Thursday, April 23, 2015

Home Sales Statistics Don't Lie..... They Disagree

The one real estate statistic I believe hasn't been proven yet. But I think it is safe to estimate that at least 99% of consumers do not make purchase or selling decisions based on the market statistics they read.

Within the past 24 hours (at press time), we have had another set of examples that you can believe what you prefer to believe.

Last night, the National Association of Home Builders issued a "story" about how much existing home sales have risen this year, especially in March (2015) when compared with previous months and with March of 2014.

The story tells us how first-time buyer shares have increased, how there is more inventory than in recent months, and how the number of distressed home sales have dropped.

The very next morning, the Associated Press published a story headlined "New home sales collapsed in March".

Although the AP story also reports that new home sales were higher, the very same story also says new home sales dropped 33% percent in the Northeast and 15.8% percent in the South. And that the median sales price fell 1.7% since March 2014.

Seeing these "stories" within hours of each other makes me feel the same way as the times I received those "Now is the time to sell!" mailers and e-mails from real estate agents at the same as my home was more than $100,000 underwater.

For the millions who cannot buy or sell a home due to circumstances beyond their control, this arranging of information is in the same category as the drug commercials with potential side effects much worse than the purpose of the drug.

Unfortunately, this is how it goes in real estate these days. Too many people working statistics in their favor and not enough of them concentrating on actually fixing the market.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How To Sell The Only House In Town

Suppose you had the only residential listing in town. Would it would "sell itself"? Some realty agents seem to think so. That is not how it works.

As of the week of this post, the home at 100 N. 5th Street in Beaver Creek MN was literally the ONLY house for sale listed for the entire town, according to as well as Even the "nearby homes for sale" feature on these sites did not have any other Beaver Creek properties.

This 3 bedroom home had been on the market for more than one and one-half months at press time. If the law of supply and demand truly applied to real estate, this home would have been long gone.

What makes this even more interesting is that the advertising copy is very well written, and includes a lot of positive and helpful information about the property. Recent upgrades are profiled and the spacious elements of the home are featured.

There was a 14 photo spread with the majority being flattering interior photos (as of press time). It is possible that not having updated the exterior photos is a slight negative. There was still some snow on the ground on them even though the temperature for the current week was in the mid-60's. It is possible that the interior photos revealing that the sellers appear to be devoted to their religion could be preventing potential buyers from inquiring, but the majority of potential buyers would be making changes to decorations and art work anyway.

Another selling point should be that it is the only residence in town for sale. That should indicate a motivated seller. This is different than being on a block lined with "For Sale" signs and a massive exodus from a community.

Why hasn't this house sold? Why is this one now the only one in town on the market?

It is because, even with the favorable copy describing the home, potential buyers also need to be sold on the surroundings. And, in this instance, they are not.

The population of Beaver Creek is less than 1,000 people. There are no "true" towns with residences which border it.

Chances are, with this home having been on the market for close to two months, that everybody else in town knows it is for sale, and no one local has stepped up to buy it. This translate into needing to bring in a buyer from another community.

However, there is NOTHING in the advertisement profile of this property which gives anyone one or more reasons to consider Beaver Creek. This is why this house hasn't sold - and why it will not "sell itself".

It seems that Beaver Creek is right there at an exit from I-90, while being less than a 30 minute drive from much larger Sioux City SD. Thus, a family could be, say, 20 minutes away from employment, shopping, and the amenities of a bigger town.

In addition, there are reasons that people that live in Beaver Creek live there and enjoy the community (since none of them are looking to move!).

A few well chosen words about WHY potential buyers should consider Beaver Creek would go a long way toward getting this house sold. Perhaps to a buyer who is looking in Sioux Falls and would consider the "right" home a few minutes away.

It is not "just" the house. It is, often times, the reason to live there, that can make a difference. This house won't sell itself until there are specific reasons to consider it.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Make A Boston Open House A Free Ride

If you are a home seller in the Boston area that has listed or (plans to list) your home for sale within the next 30 days, and if your home is located with 1/2 mile of an MBTA station, a little research can go a long way toward getting your home sold.

The MBTA (commuter train system serving the Boston region) has announced a "free fare day" for Friday April 24th. The reasons do not matter to you, but you should know how to benefit from them.

Let me back track. While it is true that sellers do not plan open houses, you (as a seller) should not let your listing agent stand in the way. Some agents are against open houses, and have their reasons. Many will hold them, but for the wrong reasons (for your purpose). Often times the agents hold an open house to meet the neighbors and "general" house shoppers so that they can interest them in "any" listing once they find out that your home is not a fit. You, however, hire that agent to sell YOUR home.

For those agents fortunate enough to have a listing within 1/2 mile of those train stations, drop everything (except for an offer, of course) and schedule an open house for Friday April 24th from, say, 3 to 7 PM. Impress the heck out of your seller! 

Here is why. This is a widely used commuter train line providing "free" rides that day. Your listing is within a reasonable walking distance. Think about it. This means that on that day, every commuter in the Boston metro area could take the train without cost and walk to your open house!

Those potential buyers could know for certain how long of a commute they would have, as well as the convenience of being able to walk to and from the train. He/she/they could see first hand what the neighborhood is like at an important time of the day. Maybe they can walk past a grocery store or trendy restaurant in the process, or see the school yard nearby.

Not every agent agrees with me on this in general, but from where I sit you gain another huge advantage by doing this. While other agents balk at this suggestion and maybe hold a nearby open house during the "usual" Saturday or Sunday afternoon period, chances are yours would be the ONLY available home these potential buyers would be able to see during their "free" trip to see your listing. Your listing, therefore, would not be "one of several" homes these people would visit and have them run together.

Promotions such as this (the MTBA special) are rarely announced this far enough in advance. This gives you plenty of time to plan your open house and to advertise and promote it in the right places.

"Take a FREE train ride to and from 123 First Street on April 24th and explore this 3-bedroom 2-bath home...."

Everyone that comes will ONLY be coming to view this home, since it is likely that there would not be any others in that area.

I mention all of this for those not in the Boston area. The idea is to always be on the lookout for unique opportunities such as this, and make it special. Every home is unique for one or more reasons. The more you can do to sell its uniqueness, the more successful you will be at selling homes.

Dave Kohl is Marketing Director of First In Promotions, which provides market research for realty agents and offices on a per hour or per property basis. Details at www.ForRealEstateAgentsOnly.

Friday, February 27, 2015

People Don't Buy Homes Based On Sales Statistics

The Metro Study people do an excellent job with interpreting and reporting on home sales and many things real estate related, but their latest findings for the Northern Virginia housing market is another prime example of how much is too much.

This report shows that, for part or all of 2014, new home construction was down but used home sales were up; while the number of overall home sales were down, yet the median price was up.

We can take statistics like these and make a case for just about anything, and that is the problem. For now, let's take real estate investors out of the equation and focus on consumers purchasing a home for their own use.

Quick. How many people, including yourself, do you know who have read market statistics and THEN decided to purchase a home? 

If you answered more than zero, I'd be extremely surprised. Seems to me that personal preference plays an even bigger role.

However, many of the so-called experts choose the statistics which best fit their approach and run with them, which overall is not helping when it comes to real estate. Maybe it does in pro sports, for example, when the team negotiates by illustrating only those statistics which shows a player in a less productive light while the agent has every statistic to show that player in every superior and productive category.

You can't take statistics like these and make it appear that "people are buying pre-owned homes instead of new ones" based on sales over the past two years. Yet, I am not arguing against that while pointing out that new construction is down.

It so happens that I had the experience of watching my current home being built, and I know a couple, married for 35 years, which has moved into new construction every time. I could also name other friends and family members who would "never go with new construction because there are always problems".

Official statistics are NOT necessarily a true reflection of the pulse of a local real estate market, even though they are too often "reported" as if they are. But neither is the barrage of comparative statistics.

Let's use the Northern VA report as an example. Metro Study reports that Northern Virginia MLS sales numbered 38,691 units for 2014. That looks quite impressive. Then you read that this sales number is down 6 percent from the previous year. The 6% decrease makes it appear to some that the desire to move to or within this same area is reduced. So is this a good or a bad report?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

And Snow It Goes

Still another example of why sellers need to take charge of how their agents are presenting their properties, even with all due respect to a lot of realty agents out there.

The Chicago area has literally had more than 21 inches of snow within the past week, at the time of this writing. Many of the side streets and secondary streets within the city and its suburb are still being cleared for traffic even though there has been no "new" snowfall in 48 hours. Of course, technology hasn't stopped through all of this. The ability to upload and update advertisements and data about new and currently listed properties is the same as it was just a week ago.

As I so often do following a major storm or significant event impacting a geographic area, I check on homes for sale in the impacted area days later to see how many agents representing sellers have updated their advertising and promotion to focus on the true current status.

Even in a competitive market like Chicago, a search of 50 properties within the same general price range did not show ANY references to the recent storm.

This is such a major opportunity to promote a listing on a street where, for example, it was plowed and safe for travel right away and/or something like "streets clear to train station" or "easy snow plow access". Something to tell a potential buyer that it is easier to deal with the big storm for this home than other properties in the area might be.

Here is one specific example, which, prior to clicking to the full property details, shows as "JUST LISTED", at 5654 W. Grace Street in Chicago.

The primary photo of the home shows (again, the same week as 21 inches of snow have fallen) an exterior shot showing the lawn and a nice floral arrangement. JUST LISTED??

Sorry, but right there the credibility is shot. If this home really is "just listed", why was the primary photo clearly taken MONTHS earlier?

Not only is there zero mention of winter or the storm, but the description includes "Lovely deck and backyard for entertaining!" within the copy. Considering that the outdoor temperature had not been above 32 degrees within the past five days (at the time of this writing), I'm not sure this is the best sentence to tempt an immediate response.

Granted, the seller of this home is not responsible for having this advertisement (on a nationally available real estate web site) appear this way.

If that were my property, I would be livid at the agent. If a potential buyer can access this advertisement while the snow is piled up, the agent placing this advertisement can be making sure it is up to the minute, or pull it if the advertising source can't deliver.

Upon looking at the numerous interior photos taken from good angles, this is an impressive property. However, potential buyers seeing the clearly outdated photo and about the "lovely deck and backyard" (and back yard is actually two words, by the way) are more likely to ridicule this advertisement and click on to the next property matching their search criteria.

A little common sense could help the sale of properties even more than the prices and the interest rates.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Big Banks Still Not Helping

Here we are one year after the big banks succeeded in their efforts to reduce the number of mortgage brokers and add to the challenges many consumers have when it comes to getting a mortgage.

Think it has made a difference for consumers? Then get this. Wells Fargo has MORE deposit revenue in recent months. How does it respond? By issuing FEWER mortgage loans:

During the same time period, the real estate market in California, one of the most monitored states in the country, has taken still another dip:

Along these same lines, another major monitored state, Florida, maintains a high level of cash buyers:

At the same time, Florida has one more of its politicians in "action":

While all of this is going on, there are still millions of home owners whose homes are considered to have LOST value, even though many have been well maintained and/or bolstered by home improvement projects.

Although I can't speak for other home owners (as much as I would like to!), I would suggest that home owners give a lot of thought to where they deposit their money these days.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Home More Than Double The Price In Same Zip Code?

What happens when two 3-bedroom homes in the same zip code are listed and one is more than double the asking price? From what we see, nothing in more than four months.

Let's compare these two listings, as they appear simultaneously on, located within the same zip code and same school districts, in Stevens Point WI.

1409 4th Ave. is a 3-bed 2-bath home listed at $103,900. Again, within the same zip code, 175 Old Wausau Rd. , a 3-bedroom 2 1/2-bath home, is listed at $239,000. Small town, large discrepancy!

This situation helps to demonstrate the importance of presenting each property as unique and being willing and able to make comparisons against "competing" homes. These two homes are listed by separate local realty offices, and have each been on the market for more than four months (at press time).

The issue of "location location location" is reduced because these are, again, same zip code and schools for both. For those shopping by price, one would think that the high and low end of the price spectrum would produce some activity for both. Some potential buyers will look at the lowest priced home to see what they get "for less", while those in a better financial position might at least consider the degree of luxury available for more than twice the price.

Both of these homes have unique selling points and positives which we can see from the respective advertisements as they appear on the same web site and within the same local search (3 bedroom 2 bath in zip 54481).

It is no longer a matter of putting up the advertising information and forgetting about it until or unless a potential buyer comes along. At least, it shouldn't be. These are prime examples of why property ads need to be adjusted and/or updated to adapt to the very latest in the market. Neither of these ads do.

The "overview" description copy for 1409 4th Ave. makes no mention of being the lowest priced 3-bedroom home in the area on the days that we searched. The copy does highlight several positives, such as the updated kitchen and finished lower level, along with specifics about the location and nearby amenities.

In this instance, the "updated kitchen" takes on added significance if compared to the Old Wausau Rd. listing, which mentions only "dishwasher" for appliances and shows only one photo of a cramped kitchen for more than double the price! Wouldn't you like to know that you could get a larger and more updated kitchen in the same area for over $100,000 LESS?

Yet, unless a potential buyer does that comparison (and it is not likely with that large of a price spread), that selling point goes untouched.

So why is the lowest priced home still available after more than four months?

The answer could be in the photo spread. Every interior photo shows a significantly brighter light from a window dominating the picture. This only serves to make this home appear dark and dreary inside. These are not professional photos, and that hurts big time. We see clutter on tables and shelves. The even bigger "no no" is that the garage photo not only shows a parked car, but we can read the license plate on it. (This is severely frowned upon by agents due to security reasons.) Again, this listing has been online for more than four months!

Also in the photo spread are hand written instructions above the laundry room sink, a blurred photo, a portable fan (which makes us wonder about ventilation in warmer temperatures), and what appears to be a very tiny bathroom. Frankly, these photos do nothing but make this property appear to look like the lowest priced 3-bedroom home in the area, and could scare off a potential buyer.

Why hasn't the higher priced home sold in more than six months?

Granted, it could be the higher price, although this home being on over 3 acres with a pond, garden, and a separate "heated" shop located near the river provides a strong indication of why due to the amount of space and land value.

However, the photo spread of 26 pictures includes on seven interior shots, including just one of what appears to be a tiny kitchen area. The other interior shots make the rooms look small. The message this photo spread sends is that this is for someone who wants to live in the great outdoors, enjoy the yard, the garden, the pond, and the land.

Let's also keep in mind that these photos all show green grass and a garden and sunny days. These photos that appear in this ad during December in a town in Central Wisconsin, where the average temperature is below freezing this time of year. For someone to pay a higher price for a 3-bedroom home in this area, they should get a better idea of living there during the four months (minimum) of the year that the outdoors isn't feasible.

It is not the location. It is not the price, since we went to extremes. It is the same story for two much different properties. One that needs to be updated.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A "Snow Job" For Buffalo Real Estate

Realty agents and sellers still need to have the term "crisis management" enter into their thinking at all times. It makes things appear even worse when a "negative" event goes all but ignored.

This week, I'm using Buffalo NY as a prime example. Obviously, the massive snowstorm is devastating for the local residents and the economy regardless of the coincidental challenges of the real estate market.

I asked, "Who would want to buy a house right now in Buffalo?". My answer is "investors that figure they could get some lowball offers accepted by frustrated residents looking to get out of town ASAP". The snow will melt, whether with flood damage or not, and at some point soon the community will return to normal life. Not everybody will want to wait for that to happen.

Then, I asked, as should realty agents, "What can be done to sell houses in Buffalo right now?". I'll grant you there is no certain answer. But there needs to be an effort. One has to think that there will be plenty of folks looking to abandon ship and relocate.

My next step was to go on to, and do a search for "New Listings" for Buffalo NY. This search produced more than 1,800 listings, including several pages of homes which were put on the market since the monster storm hit.

Next, I went through the first (and most recent) 50 listings which came up on the search, including a variety of price ranges. From an advertising and marketing standpoint, these findings were extremely disappointing.

Agents may not be able to drive to visit their sellers or even get to their office yet, but they most certainly can access and update their listings and information online. One of the few things this storm did not stop is technology. At least it shouldn't be.

Information about these newly available homes should be updated to INCLUDE the impact of the weather, especially when positive. Ignorning it would only make an investor skeptical at this point.

As we all know, the primary photo is a huge part of the first impression of any property ad. Yet, incredible as it is, 28 of the 50 primary photos (that's the majority!) did not show snow. Combine that with 18 others with no photo and a "Coming Soon" poster. Say what?

Hours after an historic snowfall stops the city, the majority of the photos do not show or even mention the storm. Sure enough, only four out of 50 photos showed more than either a lawn or a little bit of snow.

Of course, I explored those four listing ads more closely. The first (and most recent one put on the market at the time) did it the right way. The photo with mountains of snow on the lawn also revealed a plowed driveway leading to the garage, and announces that there will be an open house on Sunday (Nov. 29th) at 86 Garry Drive in West Seneca.

Before I even researched other similar properties in the area, this home already has a signficant edge by providing the impression that potential buyers can get to this house and see it with no problem (if and when they can get to the neighborhood, but that's not the point).

More importantly, this photo reveals that the roof has a minimal amount of snow on it, removing one of the upcoming dangers of a collapse. This tells all comers that the owners have clearly taken steps toward maintaining the property under pressure - while surrounding homes are not even close to showing anything nearly as reassuring.

Only one of the other "snow photo" properties showed a path to the front door and minimal snow still on the roof. The other two homes which showed massive amounts of snow in the primary photo had something else in common.

The interior photos of both properties reveal that they are empty! While showing the huge snow and a path to the door would normally be a positive, the showing that these homes are empty while the threat of flooding, leaking, and other storm related problems are even greater is a significant deterrent for any potential buyer.

Agents do (or should) have the ability to update their advertising information, and it is so important under these conditions. I should have been reading about which homes are on "freshly plowed streets" or that "(name of grocery store) is steps away", and other such pertinent information that shows that if I lived there and a major snow storm hits in the future that I would fare better than a similar home in another area.

However, not attacking this concern for 48 out of 50 properties is a poor reflection on the market and hurts everyone looking to sell in that region. The message coming from a Buffalo area property search should be that "the storm is not going to stop us". Instead, potential buyers are getting a different type of 'snow job'.

Oh, and here is the link to that home on Garry Drive: 

Friday, October 3, 2014

A $3 Million Price Reduction? No Way!

There may not be a bigger example of how warped our Real Estate market has become than this Houston area mansion being put back on the market for $3,000,000 LESS than an earlier list price. Everyone's Real Estate market. Not only the Houston area, especially when you realize that properties are selling better in that region than many other parts of the country.

Granted, the vast majority of us (myself included) are not a part of the multi-million dollar mansion portion of home sales. You don't have to be. The problem is that stories such as this one impact home sellers (and potential sellers) in EVERY price range.

The story goes that former Houston Astros star Jeff Bagwell has listed a mansion he owns in the Houston area for $12 million. His property reportedly renovated in 2009 and as of now is approximately 20 years old. The seven bathrooms, 2-bedroom guest house, and multiple fireplaces are each very impressive. Of course, a potential buyer is likely to be impressed because of the opportunity to purchase from a local sports legend as well.

However, there is more to this story. This very same property was listed earlier on for approximately one full year back in 2012, but did not sell. It was listed for $15 million, which is 20% more than its new asking price.

I'm sure that the realty agents involved in this are jumping for joy at the publicity this listing has generated. Star power. A much lower price. Wonderful amenities. But is this really positive publicity?

Sorry, but it is actions like this that are killing thousands of home owners regardless of their price range.

They are starting out by telling everyone that this home is valued at $3,000,000 LESS than it was only a couple of years ago when no one purchased it. Not exactly a glowing endorsement.

If this specific property has "lost" $3,000,000 of value in two years, why would it be a good investment?

Let's face it. A buyer/investor with at least $12,000,000 to spend on a property knows a thing or two about investments. Clearly, at this new asking price, and with it being public knowledge that the home did not sell two years ago, it is extremely unlikely that Bagwell will receive any offers close enough to the $12 million figure.

Even if an offer came in at $11,500,000, and it was accepted, the result would be that this luxurious property would have sold for well above 20% of its original asking price.

For what reason? What has gone wrong with this property that caused it to be devalued by so much? Why should an investor consider this listing? How much work does it need? How could someone make such a huge investment with the demonstrated possibility the property could be worth $200,000 LESS in two more years?

Let's remove a "0". This is the equivalent of a seller with a home previously listed for $150,000 and now listing it two years later for $120,000. You would most likely wonder what went wrong with that property as well.

Chances are that nothing is "wrong" with it.

This is what needs to be addressed. Sellers and agents need to stop putting out messages that properties are not worth as much as they used to be and are a risky investment.

Some local appraisers will see this (Bagwell) listing and start to devalue other properties within the same region. Potential buyers will see the story and compile their buying strategy with an eye toward making offers which are 20% less because this is how they see the area's property values going.

Bagwell's neighbors are now losing potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in value on their properties, when nothing is "wrong" with them.

Please keep this in mind when pricing your home or your listings. If you feel the property has lost 20% of its earlier value, keep it to yourself.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What? Better Financing For Non-USA Residents?

It is bad enough that millions of U.S. residents who have faithfully made every mortgage payment for years are "rewarded" with a significant drop in the value of their property to the point where they can't sell to break even. It is bad enough that lender restrictions toughened up to the point where many consumers are not able to qualify for a mortgage even if they had enough to purchase a home.

Yet, while this is going on, it turns out that some international buyers are now able to get BETTER financing for purchasing U.S. properties at a discount. Shouldn't residents of this country have an advantage?

New research shows a recent 46% increase in real estate purchases by foreign buyers. 

I'm sure that some will argue that these international buyers are helping the economy by pumping millions and millions of dollars into real estate. Normally, I would not have an issue with that. Where I do take issue is the fact that, at the present time, these foreign buyers have a significant advantage over U.S. residents right here in our country. 

If I was in charge, there would be an additional 15% "Foreign Buyer" county tax added to every U.S. property purchased by a non-resident. Why a county tax? Because that money should go into the local county property tax fund and go toward reduction of the local property tax costs for every U.S. home owner within that county. 

In addition, these purchases would serve to RAISE the sale prices of these properties. At 15%, a $400,000 property would cost a foreign buyer $460,000 instead. This would serve to increase area property values locally.

I had better not hear the argument of "That would be wrong to increase property values because of this". Why? If foreclosure and short sale prices have been used to reduce property values for everyone else (when the sale amount is to satisfy a loan and not reflect the current value), then an additional tax should count in the same manner.

This is something that should become a political issue, and be lobbied by the National Association of Realtors immediately. 

Just in case you have not yet read the story about this, here you go:  

Let's force these international investors to "Buy American"!!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

How About Some Realistic Homes For Sale Ads?

I keep telling people looking to sell their homes about the need to ride herd on the agent they have hired, or to do their homework about every agent they are thinking of hiring. Here is why.

Take this online ad for the home at 10 Monroe St. in Billings MT. In addition to the fact that the home has been listed for two and a half months (at press time) and had another price reduction (over $6,000), it is obvious that the agent has not touched this advertisement during this time.

That is the bigger problem. The photos do not come close to matching the description copy. A big no-no.

The first full sentence in the copy reads, "Completely renovated with NEW flooring, doors, paint, hot water heater and much more." While the primary photo is shot with lighting that makes the roof look like patch work, shows absolutely no window decorations, and a worn out lawn that looks like no one has touched it for weeks.

The next sentence reads, and I quote, "2nd bedroom is through the 1st". Let's have a show of hands. How many of you read that and immediately wanted more information about the home? I didn't think so. By the way, this is listed as a THREE bedroom home.

I'll skip the part where the web page shows that this home was built in 1930 and the photo spread confirming that the home is totally empty AND poorly lit even during daylight.

There are several other properties currently listed within the same area in the same price range. Obviously, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to respond the way this advertisement is presented.

This is not to knock the listing agent, although it is difficult not to. However, somebody is trying to sell this property, but seems to not care how it is presented.

My point, again, is that sellers need to keep track of how and where the listing agent is representing the property. See for yourself:

Monday, August 11, 2014

Houses Still Don't Sell Themselves

The real estate market continues to be in crisis, but there continues to be virtually no crisis management. Another case in point from Toledo Ohio.

Unfortunately, the City was recently faced with a situation from which residents needed to be warned about not drinking from the local water supply. A reporter for the Blade got my attention with a follow up item about how much better the situation could and should have been handled:

The writer's focus was not on how all of this could negatively impact the Toledo area real estate market, but that wasn't his role. With my belief that realty agents and home sellers should be proactive from even the most negative situation, I decided to check 'homes for sale' a few days later to check on this.

I would like to think that some communities or developments would be offering some form of solution to the problem, such as access to alternate water supply, in order to entice a potential buyer to look in that direction.

Let's face it. People from outside of the impacted areas are not going to be looking to move 'immediately' into an area and home which doesn't have a useable water supply. This is not a problem which can or should be swept under the rug.

It is also possible that investors might be looking to pick up a big bargain with a lower offer to frustrated sellers looking to get out of an even less appealing area. (Not saying Toledo itself is not an appealing area - but a location with questionable drinking water is.)

Local realty agents (and sellers) need to be updating their property advertisements to address this situation.

Incredibly, the FIRST Toledo home ad I looked at, on August 11th, has an exterior photo with SNOW on the house. On August 11th?

This means it has either snowed in Toledo months more recently than anywhere else in the Great Lakes area, thus making the region less appealing than hundreds of others. Or, it means this agent and seller have given up on ever getting an offer and no longer bother to update their ad. Either way, this is not exactly a method of fighting negative publicity from a water supply problem!

This advertisement features the 'washer-dryer' within its primary ad copy:

If the local water supply is in question, why do you leave a 'washer-dryer' as a major enticement toward buying a house?

Actually, there may be an answer. As the photo spread for this property reveals, the home is vacant. That now means no one is there to monitor the water flow in that unit.

This is an extreme example, but it demonstrates the need to constantly update property advertisements for numerous reasons. If local properties are not appealing to potential buyers, the economic impact could be even worse than a shaky water supply.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Newest Challenge To City Homeowners?

After reading about an upcoming development in downtown Houston, I'm thinking that The Oakmont Group is on to a great opportunity. The "catch" is that I'm also thinking it will eventually bring even more harm to home owners, and chances are it will not be only those in the Houston area.

The story is about what will be a 400+ apartment development, all within a 40-story building downtown and across the street from a large park and near shopping. Apartments will reportedly range from small studio units to oversized 3 bed and 3 bath suites including more than one penthouse.

Amenities planned include a TWO pools, a banquet room, screening room, half-court basketball court, and even a virtual golf simulator.

By now, you may be wondering why this "hurts" area home owners. Think about it.

It is tough enough right now, no matter what city you live in, even without this being built. Distressed property sales continue to have a lingering and damaging impact on property values, making it not practical for millions of home owners to be able to sell without losing money. Even with spending thousands of dollars for improvements and/or additions, there are no guarantees of making a profit if you can sell.

Many consumers who would "normally" look to buy are not able to qualify for a mortgage to do so, even though in some cases they could afford the monthly payments.

Now along comes an apartment building in an excellent downtown location with a variety of units to fit the needs of single people on up to executive suites. With shopping being very close, and a large park directly across the street, a percentage of tenants would not even need to own a car, increasing their monthly spending ability.

It is possible, if not likely, that a percentage of tenants would have employment nearby in downtown Houston, whether walking distance or even a short bus ride away. When this happens, it takes away literally hours of commuting time every week.

Sure, the tenants will pay a hefty monthly rental for these amenities and features. But look at it from their point of view.

While there is likely a security deposit and other move-in costs, there is no having to qualify for a mortgage and no down payment of $50,000 or more involved. They save hundreds of dollars by not needing to put gas in the car and/or purchase bus/train tickets. They have extra hours each week to enjoy an indoor swimming pool, screening room, and recreational activities. If they wish to entertain on a big scale, they can rent a banquet facility and not have to deal with hours of cleaning and labor to make it happen.

They don't have to mow the lawn, worry about the storm windows, maintain a pool and/or excercise equipment, and so on.

And they don't have a 15 or 30 year commitment to tie them down to their home no matter what happens in the real estate market. In other words, they won't be at risk of losing thousands and thousands of dollars, for no fault of their own, if they wish to or need to move in five years.

Thus, "Johnny and Jane" can live in a large luxury apartment with a view, a pool and recreation facilities, walk to work, not spend a minute on property maintenance, be able to shop close by, not have costly property taxes to pay, and without a long-term committment, why would they want to "buy" your home?

I'm hoping I get a lot of positive answers to that question. Houston is far from the only city where this is happening or already available.

Let me know how you feel about this "challenge".

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Another Way To Bash The Competition

If you are looking to get your home sold, you need to keep in mind that other homes for sale in your area should be treated as competition. No one else does. Your agent wants to sell a house today, but doesn't care if it is yours or another of his/her listings. It's up to you.

I constantly remind sellers to keep this approach in mind. Be watching the news and your favorite online sources for ways to be able to bash the competition.

Here is another example. A web site, clearly with plenty of time on their hands, developed criteria and put together a list of "the most boring towns" in Illinois. (At least this is the one I came upon this morning.)

As expected, most people just laugh this off, and maybe tease someone they know who lives in one of these communities.

My point here is that if you are looking to sell your home, THIS is the type of story that could be promoted in your favor.

Suppose you live in a neighboring community and your home is for sale. And the community that you live in is NOT among those listed here.

If that is the case, you should be e-mailing and sending this story to everybody you can think of. You have no idea of how many potential buyers might be considering your home, and how your home could be up against a similar home in the "boring" community nearby.

Even if for a few moments, you can give them the chance to see your home in a more favorable light. Maybe you can point out that your home is in the "more exciting community of ......" and show the link.

Of course, if you don't live in a nearby Illinois community, this blog is still for you. You need to be on the lookout for any story that could give your home for sale an edge over other properties in the area. Yes, you!

Your real estate agent is NOT going to do this for you. Don't even bother with him/her. Why? Because they don't want to risk offending a current or potential future client by 'bashing' their community. That is understandable.

The point is that he/she also does not see these other homes as competition to yours, since he or she makes their living selling houses. Note that is plural. You have the much greater interest and urgency to get your home sold than they do.

Look for any and every edge you can!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Using Business News Toward Selling Your Home

It's another example of why sellers with active listings, as well as realty agents, need to monitor the local business news and be ready for news items which could benefit their sale attempt.

A news story in the Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn got out today which has absolutely nothing to do with home sales. At least directly.

One of the avenues I point out to sellers and agents (and is discussed at length in my book) is about looking for ANY possible advantage toward getting your home sold.

This news story is about how this suburb is about to undergo a roughly 50% increase in energy costs beginning this August (less than 60 days away). The Village of Glen Ellyn did nothing wrong, by the way. It's just that city officials were not able to generate any bids lower for their next electricity contract, with the current one expiring on August 1st and a significant cost increase looming.

How does this help anyone selling a home in Glen Ellyn? Frankly, it doesn't.

However, if you (or your client) is looking to sell a home NEAR Glen Ellyn (and there a several suburbs within 10 minutes), this is what I refer to as "news you can use".

In all honesty, I have no idea if neighboring communities have already faced this large of a rate increase or are facing one later this year. But I don't see that as important. This story about Glen Ellyn facing the price increase is out TODAY.

Thus, if I am trying to sell a home nearby, I'm going to relay this news story to as many people as I can, especially any potential buyers. All you need to do is send out the link to the story:,0,679038.story

Of course, with a note saying that "If you are still considering Glen Ellyn, it's going to cost you even more to live there". You can do that without spending any time (or money) to investigate further. Your time is spent in gathering the e-mail addresses to send the story and your comment to. It is more important that you get this done within 24 hours, while the story is still fresh and current.

If you want to be more aggressive about it, you could investigate where your nearby community is on this matter. Maybe your local rate increase won't hit until next year. Perhaps your increase has already hit, and it costs less for electricity than it soon will in Glen Ellyn. You could find out all you can, and then use any and all favorable "facts" to your advantage. Even if you can't find anything to use to your advantage, you can put out this "news" story to others and be find that hardly anyone is going to take time to investigate this in detail like you may have.

Either way, mission accomplished. You have been able to smear the competition and do something to make your home look at bit more appealing, even if it is a few dollars per month.

You never know. A potential buyer could be considering your home up against one in Glen Ellyn, and now you give them a reason to doubt Glen Ellyn, even if for a few minutes.

Obviously, the majority of you do not live close to, nor are looking to sell a home, near Glen Ellyn IL at the moment.

My point is that if you are trying to sell your home right now, you should be checking the local business news on a regular basis. You could find your "Glen Ellyn" attack story at any moment. Make something negative about a neighboring community a positive for the potential sale of your home.

On the other hand, if and when there is positive news about your community, even if it has nothing to do with your home, point it out to others in this same way.

Don't forget that if you are looking to sell your home, you are selling against competition. Potential buyers are looking at a number of properties and using a number of factors. You need to think of your sales effort as if it is a political election. You want to get that "vote", and finding anything that casts your opponent(s) in a negative light is going to be used.

In the case of being near Glen Ellyn, every type of light will cost more there. Show that!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Should Your Home Be Staged Before You Sell?

As much as this topic is debated among industry professionals, too many people think that there should be a definitive answer to this. Frankly, there is not.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review just picked up an article on this subject which does a solid job of presenting all points of view:

There are some homes for sale which most definitely would benefit from professional staging. But at the same time, there are definitely homes which do not. It doesn't mean that the opposing side is right or wrong. It really depends on the specifics of the property, as well as the seller(s).

I address this quite a bit in my book, "8 Hours To Sell Your Home". The majority of homes for sale could use some degree of "staging" in preparation for potential buyers and realty agents to be walking around and evaluating for a major purchase. This does not mean that every home needs a pro to assist in that effort.

The real problem with this is that too many realty agents are set in their ways regarding professional staging. Those who prefer that are likely to recommend it even to sellers who do not need to spend on professional help. While those agents who do not preach for staging are likely to overlook it even on listings which could use a serious makeover.

For these reasons, I encourage sellers to take command of the situation and be realistic in assessing their home's appeal before even one potential buyer sets foot inside.

There are many aspects to "staging" your home, ranging from painting of rooms to renting fancy furniture and all points in between. What works in one home might not help in the "house next door" because there are several variables.

In other words, the reason you pay to bring in a professional staging expert should be because of something needed to help get your home sold, and NOT because the agent you choose happened to have sold a house three blocks away after hiring the same person. Again, the seller needs to be in control of this aspect, regardless of what the agent thinks.

Some of the "staging" tips I mention can be done, for little to minimal cost, without having to bother with hiring a pro stager. It could be little things, such as leaving a book (with a bookmark sticking out) out on a table about how to build or operate something. Something requiring a lot of expertise. You don't even have to really be reading the book. Just have it look as though you accidentally left it on the table, while your other books are neatly put away on the roomy bookshelves.

To make it even more simple, 'just happen' to leave out a N.Y. Times Book Review section of the local newspaper on the table, or something similar and upscale. Think about it. If you are entering someone's home and see one portion of a newspaper on the table, seeing the Book Review section will increase your impression of the owner (or resident) than if you saw an ad for the local dollar store instead.

Same theory with any food or beverages you have "showing" in your kitchen. A fine wine bottle looks a whole lot better to a visitor than a can of 'off-brand' cola on the same counter.

Another theory is that some sellers are better off to spend a few hundred dollars on rented upscale furniture for a couple of weeks (for showings) than to spend that amount on a person to tell you that you need 'better' furniture and then not be able to afford any.

To me, these are just a couple of examples of "staging" your home. The more professional and upscale image that sellers present of themselves, the better the home looks because of who is living in it.

If you are selling and your home is already empty or partially empty because of your move, you need to be ready to entice potential buyers. Your sales presentation should indicate that, for example, "the living room can hold a 3-section sofa" and so forth.

You need to keep in mind that the idea is to allow for potential buyers (and realty agents) to see how more expensive and upscale contents will look inside the home, instead of plastic furniture and paper plates.

Whatever decision you make as a seller, make that decision with an eye toward having everything about your home look its best to the potential buyer. Paint the picture with THEM in it, regardless of your "real" furniture, what you are reading, and what you have for dinner.

Friday, May 9, 2014

No Reason To Head For The Hills

Like most people, I was amazed about the findings of a story showing that, of all states, South Dakota came in at toward the top of their list of best states for retirees to live. I couldn't help but think that realty agents throughout that state should already be all over this and have already updated their listings which could be appropriate for retired couples.

After the (predictable) few minutes of not finding anything even remotely close to this happening, I stumbled upon a current listing in the Rapid City area which is actually geared toward a young family. But you wouldn't know it from looking at the advertisement, which is shown on a "national" web site.

The ad for this home, at 19 Surfside Drive in Rapid City, frankly doesn't seem to be targeting any potential buyers.

Agents and sellers need to take a more serious approach to advertising a home for sale, and this listing ad, unfortunately, is a perfect example of why.

First, the primary photo makes it difficult to tell whether or not we are looking at the front or the back of the house. It took seeing another photo of the back (which shows a pile of bricks at an angle that makes it appear they are holding up the porch) to make a viewer realize it is the front. Finding this ad during the first week of May and seeing patches of snow within each exterior photo does not make this home attractive for relocation prospects, unless they love snow and frigid weather.

Not to mention the photo taken looking down the long driveway to the ONE car garage for this 3-bedroom home while there is snow on the ground. The next interior photo has a snow patch in the front and shows what looks like a "dead" garden spot. All of the exterior photos were taken on a cloudy and dreary day.

One of the interior photos clearly shows a water dispenser by the kitchen. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having that service, but to anyone from out of the area it could put doubt in to their mind about the local drinking water. Not exactly an ideal first impression either.

But it gets worse. One of the bedrooms has a wild blue wall on one side and a gray wall on the other, and this is the same room in the same photo. I feel safe in assuring you that no one would want to keep that room the way it looks in that photo. Thus, all this photo does is put the thought into a potential buyer that there is work to be done in order to make at least the one room liveable.

Without going into the problems with every photo, I will comment about the lone basement photo in this ad. It shoes multiple foot tracks in the carpet, and the couch is covered by what looks like a bed sheet. Frankly, I wouldn't allow visitors to see this, if it were my home, let alone anyone in the world who might be thinking of buying.

As for the description copy, let me quote one of the sentences: "With the roomy 1 car garage, you also get extra space off to the side for your toys." Which part of this is worse? Is it promoting the "1 car garage" for a 3-bedroom home with snow on the exterior? The space for "your toys" (as opposed to the kids toys, tools, etc.)?

Putting all of this together, I think I know what will happen with this listing. Based on this advertisement, the sellers might wind up having to retire in this home!