Tuesday, January 27, 2009


A young couple attended an open house I was hosting recently and they handed me an offer they had prepared for the purchase of the home. Their offer was substantially lower than the fair market value of this beautiful property (tantamount to offering the price of a hamburger at a fast food drive through in order to purchase a complete filet mignon dinner at the Ritz) and they wanted me to know how they arrived at the figure.

In support of their market analysis, they had downloaded material from one of the many internet sites that have exploded through cyberspace with real estate public data strewn in all directions for the "convenience" of the general public to explore and interpret as factual.

They pointed to columns of figures and addresses of properties that had been on the market and that had sold. They took the original list prices of the homes and subtracted that figure from the actual sale prices of the homes and they used that same computation to arrive at the hamburger price they intended for the purchase of the filet mignon.

It does not work that way. As long as a home is overpriced, it will sit until it grows cold or until it is reduced to what is the fair market price for that home. There are columns of overpriced homes still on the market. Allhomes on the market are in the "column" we can refer to as "the wish list". That original "wish" to realize more equity than the market will bear, will never materialize. Homes that have been correctly priced for the market will beat the closing table within a predictable and reasonable period of time. Homes that have sold are the market and they are the only homes that should be used to compare with the value of any other home.

The records we REALTORS track in the market demonstrate that properties are being priced more realistically and as such, they are coming to closing sooner. The buyers are back.

The young couple with the unrealistic offer is not alone. There are many buyers who continue to approach properties that are far out of their price range and they are often armed with the false notion that "all sellers are desperate". We who practice real estate and really love what we do as REALTORS, recognize that although there are some circumstances where a buyer may come upon a "steal", it is the exception and not the rule. These ill informed buyers appear surprised when the sellers, whose properties have been priced correctly, reject their offers.

The market in which we are working today is in every way a normal market. The frenzy of the sellers' market has run though its normal cycle and has come full circle through the buyers' market to where we are today....experiencing normalization and stability.

Buyers and sellers need each other. In fact, they become each other often and in doing so they can appreciate how it feels to be each other. It is often the case that we REALTORS work with both buyers and sellers, so we understand the perspective of both at any given time. If we take a step back and take a look at the whole picture, it comes down to doing what's best for our families and our selves with such an enormous undertaking as the purchase or sale of our largest asset.

Monday, January 26, 2009


About eighteen months ago a young couple with three small children was in the process of searching for a larger home. Because the “downsizing” market was in full swing, they could not sell their home for the amount that would make the purchase of the larger home more affordable. The weeks turned to months of frustration and uncertainty while the walls closed in on them.
Just when they thought they had reached their level of frustration, their basement flooded the morning of their well advertised open house. As soon as the basement was cleaned up and the problem remediated, their Realtor scheduled another open house that had to be cancelled due to the onslaught of ants that followed the flood.
With limited options, the young couple persevered and reduced the property price again. To their delight, a buyer called to schedule a showing…..just before the heating system started to smoke and required the replacement of vital parts.
This couple believed that “when you are going through hell, keep on going”, hence they reduced the price again and bingo….it went under agreement!
The young couple began to pack up their lives but just before the closing, the young wife was attacked by a swarm of bees in their back yard. She was hospitalized with IV antibiotics to combat severe cellulites in her arm.
With her arm in a sling, she and her now horrified husband continued to prepare to move. There were boxes everywhere in between diapers, dolls and toy trucks. The young wife and children went to the mall for last minute supplies. It was there that she saw the St. Bernard puppy in the pet store window. She and the children stopped in their tracks as the huge puppy pressed its nose up against the window. All the real estate catastrophes of the previous year receded in the big wet eyes looking back at them. The young wife reached for her cell phone.
When the young husband answered his office phone, he could hardly believe his wife’s request that quickly turned to a plea and a campaign to purchase the very expensive and destined to be very big pet. In vane he reminded his wife that they were already in chaos. They could not afford a St. Bernard. With one arm in a sling, his wife was limited to what she could accomplish as it was.
The children joined the campaign. They needed the dog. They would walk the dog. They would clean up after the dog…..honest they would. The dog already loved them back and they all would live happily together in their new home that had a bigger back yard that was perfect for their new dog. Their dog’s name would be Nicki.
The young husband lost the campaign. The closing took place and the big back yard became the receptacle of Nicki’s increasingly larger waste products that only the young husband seemed to notice. The dog food bags emptied quickly week after week and the happy growing dog swiped the coffee table bare with it tail daily. One of Nicki’s favorite games was to run off through the back yard woods any time she could and be chased by the young husband who grew more and more tired of the “game”.
Shortly before this author’s bi weekly article became due, the young husband, whose job requires that he leave for the office at about 3:30am, slipped on the ice in his driveway and fell down very hard outside his home in subfreezing temperatures. Not only had the impact taken his breath away, but he could not move as he laid outside in the pitch dark cold and complete silence.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Hosting an Open House provides a valuable opportunity for sellers, buyers, and Realtors to learn more about the property that is for sale, but there is a great deal more involved with an Open House than may meet the eye. Here are some facts to consider about Open Houses:

What an Open House means: The seller has agreed to permit the general public to enter the home for the purpose of looking through all rooms, closets, cabinets, basement, attic, storage areas, and garage in addition to exploring the property's land.

What an Open House does NOT mean: While there is a reasonable expectation that a buyer be permitted to observe the size of closets and the condition of cabinets, there is no permission ever granted to or implied for anyone to touch the sellers' personal property such as furniture drawers, armoire or entertainment center doors or use of any of the home's utilities.

Who attends the Open House? A billionaire lands a private jet at the end of the cul de sac, is followed up the front stairs by an entourage of staff carrying a chest full of thousand dollar bills, and states emphatically to your Realtor "You only want how much for this house? Nonsense! It's worth ten times what you are asking and I have no time for a home inspection. Let's sign." If your Realtor is still conscious, you are what is known in the business as "One Lucky Dude".

If the jet should miss the ramp, however, and your Open House continues, you may expect that your neighbors will be among the first to attend. Although you may view your neighbors as merely "nosey", know that your Realtor recognizes the value of their presence. Neighbors in fact do come in to look around for many reasons, but one reason may be that they would like their friend or family member to live closer to them... in your home.

Many Realtors are doing their own Open Houses on the same day as yours is being done, but they can and will send their buyers to view your home if it is open. These buyers have likely been sent by their Realtors because they are looking for a home like yours. Many buyers have found your Open House on the MLS, or any number of media or internet marketing sites and services employed by your Realtor, and have chosen to attend in order to compare your home with others they have seen.

Other Realtors attend your Open House to preview it for buyers who could not attend and you may receive a call for a second showing. Some Realtors attend the Open House so that they can keep on top of the market themselves. Their's is a welcomed presence always, as it represents an interest on the part of busy professionals who made a point of viewing your home for reference.

Although some attendees may be "tire kickers", know that all behavior is purposeful and even "tire kickers" eventually buy the car.

There will be folks who attend your Open House to look at your choice of colors and get ideas on how to decorate their own homes. Your Realtor will still recognize the value in their attendance. These visitors do not usually come in from over seas to view your new addition as a tourist attraction. They reside in or around your area and they too have a sphere of influence. Your Realtor may receive a call from a billionaire's staff administrator. "I work for an investor who heard about a home from someone who attended the Open House and it sounds just perfect. How soon can you show it?"

There is also the concern about hosting an Open House that every seller and Realtor must acknowledge and address; bad acts.

It is the sad reality that there are individuals among us whose intent is not always honorable. An experienced and trained Realtor knows as much as is possible, how to recognize and protect against malfeasance. While there can not be a guarantee against theft, a seller can benefit from increasing the expose of the property to the market with an Open House, while at the same time mitigating the risks inherent in opening the doors to the public.

All medicines and valuables should be removed from sight. Your Realtor stands in your place at all times during your Open House and as such is responsible for welcoming all of your guests warmly and respectfully as if each has been sent a formal invitation to an elegant gathering. While you would never want your guest to feel uncomfortable in your home, a well trained professional Realtor will know as much as is reasonably possible how to scrutinize and continue to observe all who enter your home from the moment they open the door to the moment they leave without sacrificing that "welcomed" feeling.

Guests will be asked to sign in the "Guest Register" and Realtors use that register to enhance business and make contacts for feedback on the property.

With careful choices and preparation, the Open House is an invaluable tool in the sale of a home. As long as your home has been priced correctly and is well marketed, and if you keep your lovely home as spotless and sparkling as possible, you will be headed toward the closing table before any of those sellers around you who have not done the same.

Also, you may be well advised to keep smelling salts on hand for your Realtor. This New Year already looks great with private jets soaring all around us.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Start Packing

Your great grandmother’s hope chest that is stored in your attic was as much a treasure to her as was Uncle Lou’s collection of railroad ties was to him. You can hardly remember how long ago it was that you permitted him to store his precious lumber under your deck, but there it all is attracting as many pests as a home inspector can find.

Your son’s enormous collection of yellowed Marvel Superheroes Comic Books, that he could not bear to part with, are still in your basement although he has long since moved away. The box is stacked with many others that are filled to capacity with old Halloween costumes, his first pair of skates, her doll collection and they are propped up against the wall by the speed bike with the broken chain.

No children ever had more toys than yours and no children or ancestors ever left more belongings than yours all over your packed closets, storage bins, garage, basement, attic, crawl spaces, cabinets, drawers....and then there are your belongings.

You’re a chip off the old block. You can not bear to think about discarding Valentine’s Day cards, although you can’t place faces to the names of some of your past admirers. You have the very first potholder you ever made at summer camp. You have every holiday decoration ever given or left to you and unless you have an evergreen tree farm in your backyard, you can never display them all.

Those who have gone before you left everything to the one they loved...you, and now you must make choices that impact your ability to move through your own life changes, or forever be part of the collection.

If you want to sell your home, or if you’re scheduled to close on the home you have sold, the home must be delivered in what is referred to as broom swept condition, that is, empty. Take a deep breath. It can and will be done. Here are some tips:

1. Call the former owners of all that has been left behind and tell them that the deadline for discarding is no later than a date certain. If they have not claimed their treasures, by that date, it will be assumed that they are of no value and they will be removed from the house.

2. Go through your home with a different eye. Take a deep breath and start early. What you do not use, wear, play with, need, want, enjoy, or derive MUCH pleasure from, is hampering your ability to move forward and belongs somewhere else.

3. Sort things. Put stickers on piles to identify valuables from throw aways. You’ll be surprised how many “valuable” stickers will be replaced by “throw aways” as you go through this process.

4. Start early. Pace yourself. Pack a box a day. It works wonders.

5. Call for a dumpster. These huge containers come in all sizes and are delivered when you want them and removed when you are through with them.

6. Ask for help. Have a pizza party and start filling that dumpster.

7. Call your local church or charity and ask how your possessions may impact someone else’s life. You’ll feel a whole lot better about your choices when you know you've made a difference.

Good luck with the changes you are making. Let your Realtor help you every step of the way. We've been there too.

You may call Janet Hilton for a confidential "Sellers' Anonymous" consultation if you can not bear to part with that old dog collar. She can help you get a hold of yourself. RE/ MAX Country Crossroads Realty 144 Newburyport Turnpike, Suite A8, Rowley, MA 01969; Tel. 978-948-5333.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Sky is Not Falling

Buyers and sellers who put stock in "Chicken Little" media reports have come to learn through their own experiences that there never was a "bursting bubble". While the near hysterical reporting by some of the more established media may have created the hoopla that has been selling papers, Realtors across the country have in fact been selling properties that are correctly priced for the market they are in.

To be clear, a sellers' market occurs when there are more buyers than there are properties on the market. With very low interest rates, buying frenzies can occur as the home prices soar. A Realtor may characterize such a market in this way: "I could drive down the street while hanging a Purchase and Sale form out the window and buyers would run to jump on it."
A buyers' market occurs when there are more properties on the market than there are buyers. If the interest rates begin to rise, the buyer has less purchasing power and home prices will come down. In many cases, the sellers who reduce their homes in order to sell them, become buyers who now reap the benefit of the reduced homes they wish to purchase.

Every property sells. What cannot be overstated is the number one reason why a property sits too long on the market. THE PRICE IS TOO HIGH.

When your Realtor or Appraiser prepares a price analysis on your home, it must be performed without emotion. Location, condition, age, amenities, updates, maintenance, style, features and a myriad of factors are compared against properties that have actually sold. That does not mean that your Realtor is insensitive to how deeply affected you are as a seller both emotionally and financially by the value ascribed to your home. Realtors are homeowners too, but as professional interpreters of the market, they must be the "messenger" no matter how difficult the content of the message.

Sellers should obtain more than one price analysis on their most valuable asset. Professional opinions may differ and a confident Realtor will encourage the seller to make comparisons. A REALLY confident Realtor will not engage in the business of overpricing merely to obtain the listing. The substandard practice hurts all sellers, buyers and Realtors.

Learn to trust your instincts. You do not have to BE a Realtor, but it sure would take a lot of the heat off if you could BELIEVE your Realtor and choose your price intelligently by going over the comparisons that the Realtor presents to you. Put on your "buyer's hat". Would you pay $XXX for your home when the home down the-street is newer, larger and has a three car garage?

Numbers have no emotion........neither do mortgage pre-approvals, appraisals, comparative market analyses, economic indicators, etc. The best Realtors however sensitive, emotional and compassionate as they may be know that what will bring you to the closing table is their intelligence and ability to price and market your home correctly.

The next time you open a newspaper article that reads "The Sky is Falling and We're All Going to Die!!", the Realtors, Sellers, Buyers, Lenders, Lawyers and Economists who know better, suggest that you do the following to get your money's worth out of that print media. Roll the paper up as tightly as you can and stack it with the other rolled up prints right next to the fireplace. They make terrific kindling. If you do not have a fireplace, you may wish to use the paper to line your bird cage while thinking of what Chicken Little would say in today's market. "The sky is not falling. It's just not the limit."