"Old School" real estate vs “New School" real estate

My buyer wrote an offer 4 days ago and we still don’t have it signed by the sellers.  

The listing agent’s sellers are on vacation and because the agent doesn’t know how to use electronic signing systems, he is taking much more time than is necessary to get this deal in place.

This delay impacts my buyer, the lender, the title company, contract time frames and of course, our confidence in getting the deal done. The seller could have been in jeopardy of losing these buyers due to frustrations and concerns.

 Let’s look at a real life example of the "old school" vs the "new school" way of working.

Imagine that your home is listed for sale and you’re on a vacation you planned months ago. You’re sitting under an umbrella by the ocean, your feet in the sand and a cold drink in your hand. You’re watching your friends and family have fun and it makes you feel happy. You deserve this down time. You glance at your phone and see that you received an email from your agent with paperwork needing your signature. Is your agent “old school” or “new school?"

 The next 3-4 hours of your vacation can play out in two ways:

#1 “Old School" 

The email says you have to print the attachment and sign and then scan back to the agent. Your blood pressure climbs. There is no printer in the vacation house you rented. You’re finally on vacation…one that you more than deserve…and you have to go back to the house, do some research about local Kinkos or UPS stores, call to make sure they are open and get directions, get their email address, send the document to them, go to the store to sign, have them scan back to you and then email it back to your agent. You’re mad. Your family is mad. You missed a great beach day. Tomorrow it will rain and you’ll be even madder.  

#2 “New School”

You gently place your drink in the sand, then click on the link in the email. The link takes you to Dot Loop and it says “click here to start signing.” You click once for each initial and signature and when you’re done, click “confirm signing.” You turn your phone off and pick your drink back up. You realize you’ve been outside for a while and it’s time to reapply your sunscreen.

 “New School” agents help their clients by using the latest technology so that deals are done faster and your life is easier. When you choose your realtor, ask about the systems, processes and technology that your agent is using. Enjoy your vacation and let your “new school” agent do the work for you.

-Wendy Slaughter

Smart Sellers Series: Pictures are Important!

Gone are the days of looking through the newspaper or real estate books and driving around neighborhoods to get a first impression of a house.  Instead, the first glimpse buyers get of a home is online through the pictures uploaded to the MLS.

Buyers are busy and have limited time to search through hundreds of listings, and they will quickly move on or skip listings if there is only one photo (or no photos) or if the photos are of poor quality.

If you’re thinking of selling, look through some listings online and ask yourself:

Do the photos make you want to visit the home? Do they look like they are pulled from a home design magazine? These are the kinds of pictures that will appeal to prospective buyers. Buyers want to be impressed.

Too few pictures, low quality pictures, or homes that do not have pictures of the important rooms lead buyers to question what is wrong with the property.  Buyers will move on and most likely not come back to view these listings.  The first several pictures in the listing are the most important, and should feature an eye-catching exterior front photo, and photos of the main living area, kitchen, owner’s bedroom and bathroom, as well as other attractive features (e.g., deck, patio).

Don’t have photos of the property yet? Don’t list the home until you do. The best photos are those with natural light, so make sure the photographer takes the photos during those times of the day.  Properly lit, high resolution photos are a must!  In addition, maximize the number of photos uploaded to the various websites.  Make sure there are no people (or parts of people) in the photos.  Avoid reflections in mirrors or flash feedback in windows or mirrors.

The Wendy Slaughter Team uses a professional photographer to photograph all of our listings because we understand how important this step of the marketing process is to selling your home.  Call us to learn more about our awesome marketing services can help you sell your home. (PS: Did you know in 2013, the county average “days on market” was 54 and The Wendy Slaughter Team’s “days on market” was just 16 days! Our sellers hug us a lot.)

- Debbie Gottwals

Maryland Non-Resident Sellers

Recently, we attended a meeting with a representative from the Maryland Comptroller’s office who spoke about the Maryland non-resident withholding tax. This is a tax that is charged to sellers at the time of settlement, who are not residents of Maryland. The tax is pretty high too – 7% of the seller’s net proceeds goes to the Maryland Comptroller.

The law that created this tax went into effect on October of 2003, but to this day, many non-resident sellers in Maryland are unaware of the 7% tax until they get to the settlement table and find that their proceeds are 7% less than they had planned.

If you are selling your property in Maryland and you do not live in Maryland, you might consider completing an application for an exemption to this tax. It is worth a shot and you may find that you are partially or fully exempt from paying it. The application should be filled out and submitted (with all supporting documentation) once you go under contract, no later than 21 days before the settlement date. You can still submit it after the 21 day period, however, there is a chance that they will not have time to process your application. The application can be found here.

If you have already settled on a property and you did not receive an exemption certificate (and it is before the end of the year during which the property was sold), you can fill out this application and apply for a refund. There is no guarantee that you'll receive a refund, but it is worth a shot! It must be submitted before December 1, 2014 and may not be submitted sooner than 60 days after closing. If your closing occurs after October 1, 2014, you are not eligible to file this form.

For additional questions or concerns, you can contact NRS Processing – Legal Section for the Comptroller of Maryland at 410-260-6153 or by email at nrshelp@comp.state.md.us

Spring Cleaning for the Spring Market

If you are thinking of selling your home this spring, now is the time to look around your house and make a plan to de-clutter, organize and clean. When prospective buyers visit your home, you only have one chance to make a first impression. So, putting in some extra effort before you post the “For Sale” sign can make a big difference in both sale price and days on market. Here is a quick list to help you de-clutter and spruce up your house as you prepare to make it “show worthy”:

De-clutter

When buyers enter your house, they are looking for space. Living space. Closet space. Storage space. To help convey space, you will want to pack away belongings you won’t need before the move. This will give you a head start on packing as well as help get your home ready to sell. Consider renting a storage unit to hold boxed possessions and extra furniture. This is also a great time to hold a garage sale or donate unwanted items to charity.

  • Clean out your closets, packing away items you won't need before you move and donating those items that are no longer used or needed.
  • In the kitchen, throw away old or expired food and clear off the counter tops. Pack away small appliances that take up counter or cabinet space.
  • Remove oversized furniture, small tables, extra chairs and “dust collectors” to make your rooms look more spacious.
  • Organize the remaining items to show off the space.

Clean

Buyers perceive a clean home as a well-maintained home. Therefore, a home ready to show can never be too clean. Don’t be afraid to break out the white gloves.

  • Start with your front door and, yes, doorknobs. Clean and/or paint the door.
  • Clean the finger prints from doorknobs and light switches.
  • Clean appliances inside and out. Make them shine!
  • Clean light and ceiling fan fixtures. Replace burned out light bulbs.
  • Clean windows and window screens.
  • Steam clean carpets.
  • Wipe down baseboards.
  • Paint tired walls with a neutral, inviting color.
  • Repair or replace damaged walls, fixtures, windows and screens.

The Wendy Slaughter Team specializes in showcasing our clients’ homes. After we tour your home, we provide a “Home Enhancements Checklist” that outlines those repairs and upgrades that will help you sell for more. We then bring in our professional designer who will stage your home. Finally, we hire a professional photographer to capture and show off your home’s best features.

These services help our listings stand out above the competition and are part of our proven marketing formula that helps our clients sell their homes faster. Last year, our Howard County listings sold in an average of 17 days as compared to the county average of 44 days on market. Contact us to help you make your home a “show worthy” addition to the spring market.

~Debbie Pavlik

15 Meaningful Home Improvements for Sellers

Want to make the most out of the time you spend getting your home ready for sale? There are several steps in the home selling process that are important for most homes. Something as easy as doing a thorough home cleaning and taking time to de-clutter will help make that first impression of your home memorable to buyers. Even a small change like upgrading a light fixture can have a huge impact on what a buyer sees when they walk into your home.

Check out this eHow slideshow  that details 15 ways that you can improve your home to help it sell faster. Wendy was featured in slideshows 7-9!

Guest Blogger - Handyman Matters

Bathroom renovation is something that most homeowners consider at some point while owning a home. Many times, it’s one of the first things on the list to be remodeled after purchasing an older home. Given that it’s such a popular starting place, we decided we’d pinpoint the top 4 benefits to renovating your bathroom.

1. Increase the resale value of your home. Renovating a bathroom – or really any part of your home – increases its resale value. New appliances, new showerheads, updated tile – these are all cosmetic details that can improve the look and value of your home, which is an increasingly important thing to remember in a down real estate market.

2. Improve the water efficiency of your home. The majority of the water we use each day is centered around the bathroom. From taking showers and baths to flushing the toilet to brushing our teeth, we use gallons of water each day. Replacing the toilet with a low-flush model or switching out a regular showerhead for a low-flow model can drastically decrease a family’s water usage, costing less money and helping the environment.

3.  Make better use of space.  Bathrooms are often designed poorly – shoving a sink, toilet and bathtub into a tight space as easily as possible without trying to intelligently make the best use of space for the room. By remodeling, you can add more free space and cultivate a better bathroom layout – especially when you get to choose which pieces of furniture and appliances will be used.

4.  Have full creative control.  One of the biggest benefits to remodeling your bathroom, aside from the increase in resale value, is the ability to make your bathroom uniquely your own. You get to choose the cabinets and countertops. You can pick out the perfect tub or shower, and you can handpick the tile and any other design elements so that they match your home and your personality perfectly.

Remodeling a bathroom can be a fun and exciting process for many homeowners. However daunting the task of designing and installing your new hardware, Handyman Matters can help you pick out the right materials for you and your home. Call us today at 410-549-9696 to set up a phone consultation to get started.

www.handymanmatters.com/columbia

Handyman Matters Coupon


How appraisers determine the value of your home

Have you ever wondered how an appraiser goes about determining your home’s market value? Contrary to popular belief, appraisers do not visit your home and then magically guesstimate a value. The methodology involved in an appraisal comes down to comparing your home and all of your upgrades and amenities to the other homes that have sold in your neighborhood. If you were not aware, appraisers are regulated and have standard appraisal practices (known as USPAP) that they must abide by. They also have several methods for determining a home’s value. Since the “Sales Comparison Approach” is the most widely used we will discuss that portion of an appraisal.

When an appraiser goes out to your property they will typically draw out your home’s floor plan, take measurements to calculate your home’s square footage (which, by the way, does not include your basement which has a different line item for adjustments) and take note of any upgrades and any repairs that may be needed. Though they may be in your home for only 15 -30 minutes, the majority of their time is spent back at their office writing the report and finding comparable homes to compare your property to (known as “comps”).

Finding comparable homes in the neighborhood can be a fairly easy task if you live in a subdivision that has had recent sales. If not, the appraiser may have to search farther out. This may result in location adjustments if that area has historically received higher values than the subject neighborhood.

Everything from bedroom and bathroom count to the quality of the upgrades in the property is taken into consideration. The appraiser will determine what upgrades are common for your area and what adjustments should be made for differences between each property. An adjustment is then determined for each factor (i.e. an adjustment for additional bathrooms, house sizes, basement finishes, quality of upgrades, a view of a lake as opposed to a view of a busy street, etc.)

Say, for instance, your home has an in-ground pool. If a comparable is used that does not have a pool, the appraiser will not make the adjustment based on the cost of installing a pool. Instead, they will determine how much more a house in that location with a pool will get compared to one that does not have the pool.

This is an important fact to keep in mind when renovating your home to increase its market value.

Let’s say you invest $20,000 into renovating your kitchen. That does not necessarily mean you will re-coop that exact amount when you go to sell your home. It does mean that you will sell your house faster and for more money than your neighbor, who has not made those improvements.

Keep in mind though: If you over-improve your home, it would be difficult for an appraiser to justify a value higher than what is typical for your neighborhood. After all, no matter how much money you put into updating, renovating and adding to your home, you can’t change its location!

Here’s a screenshot from an appraisal of the Sales Comparison Approach:

Appraisal Comps Grid

Notice that properties with a superior feature received a negative adjustment (highlighted in red) and properties with inferior features received a positive adjustment (highlighted in yellow). These dollar adjustments are then totaled and the adjusted sales price of the comparable property is listed at the bottom (highlighted in blue). The appraiser will determine a value by weighing each comparable and how similar it is to the subject property. They may even add additional comparables or delve into one of the other means of determining value, should they feel it necessary.

P.S. Check out the Remodeling Cost VS. Value report for statistics on what repairs will give you the most return on your home remodeling projects:
http://www.remodeling.hw.net/2011/costvsvalue/national.aspx

Written by Tess Oby, Team Manager for The Wendy Slaughter Team

Smart Sellers Series: Top 4 things to do to prepare to sell your home!

Really? Just 4 things? Come on! We all know it takes more than this to get your house ready to sell, right?

Actually, when you boil it down, these really are the steps. But don’t be fooled. It is only 4 steps but you’ll need to invest some time and money into getting your house ready for today’s market.

1)      de-clutter

Do you watch HGTV? If so, you’ve probably seen their methods for cleaning and organizing. Create 3 boxes (they might turn into big piles but that’s a ok!): trash, donate, keep. Go through every closet, every cabinet, the garage and basement. The goal: to create open spaces within your home. While you are de-cluttering, keep an eye out for receipts for any work you have completed including maintenance and remodeling.

2)      clean

Clean everything literally from top to bottom inside the house. This includes cobwebs in corners, window treatments, moldings, the tops of cabinets, etc. Don’t forget about the outside of the house too: roof stains, siding, windows, sheds and flower beds are all important as well. Don’t have the time? Call us for a referral to a high quality cleaning company.

3)      maintain

Repair everything. Make sure you don’t have dripping faucets, loose doorknobs or sticking doors. Clean carpets or replace them. Make sure paint looks fresh and crisp. Everything should work well and look good.

4)      stage

Hire a realtor who provides professional staging. Ask for the stager’s credentials. It’s important to work with someone who is experienced and has a degree in design.

Call us if you’re thinking of selling. We’d be happy to come in for a preliminary meeting and help you get started.

- Wendy 

 Want more tips? Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheWendySlaughterTeam.