Protect your valuables when selling your home

Preparing your home sale is more than just deep cleaning, decluttering, and minor repairs. Prepare and plan how to protect your valuables during the sale.

protect your valuables
Protect Your Valuables when Selling Your Home (infographic from Elders Real Estate realestatesevenhillsnews.com.au)

I often write about preparing your home for a sale.  Of course, that preparation is to make your home sell quicker and get the best price.  However, preparing your home is more than just deep cleaning, decluttering, and minor repairs.  Preparing and planning how to protect your valuables will not only keep the prying eyes of nosey home buyers focused on your home’s spaces – it can also thwart would-be criminals.

Homes for sale are prime targets for thieves, and your home is not an exemption.  Don’t make it easy for them.  It may sound obvious – use common sense.  However, you’d be surprised how many home sellers don’t lock up their valuables.  In my many years of selling homes, I have seen how home sellers can be careless by leaving credit cards, cash, medications, and financial statements on counters and desks.  There was one instance where the owner left their gun cabinet open!

And theft doesn’t only occur during open houses.  Your possessions can go missing at any time.  Anyone can have “sticky fingers,” even rogue real estate agents (agents have been arrested for stealing from a listed home).  A Washington State agent was caught stealing prescription medications last year.  Another agent faced criminal charges for stealing jewelry.

Additionally, criminals take the opportunity of an open house (and even virtual tours) to stake out your home; only to strike at a later time. So think about laying out your expensive china just to stage your home.

Yes, thieves are looking for anything of value in your home.  Besides jewelry and cash, they will take anything they think they can personally use or sell.  Medications are a commodity to thieves; and anything with personal identification can be used in ID theft.

I am often asked, “Should I install surveillance cameras?”  A few years ago, a home with surveillance cameras was not typical.  Seeing the cameras often turned off home buyers because they felt “creeped out” and didn’t like the idea of being watched.  However, in today’s cyber-world, where surveillance cameras are nearly everywhere, surveillance cameras have become increasingly commonplace.  Before you go out and install cameras in your home, you need to understand the legal implications by consulting with an attorney or privacy legal expert.

Don’t just put away your jewelry and other items of importance, lock them up!  If you’re not one of the millions of home owners who has a safe or strongbox, there are other options such as storing items in other locations (safe deposit boxes; someone else’s home; and even a rented storage unit).

Burglar alarms are a mixed blessing.  Besides deterring crime, real estate agents often set them off; which can be a nuisance and possibly result in a fine for you (more info on false alarms and fines can be obtained from the Montgomery County Police False Alarm Reduction Section).

If you haven’t already deployed crime deterrents in and around your home, consider using interior and exterior lighting.  Exterior lights can help identify night time visitors, as well as possibly deterring would-be thieves.  Consider using timers or motion sensing lights.   Motion sensing lights will activate the light when people approach your home.

Would-be thieves casing your home look for easy entry points.  Lock up your ladders and secure your shed so as not giving criminals the tools to get inside.

And although you may be told that lockboxes are fool proof, only allowing agents in your home – it’s the user that is the weak link.  Careless agents sometimes leave doors unlocked or open, or do not fully close the lockbox, leaving the key free to be used by any passerby.

Your agent can be part of your protection plan.  Consider having your agent accompany all showings.  Additionally, have more than one person during an open house.  This can not only help protect your valuables, but the direct agent contact may be influential in your home sale.

For more information on protecting your valuables, check out Montgomery County Police’s brochure “Home Security, Safety Tips to Keep Your Home and Valuables Safe.”

Copyright © Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Greedy home seller tips

Don't be a greedy home seller
Pricing Strategy for a Home Sale (infographic from forsalebyowner.com)

When there is a buzz about home sellers being greedy, you know home sales are doing well.  So, not surprisingly, along with last year’s record home sales came the reports of greedy home sellers.  Are you a greedy home seller?  Or are you adjusting to a market where home prices are increasing?

Greed has developed a bad rap.  Surely there is an evolutionary basis for greed.  Many believe that early hominids promoted personal and group survival by being “greedy” (although disputed by some).  Those who hoarded food, so as to have more than enough, lived through difficult winters and droughts. During times of financial prosperity, greed is looked upon favorably.  However, in the aftermath of a recession, greed is thought of as the basis for fiscal calamity.  Immortalized in Gordon Geckko’s famous “greed is good” speech in the 1987 movie Wall Street, “greed” is a cinematic vehicle to show the fine line between a healthy desire to prosper and a corrupt drive to have more than enough.

Avoid being viewed as a greedy home seller by creating a realistic pricing strategy.  Creating a pricing strategy is an art and a science.  When selling a home, you have to determine the list price.  There are many factors to consider besides recent neighborhood sales, such as condition of your home, sales trends, mortgage interest rates, economic trends, etc.  Like other home sellers, you fall into a conundrum.  If you price your home too high, then it will limit potential home buyers who visit.  However, if you price your home too low to increase home buyer interest, you may not get the price you want.

Contrary to some assertions that a home’s list price doesn’t play a role in the sale, there is evidence to suggest that it really does matter.  Lu Han and William C. Strange determined that a lower list price does increase home buyer visits – but only to a point (What is the Role of the Asking Price for a House? University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management; 2012).  They concluded that there is a point at which the home price is perceived to attract too much buyer competition, which may turn off other home buyers.  Furthermore, their data shows that there is a negative relationship between a list price and the number of home buyers: meaning that the higher the list price relative to the neighborhood, the lower number of home buyer visits, and vice-versa.

If you fear being a greedy home seller by asking for a high price for your home, there is research to suggest that you’ll let go of the greed in order to make a deal.  A 2013 study by Nuno T. Magessi and Luis Antunes looked at how the emotions of fear and greed compete internally (Agent’s fear monitors the spread of greed in a social network; Proceedings of the 11th European Workshop on Multi‐Agent Systems EUMAS, 12-13).  They concluded that greed is mitigated by the fear of loss within the confines of a social network.  When applied to a home sale, the fear of not selling a home competes with the impulse to hold out for the high price.  Deducing further, there is a need to fit within one’s social network by trying to sell a home for the most money, and yet avoid the stigma of a failed home sale.

Don’t be a greedy home seller. RealtorMag described three common home seller mistakes in a 2015 post (3 Mistakes Sellers Often Make; realtormag.realtor.org; April 12, 2015).  Included were “Not being honest with the home’s history,” “Not making a better home presentation,” and “Being unrealistic about the home’s value.”  About unrealistic home value, it was said:

“…Despite tight inventories of homes for-sale in many markets, sellers still need to be careful not to get too greedy with their list price, say real estate professionals…Home owners tend to get a much lower price when they overprice a home at the onset and then drop the price several times. The longer the home lingers on a market, the more likely it will receive a deeper discount…”

If your home doesn’t sell, you must examine your pricing strategy.  Was the price realistic, or were you too greedy?

Copyright © Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Home sale tips on coping with today’s market

how to sell a home
from activerain.com “Sell your home”

It’s that time of year again; the real estate market is getting hot along with the temperature.  And that’s about the only thing most are able to predict about this year’s real estate market.  Since the Great Recession, early forecasts about home buying and selling trends have typically missed the mark; the trends have varied, sometimes significantly, from year to year.  Notwithstanding a very active season, many will be in for a surprise; some will be pleased about their home sale, while others not so much.  And if you are selling a home, I’ve provided some tips to help you cope with this year’s housing market:

The most important point to remember this year: many home buyers are looking to buy a home, but not necessarily yours.  The notion that your home appeals to all home buyers is false.  If your home isn’t selling as fast as you thought it would, consider stepping back for a moment to re-evaluate your home and marketing plan.

Most home buyers are looking for a “turn-key” home and won’t settle for just anything on the market.  Additionally, most are not willing to spend time and money updating a home they just purchased.  Know your home before marketing it and consider making repairs if your home has considerable deferred maintenance.

The next item to remember this year, is that no matter how well your home shows: be prepared for a less than complimentary home inspection.  Because there are a number of systems and many components to your home; chances are that there are items that need attention, repairing, and/or replacement – which the home inspector will cheerfully point out.  Home inspectors will visually inspect your home, probing structural components when necessary; a detailed report indicates their observations.  Most home inspectors are not experts in all aspects of home construction; and commonly recommend other professionals to examine items more closely.

As a home seller, you should understand that buyers in today’s market are under pressure about the investment they are undertaking; and are willing to walk away based on the home inspection findings.  Sometimes, it’s not what – but how it’s said that will rattle buyers.  Regardless, an uncomplimentary report does not have to blow up the deal.  Be prepared for extra rounds of negotiating after the home inspection.  Every transaction is different, and your agent should provide guidance on what’s reasonable and appropriate.

A final thought: don’t get greedy, but don’t leave money on the table either.  Although inventory remains an issue in a number of areas, don’t feel compelled to over price your home based on the lack of homes for sale.  However, don’t be complacent with the “average” home sale price of the neighborhood either.  When comparing recent neighborhood sales, you should make pricing adjustments (plus and minus) depending on differences in your home’s age, amenities, size and other factors.

A word of caution: There is a growing trend in the reliance on automated valuations by real estate agents.  AVM (automated valuation models) are helpful, but not always accurate.  These reports are based on public information about your home and may not include correct information.  If your agent recommends a sale price based an automated valuation, you should review the report attentively.  If the report confidence level is low to medium, be prepared to carefully review the report and comparables, making adjustments as needed.

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Truth in advertising: When selling your home, advertise the truth

by Dan Krell © 2010

It is often said that the truth shall set you free, but the truth may also help you sell your home. You might think I’m talking about disclosing material facts (which you should always do), but actually I am referring to how you describe and advertise your home. Accurately describing your home and providing truthful photos may attract actual home buyers who are searching for a home just like yours.

Descriptions of your home in the MLS and other advertisements, as well as photos, are designed to attract home buyers who are searching for the specific features of your home. Home buyers may be attracted by the message you send them, however they will only buy the home that meets their criteria.

You see, searching for homes on the internet is akin to internet dating. Just like internet dating, you want to put your best foot forward. You want the photos to be attractive and your description to be tantalizing. However, distorting photos (or posting photos that are ten or twenty years old) as well as exaggerating your description will most likely make people angry for deceiving them. If you portray your home as something it is not, you are certain to upset home buyers and agents for wasting their time.

Because of its convenience, online virtual tours have become one of the main tools that home buyers use to choose what homes to view in person. As you might imagine, some agents and home sellers are tempted to use digital photo programs to make the homes look better on the internet. Using the “pinch” function to make rooms look larger, they may feel as if they are doing minor photo “touch ups”; but in actuality they may distort what the home looks like. In extreme scenarios, they may cover-up material facts about the home.

Consider telling the truth. For example, if your home is very well maintained but hasn’t been updated since Ronald Reagan was in the White House, then you might consider describing the condition and maintenance of the home rather than saying the home has “updates.” Think about listing the actual number of bedrooms in the home as opposed to listing the number of potential bedrooms if the basement was finished. Additionally, if a queen size bed fits comfortably in the master bedroom; don’t distort the photo to make the bed appear to be a California king size!

If you’re frustrated by having your home on the market for what may seem to be a long time and your home is priced correctly, reconsider how your home is portrayed to home buyers before making a price change (over-pricing your home is a separate issue). Many agents seek price changes as a means to a quick sale; however before lowering the price, have a chat with your agent about how they are describing the home and consider re-taking photos.

Home sellers with whom I have consulted have had positive results once they realized the message they were trying to send to home buyers was not congruent with their home’s characteristics. Remember, a hog in a tuxedo is still a hog; don’t make the home out to be something it is not just to attract home buyers.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of August 9, 2010. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell.

Hiring family to sell your home: A relative experience

by Dan Krell © 2010

The thought of hiring a real estate agent can be unnerving, let alone the fact that you might have to consider hiring a family member to act as your listing agent. For some, familial pressure to hire a relative could be intense and may be a potential source of conflict; while for others, no one but “Cousin Jerry” would be considered to list their home.

Some people are ambivalent about hiring relatives for any service, let alone for a real estate transaction; they believe that mixing business with family matters is not a good idea. Besides asserting discretion over their business and financial dealings, these folks know that family ties and relationships could be at stake if the sale doesn’t go as expected. They do not want family matters or guilt to interfere with business decisions, especially if they feel a need to fire their real estate agent or even seek recourse.

Still many people do not have a second thought about hiring their “Cousin Jerry” as their listing agent. Besides feeling an expectation to do so, some people cite a comfort level and trust that exists from their long time relationship (which can be hard to come by when working with a stranger).

Many experts agree that it is not a good idea to hire a relative who is inexperienced and/or has a record of poor performance. So if you plan to hire a relative to list your home, consider that practicing real estate can sometimes be difficult even for a seasoned professional, let alone someone who is new to the field and/or is a part-time practitioner.

Believe it or not, the issue of commission is typically secondary when it comes to hiring a relative to list a home. Don’t expect to pay the least amount of commission if you plan to hire “Cousin Jerry” to list your home; he may be directed by his broker on commission negotiation. The fact is that most real estate agents are negotiable when it comes to commissions and you might find a better deal from someone else.

If you’re intent on “keeping it in the family” consider interviewing “Cousin Jerry” as you would any other real estate agent; become familiar with “Cousin Jerry’s” license and experience. Although “Cousin Jerry” may have a real estate license, it may not be in the jurisdiction where your home is located. However, if his license is within the proper jurisdiction- he may not be experienced in the local market.

“Cousin Jerry’s” lack of local market experience could jeopardize your sale by not providing the proper disclosures and understanding the various contracts of sale. Seller disclosures requirements may vary depending which county/city your home is located; even full time agents have a difficult time staying on top of county differences in seller disclosures. Additionally, “Cousin Jerry” should be careful to pay attention local agent etiquette, as potential buyers could be turned away.

If you want to work with “Cousin Jerry” but want to mitigate family interference, a couple of alternatives you might consider include: having “Cousin Jerry” refer you to an experienced local agent for a referral fee (so he is indirectly involved); or, have “Cousin Jerry” work in tandem with an experienced local agent so a professional can act as a buffer from family matters.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of July 19, 2010. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell.