Thursday, January 21, 2010

What’s so Great about Property Websites?

With upwards of 90% of homebuyers using the internet to search for homes, marketing your home on a property specific website is a great way to gain a competitive advantage over other listings.

While property search sites and MLS services must put limits on the data about specific features, a website dedicated to your home provides unlimited – and I mean unlimited – space to display as many of the selling features of your home as you desire. With a website, I can show people your home through photographs, interactive virtual tours, 3-D floor plans, diagrams, maps, aerial photos, text, video...our creativity is the only limit to the features we can show! Virtually no selling feature of your home needs to be sacrificed because of other people’s space limitations. With a website, I can show a potential buyer the selling features that other homes just can’t show.

For example, I had a client with an elderly mom, and when they remodeled her bathroom, they made the towel racks into stud-mounted grab rails. You can’t take a photo to show a stud-mounted grab rail. If your space is limited, you won’t waste it to tell a buyer about a stud-mounted grab rail. If you tour the home you can’t see that it’s a stud mounted grab rail. But on a website, we can tell about the stud-mounted grab rail, and the multitude of other similar features that just can’t be explained or shown in the limitations of traditional marketing media. We can tell about the brilliant color of the tree out front that will bloom 5 months from now. We can tell about the way the sun comes through a certain window in the evening. We can tell about the custom, hidden features that a proud owner builds into his home. We can show the perfect spot for the Christmas tree. The list is, literally, limitless.

Additionally, a website with such rich content invites potential buyers to spend hours searching through your home, while they are spending only minutes looking through our competitors! All the while our selling features are becoming implanted into their hearts and minds. When they finally tour our home, they feel like they’ve already been there, and they recognize the features we’ve already told them about. When they tour our competitors’ homes, they don’t even notice many of the features of that home. The end result is a home sold more quickly, and for a higher price than similar homes marketed in the traditional way.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Of Short Sales, Foreclosures, and REO’s

Lots of people have been asking me about short sales, foreclosures & bank owned, or REO, properties. Here's the process and how it relates to you. When a seller needs to sell a house, but owes more on it (say $300,000) than he can sell it for (say, $250,000), he can sell it as a short sale, or sell it “short” of what he owes on it. That means that the seller is in charge of the sale, but the bank has to approve the sale, because they end up forgiving the difference between what the home sells for and what the seller owes on it. The seller lists it with an agent like me, who puts it in the MLS, and it gets sent to buyers like you who are potentially looking to buy a short sale
When the bank gets tired of waiting for a short sale, they go ahead and foreclose on the property, and the property is sold by the trustee at a trustee's sale. This is where people can get some screaming deals...sometimes. They must have cash (or cashier's check), they must be present at the sale, and there are no inspection contingencies or disclosures. So you can imagine the type of buyer that would be attracted to this type of sale: one with cash, willing to take it as is, and looking for a great deal. Because of the potential for conflicts of interest, California law prohibits agents from representing buyers in a foreclosure sale.

But remember, the bank is owed $300,000. There's no way they're going to take $100,000 or $150,000. So they "buy it back", or don't accept any bids, & they now own the house. What do they do? They list it with an agent like me, who puts in on the MLS, and I send buyers who are interested in an REO property an e-mail that tells them all about it.

So, don't pay any money to outside companies for lists of foreclosure properties. If they are foreclosed on, they will be on the MLS and I can show them to you. The lists have homes that are in some state of foreclosure, which could mean almost anything. Perhaps the seller is 30 days late on a payment, or perhaps the seller is attempting a short sale. So you end up paying for a list that is populated with homes that aren't available to you as a buyer, or that are on the MLS anyway.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Marketing Your Home on the Internet

Upwards of 90% of homebuyers today use the internet as a primary tool in their real estate search, but a clear understanding of how real estate on the internet works can maximize the effectiveness of your homes internet advertising.

The two primary portals for buyers onto the real estate internet are the local Realtor MLS’s (multiple listing services) and real estate property search websites like, the most popular real estate web site in the world. Both of these types of tools are indispensable in marketing your home. The first step in an aggressive internet marketing campaign is to maximize the use of these tools by putting as many attractive photos, floor plans, maps and other images into these databases as possible. Similarly you should list as many positive selling features of the home as space allows. In my local database, this means using all 400 characters (80 words), and on this means using 25 photos to show off a home. For many homes, though, this is simply not enough space to adequately display the home’s features. How do I get around these limitations?

Property specific websites! With a custom website built specifically for your home, we can feature as many selling features, photos, floor plans, maps, and virtual tours as we want. We don’t need to leave any selling feature out! Then the website can be mentioned prominently in the local MLS database and on to supplement all of the materials on those sites. You can mention a website on a custom flyer, on a business card, on a TV ad, in a newspaper or trade publication ad. I can even mention it here: go to to see what I’m talking about.

So don’t let the system limitations stop you from showing off your home to the 90% of buyers using the internet every day. Go the extra mile with a property specific website, and hook the heart and mind of those buyers so that your home stands out above the rest.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Get Your Money’s Worth

If you have a $300,000 house, you're going to pay your Realtor $18,000 to sell it for you. That's a lot of money! What are you getting for all that cash? I met with a couple of clients yesterday and had that discussion, and was reminded how much clients love to see my Custom Marketing Plan, which lays out everything I'm going to do for them in exchange for the commission I receive. Here it is; tell me what you think about it!

o Complementary Staging
o Input into MLS
o Yard sign
o with Spotlights
o with Flyer boxes
o Double-sided Flyers with Floorplan
o Business Card Flyers
o Tri-fold/Brochure
o 2 property specific Websites– branded & unbranded
o Virtual Tour
o YouTube videos
o Print & Broadcast Advertising
o Eureka Times Standard - local newspaper
o Home Magazine- local glossy real estate magazine
o Elegant Homes Report - national real estate magazine
o Suddenlink Home Source - local cable real estate channel
o Internet
o (& over 12 other websites)
o Craig’s List (& other associated sites)
o Open House/Party
o Ming Tree Agents Office Tour
o Humboldt Association of Realtors tour

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I Sold My House. When Do I Pack?

I got a great question from a client today.  She has her current house in Eureka in escrow, and is looking for a new house in Visalia.  "When do I start packing?" she asked.
      A typical, 30 day escrow can be divided into 4 big chunks.  During week 1, the sellers deliver all of their disclosures to the buyers, and the buyers arrange to have all of their inspections done.  During the second week, the buyer usually reviews the disclosures, their inspection reports, the preliminary title report (prelim), and the natural hazard disclosure (NHD).
      These first 2 weeks are a great time for the sellers to go through their home and clean.  This is great time for sellers to get rid of junk, of stuff they aren't going to keep anyway.  If a sale is going to fall through, it will most likely fall through in the first couple of weeks.  If the seller is cleaning, throwing junk away that they weren't going to keep anyway, there's no lost effort.  Sure, we'll grieve and cry and curse when the deal falls apart, but that's the extent of the "loss."  They don't have to unpack their clothes and cooking utensils and furniture so they can live for the next few months while their house is back on the market.
      After these first 2 weeks, after the buyers have done all of their inspections and seen all of the disclosures, and after they have released their inspection contingency, they are pretty much committed.  During week 3 they sign their escrow instructions, and during week 4 they sign their loan documents.  And yes, the deal can still fall apart, if the lender fails to approve and fund the loan.  However, this is far less likely to happen, and there is very little the seller can do to protect himself anyway.
      These last 2 weeks, then, after the buyer has released his inspection contingency and not before, is when the seller wants to put packing and moving into high gear.