Archive for the 'Selling Your House' Category

If you bought a house in Metropolitan Phoenix within the past few years, you may be able to sell it at a profit.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? You can actually sell a home in Greater Phoenix and make money on the deal.

How can this be so? The long answer is long and boring, but the short answer yields a comprehensive truth in only two words: Market volatility.

We were a slow leak on the way down, until all of a sudden we were a fast leak. And then, just as suddenly, the market surged upward, gaining back a lot of lost price-pressure very quickly.

The result? If you bought a house in Phoenix or its suburbs within the past two or three years, it could be possible for you to sell that home and actually pocket some cash on the deal.

How much money could you scrape off the table?

Phoenix real estate: Sell your Phoenix homeIt could be a lot, actually. We’re getting ready to list a property where we expect the sellers to more than double their 20% down-payment in less than 15 months, total, since they closed on the home.

Your mileage will vary, of course, but you only need to beat your original purchase price by 7% or so to put yourself in the black — and home values are up more than 30% over the past year.

Okay, so you might be able to sell at a profit. Why would you do it? And why now?

The why is your question to answer: To move up to a better home, to move down to a house you can own free-and-clear, to move on to another part of the country, to get your money out of housing and put it into a business — your reasons are your own.

But why now? Because supplies of homes are very low, demand is insanely high — and because neither of these circumstances can last forever.

It could be that we’re back on the appreciation track for the foreseeable future, in which case holding out for higher prices makes sense.

But it also could be that the recent upsurge in prices is the eye of the hurricane, and continued foreclosures combined with other bad economic news could push home values down yet again.

I don’t know which will happen — but I know that no one else knows either.

But if you have a reason to sell your Phoenix-area home, we can make it sell quickly and for top dollar right now. If you want to explore your possibilities — and calculate your potential profits — drop me a line.

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Got equity? To sell your Metropolitan Phoenix home, marketing matters.

Phoenix real estate: Sell your Phoenix homeWith the recent surge in home prices, for the first time in years it matters how you market your home for sale in Greater Phoenix.

Lender-owned homes are sold like a grab-bag of garbage, take it or leave it. And while short-sellers might want to do a better job of marketing, typically they just don’t have the cash needed to do the job properly.

But now many homeowners in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and the suburbs of Metropolitan Phoenix have equity in their homes. They have a chance to make some money when they put their homes up for sale.

And that little fact makes all the difference…

Why would you want to mount a serious marketing effort to sell your home? To sell it faster, for more money, with less hassle and to a better-qualified buyer.

Marketing always matters, but when the seller has equity on the closing table, a good marketing effort can pay off at $10 to $1 — or better.

We wrote the book on selling homes in Phoenix, a comprehensive, deeply detailed guide on what works and what doesn’t. If you’re thinking about selling, let’s talk about why marketing your home for sale can make all the difference.

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It’s 4:15 pm. Do you know where your Realtor is? A consumer’s guide to using social media to supervise your goof-off employee.

Your mortgage lender just called. The appraiser is standing outside the home you’re hoping to buy, but there is no key in the lockbox. The lender called you so that you could call your Realtor. Your Realtor in turn can call the listing agent, and then someone can get over to the house — pronto! — to let the appraiser in.

There’s just one problem: You can’t seem to get your Realtor on the phone.

Stuff happens. Your Realtor could be tied up with another client or stuck in traffic in a cell-phone dead zone. Heaven forbid, he might have been in a car accident.

But… There is another possibility…

Do you remember when you first made contact with your Realtor? Do you recall him telling you all about how hi-tech his business is, detailing his presence on all the biggest social media sites?

So: If you’re not getting your calls to your Realtor returned, where might be a good place to look for him?

How about Twitter, for a start? How about Facebook? Foursquare? Tumblr? Posterous? You might have to look in a few places, but there are only two kinds of hi-tech Realtors: The kind who work a lot and the kind who play a lot.

How can you tell if your Realtor is the kind who plays a lot? It’s easy. He’ll be leaving tracks all over the place, Retweeting jokes and commenting on Facebook photos and writing detailed reviews of burger joints and doing — and documenting — just about any activity on the face of the earth — except attending to your real estate transaction.

Here’s the sad part: Even if you’re seeing dozens of Tweets and Facebook comments from your Realtor, you’re probably just seeing the tip of the iceberg. You’re not seeing the direct Twitter posts or the private conversations being carried out on Facebook or in email.

But: If your Realtor seems to be wasting his entire day on social media sites, there’s a reason for that:

It’s because he’s wasting his entire day on social media sites.

I’ve tried pointing out to Realtors that schmoozing on Twitter or Facebook is bad marketing, so far to no avail:

I say that trying to sell real estate via Twitter/Facebook is a waste of time — and it is anti-marketing even if it seems to produce some results. Why? Because the bulk of your chatter is going to look like… chatter. Your clients might like it when you schmooze with them, but your public schmoozing with every other time-wasting Realtor and vendor in the is going to look to your clients like just what it is: Time-wasting laziness.

Here’s the good news: You have the power to do something about this. Once you’ve discovered that your Realtor is ignoring your needs in order to goof-off online, put him on notice: “You will either service my transaction or I will fire you with dispatch.” You’re the boss. Act like it.

Even better, when you’re shopping for a Realtor, shop his or her online presence. Is your prospective Realtor a big-time Twitter kibitzer? This will come back to bite you in the butt. Is she an all-day Facebook schmoozer? Be prepared to handle your own transaction; your Realtor has another job she likes better than the one you’re offering her.

Why can’t you get your Realtor on the phone? Why don’t your repair issues get dealt with? Why is your lender calling the title company for you? Why is there an appraiser stranded outside your new home?

Part your problem is that you have a lazy Realtor.

The other part is that you have been a lax supervisor.

Whether your are a home seller or a buyer, you’re paying a lot of money for real estate representation. If you’re not getting it, you must either demand better performance immediately or take your business elsewhere.

The beautiful thing about capitalism is that you can always put the bums out of work. That’ll give them something to chat about online…

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Does it make a difference which Realtor lists your short-sale home?

It’s tough out there, everybody knows that. Your house may not be worth even half what you paid for it, and you’re having trouble keeping up with the payments. It could be your situation is so dire as to boil down to two choices: Let the bank foreclose on you or try to do a short sale.

What’s a short sale? If you could sell your home for what it’s worth today, you would probably have to come “short” to the closing table: The amount of money you could bring back to your lender from the proceeds of the sale would be less than you owe.

Are banks willing to do this? Yes, in principle. The bank reasons that it can get more money for a home that is still being cared for, as compared to yet another vacant lender-owned home.

What about you? Is a short sale to your advantage? Here’s your bottom line in both cases: Zero dollars and zero cents. That’s how much you’ll receive when your house sells.

So why should you prefer a short sale to a foreclosure?

For one very simple thing, because it’s the more responsible thing to do. You can’t pay your mortgage, and that’s a tragic turn of events. But by helping the bank effect a short sale, you’re doing what you still can to honor your obligations.

Even more important, a successful short sale can be less damaging to your credit than a foreclosure. You’re going to take a hit on your credit rating, either way. But the worst consequences of a short sale could be over in two or three years, where a foreclosure may wreck your credit for five years — or even longer.

On balance, a short sale is probably the better idea. Here’s the next question: Does it make any difference to you which Realtor you hire to list your home for sale as a short sale?

Remember that net figure: Zero dollars and zero cents. Since you won’t be getting any money from the sale of your home what difference does it make to you which Realtor sells it?

As it turns out, it makes a lot of difference. For one thing, no short sale is secure until it is closed. There is always the threat that the bank will go ahead and foreclose on you. You need a Realtor who can put matters in motion quickly, so you can complete the short sale before the bank gets tired of waiting for its money.

There’s more. Many Realtors treat short sales like a red-headed step-child — a slap-dash listing effort focused more on adding to their listing inventory, rather than actively selling your home. But the faster your home sells, the more money it is likely to command — which will make your buyer’s offer that much more attractive to the bank.

So what will make your home sell more quickly?

The answer? Marketing.

Where you and your lender see a short sale, your buyer sees a home. And guess what? Your buyer is seeing a lot of really grungy homes. Dirty. Missing appliances. Crowded floor to ceiling with personal possessions. Even though you have no equity in the property, your marketing problem is no different than in a normal equity sale: How do you get buyers to prefer your home over all the others available on the market?

And this is why it matters which Realtor you choose to list your home as a short sale. Your net might be zero dollars and zero cents, but you still have a lot to lose. The faster your home sells, the more money it will command, and the more money your lender stands to get, the more likely they are to approve your short sale.

It’s that simple. Working with a better Realtor — better not just at the mechanics of short sales but also at the mechanics of marketing — will bring you better, faster, happier results.

This is not a joyous event in you life, that’s understood. But working with the right Realtor on your short sale will help you make the best of a bad situation.

Am I blowing my own horn? Oh, you bet! I have advanced designations in short sale negotiation and management, and I’ve developed an extensive praxis for successfully marketing homes. I’ll bring every bit of this expertise to bear in getting your home sold as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

What’s the cost to you? Zip. Nada. Nothing. We typically charge our sellers an up-front retainer from $1,500 to $2,500. But they’ll be seeing cash at the closing table, and, if you go ahead with a short sale, you will not. We’ll take our compensation from the proceeds of the sale at Close of Escrow, and we’ll pay the buyer’s broker as well. You have nothing to lose by choosing a better listing agent — and a lot to gain.

So let’s talk, shall we? Give me a call at 602-369-9275 or email me and we’ll get together to figure out the best short sale strategy for your home.

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A real estate sign of the times: Our first custom yard sign printed in both English and Spanish

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link).

A real estate sign of the times: Our first custom yard sign printed in both English and Spanish

We do things that other brokers in the Phoenix area don’t do. We’re not the busiest listing brokerage — not by miles — but we’re among the most aggressively innovative in our marketing practices.

Our yard signs have always been very big, to try to grab as much attention as we can get for our listed homes, but for the past two years we have been building custom signs for our listings.

Working with Signs By Tomorrow in Peoria, we have been able to build huge, custom, four-color signs for our listed homes — featuring giant photographs of the interior and exterior of the house and custom descriptive copy about the property.

Our signs stop traffic. I know because I will often sit in my car a block or two away and watch passing cars as they slow down and stop to take in the sign, look over the house and grab a flyer.

We have a home listed in Peoria right now, and we took things one step further for this property. We know that a significant number of people in the surrounding area speak Spanish as their first language, so both the flyer and the custom sign are printed with one side in English and one side in Spanish.

Working from the English version of the Flyer, Enrique Lopez of prepared the Spanish translation. This copy was typeset for both the flyer and the sign. If you approach the home — 7813 West Beryl Avenue — from the East, you’ll see the sign and flyer in English. From the West, you’ll see the sign and flyer in Spanish.

Just because there’s no reason not to, the photos on each side of the sign are unique. Instead of four pictures, we were able to use eight.

We also added a Spanish version of the flyer to the MLS listing so that Spanish-speaking buyers can read about the features of the home.

Regardless of our endlessly-debated border policies, as a matter of pure demographics, Phoenix is becoming a bilingual city. Doing real estate promotional material in both English and Spanish just makes sense.

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You probably won’t sell your home for an above-market price, but even if you do, the home still has to appraise for that price

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link).

You probably won’t sell your home for an above-market price, but even if you do, the home still has to appraise for that price

So your house is finally under contract. Congratulations. It took longer than you thought it would to sell, and you had to go through three price reductions before you got regular showings. But now you’re under contract and in escrow. You’ve made it through the inspections and you’ve taken care of all of the repairs. Nothing but smooth sailing from here, right?

Not quite.

Here comes some bad news you hadn’t anticipated: Your house didn’t appraise.

A lender will only lend on the appraised value or the purchase price — whichever is lower. If the appraisal comes in lower than the purchase price, something has to give.

If there’s an appraisal contingency in the contract — and there almost always is — the buyers can cancel the contract unilaterally.

More likely, they’re going to want you to lower your price instead.

If you don’t, you’re almost certainly killing that contract. The lender will not underwrite the loan, so the buyers will be forced to cancel using the financing contingency.

You could end up waiting quite a while longer for another buyer. And that buyer could offer you quite a bit less for your home. And even then, your house will still have to appraise for the purchase price. If home values continue to decline, you could live through this same nightmare a second time.

So does that mean you should cave on the appraisal no matter what? Not necessarily — depending on your objectives. If you need to move now, take your punishment and move on. But if you can afford to wait long enough for the market to recover, that might be the better option.

Appraisers and loan underwriters are skittish right now. Lenders are taking back homes and selling them for fifty cents on the dollar. Appraisers are being fastidious to make sure they are not overestimating values.

And all of this is just another reason to price your home to the market. You probably won’t find a buyer willing to pay an above-market price. But even if you do, the home still has to appraise for that price.

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Price matters — but so does everything else: When buyers come to see your home, they’re looking for reasons to reject it, not to buy it

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link).

Price matters — but so does everything else: When buyers come to see your home, they’re looking for reasons to reject it, not to buy it

If price matters more than anything else in the sale of a home, why bother to clean, repair, stage and market the property for sale?

In a buyer’s market, if a home is priced above its market value, it probably will not show. If it doesn’t show, it can’t sell, and this by itself is all the argument anyone should need to price a home to the current market.

The corollary proposition is that, if your home is properly priced, it should get frequent showings.

So the battle is won, right? All you had to do was price your home to the current market, and you attracted the attention of buyers. Victory is at hand.

Not quite.

Your home is showing, and that’s good. But if it is dirty, if there are obvious repair issues, if the space is cluttered and confusing, if no one has worked to point out why it’s such a good buy — other houses will sell and yours will languish on the market.

As long as you’re priced right — and price can be a moving target in this market — you’ll get showings. But if your home is not a better value than the other houses your buyers are seeing, they’ll buy those homes instead.

That’s exactly what you would do in their place, isn’t it? When you’re picking through the melons at the grocery, you aren’t looking for the ones that are bruised and shopped over, unsightly and unappetizing. Why would you expect buyers to buy a property that you would pass on in a heartbeat, if you were in their shoes?

When buyers come to see your home, they aren’t looking for reasons to buy it. They’re looking for reasons to reject it, so they can move on to the next home. The one they buy will be the one that raises the fewest objections, for the money. If you want that money, you have to do everything you can to take away your buyers’ objections — before they think to raise them.

Not willing to do that? It’s not a problem. Just cut your price.

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Home staging advice: How you can get your house ready to sell on a shoestring budget

We know a seller who doesn’t have the budget to spruce up her house to get it ready for market. Though it would be better for her to put a fresh coat of paint on the walls, there are still things she can do for free to help her house sell.

The first thing that every seller should do to help their lister sell the house is box things up. You’re going to have to box up everything once the house sells anyway, so start right now… before you put your house on the market. Go through your closets. What’s in there that you don’t plan to wear for the next three to six months? Pack it up and put it in storage. Take a critical look at the traffic flow in your house. Have you just become accustomed to swerving to avoid that overstuffed chair that sticks out a little too far? Time to downsize. If you can’t afford to rent an inexpensive storage unit until the house sells, store that chair and those boxes of clothes that you plan to fit back into by the holidays in the garage. If you’ve run out of room there, ask your friends and family to help. Maybe one of them would love to lay back in that chair to watch the tube until you need it back again — in your new house. Do you keep the leaf in your dining room table, so you don’t have to bother with it when you have company for dinner? Plan to not have company for dinner until you invite them over to see your new house. Take the leaf out of the table and pare down the number of chairs that are set up around the table to only three or four. If the kids bring home a friend for dinner, give them the TV trays.

Next — and probably most important — clean, clean, clean. Clean as though you were having Martha Stewart over for dinner. Is your bathroom floor so clean that you would sit down and play a game of jacks on it? It should be. Touch the walls of your shower. Are they smooth as glass? If not, here’s an investment you must make: Kaboom! Thirteen dollars for two bottles and add your elbow grease — this is a small enough investment to sell your home in this market. Everything that’s made of glass should shine: windows, mirrors, light fixtures, oven door windows (oh yes, clean that oven, too!), everything that’s glass. All your appliances need to shine. All of your countertops need to shine. You want a light, bright, shiny house. Dust the slats in your window blinds; dust the tops of your ceiling fans; dust every surface that you haven’t already just scrubbed. Make sure your air filter is fresh … and put a new one in every month till the house sells. You haven’t noticed it for years, but the prospective buyers will see the dark build-up that’s accumulated along the edges of the air vents and returns, so clean those, too. Scrub everything that hands have touched and over the years left their mark — light switches, door knobs, drawer pulls. Don’t neglect your floors. Clean them like Christmas is coming. And after you’re done with all this you’ll be able to notice the other areas that need your attention before the photographer comes.

Remember high school? Remember when the photographer scheduled a day to come take pictures of all the underclassmen? The seniors had each already payed a handsome sum for private studio sessions to make sure that would great senior pictures for posterity. But the underclassmen had one chance and a prayer of getting a decent photograph in that year’s yearbook. If you were like me, you paid extra attention to your skin during the weeks leading up to the shots, to make sure your complexion was clear. The night before the photography, you picked out your nicest looking outfit. And the morning of the pictures, if you were a girl anyway, you got up early to make sure your makeup and hair were perfect. Well now — with your house — we’re talking about a six-figure asset. So the morning that the photographer is scheduled to arrive do whatever you can to make your house picture perfect.

Put away the Sunday paper.

Wipe the dishes and put them away — don’t leave them out draining. Clear the reminders from your refrigerator. And — for goodness sakes — don’t leave your prescription bottle sitting out on the counter.

Take your dirty clothes off the bed and make it! This includes putting a cover on the bed that’s at least long enough that the bed skirt’s slip isn’t showing. (Do I need to mention picking the garbage and more dirty clothes up off the floor?)

And please put the toilet seat down!

But there’s more you can do. Set the table as though you were expecting guests. Make up the bed so it looks like a display in the Neiman Marcus Bed & Bath Department. Put out a vase or two of cut flowers. Fill a glass bowl with fresh fruit.

I recently staged a home for sale, which had previously been listed but not staged. Pictures from the earlier listings were well taken… but just look at what a big difference little touches can make.

One final tip. Look at the photos your agent uses when the listing goes into the MLS. Be very particular.

This photo was used on MLS with the caption, “Master Bedroom.” Is this the image you want prospective buyers to have of your master bedroom? If this is the image that’s being presented, then expect yours to be one of the tens of thousands of houses on the market today that are not selling.

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Looking for the bottom? Real estate speculators are establishing the bottom-dollar price for lender-owned homes in Phoenix

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link).

Looking for the bottom? Real estate speculators are establishing the bottom-dollar price for lender-owned homes in Phoenix

If you’re looking for the bottom of the real estate market in Phoenix, chances are it’s right up the block. It’s that house with the jungle of overgrown weeds in front.

It used to be for sale. Then it was a short sale. By now it’s lender-owned. A year ago it might have been listed for $250,000. Now the price has been slashed to $120,000 — maybe less.

That’s a sad story, particularly if you knew the owners. And now, as you watch the parade of investors checking it out, you might feel a certain anger toward them.

If so, your anger is misdirected. Between syrupy books and movies and high-strung high-school-teachers, we have been indoctrinated to despise speculators. But the truth is, speculators are the garbage collectors of capitalism. They come in and clean up messes they did not create, returning productive value to underperforming assets.

It you’re looking for a villain in these stories, look to the borrower, to the lender or just to the vicissitudes of life. But it is the speculators who are going to bring the real estate market back to a viable state.

How? By establishing the bottom-dollar price.

What is your home really worth right now? It’s worth as much as the lowest-price lender-owned comparable plus the cost of returning that home to turn-key condition plus a small convenience premium. In other words, if the lender-owned house sells for $120,000, and if it will take $10,000 to make it as nice as your home, then your home is worth $135,000 — $140,000 at most.

And if you’re not willing to sell you home for that price? Get it off the market right now. It will not sell for more, but the surplus of over-priced inventory is a false signal to buyers that the market has not found its bottom.

If you must sell into this market, you’ll sell at the market price. If you can afford to wait, you will almost certainly do better after the market has turned.

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Listing real estate the Bloodhound way: Everything we do to list historic, architecturally-distinctive and luxury homes for sale

“We feel that you and Bloodhound Realty did an excellent job and we are extremely happy that you selected us as one of your clients. Your diligence and hard work were both refreshing and somewhat unexpected given our previous experience with ‘traditional’ real estate marketing.” –Ken Green, formerly of 1322 East Vermont Avene, Phoenix, AZ 85014

This is a detailing of the things we do to list a home for sale. We don’t do every one of these things on every home. For example, we know that if we list in a newer tract-home subdivision, much of the noise we try to make will fall on deaf ears. If I am listing a tenant-occupied investor-owned home, we won’t do much beyond the normal MLS, lockbox and sign kind of listing. But this is what we do when we pull out all the stops for those homes that are likely to excite the most attention among buyers.

  1. We know from hard experience that if a home is priced wrong, nothing else we do will make a difference, so the very first thing we do for our listings is price them properly. We will work hard from the MLS system, looking at each comparable home physically to see how it really compares. If we have any doubts about the price we arrive at, we acquire a full appraisal at our expense. We want to make sure we get every dollar that we can actually get for the home. By pricing to the current real estate market, we can get the maximum price in the minimum time.
  2. Setting the stage for staging. Cathleen Collins will go though the house with a fine-tooth comb, often taking many photos. She will make lists of repairs, touch-ups and redecorating she wants to do, and she will plan her staging strategy.
  3. Home-warranty pre-inspection. We put a home warranty on our listings covering the listing period and the buyer’s first year in the home. We use American Home Guardian, and they do a fairly rigorous pre-inspection so that any pre-existing conditions can be addressed.
  4. Repairs, painting and cleaning. This can take anywhere from a few days to more than a week. Everything’s a trade-off, and we can’t always do everything we might wish for, but we want for our homes to be as clean, as homey, as livable and as turn-key as we can possibly make them.
  5. Staging. This is Cathleen, and she is a master at it. We own about three houses worth of furniture, and she is always trawling Craigslist to find more — period, modern, eclectic. She has tons of art and decorator items as well, and her modus vivendi is to take everything she thinks she might need to the house, then move back what she doesn’t use.
  6. Professional photography. We have just switched to Obeo for our virtual tours. They send in a local professional photographer to do hi-resolution and panoramic photos. In addition to forming the basis of the virtual tour, the hi-rez photos are also used for Obeo’s Style Designer, virtual remodeling of selected spaces.
  7. Floorplan measurement. We put an interactive floorplan on the web site for every listing. Buyers can interactively place their furniture, plus there is a printable PDF version that they can pass along to movers or decorators. We use Floor Plans First, but this is a service that Obeo offers, as well.
  8. Amateur photography. That would be by us. We like to have dozens of photographs of everything, including photos of the interior and exterior of the home in all the different colors of light of the day. We can end up taking photos of the home over the course of days, just for the sake of a static kind of verisimilitude. For what it’s worth, I think it is incumbent upon Realtors to do the bulk of their own photography. Use a pro for the print stuff, if you lack confidence, but acquire a camera appropriate for real estate work and learn how to take good real estate photos. You should get in the habit of having a good-enough real estate camera with you every time you leave the office. The language of real estate is photography, after all.
  9. Neighborhood photography. We like to have a fairly comprehensive selection of photos of other homes in the neighborhood. We know that buyers want to know for sure that they’re moving into a neighborhood that fits the home we are selling. We show them many of the nearby homes so they can get a feel for the neighborhood.
  10. Videography. We don’t do this for every listing. We only do it when we have a story to tell, because video without a story is anti-marketing — worse than doing nothing. If the sellers or the neighbors have an interesting story to tell, that can work. Often, just using the neighborhood photos with a voiceover can make an interesting film.
  11. Building business-card-sized Open House invitations. I do this, printing them with We print these in the thousands.
  12. Building custom yard signs and directionals. This is me again. We print these locally, with a company called Signs By Tomorrow. Why do we put a paragraph of small text on our yard signs? To stop traffic. The purpose of the sign is to sell the house, so we do what we can to make sure people stop and take a look. We also add a “rider” to the sign showing the price of the home in six-inch high numerals. It’s the first question anyone is going to have about the home, so why not answer it in no uncertain terms?
  13. Building the custom web site for the home. Generally, we will acquire the domain for the home before we even go on the listing appointment. Using engenu, I can set up the gross anatomy of the single-property web site, then Cathleen or I can go in and finesse it page-by-page. In addition to many, many folders full of photos, which engenu will render as slide shows, we supplement our web sites with all the additional information we can find or create. For example, if we can lay our hands on historic photos of the home or neighborhood, we will scan them in order to provide that background information. The same goes for historic documents or newspaper articles. We will research the builder, the architectural styles or the construction methods and document those. Lately we’ve been building custom maps in Google Maps to help buyers discover local amenities. We try to have all these ancillary items done before the listing hits the MLS, but that’s not always possible. But we live by the idea that, if it looks done, it is done, so we don’t tell people about features that are still to come. That way, the web site always looks and feels finished, even if we don’t yet have the link for the finished virtual tour, for instance. Our sites are built to permit the easy addition of new or changed content, so we keep working on the site before and after the MLS listing goes live.
  14. Starting now, we are building coffee-table books for distinctive homes. We always have dozens of striking photos of the home, so a coffee table book is just one more way we have of getting those images in front of buyers.
  15. Listing the home in the MLS. By now we will have written a ton of text about this home. We use it all and then some in the MLS. We get 680 characters in the remarks and six photos with 250 characters each for captions. If we miss out on using three of the characters available to us, that’s a lot. We can have an unlimited number of “virtual tours,” which are essentially off-site URLs. We use as many of these as we have content for. One of our working precepts is that the listing may be our only chance to make our case for the home to the buyer, so we try to leave nothing to chance. If we can feed the buyer’s agent a good closing argument, we’ll do that, too.
  16. Compose the flyer. We build a full-color flyer using our best photos and our most rhapsodic text, printing it on heavy coated stock. We use flyer boxes that will hold the flyers but also have a pocket at the top for business cards. We put the Open House invitation cards in there, just in case someone doesn’t want to take a full flyer. We normally put flyer boxes facing in both directions on the post, and we will store extra flyers and Open House cards inside the home.
  17. Set the post, hang the signs and flyer boxes, mount the lockbox. For now we use a normal six-foot 4×4″ white post. When we can afford to have it done, we’re going to switch to a custom-made sign structure, framing off the big sign and the riders and attaching everything will small bungee cords to keep things from flapping around in the wind. We’re always looking for better sign-lighting solutions, too.
  18. Promote the listing with online listing bots. We’re using PostLets for the broadcast distribution, but we do Craigslist our way, by hand, and we will go in and hand-finesse other online listings.
  19. Write a weblog entry promoting the listing and linking back to the single-property web site. This has all kinds of benefits, as we’ve discussed, but here’s one we haven’t talked about: Linking to your single-property web site from a trusted weblog can break you out of the Google sandbox.
  20. Distribute the Open House invitation cards. We will do this with nearby employers and in two sorts of neighborhoods: Move-up areas for our listings, and neighborhoods where has a lot of fans. We know that people who like us will try to send us buyers, so we always want to let them know when we have a new house for sale.
  21. We hold Open Houses every week until the home is sold. Why? Because there are an awful lot of un- or under-represented buyers out there, and we want for them to be able to see our home. We avoid dual agency, but we have no problem showing the home to buyers who accidentally left their buyer’s agents at home. If a listing is near the commuter traffic flow — and most of ours are — we like to hold after-work Open Houses, too, just to see if we can snag people sick of driving. We hold Open Houses to sell the house — everything we’re talking about here is about selling the house — but we have met a lot of very interesting people at Open House. Sellers come to check us out, of course, and we meet a few buyers. But we also get to become acquainted with fascinating people who love our houses and know a ton about them. I can’t count how many times we have gained access to historic photos of our listings because someone wanted to see what had become of their old home.
  22. We service our listings. For vacant homes, we want to be in the house every other day, at the outside, ideally every day. For one thing, a home needs regular maintenance, and we can’t see to it if we aren’t seeing the home first hand. But very often we will end up taking new photos of the home, which we then incorporate into the web site.

We never stop thinking of new ways to promote the home. Our future success at selling homes is directly related to our present success at selling homes, but that’s a secondary consideration. The primary goal is simply to sell the home. We are always thinking and talking abut new ways to draw attention to our homes, new ways to make them more appealing to buyers, new ways to get the best results we can attain for our sellers. We’re not shy about talking about the things we do. We’re always delighted when someone picks up on our ideas, but that’s the rare case. But, regardless of what anyone else does, we are always going to be working at getting better at listing and selling homes.

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Do you want to make sure your home will sell? Little things matter

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link):

Do you want to make sure your home will sell? Little things matter

I tend to do a lot of previewing. I will go into houses alone to take photographs. My buyers and I then use those photos to draft a short-list of homes to view when they’re ready to see for themselves.

Because of this, I get to spend a lot of time alone in homes, looking at absolutely everything, with no distractions.

Here’s what I’ve learned from looking at thousands of homes for sale: Little things matter.

Is the home picked up, or are there clothes, toys and magazines scattered everywhere? Are there dirty breakfast dishes on the kitchen table? Dried up orange juice splotches? Toast crumbs? Are last night’s dirty dishes piled up in the sink?

Is the house clean? Does it look and smell like the cleaning crew just left? If I look for dirt, I can find it. But can I find it easily without having to look?

Is every room of the house packed to the walls with furniture? Are there pictures of every member of the family for three generations tacked all over the walls? Do the kids like dark blue, dark purple, dark black paint?

I can probably guess your religion by the stuff you own and the other stuff you don’t own, but my buyers should never, ever see symbols of your religion in the house. Why? Because it can be subtly off-putting to them without their even knowing why at a conscious level.

Likewise, if they can smell your cat — or the fish you fried for dinner last week — you’ve probably already alienated potential buyers before they have even given your house half a chance. Odors kill sales, so kill those odors now.

Fix any obvious defects. Only a specialist can say for sure if the air conditioner is working properly, but no one has to be told when it’s completely broken.

It only takes a few small things to drive buyers on to the next house on their list. If you want for yours to be the one that sells, it simply must be better than others. Little things matter.

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If you don’t have to sell into the current Phoenix real estate market — don’t. But what if you do have to sell…?

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link):

If you don’t have to sell into the current Phoenix real estate market — don’t. But what if you do have to sell…?

Here’s a piece of real estate marketing advice that should be obvious: If you don’t have to sell your house right now, don’t.

If you are living in your home — or if you are an investor and you have a tenant — and you are making your payments and don’t have any exigent need to sell — sit tight.

We are probably nearing the bottom of the downturn in Phoenix, but the path to the bottom is likely to be pretty steep. If you don’t have to compete against deeply-discounted lender-owned homes, don’t.

Will the market go back up after we hit bottom? Eventually, yes. How long is eventually? It could be a long while. But prices should stabilize after the bank-owned inventory has cleared the market. What you can get for your home may not be all you want, but you won’t be facing competition priced 20% or 30% less.

But suppose you do have to move right now. You’ve taken a job out of state or you have a pressing financial need and need to tap your equity. How can you compete effectively against the lender-owned homes in your neighborhood?

The bad news is, the price pressure on you is still downward, and probably will be for longer than you can afford to wait. That means you cannot set your price above the market and hope for an offer anyway. If you price your home above the recent high sales for your floorplan — where recent means the past 60 days — your home might not show at all. There is simply too much inventory for buyers to bother with an overpriced home.

The good news is that the lender-owned homes are almost certainly trashed. Filthy, in bad repair, with overgrown lawns. Investors know those problems are easily addressed, but owner-occupants want turn-key homes.

That works to your advantage. If you are willing to put your home in turn-key condition — everything in first-rate repair, squeaky clean and staged beautifully — your home can still command a much higher price than the nearby foreclosure properties.

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How do you get visitors to come to your home’s custom weblog? Shoe leather works well. Search engines? Not so much…

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link):

How do you get visitors to come to your home’s custom weblog? Shoe leather works well. Search engines? Not so much…

Okay, so you’ve built a custom weblog to help sell your home, and you’ve dressed it up with photos, a map, a floorplan — every bit of content you could think of. Now what?

Your home now has a twenty-four-hour salesperson on the internet. How do you go about getting potential buyers to visit your blog?

Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is not search engines. For one thing, your site is brand new. The search engines don’t even know it exists. Even if you manage to get indexed, you won’t have the kind of popularity to bring you to the top of search results for your keywords.

But there is an even more compelling reason why search engines won’t be much help to you: Visitors brought in by search engines are very loosely motivated. Many will have been looking for something else entirely, so they will bounce right back off your site in seconds flat.

Your objective in promoting your weblog is to target people who are motivated to buy your home — or who know someone who is motivated to buy your home. Your job is not to broadcast your appeal to everyone but to narrowcast to just those people who can do you the most good.

You’ll put notices about your weblog anywhere online that you can —,,, local weblogs supporting nearby schools, little league teams, etc. But your primary promotional strategy is going to be offline — person to person.

We print business card-sized promotional pieces to advertise our open houses. These are distributed to every house in the neighborhood, since the neighbors may know someone who wants to live nearby.

During the school day, there will be more than 100 cars in the school parking lot, most of them driven there from out of the neighborhood. Some of those folks are sick of commuting.

Most local retailers will have some kind of bulletin board. Your cards belong there.

Your buyers probably won’t find your home on a search engine. But if you manage your promotion right, your house will be sold long before that matters.

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Dress up that custom weblog you’ve built to help sell your home

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link):

Dress up that custom weblog you’ve built to help sell your home

Last week we built a custom weblog to help you sell your home. This week, let’s dress it up a little.

Some of the things I’ll be talking about are free, but others cost money. Your Realtor may have a marketing budget, so that could be a source of funding. But even if not, with only a few buyers chasing a very large number of homes, stinting on marketing costs may not be your best strategy.

Here’s something you can do for free: Go to Google Maps and build a map to your home. At a minimum, you should also provide driving directions from the nearest freeway exit. But, if you sign up for a free Google account, you can link to an elaborate custom map for your home.

Highlight parks, playgrounds, schools and shopping. Saying anything at all about churches might invite Fair Housing complaints, but you can draw attention to other nearby amenities. Even better, you can attach pictures and internet links to your map markers, so that buyers can really get a feel for the neighborhood.

Online real estate sites like and want to know that your home is for sale. You can add photos to those sites and link back to your custom weblog, which will bring you more traffic. On, you can “claim” your home, updating details on any upgrades you have made to it.

We like to use floorplans. You might be able to get one to scan (or better yet, an Adobe PDF file) from your home’s builder. We use a company called because they make interactive web-based floorplans. Buyers can move their furniture into the home to see how it will fit. This costs money, but it sells houses.

For virtual tours, we’re switching to Their tours cost more, but they offer a category-killer feature: Virtual redecorating. Your buyers can discover how much they’re going to love your house after they’ve remodeled the kitchen and repainted the exterior.

And the only stronger commitment a buyer can make is a purchase contract and a fat check.

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A custom weblog can be your home’s 24-hour real estate salesperson on the world-wide web

This is my column for this week from the Arizona Republic (permanent link):

A custom weblog can be your home’s 24-hour real estate salesperson on the world-wide web

I have an unshakable faith in the three P’s of home marketing — Price, Preparation and Presentation.

If the home is priced above its value to the buyer it will not sell in this market — it probably won’t even show.

If it is not well-prepared — repaired, staged, cleaned — to the condition implied by the price, it will not sell even if it does show.

Presentation is your Realtor’s job — or yours if you’re trying to sell without representation. I don’t have space to go into a full-blown marketing plan, but here’s an idea that can make a big difference for very little cost:

Give your home a blog.

Every home for sale should have its own web site. What makes a weblog useful and practical is that weblogging software is so easy to use. And the price to get started? Nothing.

Sites like or will let you set up a blog on a subdomain — an address like — for free. Or you can buy your own domain — — for less than ten bucks a year. You can host your own domain for a few dollars a month, but using your weblog provider’s hosted option will work just as well.

What do you want for content? Photos — and lots of them. Good pictures of clean, well-lit rooms sell houses. Your text should be just-the-facts, nothing overtly promotional. Not only can people see through hype, it turns them off.

With a weblog, you can document your house room by room — or by the benefits to be realized from the home’s features and amenities.

Best of all, you’ll have a 24-hour salesperson working for you on the internet. Put your blog’s address on your flyers, in any advertising you do, in your Craigslist open house notices, on and The more you can promote your blog, the more traffic it will draw.

You still have to be priced right. You still have to be prepared right. But a custom weblog for your home could be a key element in your home’s presentation to the marketplace.

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