huge tank in their back yard. If they had any notion of a septic system maybe it was from watching the 2000 movie Meet the Parents, which probably didn’t leave a favorable impression about septic fields.

So, now they are looking at houses out in the country a bit and seeing the terms Well and Septic on the listing ticket. What’s that all about? Should you be concerned if you see that? Am I buying a time bomb? The short answer is NO, you need not be overly concerned; but you should take the time to educate yourself about these waste disposal systems and what that means in terms of your responsibilities.

A septic system performs the same functions as the sewer system, just at a much smaller scale and much more close to home. Everything that goes down a drain in the house or is flushed down a toilet has to go somewhere and has to be dealt with somehow. In settings with sewer systems your house is hooked with pipes to much larger pipes that carry all of the waste water from all sources in your house (and every other house around you) to a central waste treatment plant somewhere. You really don’t care where that is at; unless, perhaps, you happen to live right next door to it. At the waste treatment plant the waste from thousands of homes is treated with chemicals and natural bacteria in huge ponds. The bacteria are there to breakdown and digest the solids in the waste water. Eventually the clean  water that results is released into stream or lakes.

Individual septic systems perform the same functions, just underground and right out in your back or side yard.  The waste water from your house flows into a large tank (called a septic tank, which is named thus because the water and waste that flows into it is septic - infected with bacteria) usually of 1000 gallons of more. The septic bacteria came mostly from you, but that’s likely more than you really want to know.  Anyway the septic tank provides a place where good bacteria can work on the solids in the waste water to break then down and digest them. The solids tend to settle to the bottom, providing a smorgasbord for bottom-feeding bacteria. Some remain suspended in the water which is directed out of the tank and into the septic field. The septic field is a series of pipes with holes in them that are buried several feet underground. The holes let the water escape out into the soil where other good and hungry bacteria digest whatever is in the water for them to eat.

A well designed and properly installed septic field can last for a very long time, if it is also well maintained. However, they are not necessarily design to last forever. A study of septic systems published in 2013 by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) via a grant from the NYS Water Resources Institute with funds provided by the NY State, had this advice.

Most septic systems will fail eventually. These systems are designed to have a useful life of 20 to 30 years under the best conditions. Older septic tanks with concrete or metal parts degrade over time. Eventually the soil in the drain field becomes clogged with organic material. Many other factors can cause the system to fail well before the end of its “natural” lifespan. Pipes blocked by roots, soils saturated by high water tables, crushed distribution pipes, improper location, poor original design, or poor installation can all lead to major problems. The most common reasons for early failure are misuse or inadequate maintenance by homeowners. When a system is not pumped regularly, solids build up in the septic tank, then flow into the drain field and clog it.
Symptoms of Septic System Failure –

·         Slowly draining sinks, bathtubs and toilets.
·         Surface emergence of wastewater
·         Lush green grass over the drain field, even during dry weather
·         Nitrate, nitrite, or coliform bacteria in your well water

An excellent article by Mila Ready outlines the main reasons that septic systems fail. The bottom line is abuse or neglect (or both) by the owner. One of the more common things that I see in my little patch of the world is people overloading their septic system by having more people in the house than the system was designed to handle. When the developer lays out the plans for developments that will have septic systems associated with each house they have very specific guidelines about how many bedrooms the house should have given the proposed size of the septic field. The idea is that a three-bedroom house will house maybe four or five residents with their waste byproducts. Some developers then build houses with “bonus rooms” that they sell with a wink of the eye as the fourth bedroom. Sometimes owners just add bedrooms through add-ons or converting spaces in basements or elsewhere into bedrooms.  The result is a house with 5-people in it, all contributing to the waste going into a septic system that was design to handle 3-4 residents. He system gets overwhelmed and fails.

The other things that I see a lot is poor or no maintenance of septic systems. Many sellers tell me that they don’t even remember that last time that they had the septic tank pump out. Why is that important? Well, eventually the solids can build up to the near the top of the tank and get into the pipes that make up the field and clog them up. The other thing that can happen is that the field itself gets “clogged” with solids and can drain away the liquids, so they eventually come to the surface. Remember the scene from Meet the Parents when the main character was driving through the soggy, failed septic field – yuck.

Going all the way back to the headline question; perhaps you are buying a time bomb, if you don’t pay any attention to this very important system. You should have the septic tanks pumped out every 2-3 years and many will also recommend not putting normal kitchen waste down a garbage disposal. In fact, most country homes were built without disposals to begin with. Some of the solid kitchen waste that you might put into the septic system by grinding them up in an in-sink disposal just don’t “digest” the way that other waste matter does and can clog the system up. Animal fats and meats are particularly bad for the system.

If the septic system fails due to a clogged field, there are companies that profess to have remedies that you can introduce into the system to clean it out (here are links to two of them – NewTechBio and REX-BAC-T). Think of them as super hungry bacteria that get in there and eat everything they hit.  Most septic companies would probably disagree with that and still recommend replacing the whole system.; however, replacing a septic system can cost $8-15,000 (more if it is an engineered field). Hope springs eternal, so maybe trying one of those modern biotech solutions first is worth the few hundreds that they may cost. Of course, the best solution is not to have a failed system in the first place, so regular maintenance is still the lowest cost approach. You can get on the right track by insisting that the septic be pumped out as a condition of your purchase offer.

So, you don’t have to fear the septic like a ticking time bomb, but you do need to be mindful of its ability to blow up in your face, if you don’t take care of it. Set up a regular maintenance inspection and pump out with a local septic company to remain flushed with pride about your home.

Norm Werner is a full-time Realtor® working under the Real Estate One brokerage in Milford, Michigan. For more about Norm visit his web site – hppt://

Friday, February 10, 2017

Is it a good time to list my home?

One of the most common questions that I get as a Realtor is, “Is it a good time to list my home?”
The answer is YES, now’s a great time to list your home. The listing inventory is the lowest that it’s been in longer than I can remember and the buyers who are out looking are ready to buy.
We know that this is a great market to be in according to Fannie Mae’s Home Purchase Sentiment Index, a survey of 1,000 Americans in January about their attitudes toward housing.

  • ·         42% of Americans believe home prices will increase, a month-over-month uptick of 7 percentage points in January.
  • ·         69% of Americans say they are not concerned about losing their job, a 1 percentage point increase from December 2016.
  • ·         15% of Americans say now is a good time to sell, a 2 percentage point month-over-month increase.
  • ·         15% of Americans who say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago, a month-over-month increase of 5 percentage points.
  • ·         29% of Americans who say now is a good time to buy a home, a 3 percentage drop from December 2016 and a new survey low from May and September 2016.

These attitudes and sentiments point to a favorable market for those considering listing their current homes. The additional factor of it being a very “tight” market (few homes for sale) make it a Seller’s Market; one in which the Seller is in control and likely to get top dollar.

The only caution that I have to advise is not to get too greedy. Even in this favorable market, there are still homes sitting on the market for long periods because the owners got greedy and overpriced them. Listen to your Realtor® and price it properly. Not all areas have come back from the “Great Recession” at the same pace and there are still pockets of depressed pricing, which your Realtor can identify.

Many people decide to wait for Spring and warmer weather to list their homes. That is a mistake, too, in a tight market. The old saying to “strike while the iron is hot” should be modified to read “strike while the market is tight” for real estate. In the spring lots of new listing will all come on the market at once, giving the buyers too many alternatives to look at and potentially burying your home in the crowd. List now, while you will stand out in an un-crowded field.

I saw a sign outside a dentist’s office that read “Accepting new clients”. Well, I’m accepting new listings, if you are ready. The market is certainly ready and primed for your home to be listed. If
you’ve been waiting to downsize, nor that you’re retired or that the kids are all gone; or you are ready for that move-up home that you can now afford; give me a call and I’ll come out and give you a free Market Analysis, so that you can see what your home is worth in the current market as well as provide you with feedback on the things that you might still need to do to get it ready for the market. The analysis is free; but, the advice that I give you, based upon my visit may be priceless.

Call today – Norm Werner at 248-763-2497.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Be a part of the dream - help build an Angel House

If you could save a child from a life of sex slavery or forced childhood marriage would you? How about if you could help save 50 children from that fate?

There are places in the world (too many places) where poverty and ignorance lead people into human trafficking, mainly of young girls, but also with young boys. One of the most dangerous places on earth to be a child is India, where abject poverty leads too many people to sell their children into slavery or into arranged childhood marriages that doom them to a miserable existence and rob them not only of their childhood but of any dreams that they may have had for their lives.

Two local people, John and Lisa Schiller have had a dream for many years to do more about john-and-lisait than just feel sorry for them. They have a long background in providing foster care of children in need of the love and discipline of a stable family environment. Now they are in the process of realizing a long-held dream to do more. They are behind a project to build an orphanage in India as part of the Angel House program there, which provides safe refuge for hundreds of children across India.
The Angel Hose that John and Lisa are building will begin construction in June of this year and is scheduled to open in the first week of December. Once it is built and open the on-going maintenance and operational costs will be picked up by a local church in India. John and Lisa plan on traveling to India in December of 2017 for the opening of their Angel House and to meet the 50 children who will live there.

Building the orphanage is a big undertaking financially and John and Lisa can uswoman-prayinge your prayers and financial help. You can see more about the Angel House Program please visit their web site at To learn how to support John and Lisa’s project to build their orphanage at If you can help financially, please contribute at that web site; if not, at least add them and their project to your prayers. 

I’m sure that John and Lisa will bring back pictures from India of the children that are being saved and given a chance and the opportunity for a less dangerous life.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Fenton Winery & Brewery - A Great area Venue for Special Events

One of the greatest benefits of being an Ambassador for the Huron Valley Chamber of Commerce is the opportunity to meet the owners and staffs of area businesses. Recently I got reacquainted with Joe Sirl from Fenton Winery & Brewery, which is located just north of downtown Fenton. Joe does a lot of their community outreach and marketing stuff and he gave me an update on their banquet capabilities. I visited them when they first opened a few years ago and they had great plans for the utilization of the facility that they had just moved into at the time. It was good to hear from Joe that those plans have come to fruition and the property now offers a great venue for special events.

Fenton Winery & Brewery is the place for your event.
Indoor & Outdoor; it’s all here.

Rehearsal Dinners
Birthday Parties
Holiday Parties
Anniversary Parties

Our Banquet & Event building seats up to 280 guests and provides a beautifully rustic
feeling.  Uniquely built, cedar sided, and set back in a wooded setting, this venue will compliment any event.  Included is an outdoor patio area complete with a stone fireplace and an area for seating up to 150 people.  Our guests have the option of true one-stop shopping to actualize their vision for events.  Bridal and Grooms suites, on-site ceremonies, outdoor weddings with an indoor backup plan, in-house catering, and a developed network of partnering vendors for additional d├ęcor and entertainment services are among the most valued ease of planning features.  

We offer an acre of park like space outdoors that can be outfitted to hold events up to 300 people during those gorgeous Michigan months.  If you are seeking a smaller, more intimate location, our taproom area is cozy, inviting and has space for up to 35 people.  Our Banquet & Event Coordinators work with each guest individually to plan and execute the perfect event. Our chef has designed complete menus
featuring delicious entrees, tasty appetizers & luncheon or casual foods to fit a wide variety of banquet needs.  Our coordinators will happily arrange & price any specialty items that you desire.

Each year as we celebrate our Anniversary in late January a reflection occurs of what drives the continued growth of Fenton Winery & Brewery.  Events like our Mug & Stem Club Appreciation Dinner highlight the support and advocacy of local individuals which we are incredibly fortunate to have received by the bushel over the last 9 years.  Without our surrounding community believing in our mission, the current set-up of 20,000ft. split between two buildings and nearly 5 acres of total property would not bear our name.  It is a far cry from the 2,000 suite in a strip mall on N. Leroy St that was originally called home.

The passion to continue to create jobs and provide a hub of community is of vital importance and makes the long days profoundly worth it.  We have had the pleasure of working with seemingly countless community organizations and remain dedicated to expanding our scope.  The mutual support with groups such as the Lions Club, area Chambers of Commerce, Adopt-a-Pet, local schools, cancer and other health based organizations, small
business and community development groups is the most rewarding part of Fenton Winery & Brewery.  

It is an absolute honor to be chosen to partake in major life celebrations, like weddings and birthdays, and work with causes that so many dedicate their valuable time to propping up.  Those are the things that allow us to have such an incredible staff, a client base of friends, and insight into the strength of those we are surrounded by in our neighboring towns. -Joe Sirl

Joe provided me with the write-up above and the pictures. If you haven’t checked out the Fenton Winery and Brewery, you owe it to yourself to take the drive to Fenton, Michigan and on through town on N. Leroy Street, which turns into Fenton Rd. About 2-3 miles out of town you’ll hit N. Long Lake Rd and see the Fenton Winery and Brewery. The address is 1370 N Long Lake Rd, Fenton, MI 48430. Call ahead if you aren’t sure that they’ll be open at (810) 373-4194. They are closed on Monday’s but open most other days. Their web site is Check out this great local event venue for your event or just stop in and sample the great craft beers and wines that are made there.