FAQ – Ask Seth Anything Edition

Words cannot describe my gratitude for the many contributions to this article. I truly enjoy answering dozens of your questions on a monthly basis but there are some that are fan favorites and I get regularly. I thought it’d be fun to compile some of them here. Here goes….

Q: What is one misconception you could change about your profession? 

A: That we’re not all sleazy salesmen. Most realtors are well-intentioned and care about their clients.

Q: What is one thing you’d change about the real estate industry? 

A: Definitely the barrier to entry. It is way to easy to get your license and it contributes to poorer performance by some realtors. It also gives all the full-time, established realtors (like me) more challenging reputation to overcome.

Q: What’s the craziest thing you ever saw during a showing? 

A: So this could be an entire year’s worth of articles, but there was the time where I am pretty sure there was a recent murder/robbery in a home in Bucks County. Then of course the “50 Shades of Maple Glen” listing which I actually went to see. Then there was the room in Pottstown which was completely carpeted — even walls & ceilings. I really try to document as much as I can on social media for all you. LOL.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you give your clients?

A: DO NOT BECOME HOUSE POOR. Do not keep up with the Joneses. It will feel great for a little while and then you’ll set yourself back financially. That’s when the fights and stress start. It’s just a house.

Q: Are we headed for a recession? 

A: “Recession” is an awfully strong word. I would rather say correction or slow down. We are in one of the longest periods of economic expansion in US history. The economy, although it doesn’t feel like it at times, is a natural system. Contraction always follows expansion. How much that contraction affects housing? Time will only tell.

Q: Should I make improvements to my home? 

A: I don’t know…call me and I will come over and tell you.

Q: Is flipping homes hard? 

A: Yes, it is also time-consuming as hell.

Q: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned by being a REALTOR?

A: Tough to pick one but when push comes to shove, 99% of my clients need a problem solved and they have entrusted me to handle it for them. This job is serious business, but can be a fun & enjoyable experience at the same time.  Ensuring a smooth transaction comes with actually knowing what you’re doing which thankfully I do!

Q: What’s the biggest mistake your clients make?

A: I would say it relates to my previous answer. Too many people bring an adversarial mindset to the transaction. They sometimes forget the ultimate goal which is to buy or sell the house. I can safely say that without the presence of real estate agents, a LOT more deals would fall apart. When a seller says, “You can tell them to go to hell!” I kindly translate that for my buyers to say, “They rejected your proposal, so let’s regroup and really nail down what’s important here and if whether can still move forward.” Going under contract on a home is no small thing and I always cringe when a deal goes south over something silly.

 

 

“Wait…What’s a Hot Water Heater?”

A short (and very true) story:

There I was with my new seller. We were touring the home where I look for defects and ask questions. Upon entering the basement storage room where the various components of the home are located (HVAC, electrical, radon system etc.), I immediately asked my seller how old their hot water hear was. They came back with “Wait…What’s a hot water heater?” I pointed. “That”. Even more confused, I had to explain what it was and what it did. I went on to say they only last about 10-12 years… maybe 15 with a water softener. Out comes the flashlight phone and I go to work trying to find a manufacture date. Rare these days am I shocked and terrified at the same time in this business, but it can happen. And it happened on this sunny Thursday morning. The label read “1992”. Now I am no math expert, but I was in 7th grade when this thing was installed and it is about 15-17 years past its recommended replacement date. For those of you who are lost while reading this, let me clarify the problem. A hot water heater is a large tank filled with water which provides, you guessed it; your hot water. When it fails, instead of simply not heating your water, it usually leaks all over your basement. This is a problem for any basement but especially so for finished ones. It won’t just leak what’s in the tank… it will continue to leak until the water supply is turned off. Several people have horror stories of coming home from work to 2-3 feet in their basement. 

Now, my point is not to make fun of this certain client, but to point out that you must be aware and vigilant of the various components and aspects of your home which can produce devastating repair costs and unwanted hassles. See the list below for the main ones I encounter:

Attic Spaces: Homeowners often tell me they haven’t been in their attic in years. Not until they go to sell their home and have a home inspection do they find a problem. Either a slightly leaking roof or mold or both. Generally mold forms from either a roof that is actively leaking or not properly ventilated. Older building codes didn’t require ridge vents or vented soffits, so if your roof is on the older side, it might be worth busting out the flashlight and getting up there once a year to make sure things are in order.

Hot Water Heater: There’s practically no way to know when a hot water heater will fail, so it’s best to be proactive and replace every 10-12 years depending on how hard your water is. People I find most susceptible to being complacent on this one are people who bought new construction. Since everything is new when they buy, the psychology is that things will stay that way.

Crawl Spaces: Much like roofs, they’re areas not regularly visited by homeowners. Mold can form down here just as easily as attic spaces for the same reasons: water infiltration and/or poor ventilation. Again, grab a flashlight and get in there…

Underneath Sinks: Americans love their stuff and they love to stuff their stuff anywhere they can… including underneath sinks in kitchens and bathrooms. I’m assuming you don’t regularly empty these areas and inspect them but even a small drip can produce some really costly damage. Water destroys everything.

The Trees: Most realtors won’t mention this to their buyers, but do not forget to look up at your trees if you have some. Various invasive insects (Emerald Ash Borer, Spotted Lantern Fly, etc) & diseases can greatly affect their health. Little known fact is that if a tree falls on your house, your homeowner’s policy will cover it, but if it falls in your yard or on your driveway, the cleanup cost comes out of your pocket. A certified arborist can usually give you some guidance here.

If this seems daunting to you, there’s always the option of getting a home inspection even if you have no intention of moving. Like most inspections, they are worth their weight in gold as they almost always find something.

I would be happy to showcase your question in my next installment. Go ahead…Ask me anything! If I use your question, I will send you a gift card of your choice or donate money to a charity on your behalf.

Seth Lejeune – 610.804.2104 – seth.lejeune@foxroach.com / Berkshire Hathaway – Fox & Roach

Seth is a licensed REALTOR  and small business owner based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

 

“50 Shades of Maple Glen”: Good Marketing or In Poor Taste?

There I was sitting minding my business on a Friday morning when all of a sudden my phone started blowing up. Texts, emails and FB messages were basically telling me that a very special home had hit the market. I checked my FB feed and almost every 5th post (I counted) had to do with this listing about 5 miles from my house. The agent had dubbed it “50 Shades of Maple Glen” and it boasted what they called a “sex oasis” in the basement fully outfitted with equipment and accessories. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about then google it.

In a matter of hours, Buzzfeed (Here)and Barstool (Here – WARNING EXPLICIT) had picked it up. I even heard a rumor that a journalist in New Zealand ran a spot on it. A friend of mine who lives in the neighborhood said the local news knocked on their door to get more info on the homeowners. Reaction was swift… many were intrigued, some asked to see it and others outraged.

As the day went on, I began to wonder more and more about this house. No…not its contents; more the marketing of it. I pondered whether this was a good strategy. The old adage in PR is that “All Publicity is Good Publicity”. I happen to completely disagree with that saying, but is it applicable here?

At first, I thought this was pretty brilliant. Perhaps falling into the trap of the adage above which is to say that all publicity is good. However, I reconsidered that notion and asked who exactly is the buyer for this house? Would a person looking for a $750,000 home want to inherit this story and stigma? Would a homeowner want to mention while having dinner guests that this house was the “50 Shades House”? I’m not so sure. Yes, more eyeballs on the property is better, but most will never buy it anyway and it might detract some otherwise well-intentioned purchaser.

Within real estate agent circles, there’s another conversation happening about whether this was good for the agent. Ultimately, I think it definitely raised her profile and generated a lot of buzz and interviews. Will it lead to more listings for her? Not sure, but I suppose it won’t hurt. Does this realtor have more tricks up her sleeve or was this just a “being in the right place at the right time” scenario? Needless to say, I am looking forward to finding out and truly admire her guts. Lots of realtors would be most concerned with their brand and reputation, but even people with a “sex oasis” in their basement need to sell their home too.

So I guess my question is what do you think? Has this been an effective means for marketing a property or do you think it tarnished and ultimately dissuaded buyers? If money were no issue, would you buy this property? Leave a comment below and weigh in!

And to answer your question: Yes, I previewed. Yes, I took selfies. Yes, I have an opinion on whether it’s priced right. 😉

I would be happy to showcase your question in my next installment. Go ahead…Ask me anything! If I use your question, I will send you a gift card of your choice or donate money to a charity on your behalf.

Seth Lejeune – 610.804.2104 – seth.lejeune@foxroach.com / Berkshire Hathaway – Fox & Roach

Seth is a licensed REALTOR  and small business owner based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Are We Headed Into a Recession?

growth-recession-750x296By far, this is the most asked question these days. I would be remiss if I didn’t address it. As I said in my last article, I have no “crystal ball”, but since that time there have been some developments which are affecting the real estate market.

  1. Interest Rates – This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the marketplace as we have reached the 5% mark for the most part on a conventional loan. The reason for this increase is a more robust overall economy and the FED’s decisions in 2018. They have laid out a pretty ambitious plan for further increases in 2019 and I believe we should take them at their word since they did what they said they were gonna do this past year. Keep in mind that interest rates are historically low still but I know relative to where we were a year ago, this rise hurts for some.
  2. Less Confidence – This is an obvious one since the entire premise here and the frequency with which I am asked this question suggests people are less sure than they have been in the past few years. Interest rates have played a part for sure, but overall sentiment is waning a bit as people become cautious. Comments about a “red hot” market have now lead to questions about whether the market is “cooling”. I have always said the market depends more on the average citizen’s desire to book a vacation, buy a home or a flat screen TV than the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Simply put: If people don’t feel secure, they will conserve their money.
  3. Buyer’s Disengaging from the Market – Whether strictly a math thing where the buyer is now priced out of their dream home or simply exhausted from running around and not able to compete for a home with their fellow buyers, these are having an effect. Fewer buyers mean less competition which ultimately means fewer offers for sellers. Don’t get me wrong, there are some areas which still red hot (like my listing in Glen Mills with 9 offers where I got my clients close to $30,000 over ask with a waived appraisal), but overall the market can only sustain this behavior for so long.

So what does this all mean for the real estate market? I do not like using the word “recession” because it is an economic term which is far too broad and I believe to be really premature. What I would say is the market is indeed “normalizing” a bit in certain parts of the Philadelphia area and the country as a whole. This means it should behave in a way where buyers and sellers can still be very successful in achieving their real estate goals. A normalization will simply mean that buyers might have a few more options and sellers might have to wait a little longer for the buyer to make that offer. It also means that home price growth will slow; this is basic economics. What I can say for sure is that 2019 will tell us a lot about the ultimate direction the economy is headed and whether what is now a normalization will turn into something more serious.

I would be happy to showcase your question in my next installment. Go ahead…Ask me anything! If I use your question, I will send you a gift card of your choice or donate money to a charity on your behalf.

Seth Lejeune – 610.804.2104 – seth.lejeune@foxroach.com / Berkshire Hathaway – Fox & Roach

Seth is a licensed REALTOR  and small business owner based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

“Are Your Real Estate Holdings Recession-Proof?”

Don’t let the photo fool you, I do not have a crystal ball. Nonetheless, I decided to turn around and ask all of you homeowners a question: Are your real estate holdings recession-proof? While virtually no real estate is completely protected from the whims of the market, there are certain types of homes which are better insulated from downturns.

To be clear, this article is not meant to be a prediction, but a simple look at the long-term trends of any economy shows no prosperity lasts forever. After all, the economy is going to correct, that is inevitable. The question is whether your real estate strategy (yes, you should have one) is anticipating this eventuality or simply hoping for the best.

It’s rare that in any given week I don’t have a conversation with someone about this dilemma. It’s what I call the “Should I Stay or Should I Go”. (Full disclosure: I stole this saying from a respected colleague) There is no one answer to this question since everyone’s situation is different, but my conversations have unveiled multiple scenarios where homeowners should consider making a move in this seller’s market. They are as follows:

You Own A Home That’s Value Got Clobbered in the Great Recession: If you bought before the Great Recession and took a hit on your property’s home value, you might still be trying to make your money back. Depending on your equity position (how much your home is paid for), this can get dicey. The trap is for some homeowners to try to “break even”. This often means waiting out long periods of prosperity, closely watching comps and hoping that the market doesn’t sour. While this can work for some people, I often encourage homeowners to consider the big picture and ask if it would be better to take a minor loss on the house now or try to sell at a bigger loss in a down market. Again, there is no one size fits all answer here, but I ask it nonetheless. In some areas, home values were so inflated during the housing peak of the 2000s that it will still take ANOTHER 10+ years to get back to where they were. It might be worth cutting your losses if you can’t wait that long.

You’ve Been Thinking About Downsizing: Inevitably (and hopefully), once the kids move out, you have more space than you need. Often times, homeowners will take several years to decide whether it’s the right move for them to downsize and it can be an emotional process, but rarely do I find someone who regrets it. Whether it’s the lower mortgage payments, less upkeep etc. it usually makes more sense than not. Another thing to consider is most Americans live in smaller housing and this means that your smaller home will be more attractive to more people even in a down market.

You Own A House That Will Require A Special Buyer: A weird/deteriorated house in a strong market can sell relatively quickly, but if you own a house where someone is gonna need some imagination it might be time to move into something more straightforward. Buyers and investors have lots of cash right now and odds are that you can get decent money for it. In a down market, these homes will be very hard to sell since inventory levels are usually higher and there are only so many buyers.

You Own A House in a Newly Developed Area: If you’ve bought in an area that is hot and values have gone up faster than the market average, it is possible your home could be more vulnerable than most in terms of its value. If you got in early, you should have some equity built in from the increase in your property’s value. If so, it might be time to cash out if you don’t foresee yourself living there long-term.

These are just some examples of where considering a sale of one’s property might make sense. After all, buyer behavior is a funny thing… economic prosperity like we’ve enjoyed over the last several years can play tricks on the mind. There will be no announcement, no press conference when things turn south. I do not see myself as an alarmist, I see myself simply as someone who is reminding everyone that markets cool off and potentially “correct”. Are your real estate holdings prepared for that day?

I would be happy to showcase your question in my next installment. Go ahead…Ask me anything! If I use your question, I will send you a gift card of your choice or donate money to a charity on your behalf.

Seth Lejeune – 610.804.2104 – seth.lejeune@foxroach.com / Berkshire Hathaway – Fox & Roach

Seth is a licensed REALTOR  and small business owner based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

 

“What’s the Big Deal About Appraisal? Isn’t it Just an Opinion of Value?”

Right now, lots of buyers are entering into bidding wars and this means they can be forced to pay top dollar. From the seller’s perspective, they are “testing the market” and pricing their homes higher than usual knowing buyers are willing to pay. It can all be very dramatic and exciting, but have no misconceptions; an appraiser can dump cold water on even the most exciting deals. 

Some buyers ask me, “What’s the big deal about appraisals? After all, isn’t it just an opinion of value?” Well yes, but it is also used by the mortgage company to make sure the house is worth what you’re offering. If a house is worth only $300,000 and you offer $400,000, then that’s an issue if you plan to acquire financing. After all, if you were to go back and sell the house a year later, there’s no way the lender would get their money back if it sold for fair market value (In this case: $300,000).

So what if a home doesn’t appraise? In that case, here’s what generally can happen:

  • The buyer brings the difference to settlement.
  • Seller drops the price so that the lender can approve the loan.
  • Both parties walk away.

Let’s focus on the 1st option: I was recently in a transaction where there were about 6 offers and my buyers were already offering $10,000 over list price. I come to find out that the winning offer was not only offering $15,000 over list price, but agreed to pay that extra $15,000 out of pocket if the house didn’t appraise. I kindly told my clients that I could never allow them to do such a thing. However, it begs the question: “Is there a scenario where a buyer should pay over appraisal and bring the extra monies to the table? 

The answer is yes. In fact, I have had buyers do it, but the circumstances need to be ideal. Think about it this way, when you do this you are essentially placing yourself “underwater” on the property since you’re not likely going to get the money back if you are to sell in the near future. This is the much-dreaded scenario many homeowners still find themselves in from the Great Recession and I don’t usually advise my clients to willingly put themselves there.

BUT…. Here are a few reasons it might be worth doing:

  • Prices in the area are rising
  • You can comfortably afford the extra monies
  • You think it’s a bad (or low) appraisal
  • You MUST have the house
  • You plan to live there for a while

Whenever considering paying over appraisal, it is imperative you closely consult with your Realtor to make sure it is the right move. While no Realtor has a crystal ball, they can give you insights into whether that money will be recouped in the future. Overall, appraisals are one of the least talked about parts of real estate transactions but they are an important consideration if you are to successfully get to the settlement table.

I would be happy to showcase your question in my next installment. Go ahead…Ask me anything! If I use your question, I will send you a gift card of your choice or donate money to a charity on your behalf.

Seth Lejeune – 610.804.2104 – seth.lejeune@foxroach.com / Berkshire Hathaway – Fox & Roach

Seth is a licensed REALTOR  and small business owner based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

 

“We Have Kids. Is It Going to be Impossible to Sell Our Home?”

I was asked this question point blank by a couple of parents, who we’ll call “Mr. & Mrs. C.” I suspect they were mulling a move since they have a third baby on the way. This is actually a very typical “should I stay or should I go” scenario. Does one stick it out in cramped quarters until after the baby is born or do you make a run for it and try to sell (and buy) before the new arrival. Can this be done? Yes. Countless families do so every year. Those families, if they are prepared, find this scenario to be manageable by taking certain steps. Simply read on and find out how!

Going directly to the “experts” seemed like a great idea with this one, so I asked moms who have actually been through it to give their tips and advice. After all, I’m a guy so there’s noooooo way I could understand, right?

Amy L. (Collegeville): “We hired house cleaners to do the deep cleaning every 2 weeks which made it a lot easier to keep up with the clutter. We did a major declutter and made sure baby toys weren’t everywhere when we showed the house. We tried not to deter showings, but we did request at least 2 hours notice. I was working from home so it was easier to be flexible. Another thing we did was make it a point to go out as a family while we were trying to sell. It really helped us from messing up the house.”

Amy A. (Horsham): “When we sold our house in Abington, the kids were 7, 5,  and 3. One trick I used is to have a laundry basket handy. There were times when the realtor wanted to show the house on a moment’s notice and I had a sink full of dishes or small toys laying around. Throw everything in the basket and put it in your car! Just get it out. Since we were moving, we started packing up toys and clothes that we did not need. Cleared the basement of toys so the room looked bigger too.”

Alex L. (Malvern): “Assign designated areas where the kids can play so any mess they make is contained instead of scattered throughout the house. Encourage your realtor to schedule as many back to back showings as possible.”

Keri T. (Lansdale): “My advice would be to motivate your kids DAILY to keep rooms/common space exactly as they found it. I used a small daily allowance but you can use anything. They would actually compete and wait for the text message on who ‘made it’ that day.”

Jess H. (Hatfield): “We sold in a pretty desirable area so we made plans that first weekend we were on market and just left the house so it was free for showings. With two little ones, it’s best to simplify instead of having to come and go. As a working mom, I am strapped for time, but I was able to take one full day off prior to listing the home to organize, purge and clean. It looked staged at that point.”

I have some additional thoughts for those who are still intimidated by the proposition:
  • The Family Huddle – I don’t know about all of you, but I see my family as a team. Therefore, I would suggest there be a “family huddle” of sorts to make everyone aware of what will be required of them and to answer any questions. Selling a house can be confusing for children too, so the earlier they are brought into the process, the better. Making a game of it or placing a positive spin is always a good idea if they’re on the younger side.
  • Use The Opportunity – There is no doubt, as Americans, we love our stuff. However, you should see this as an opportunity to really separate yourself from the things you don’t need. Be ambitious. Study after study shows that removing things from your house has mental benefits and selling a home is a perfect excuse.
  • Reclaim Your Living Space – Even if you don’t get rid of anything and just reorganize, this is an ideal opportunity to reclaim your adult space in the home. A lot of people have quasi-living room/playroom setups in their main floor (myself included) and it won’t be an attractive way to show the home, so you might as well use the situation to reclaim what is rightfully yours! Of course, if the kiddos are on the younger side or if the home is small and there’s no other place for it (typical in a condo), a clear segregation between a kid area and your space is sufficient and usually understood by buyers.
  • Communicate With Your Realtor – Make sure your realtor is on the same page and understands what is possible for showings. While typically, the owner (you) approve who comes and goes, your agent should have a clear understanding of your work situation & family schedules. Let your agent know if you’re going out of town too so they can try to drive showings to that time when you won’t be home.
  • Don’t Overprice – Whether you have kids or not, an extended time on the market can be pretty frustrating. Speak with your Realtor about how to price your home so you are competitive with others in your area. To be clear, I am not recommending you underprice your home, but even in a seller’s market buyers are not willing to overpay. (And their lenders aren’t going to allow them to do it either)

Much like anything else, with a well-defined plan of attack, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goals! I’m sure I missed a few, so if you have anything that worked well while selling your home, then please comment below. Also, a very sincere thanks to the moms who took the time to be contributors.

I would be happy to showcase your question in my next installment. Go ahead…Ask me anything! If I use your question, I will send you a gift card of your choice or donate money to a charity on your behalf.

Seth Lejeune – 610.804.2104 – seth.lejeune@foxroach.com / Berkshire Hathaway – Fox & Roach

Seth is a licensed REALTOR  and small business owner based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

 

“When Should I List My Home For Sale?”

As I’ve said in previous posts, the idea of moving can be a daunting task, but with the help of the right people, it doesn’t have to be. Last month, I discussed “What Should I Do To Get My House Ready For The Spring” (here) and as a result, many of you called, texted, emailed, FB messaged or we simply met up in person. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations (and drank way too much coffee), but this month I am covering the question I got the most as a result of those discussions. When exactly is a good time to list my home for sale?

In Philadelphia, the traditional thinking used to be when the weather turned; the proverbial “Spring Market”. This meant no snow on the ground, milder temps, perhaps a little green coming in on the shrubs and trees and the birds chirping. However, once we entered a seller’s market a few years back, that starting point was moved back to “right after the Super Bowl”. The idea here is the same for buyers and sellers. Both are trying to get a jump on the market or they simply need to sell or buy.

Here’s the thing though: When answering this question, any good agent should go deeper than simply relying on weather trends. They should, in fact, rely on data…if they can. Opportunity is found by those who don’t rely on what everyone else is doing…or not doing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t occur to a lot of agents to lean on the data and they simply default to the conventional thinking. This isn’t to say that weather isn’t important because it is, but a quick look at the data shows historically there has been considerable activity prior to the Super Bowl in year’s past. In the Philadelphia area for example, in December of 2016, 2311 homes went “pending” and 2900 did so in January of 2017. What does this tell us? It says that buyers stuck it out through the holidays and found their home when most buyers were hibernating. Conversely, this tells us that finding a buyer for your home is not as impossible as the conventional wisdom states.

One caveat to consider though is the fact that while there are some buyers out and about during the winter months, there is less chance for a bidding war since there are simply less people looking for homes. Even without a bidding war, you can still get lower offers than you normally would in the months of March & April. However, if you’re a seller who really needs to get moving, the opportunity is there for you.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should list your home during a blizzard, but the point here is there are other factors than simply weather patterns to consider in this seller’s market we’re experiencing. And an even larger point is that you and your agent should be digging deeper when making strategic real estate decisions.

Unlike many REALTORS, I write my own stuff and would be happy to showcase your question in my next installment. Go ahead…Ask me anything or leave a comment in the section below!

Seth Lejeune – 610.804.2104 – seth.lejeune@foxroach.com / Berkshire Hathaway – Fox & Roach

Seth is a licensed REALTOR, entrepreneur and small business owner based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

 

“What Should I Do To Get My House Ready for the Spring Market?”

 

Tis the season for holiday gatherings and gift giving… When putting this article together, I seriously considered putting a picture of a big snowflake or some “Clark Griswold-like” decorated house, but I figured you all get your fill of these types of visuals throughout the holiday season. So I chose this picture (A beautiful home in the Masters section of RiverCrest Golf Club & Preserve in Upper Providence Township, PA) because this month’s edition is about looking past the holidays and on to a Spring market that will be here before we know it. More importantly, lots of home sellers are asking this question of me right now. In fact, about half of my client meetings from Halloween to the New Year are to discuss prepping their home. So what can you do to be prepared? Here are 5 tips:

  1. HOME VALUATION – You should absolutely get a home valuation estimate from a licensed REALTOR. I know many of you out there are real estate hobbyists but respectfully, the resources available to the general public (Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com, County Public Records) only tell part of the story and can often be wrong. In most cases, only professional agents have the correct information & market knowledge you need to make an informed decision about the value of your home. This is super important since it is the baseline for all of your preparation activities. For example, if margins are tight then you’ll want to refrain from going overboard since you won’t recoup that money when you sell.
  2. THE “POP-BY” – Have a REALTOR come by and take a look at the home well in advance. Not much is more frustrating for a seller to have spent their winter months doing their own prep only to have their agent come in when’s it’s time to list and tell them they need to do this or that (or they wasted money on this or that). To boot, this could lead to missing valuable time on the market if a change needs to be made.
  3. DECLUTTER – Any REALTOR is going to tell you to get rid of, hide or organize all the stuff in your home. Depending on the amount will dictate the proper method here. If you’ve lived in the home for a long time and you have a basement full of stuff then selling your home might be a good excuse to finally rid yourself of those unwanted possessions.  In most cases, buyers don’t want to see all your stuff, even if it is organized and neat. If you simply cannot part with it, then it might be a good idea to temporarily put it in a storage unit.
  4. REPAIRS & IMPROVEMENTS – Hopefully, you have kept up your home and don’t need any major improvements,  but even the most meticulously maintained homes often could use a little primping. Don’t forget, most agents work with sellers AND buyers so they’re used to seeing things through their eyes. Sometimes the work is simply slapping a coat of paint up and sometimes it requires more. If your home does need a larger project done, then your agent will usually be able to help and get you a contractor.
  5. DON’T FORGET THE OUTSIDE – First impressions count! Curb appeal is a real thing, so don’t forget the outside of your home! Make sure any remaining piles of leaves from the fall are gone and that your landscaping looks sharp. Here’s a pro tip: If you want to give the buyer the impression that your home isn’t well maintained, then let them catch a glance of leaves sticking out of the top of your gutters. This is an instant turnoff! A good exercise is to go out to the street, walk up to the house and try to see what buyers will notice. Look for things out of place and messiness. The old adage is true that you only get one chance to make a first impression and this is no exception.

If this seems overwhelming, do not despair: A simple call to a realtor can get you well ahead of the game so that when you’re ready to list your property, you can hit the ground running.
Unlike many REALTORS, I write my own stuff and would be happy to showcase your question in my next installment. Go ahead…Ask me anything or leave a comment in the section below!

Seth Lejeune – 610.804.2104 – seth.lejeune@foxroach.com / Berkshire Hathaway – Fox & Roach

Seth is a licensed REALTOR and small business owner based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

“What Are The Pros and Cons of A Cash Offer For A Seller?”

I was recently in Virginia and received a voicemail from my good friend, Ashley Fusarelli, that goes something like this: “You said to ask you anything, so I am wondering what is the benefit of a cash offer for a house? I know someone who just recently received one and want to know whether that is a good thing or a bad thing?”

Pros

Fewer Contingencies – Most buyers need a mortgage, so built into those mortgages are certain contingencies like appraisals, interest rates & proof of income. Some loans (such as VA & FHA) require even more conditions are met before lending money. With a cash offer, these potential hurdles for the seller are neutralized. As long as the buyer can show “proof of funds”, the process is far more straightforward and less risky.

Shorter Time Frame – With fewer contingencies and tasks to accomplish, cash offers tend to close sooner than ones where lenders are involved. This saves the seller money in terms of mortgage payments (if any) and hassle of waiting weeks for settlement. Every day you wait for settlement is another day something can go wrong with the deal.

Waiving Inspections – Some cash buyers in a competitive market like the one we’re seeing in the Philadelphia area find that their cash offer is not enough to lure the seller so they might waive inspections altogether to make it even more attractive. Obviously, it purely depends on the home, but if a cash buyer has deep pockets, he might take the chance of simply buying it outright.

Cons:

Low Offers: Some cash buyers understand what I’ve outlined above and feel they can now leverage these benefits in the form of a lower offer. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In a competitive market, a seller might be willing to roll the dice on a buyer who needs financing if the offer is higher. If the seller feels their home will appraise for their asking price, they will sometimes take the higher price even if a lender is involved.

More Requests During Inspections: In the same vein as above, the buyer sometimes feels as though they can leverage the simplicity of their cash offer (shorter duration) to get the seller to make more repairs.  Of course, it is up to the seller how much they’re going to repair prior to settlement, but keep your eye on the big picture too. It might be worth remembering the seller is already saving money on another mortgage payment they’d otherwise be paying with a buyer who needs to wait for financing.

Get Ready to Move: As mentioned above, some cash deals can close in a few weeks and that can be a challenge since if the seller’s not ready to move or haven’t found their next house, that can put a seller in a bind. Sellers often like the idea of getting their home sold really fast until they realize that they need to start boxing things up and find a place to live. Be careful what you wish for.

Ultimately, no offer is solely based on financing (or lack thereof) since there are other factors, but a cash offer will get almost any seller’s attention. After all, CASH IS KING!

I would be happy to showcase your question in my next installment. Go ahead…Ask me anything or leave a comment in the section below!

Seth Lejeune – 610.804.2104 – seth.lejeune@foxroach.com / Berkshire Hathaway – Fox & Roach

Seth is a licensed REALTOR and small business owner based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.