Seller Beware: A Risky Play That Could Leave Money on the Table!

This blog post has been bouncing my head for weeks now. It’s a hot topic (and has been for quite some time) in the real estate world and one is being discussed in detail in MLS board rooms, real estate offices and at seller’s kitchen tables around the country. 

Pre-listing homes and selling them before they “hit the market” can be risky business. It sounds great to have your home sell before the agent puts a sign in the yard, but have you thought about what your missing out on as a seller? 

Which of these situations would you rather be in as a seller:

Situation A:

Agent Sally determines the value of your house is $200,000 and as the seller, you agree. Tom, another agent from Sally’s office, gets word that Sally is getting ready to market your home. Tom’s frustrated and anxious buyers have lost out of several other homes and need to buy now! Sally agrees to let Tom show your home to his buyers. They decide they want to buy it and make an offer of $200,000. You take it. You sold your home before a sign even went in the yard for your asking price. Yippee.

Situation B:

Agent Sally determines the value of your house is $200,000 and as the seller, you agree. Sally puts the home into the local MLS (multi list service) system advertising your home to the 5,000+ (if you happen to live in Kansas City) agents that subscribe to the MLS. You live in a neighborhood like many others right now where homes are selling within hours of putting a sign in the yard. You have 20 showings the first day on the market! 12 of those buyers decided to write offers. There is now a bidding war for your house and the buyers have decided your home is worth much more than the $200,000 is was listed for. You are under contract 24 hours and because of the bidding war, the buyer is paying $218,000 for it! Yippee!!!!!!

I’m not implying that every house is going to fall into situation B. That is far from accurate. But in most areas Situation B is not far-fetched. It’s happening daily in the area I do the majority of my business in.

The job of a real estate agent is to first and foremost protect our clients interests. Does Situation A really protect a seller’s best interest? I think not. There a few and far between circumstances where a well informed seller would chose to put themselves into that first situation.  Agents that push their clients to allow them to pre-market their home are serving their own “self” interest.

I just read another Realtor’s blog (who will remain anonymous) about this topic and I’m appalled. She did put a sign in the yard but with the good ‘ole “Coming Soon” sign. Read what she has to say: 

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So, I’ve gotten two phone calls from interested buyers in less than a week. In both cases, the buyer isn’t represented. Had the house been in the MLS, the interested buyers would have just looked up the house (online). Instead, the buyers were forced to call me, the listing agent.

It looks like two great things could possibly come from placing a coming soon sign in the yard:

  1. The home might actually sell prior to getting it in the MLS.
  2. I could pick up buyers who are forced to call me for listing details.

Either way, it’s a win-win for both my client and myself.

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What??? A win-win??? The only win I see here is for the agent’s pocket book. If there is that much interest in this home from a ‘coming soon’ sign, imagine what would happen if it ever hit MLS!

The bottom line:  Seller’s hire a REALTOR to maximize their exposure and get top dollar for their home (amongst other reasons). Selling a home before reaching maximum exposure is likely not going to garner top dollar. Consult your agent about average days on market, conditions in your neighborhood, etc., so you can make an informed decision. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

To Serve and Be Served: A Once in a Lifetime Transaction

I almost didn’t answer my phone. I was in San Francisco for our national REALTOR convention and rushing to get out of my room to an engagement (running 5 minutes late, of course). The strange number called twice in a row so I figured it must be urgent. When I answered, I could hardly make out the gurgled voice on the other end. I understood that the caller was inquiring about my new listing. I later learned the caller, Richard, had suffered a stroke a few years ago that effected his speech, among other things. I made out most of what he told me: He and his wife were interested in seeing the home I had listed as well as a few others in the area. They had called 4 other agents and all of them either wouldn’t return his calls or refused to show them any homes since they didn’t have a pre-approval letter. He was positive he could get a loan and was approved for a VA loan, but just waiting on his eligibility paperwork. I told him I was out of town until Monday but would be happy to set up a time Tuesday to show them homes.

Over the course of the weekend they called a handful of times to make sure I was still willing to meet them…you could hear the strained optimism in their voices. Each time they called, they had eliminated another home (they drove by all of them daily). We were down to only seeing one: my listing.

Tuesday rolled around and having just arrived back in town, you can imagine how insane my calendar looked that day. Driving the 45 minutes each way to show them one house wasn’t ideal, but I made it work.

The first time I met Richard and Connie in person I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew there something absolutely special about them.  At 70 years young, they still had the twinkle of first time buyers. I spent about an hour with them (much longer than I had planned given the home was a small 3 bed/2 bath ranch). They wanted to check out every nook and cranny. I learned they had owned a home about 10 years ago but the neighborhood had become overrun with a gang. After pouring everything they had into that home to fix it up, they were forced, by gun point out of their home in the middle of the night and told to never return unless they wanted to be shot. They had lost everything. I also learned that Richard had served in Vietnam and was a POW. And Connie shared with me a picture of their 40 lb. cat…Baxter. They had moved into a local retirement community about a year ago to be near Richard’s ailing mother. She passed away last Fall and they decided it was time to live out their American Dream and buy a house they could enjoy in their golden years. One problem: they had very little money and a fixed income. However, they had done the math and knew owning a home was far less expensive than the outrageous rent they were paying (in the end, they are saving almost $900 a month!)

We talked every day after I met them. They had fallen in the love with the home. It offered the wheelchair access he would someday need, the yard he yearned for and it had a large finished walk-out basement Connie could use to continue offering quilting classes to her friends at the retirement home. I had urged them to go ahead and speak to a bank or lender to start the pre-approval process. Richard was sure his VA paperwork would come any day and was certain he needed it before starting a conversation with the bank.  Richard and Connie live in a paper world. They don’t have cell phones, don’t own a computer and certainly don’t have internet access/or web-a-ma-thingy knowledge. They needed paper in their hands.  His eligibility paperwork had gone missing in their last move and they were patiently waiting for it to arrive in the mail (and I’m pretty sure as I write this, they are still waiting for it in the mail. We figured out a way around it).

While they waited, my seller received another offer. Being close to full price and a 30 day escrow, the seller had no reason not to take it. I called Richard and Connie to break the news to them. You can imagine their devastation.  We still spoke about once a week. They would call to see if the deal had fallen through since the sign was still in the yard. Every week I explained to them it was set to close on December 20th and the sign would be up until it does.  December 20th came and went without a closing due to some issues on the loan side.

I had been in touch with Richard and Connie to let them know the home might become available again. Sure enough it went back into ‘active’ status on Saturday. I met them at the home on Sunday so they could take some more measurements and one more look around. I urged them again to talk to a lender and get that ball rolling. This time they took me seriously. Monday afternoon they called from the lender’s office. They were pre-approved and ready to write an offer. Since they don’t do highways and certainly don’t have GPS, I offered to come to them. In an effort not to make this story a mini-novel, I’ll save the details of the hysterical story about me driving around the city of Lee’s Summit for an hour trying to find the ‘Lakeside Grill” only to learn it was the name of the cafeteria attached to their apartment building.

Better late than never! The first thing Richard did was pull a handful of $100 bills out of his pocket: their earnest deposit. That was a first for me. I spent 3 hours with Richard and Connie that afternoon. Most of that time was spent chatting about their lives, how cautiously excited they were and greeting their friends as they arrived for dinner at 4pm. And then, Richard pulled out about 10 vinyl sleeves of pictures. Pictures from a trip to Vietnam he took in the 90’s. It was unbelievable to sit with him and look through these pictures.

I left and called my seller. Although he was still disappointed that the previous deal fell apart, he was pleased with their offer and accepted. Richard and Connie were one step closer to making their dream a reality.

Through our 30 day escrow period we talked frequently….always by phone of course. Not being able to shoot them a quick email or text was occasionally a hassle, but only out of my own selfishness. I knew when I called them, I had better have 20 minutes to chat. I’d love to say I’m a saint, but there were a few times my patience wore a little thin and I’d have to fake another call coming in.

The entire process could not have been smoother. Every professional that came in contact with Richard and Connie couldn’t get over their pure joy and their unique story. In the majority of transactions today you don’t get that personal connection. Our sellers and buyers are more often than not relegated to just names on a piece of paper. Richard and Connie we are stark reminder for everyone what a privilege it is to do what we do as real estate professionals.

We were approaching closing and Richard was nervous as all get out about the appliances not working. When my clients ask how late they can call me, I always tell them that I turn my ringer off at night and half joking, tell them if they wake up in the middle of the night stressed about something and need to get it off their chest, just call and leave me a voicemail. No one has ever taken me up on that…until Richard and Connie. He had nightmares that the portable dishwasher would leak and flood the entire house. To ease their mind and ensure the house was perfect when they moved in, I asked my go-to contractor, Sean, to make a trip out there the weekend prior to closing to get the old washer and dryer hooked up and make sure the dishwasher that was in the garage actually worked.

A week prior we had experienced 2 big snow storms. Knowing the seller rarely went by the house (he had already moved out), I called to ask if he could shovel the driveway or  certainly make arrangements to have it done. Richard and Connie knew that the contractor would be out at the house on Saturday. They drove by that morning and saw the driveway hadn’t been shoveled. There were drifts and piles for the plows that topped 2 feet. They were worried the contractor wouldn’t be able to get in or would fall. So what did this 70 year old couple do? They went and bought a shovel. She cleared a path big enough for someone to get down the driveway.

After Sean met them that day, he made it his mission to get them the stove they needed. The current stove was gas and Richard is on oxygen (hello hazardous situation). They needed to convert the stove and didn’t have the funds to buy one. They were planning to use hot plates until they saved up enough money. I put a message out on Facebook to help get them an electric stove. Thanks to the quick generosity of friends, Sean and I went on a covert mission the night before closing and installed an electric stove that was donated. We also installed an American Flag that brought them to tears when we pulled up at the house after closing. Richard looked at me and said, “You know, I’m not used to being on the receiving end of things like this.”. That struck a chord. The night prior as we drove out there, Sean said something to effect of, “their generation just gives and gives and gives. It’s nice to see them getting something for a change!”.

 

To Serve and Be Served!

To Serve and Be Served!

We are now working on getting a new battery for the old riding lawn mower the seller left behind. Richard “can’t wait to get on that bad boy”!

Selling a home to Richard and Connie was more than just selling a home. It brought me back to center. It reminded me of what I get to do every day and what an honor it is to help families realize their dreams. Such an oddity today…A 70’ish young couple moving from a retirement community into a home. I’m honored that I got to be a part of their American Dream.  In the last 45 days, I’ve also realized that so many times during real estate transactions, we only focus on the numbers; what’s on paper; what’s the bottom line. In an effort to save time, we depend on emails, electronic signatures, endless texts and every time-saving shortcut we can. With Richard and Connie, there were no short cuts. As much as I love how fast paced my career is, I stand reminded of why I love what I do…it’s the connection I make with my clients. You can’t get that connection through an email or an electronic signature. The hours I spent face-to-face with them is priceless. This entire transaction has been priceless. Thank God while rushing around my hotel room in San Francisco, I decided to answer my phone….

Congratulations Richard and Connie!  An American Dream for an American Hero! 

 

We Want to Sled!

Now that most of Kansas City has dug out from the amazing snow storm we saw in the last 24 hours, the next question we ask ourselves is where are the best hills to go sledding??? If your household is anything like mine, cabin fever is setting in! There are only so many times little Layla can sled down the driveway. Next up…find the best places to sled! I turned to google but only found a few sources for the best spots around. Below is a link to pretty good list dated January 2012 from the KC Parent website. I was disappointed with the lack of good spots on this list so I turn to you…what is your favorite KC sledding destination? Do share!!!

sledding pic

Blue Springs

  • Ward Park (SW 22nd off 40 HWY)

Grandview

  • Behind High Grove Elementary School (2500 High Grove Rd)
  • Meadowmere Park (13610 Byars Rd)
  • Belvidere Park (6509 E 147th St)

Independence

  • Glendale Elementary School (2611 Lees Summit Rd)
  • McCoy Park (Off of 24 HWY)

KC, KS

  • Wyandotte County Lake Park (91st & Leavenworth Rd)
It’s always advisable to ask for permission before sledding on private property.

KC, MO

  • Suicide Hill, Brookside Park (56th & Brookside)
  • Avila University (119th & Wornall)
  • Loose Park (55th & Wornall)
  • Kansas City Museum Hill (Gladstone Blvd.)
  • Blue Valley Park (E 23rd St & Topping Ave)
  • Swope Memorial Golf Course (6900 Swope Memorial Dr)
  • Swope Park Frisbee Golf Course (Elmwood St & Gregory Blvd)
  • Arleta Park (77th St & Prospect Ave)
  • White Oak Park (89th Street & Crescent)
  • Gillham Park (Gillham Road, 39th to Brush Creek)
  • Sheffield Park (E. 12th St & Winchester)
Try to sled during the daytime, when visibility is better. If you go sledding at night, make sure the hillside is well lit and all potential hazards are visible.

Leawood

  • Leawood Pioneer Library (117th & Roe)
  • 133rd & Mission Rd (NE corner)

Lees Summit

  • Across Douglas Rd from Lea McKeighan Park (120 NE Chipman Rd)

Liberty

  • William Jewell College (Hill on campus)

North Kansas City

  • Waterworks Park (NE 32nd St & N Oak Trfwy)

Olathe

  • Next to Lowes (13750 S Blackbob Rd)
  • 119th & KC Road

Overland Park

  • Jewish Community Center (115th & Nall)
  • Off of I-435 in Corporate Woods complex
  • Grace Church (159th & Antioch)
  • Behind the apartment complexes (110th & Antioch)

Shawnee

  • Stump Park (47th & Woodland)

And dont forget

  • Tubing at Snow Creek (Weston, MO)

NAVIGATING YOUR ONLINE SEARCH TO FIND THE “PERFECT MATCH”

If you’ve been single in the last 10 years, or found yourself in the market for a new home, you’ve done it: you’ve searched online for your “perfect match”.  In past few years as a REALTOR, I’ve noticed a stark similarity between the aforementioned online scenarios. Some “singles”  don’t like to freely admit they have succumbed to looking for love online, but I’ll raise my hand: been there, done that. And don’t plan on doing it again, although the stories are priceless (just ask me about the “blue crocs” date). So just how are they so similar? Read on…

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Photos: That’s the BEST it will ever look! 

I preface this by saying, not everyone takes the best photos. In fact, there are sites dedicated to the best of the worst photos that agents use to market homes. I’ve seen some doozies. The good ‘ole ‘drive by’: the agent is too lazy to stop the car, get out and take a decent picture so you get their side mirror in the shot. Or better yet, the ‘no flash, can’t even see the walls of the home I’m trying to sell you” pictures. Equivalent to the “no-shirt selfie’ that riddles dating websites (ie: I don’t have any friends so I’m forced to take my own pics in a bathroom mirror. Gross. And Wrong). Regardless, there is a slight chance the bad pictures are just the result of a lazy photographer. 

That being said, the photos you see online can be deceiving. I always ere on the side of: “that’s as good as good as it’s going get” when looking at photos of “prospects”.  It never fails when I’m showing a buyer that they say, “this looks nothing like the photos”. Well no kidding. It was taken 3 years ago before the owner rented it out to a family with 3 dogs and few dozen cats. Reminds me of when I showed up to meet a blind “date” only to find out the pictures in the online profile were from 10 years, a head of hair and 60lbs ago.  The same sometimes applies to REALTOR’s personal photos….if I can’t recognize you in person from the picture on your business card/sign/billboard, etc., it’s time to change it! 1999 called…they want their glamour shot back! 

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 Learn the Language and Read Between the Lines!

I learned very quickly with dating sites that if a prospect had “in transition” in their profile, it didn’t mean they were being recruited for a high level executive job. Rather, it meant they were likely unemployed 2 of the last 3 years and living in their parents basement on a pull out couch circa 1988. 

In comparison, when searching for homes online, you must learn the language and be able to interrupt the creative writing talents many agents have honed. If the words “cozy” or “quaint” are used, it likely means you likely won’t be able to fit a semblance of a real couch in the living room. ImageAnd my favorite: “needs a little TLC”. Interpreted as: If you can’t sling a hammer or have a good amount of cash stashed away, RUN. Typically ‘a little TLC’ translates to “bring in the bulldozer and be ready to shell out some cash for a few contractors”.  And my personal favorite: “Bring your imagination”. Translates to: be prepared to strip 4 layers of wallpaper off every surface of the house and if you like to decorate around an avocado toilet, you’re in luck! Needless to say, there is nothing more frustrating than a description that doesn’t match the described. Remember: If it sounds to good to be true, it likely is!

Worst yet is no description at all. Why don’t you just write in bold letters, “I’M TOO LAZY TO CARE”.

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 Is it on market or not?!?!

This is by far one of the most frustrating topics for online prospecting. Nothing is worse than getting up the courage to email someone that appears to have a lot of promise only to get this response: “Sorry. You seem really nice and I would love to meet you, BUT, I just started a relationship and I’m no longer “on the market”.  

If you’re no longer on the market, TAKE DOWN YOUR PROFILE! 

I get a phone call a week from buyer clients that go something like this:

“We just saw a house online that you haven’t shown us yet. It looks perfect and we can’t wait to see it!”  Here comes the “BUT”…it SOLD 6 months ago. There’s a lot of sites to peruse online when looking for a home, but there is really only one source for the most accurate information in regards to what homes are truly “available”: me (ie: your REALTOR and our resources like MLS).

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 Online ‘prospecting” is frustrating, albeit fun and exciting to search for your next “match” from the comfort of your couch in your favorite jammies. 

 Learn to decipher through through some of the mis-leading information out there online and remember: the most trusted information comes directly from the source: a real estate professional and their tools that you have access to.

When it comes down to it, it takes seeing something in person to know if it’s the right fit for you. 

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Survive and Advance

You may have noticed that my last blog entry is from a year ago…almost to the date. Nothing says “dedicated blogger” like a post every 12 months! Rest assure, things are about the change. This blog is about to filled with all the valuable (you’ll be the judge of that) and somewhat odd musings in my head about the real estate world, both in Kansas City and beyond.

That being said, it’s been quite a year. 2013 has been what I call: “the light at the end of the tunnel”. I distinctly remember in 2009 sitting in a well known speakers ‘housing forecast’. He revealed that Kansas City wouldn’t start seeing a true market rebound until 2013. 4 years ago that seemed like an eternity to an agent who was just 18 months into the ‘business’. Luckily, I survived and advanced and true to the forecaster’s words, 2013 can easily be billed as “the year of the turnaround”.

2013 is going out with a bang. I’ve never been as busy in December with both buyers and sellers as I have been this year. Let’s hope this great momentum carries us right into 2014!

What’s in a name?

ImageLast week Prudential Kansas City Realty announced it’s severing its relationship with Prudential and aligning with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate (BHGRE). I can hear you now: Better Homes and Gardens? That’s a magazine not a real estate company. You would be correct with that thought but that’s about to change in Kansas City and personally, I couldn’t be more excited. Let me explain why: 

 

Due to changes with Prudential Real Estate on a national scope, we knew about a year ago that this change was inevitable. The big question became: who are we going to align ourselves with. My involvement in national meetings over the past 2 years brought me face to face with a cutting edge, dynamic company called “Betters Home and Gardens Real Estate”. I’ve not only been incredibly impressed with their leadership team, but the more I get my hands on the technology and resources they offer, the more excited I get about this new venture. This won’t change the relationships I have with my clients and the service I provide them, but it will certainly change the resources I’m able to offer.

 

As the name, “Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate” starting trickling through the Kansas City “grapevine” we got a lot of confused faces. BHG is one of the most iconic and recognized brands in the country. Everyone knows the name. Everyone knows the magazine. Soon, everyone in KC will know and understand why we chose not just to change our name to Better Homes and Gardens, but to align ourselves with one of the fastest growing, most savvy of real estate brands thriving in today’s market. I’m excited to a part of a brand that resonates with buyers and sellers beyond just real estate. And besides, being “GREEN” is the 2013 thing to do!