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!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Here's Why There is a "Shortage of Inventory" Of Homes For Sale.....

The headline on a Chicago Tribune article (on 4/22/14) is "Chicago Area Home Sales Fall Again In March", while the article goes on to provide IL Association of Realtors statistics about it. But they still don't get it.

Now that thousands of local readers think "Houses still aren't selling", those that do read the article are provided with more comparative statistics and theories about the reported 11% drop.

While thousands of real estate professionals fail to FIX the problem. After all this time, we seem to disagree about what that "problem" really is.

This article, like so many others before it, goes on to attribute the drop to the decline in the number of short sale and foreclosure sales.

My issue with this is that these distress sales should not ever have been counted toward true home sale prices in the first place. It is not a fair comparison! But it is a potentially costly comparison for thousands and thousands of current home owners who are stuck and can't sell.

Short sales and foreclosure sales are to satisfy a loan and NOT the actual value of the home. Yet, these same realty agents who are blaming everyone else, continue to act as if these distress sales ARE a reflection of property values.

Articles and news stories such as this one also always seem to quote realty association officials and/or supposed leading local agents acting as if a "shortage" of inventory is to blame, and then give us the "Now is a good time to sell" crap.

My point is that this "shortage" of inventory exists as a direct result of the distressed property sales being lumped together with "real" property sales. Home owners wanting to sell can't even get what they paid for their home years ago, let alone make a profit that would lead them to sell and then buy elsewhere.

THAT is why there is a "shortage". Potential sellers have to fight the realty agents telling them "We'll never get this much for your home".

I know and have done marketing and advertising work for hundreds of realty agents from coast to coast over the years. I have recently written a 60 chapter book geared toward home owners focused on getting their home sold at a fair price. I have many friends in the real estate community who want to do a good job and the right thing. Yet, I'm not happy with where the industry is going.

Suppose you are a professional performer or writer, or an athlete. You seek an "agent" to get you work, and for the most money possible. If you hired an agent to represent you in a negotiation and he/she came back to you and said "I won't be able to get you anywhere near what you are asking!", how many seconds would elapse before you would send him/her packing?

Sorry, but shouldn't we think the same way about a real estate "agent"?

Let me explain. I'm a victim of this too. Because a couple of similar units in the development I live in were sold, as distress sales, for a 40% discount, realty agents and appraisers now act as if my home is also worth 40% less than what I paid for it.

These same agents make a big damn deal about local home prices going up 1% here and 2% there. As I pointed out last month, the MLS database contains WRONG information about my home. Some major realty firms have the nerve to publish "estimates" about my home's value which are still more than 33% BELOW its actual value.

And now, these realty agents have the nerve to tell me "Now is a good time to sell"? Not unless they are going to pay me the $100,000+ in value they have taken away by honoring the distress sales!

Instead, they are sitting around wondering why there is "so little inventory". Sheesh.,0,865739.story

NOTE: Kohl's book, "8 Hours To Sell Your Home" is available by download at, or on CD at

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Home Price Reduction Gone Bad

Here is how a $30,000 mistake in a property advertisement can be damaging.......


First, I personally believe that more properties for sale should be increasing the price when not sold after a few weeks, by showing a new upgrade, improvement, or addition to easily justify the added cost. For example, the idea of “new $5,000 furnace” to justify a $3,500 price increase means that both buyer and seller benefit. (The buyer gets a “deal” on a new installation, while the seller appears to be adding more incentive.)


However, the home listed for sale at 5319 Clairidge Rd. in Knoxville TN was looking to show as a major price reduction, but something was lost in the translation. A national advertising web site shows this home as having just had a $30,100 price INCREASE instead.


The ad for this home, as it appears on a national web site, refers to “New heat pump”, and “full bathroom has been remodeled” within its brief description copy. A couple of the photos in the photo spread within the advertisement show a nice looking bathroom countertop and fixtures. But for an "additional" $30,100?


If I were a potential buyer looking at this property, I would be long gone by this point. There are many other homes in this community listed within a few thousand dollars either way of this price.


Yet, the “problem” is really that someone made a serious mistake with this advertisement. I do not know whether or not made the error or if this is how it was sent to them.


What happened is that the price of this home, per the data below on the property page on, was actually DECREASED by $30,000, even though it shows as if it was an increase of that amount.


What should be a major decision on the part of an obviously anxious seller is marred due to an error. An error which has gone unnoticed for more than 10 days.


If the selling agent and the seller of the property are not motivated to check all of the advertising, how is this property going to get sold? Or when?


This is another lesson for sellers and agents everywhere. Always check every advertisement every time. Don’t be another example of costing time and money.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

When The MLS is Wrong

If the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is not entirely accurate about your home, you need to know if you are or have lost money because of it. It’s not your fault that your house isn’t selling, or currently would not sell for a profit it you were to list it today. But I am finding more and more that there is something you can and should do about it.


You need to perform your own research whether you are looking to sell or not. It has been bad enough that real estate professionals have not gone to bat against property values dropping significantly because of foreclosures and short sales, which has contributed significantly to this mess.


The advertising and marketing of properties continues to suffer. Even with all of today’s instant technology, too many agents fail to update photos and property descriptions and/or put any urgency into attracting potential buyers.


Just weeks after publishing an 8-hour audio book helping home owners to sell or prepare to sell their home, I decided to research a property that I own. What I found should either by an added chapter or even a follow up.


Several web sites had inaccurate information about this property, although every one did have that it is not currently for sale. (That was only consistently accurate information, however.) Granted, some of these sites use estimates, although these estimates factor in local foreclosures and short sales just as many agents and appraisers also do.


However, a couple of the sites with profiles of this property take their data from the MLS database.


One site showed the home, which is a dedicated address (direct entrance, not shared with other units, etc.), as having a unit number. There is not and has never been a unit number. The “last sale price” shown is approximately $2,000 LESS than what it really was. There is no asterisk or notation that this is an estimate. It is printed as if it is a fact. Yet, the commission paid was based on a percentage of the actual price, which was higher. Too bad I found this out NOW.


The “Property Details” portion shows the square footage for the entire building, which consists of several units, all with different street addresses and completely separate transactions.


The primary photo, still being used in March of 2014, is more than seven years old. There is a new lawn, fence, and two more common property parking spaces which exist today, and are not in this outdated photo.


And there is more. The “Year Built” that is shown is the WRONG YEAR.


Let’s sum this up. Technically the wrong address, since there is no unit number. The wrong “last sale” price. The wrong square footage. The wrong year built. And a photo outdated by more than seven years which fails to show important improvements.


Where did I find this? On the Re/Max web site. As you probably know, Re/Max is one of the leading real estate firms in the country, so it’s not as if this is a one person shop. In fact, Re/Max reportedly increased its revenue by more than 10% in 2013 from the previous year and reported the firm has 93,228 agents working in its franchised offices. Personally, I have worked for numerous agents from there, as well as on a couple of marketing projects for separate regional offices.


Next, I found the property shown on the site of Weichert, which is a very prominent east coast realty firm. On their site, I found this very same property shown on two separate web pages. Although both showed the same listing price, this same property came up under TWO separate MLS listing numbers. Same property, two listings, and it is not for sale.


Neither of these firms ever had this property listing, which provides added confirmation that they simply take the data from the MLS. However, this shows they don’t verify this data either.


Upon further researching this property, I came upon a site (which I had not been familiar with) known as NeighborCity, which exists to help potential buyers and sellers to find “the right” agent. It features advertisements from agents in various geographic areas.


This site actually had a much more recent exterior photo of the home, showing the lawn and garden improvements not seen on the Re/Max shown photo, and managed to have the street address correct. NeighborCity also shows the correct agent and realty firm which handled the most recent sale of this property.


But before you jump to that site, there is more. They do show the “sold” price as being the same $2,000 less than actual. But that is far from their biggest mistake. For “lot size”, this site shows “0.00 acres”, and it shows, in TWO places, ZERO bedrooms, which is definitely not the case. And there is still more.


For “Garage Type” it correctly shows two cars, yet for “Garages”, this site shows TWO. This home does not have two garages, it has one garage which holds two cars. It is not that difficult to comprehend.


At this point, instead of going further into my search, I went to the site of the real estate office which last represented the property to see what I could find. They did not have this property on there, as the company does not show information about properties not for sale.


Now, at this point it is tempting to raise the point about whether or not to do business in the future with Re/Max or Weichert, or other firms which show inaccurate data to the public. How do you know they would get it right about your home?


But in all fairness, this is not completely their fault. They are trusting data provided by the MLS. I can’t blame them for that. At least not yet.


As of this writing, I have only done this for the one property, because I have the facts documented and can prove that the information portrayed is not accurate.


This is why it becomes so important to do your research about your home and continue to do so periodically, even if you have no thoughts of selling within the next five years.


If and when you find things that are not accurate, report them to “your” real estate agent. That is why I said “not yet” in terms of whether or not to do business with certain realty firms. If the thousands of agents representing these companies are not willing to help make their information accurate, you need to keep that in mind.


And this does not even take into account the horrible “estimated value” that appears on the Re/Max and Weichert web sites. The Re/Max site quotes the web site as showing the property valued at more than $100,000 under its previous sale price. The Weichert official site shows a Zillow “estimate” which is more than $180,000 LOWER than that same previous sale price.


That these so-called estimates are based on area foreclosures and short sales is another story.


Here is why you need to research your property. Agents, appraisers, investors, and consumers take MLS information and the data from these sites, and others, to be factual.


As a result, OTHER property prices are being determined by inaccurate information. Your home could have lost thousands of dollars in value because of a wrong year, wrong number of bedrooms, photos outdated by years, wrong square footage, units where none exist, and who knows what other reasons.


Obviously, even the best real estate agents are not doing this for us. Yet.


Instead, they are blaming the economy, the market, and using every other excuse to convince you that your home isn’t worth what you paid for it. While our money paid out in commissions is funding the MLS.


What good is all of this technology if the information is wrong?


Let me know what you come up with.