Selling Your Home: A Little Prep Goes a Long Way!

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 So, you've decided to sell your home. Let the party begin!

Selling your home can stir up a variety of emotions and can affect each family member in different ways. But once you've decided that selling is really going to happen, it takes a bit of mental toughness to dive into those tasks that need to be completed to ensure your home will appeal to the largest number of buyers.

One thing to keep in mind is what I heard Dave Ramsey say in one of his seminars; when you decide to sell your home, you must act as if "You no longer live there!".

Here are some home selling tips that will increase your chances of a selling your home fast.

Think Like a Customer

Just like a retail manager, occasionally you need to step back and assess your environment. Pretend you are looking at your home for the first time. What do you see that needs your attention? Take a good hard look at your home from the street, the backyard and then every room. How does it measure up?

Consider the following hints for staging your home to sell:

What Does Your Home Look Like from the Street?

Buyers can tell quickly if a home shows pride of ownership. Your home may not be the newest one on the block but it can be well maintained. It only takes one glance to form an opinion. Clean out the gutters, trim any overgrown foliage, and prune trees properly. The yard should be mowed regularly in season and edged to give it a sharp appearance including the backyard. Pick up any trash, leaves or debris as soon as it appears and put away the toys. Make sure screens and shutters are in great shape and touch up any faded or peeling paint.

Declutter Your Home

Let's be honest. We all own too much stuff! Go through every room, closet, drawer and cabinet and remove approximately 30-50% of the items. Don't forget the garage, attic and the backyard. Host a yard sale or donate items you no longer need. Even if you just can't part with certain things, box it up and store it off-site. This will create the impression of a more spacious home. And believe me, your buyers are going to look into every area to see if your home will work for them. And they need to be able to inspect plumbing under the sinks and other systems in mechanical closets. You're going to be moving soon anyway, why not let go of those items you aren't using?

The Entryway is the First Impression

A prospective buyer gets a good impression while waiting for their agent to access the lockbox. Remove any cobwebs, add a nice welcome mat, clean the door and light fixtures and touch up the trim. Ornamental items and plants should be kept to a minimum and make sure all the glass sparkles. This is an easy area to maintain and can create an impressive welcome for your guests!

Scale the Furniture to the Room

Remove any over-sized or bulky furniture to open up every room of your home. Don't crowd any windows, doorways or main walking areas. Your home should flow well and feel airy and spacious.

Depersonalize and Make Appealing

Remove family photos or special collections and replace them with more generic but tasteful accessories that reflect current trends. Repaint rooms that have extremely unique colors to more neutral tones. Most of the time this can be done without a lot of cost. If you don't know what to do, ask for help from someone who can add that special touch and is not afraid to give you an honest opinion.

Main Focus: Bathrooms/Kitchens

Kitchens and baths sell homes so make them sparkle everyday! After you have cleaned out from under the sinks and thinned out the cabinets, clean all glass, tubs, showers, floors, countertops, baseboards and behind major appliances. Remove bottles and toiletry items from tubs and showers and store them out of site. Eliminate extra items from the counters to make them appear larger. It is a good idea to wipe down the shower or tub after each use so that they are dry when your buyers are visiting.

Free Some Space: Closets and cabinets

Remove about half of the items in these areas. Take all of your off-season clothing and put into storage and clean out extra shoes and clutter from the floor so that the entire closet seems roomy. Cabinets should be neat and well organized so that buyers can see the actual space and not a lot of extra stuff!

Garages Need Love Too

In spite of what most people think, garages are for cars! Not overflow for items you just can't part with. Make sure you can actually park your vehicles inside. This will go a long way in showing the functionality and convenience of your home. Clear out any cobwebs, sweep the floors and clean up any oil or fluid stains. Outdoor tools should be kept at a minimum and be stored neatly into racks so that the floor space and walkways are not blocked. If your breaker box is located in this area be sure there is a clear pathway for access and that nothing is blocking doorways or windows. Make sure that automatic doors are functioning properly.

Hide Your Pets and Their Accessories

Not everyone is a pet lover so you must think like that. Make sure your pets are placed in a secure area that won't hinder your buyer from viewing your property. If possible, take them off-site during showings. Make sure your home is free from pet odor and hair and store feeding bowls and beds out of site.

Miscellaneous – Make sure all lighting is functional so that every room is bright. Doorbells, appliances, smoke detectors and exhaust fans should be in working order. Windows and doors should open and close properly and lubricate those creaky hinges. Check water faucets for drips and repair if needed. Drains should flow freely and the garbage disposal should be in good working order as well. Your buyer is going to order a home inspection in most cases so you may as well address these items on the front end.

While this may seem like a lot of work, you must keep the end goal in mind. And that is to get your home sold as quickly as possible and for the best price. Make your home easy to show and a joy to view. For more home selling tips, check out our selling section, or give me a call. You won't regret the results!

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How Does a Realtor Get Paid, Anyway?

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Ever wonder HOW and HOW MUCH a Realtor gets paid?

Before I bought my first house, I was aware of HOW Realtors got paid. I had the chance to work in the industry earlier in my working career. However, it wasn’t until I started researching how to become a Realtor, and considered becoming a Realtor myself, that I learned more about HOW MUCH a real estate agent gets paid.


I was curious to find out if some of my friends {that had purchased a home} knew how a real estate agent got paid. Or if they knew how much a Realtor makes. So recently I asked some folks if they knew answers to these questions. A small handful knew exactly how and how much. But, most everyone said something like…

"I have no idea!"

"Now that I think about it, I still wonder how much our Realtor got paid."

"That’s a GREAT question. How does a real estate agent get paid?"


So, that boomeranged! The question came right back at me. Huh… Okay… Well, I’d love to answer that question.


Maybe you’ve wondered about this yourself. Maybe you feel uncomfortable asking. Maybe it never crossed your mind to ask. Either way, it’s okay and understandable. Generally speaking, we don’t ask our co-workers or friends what they make at their jobs. So it makes sense that we don’t think about these things. Or if we do, we're uncomfortable.


Asking a real estate agent how they get paid let alone how much money, exactly. Well.... that's awkward!


So, it’s a great question, and absolutely okay to ask!! AND it’s all part of, for most people, the largest transaction you will tackle in your lifetime. And no matter if you’re buying or selling, you are contributing to HOW and HOW MUCH the Realtor makes. I’ll cover this from a VERY high level, bird’s eye view.


Okay, so let’s start with HOW and that will lead us to HOW MUCH…


No Settlement, No Paycheck = 100% Commission


The vast majority of Realtors are only paid if your deal closes. In other words, they get paid via commission from the sale of the house. It’s not about finding a house or putting a sign in your yard, and then agreeing on a final price.


They have to sell a house either for a seller or to a buyer.


They have to get the entire transaction processed and to the “closing table” to complete the sale. And there are many hurdles and hoops to jump over and go through before you get to that closing table, my friend.


A house could not pass inspection... loans fall through... appraisals fall short of the agreed price... or any of the other hiccups that can occur in the process...


Soooooo...no closing table with everyone signed on the dotted line, then no pay day for that realtor. Bummer huh!?


Like the English language, there are exceptions to this general rule of thumb though. For example, depending on the negotiated contract, there still might be a commission due to the Realtor. And there are brokerage companies that pay their realtors on salary, with an extra commision, bonus structure. Like I said...this is a “typically speaking” overview that will not include all the exceptions. Otherwise, we’d be here all day.


Okay, moving on…


Who Pays the Real Estate Commission: Sellers And Buyers And Brokers, Oh My!


Typically speaking (you’re gonna get tired of me saying that!), the seller pays the commission for the Realtor fees. Which are always negotiated between the seller and their listing agent. And then if there is another agent involved in that transaction, then they share the commission with that Realtor. There are exceptions to this typical process. You may think that’s a bummer for sellers. Yet, when you think about it, usually the sales prices takes Realtor commission or the real estate fees into consideration. So the buyer is contributing through their agreement to that sales price.


As I mentioned above, I’m giving a broad overview. For more info on the HOW a Realtor gets paid, check out this article on Realtor.com.


Now this brings us to HOW MUCH…


Slice of the Pie: Negotiable Commission Rate of the Sale


If the sale of the house is the whole pie, then a Realtor gets a thin slice. Across the country and here in Colorado, the average commission rate agreed upon by sellers and listing agents is a variable percentage of the sales price of the house. This varies based on many factors - market area, market conditions, type of property, negotiated elements of the real estate contract, and the list goes on. Realtors cannot price fix! So, the commission percentage is always negotiable. If there is another agent involved in the transaction on the buying side, then it's shared. And even that is up for discussion.


Myth Buster: Not All Realtors Are Rich!


You have to consider that the majority of Realtors are NOT independent brokers. So what does this mean, you ask? Every state is different. In Colorado, real estate agents must work under the umbrella of a licensed broker for at least two years and are called associate brokers. Generally speaking, most remain with a broker rather than go independent or open their own brokerage. This choice affords them support with their marketing, legitimizes their business with clients, and gives them the opportunity to not carry the brokerage liabilities and responsibilities. And that means these real estate agents are splitting their commission with their employing broker.


After these splits of the commission, your average Colorado Realtor makes $51,240*, which is a bit above the national median salary for a Realtor of $44,090*. And that’s all before you take into consideration business expenses, taxes, and other overhead costs.


*Source: U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

 

The Nuts and Bolts: A Basic Example


Due to a job change, a seller is moving out of state and needs a buyer for their house. Realtor A meets with them and signs a contract to be their Listing Agent. Due to the marketing required to sell their home, they agree to a reasonable and appropriate commission rate for the sale of the house. Realtor B brings a buyer to the house. They make an offer. Realtor A and B, on behalf of their seller and buyer, agree on a sales price. They go through all the inspection, appraisal, and loan process. So, let’s take a look at how this will all break down once they get to the closing table...


1. Total Commission (a percentage of the Sales Price of the Home) = $10,000
2. Negotiated agreement of Listing and Buyer Brokerages = 50/50 Split
3. Listing Broker = $5000 commission*, pays $3,000 to Listing Agent
(Broker/Listing Agent are sharing the commission 60/40)
4. Buyer Agent’s Broker = $5000 commission, pays $2500 to the Buyer Agent
(Broker/Buyer Agent are splitting the commission 50/50)

*Remember, no commission is paid to a listing or buyer agent directly. It’s paid to the broker, then distributed to the agent(s) based on the split with the brokerage company.


And don’t forget! This is all before expenses, marketing, taxes, and other costs to run an independent business are taken into consideration.


Sooooo...


I hope this brief overview has helped answers those questions. Bottom line, a Realtor is working for you! Until you get your house purchased or sold, they don’t see a paycheck. If you’d like to understand more or have further questions, . Part of my job is to answer these and any other question you have about real estate. Looking forward to hearing from you.


And remember a Realtor can be a Real Estate Agent, but a Real Estate Agent can’t always be a Realtor. And an Associate Broker can be a…. Well, keep your eye on our real estate blog for that upcoming answer… :)

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Top 4 Things you Need to Know about Appraisals

Top 4 Things you Need to Know about Appraisals

The appraisal of a home is a vital part of any real estate transaction, and the role of an appraiser is possibly one of the most critical parts of the entire transaction. See below as to how you, as a Seller, can be way ahead of the learning curve with just a few helpful hints from me when are you ready to put your home on the market for sale!

1. Appraisers are always hyper sensitive to contributing to potentially over inflating any real estate market. And, with multiple offers being the norm in most price ranges here in Colorado Springs, they are even more so.  Encourage your real estate broker to have comparable sold data ready to present to an appraiser. This data should support whatever sales price the buyer and seller finally agree to...ESPECIALLY vital if that sales price is OVER what the original list price was.

2. Most real estate brokers are ridiculously busy right now, but that ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT excuse your real estate broker from not showing up to your home, with comparable sold data and a list of every improvement made to the home in hand to meet the appraiser for his or her site inspection. Your real estate broker knows your home better than the appraiser does, so make sure your real estate broker shows up and represents!

3. Your real estate broker should be as descriptive as possible about your real estate listing and include, if at all possible, ALL 36 photos that the Pikes Peak MLS allows. It helps an appraiser immensely to include photos of the front of your home, the rear of your home, the street view of your home, and all major rooms in your home as well as the features of the home itself. Again, your real estate broker knows your home better than the appraiser does. 

4. What your real estate broker should tell you, from the very beginning, about the role of an appraiser in a real estate transaction? The role of the appraiser is actually NOT to confirm the sales price, but to provide the Buyer's lender an independent, objective, and completely impartial opinion of the value of your home. This value of your home is considered the collateral to which the Buyer's loan would be based.

Happy Selling! 

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Condos vs Townhouses - What's the difference?

There is a lot of confusion about the differences between condos vs townhouses. They share many similarities, and this seems to be the source of this confusion. Even amongst real estate professionals we often hear more opinions than facts. If you are considering buying a condo or a townhouse, it is important for you to understand the different real estate terms.

So, let's start by clarifying, condominiums or condos are a type of real estate ownership. Whereas, a townhouse is an actual style of building.

A condominium is best described as “the concept of ownership of a single unit of air space within a multi-unit dwelling, along with co- ownership of any common amenities (recreation centers, pools, etc...) and common areas of the structures and land among all unit owners.”

Townhouses are generally attached structures of 2 or more stories with common walls. These are a version of the old "Brownstones or "Row Houses" made popular on the east coast.

Let's Review the Similarities:

Townhouse ownership means you own the structure along with any associated land. So the owner of a townhouse can have absolute ownership, like a single family home.

Here's where things get a little confusing. It is not unusual to have “condominium ownership” of a townhouse. In other words, the structure is a "townhouse" while the ownership is "condominium".

Let's Compare the Differences:

Ownership and common areas are the primary differences between condos and townhouses. You can actually have absolute ownership of a townhouse as well as the land (yard) associated with it. In a Condominium you only own the "air-space" inside of your particular unit.

The owners of a condominium development each own an equal share of the "General Common Elements". This includes the structural elements of the building roof, walls, halls, clubhouse, pool, etc...

In a townhouse community, any common elements are deeded to the Home Owners Association (HOA). The townhouse owners are a part of the HOA but don't own an interest in these elements.

"Limited Common Elements" are where we see a departure between townhomes and condos. Limited Common Elements are only seen in condo ownership. These are things that are intended for the use on the individual unit owners. Parking spaces, garages, balconies and patios are examples of Limited Common Elements. Although these are owned by all of the unit owners, they are limited to the use of specific owner/s.

In a townhouse, the balcony and garage are actually owned by the townhouse owner. The exception to this would be if a "townhouse" style home is owned as a "condominium".

Summary:

Both condos and townhouses are what is known as "Common Interest Communities". A "Common Interest Community" is one where common real estate is maintained through assessments and dues.

Because of the Common Interest Community designation, we see a lot of confusion. The easiest way to remember the differences is this: A condominium is a form of real estate ownership and a townhouse is an architectural style.

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International Notary Guidelines

Notary Guidelines

I'm certainly not going to pretend to be an expert on all things regarding legal notary services around the globe. It only came to my attention a few years ago that it might not be as easy to process real estate paperwork everywhere as it is here! 

In the United States of America, many legal documents need to be notarized. For most of us, in our industry, that means every title closer you know can do this for you, and they perform all of our closings. Most title closers are a public notary and provide notary services. If you live in another state and are closing on a property here, sometimes that means walking into your local bank or just finding a local notary service in your area to certify your signature on your legal documents.

Notary Services Abroad

Well, such is not the case around the globe. I had a client moving from a civilian job with the USA working in Saudia Arabia. As they began the search, they of course came here to look at homes. With electronic software, the contract, inspection, amendments, etc. were fairly easy to execute halfway around the world. But when it came to closing time, we discovered they had to have docs sent to them, then notarized and returned. Easy-peasy, right? Nope! First of all, the title companies here require an American notary. So they had to find one... at the US Embassy... and pay $50/page to have it notarized. The title company was so helpful and kept to a minimum the actual documents that needed notary. It was complicated, but accomplished.

Second example, I took a recent continuing education class in which the instructor shared an example of a client that lived in Australia and was selling a property in Colorado. Well, in Australia, to get something notarized you have to go before a judge. Wow, that's complicated!! So the Colorado seller, living in Australia came to the US at some point during their transaction (not Colorado) to visit family. The title company sent documents to them while in the USA, so they could find a US notary and remove some complications! 

I have a client now, living in Prague, getting ready to sell their property here in Colorado Springs. I asked her to get started in the process of what it takes to notarize documents there, so we would be ready when the time comes. Their home here will of course sell in probably less than a week and close in under 2 months. If they are stateside at any time in the next 3 months, we'll certainly try to get any possible documents to them, especially if we are already under contract.

The internet and social media has shrunk the world in many ways. Legal services such as notarizing documents might be easy here, but much more complicated in other countries. Sometimes we need to be reminded how easy we have it... what a great country this is!!! 

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