Winning Agent http://www.winningagent.com Sales That Work Tue, 05 May 2015 13:39:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.5 7 Quick Fixes To Make A Great First Impression When Selling A Home http://www.winningagent.com/make-a-great-first-impression-when-selling-a-home/ http://www.winningagent.com/make-a-great-first-impression-when-selling-a-home/#respond Thu, 26 Mar 2015 01:46:57 +0000 http://www.winningagent.com/?p=4468 Most everyone will sell a home at some point. Here are 7 quick fixes to make a great first impression when selling a home, but not drain your savings.

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Make A Great First Impression When Selling A Home

Most everyone will sell a home at some point in their lives. Whether they are upgrading, downsizing, retiring or moving to assisted living, the need is the same – sell the house for the highest dollar amount in the least amount of time.

This creates a whole set of questions, the primary one being “what improvements should I make to my home to help it sell?” This is not always an easy answer. Nobody wants to invest thousands in a home they are going to sell, especially if the renovations bring back only a portion of that investment. So where is a homeowner’s money best spent? Here are seven quick fixes that won’t drain your savings, but will help sell your home.

1. Declutter – This is the number one fix for anyone trying to sell their home? Why? First of all, it doesn’t cost anything, yet yields a 586 percent return on investment. (2011 HomeGain Survey) Why wouldn’t you do it? But this doesn’t mean putting away a pile of mail from the counter or shoving shoes into a closet. It means – get rid of anything that makes your rooms or closets look small. Take down that plate collection on the wall. Thin out the closets so you can see the floors and shelves. Place those 40 totes of Christmas decorations into storage. Why? Buyers may wonder what is hiding under all those boxes. Is the carpet stained? Are the walls damaged? Is the foundation cracked? The less you hide, the less they will suspect.

2. Depersonalize - This is difficult for most sellers. Think about it. You put hours of planning into your home and décor, and worked for months pulling it all together. The family photos, vacation memorabilia and framed certificates bring back pleasant memories. However, while all this makes you feel good, it isn’t yours to enjoy anymore. The new owners will have their own family photos, their own preferred palette of paint, and their own knick knacks to fill corners. They won’t be able to visualize their belongings in the home if yours are distracting them. Potential buyers want to see this as their new home, not your old one. The goal is to make the house generic so it appeals to what 85 percent of the population prefers.

3. Reduce the Furniture – This goes along with decluttering. The goal is to make the rooms look larger, yet show how it can be laid out and still be functional. You don’t have to get rid of everything. If there are two side chairs and a recliner in the family room, get rid of either the chairs or the recliner. If you have ten chairs around the dining room table, remove the leaves from the table and place only six chairs out. While looking at your rooms, also keep in mind traffic flow. Are there accent tables crowding entryways? Is furniture blocking windows or doorways? Get rid of it! If visitors have to squeeze past each other in rooms, they will assume their furniture won’t fit either.

4. Do Cosmetic Upgrades – Major remodeling projects rarely get your investment back. But smaller cosmetic upgrades like painting and carpeting can help sell your house. If your kitchen counters are in bad shape, but the cabinets look good, replace the countertops. If your wood floor shows excessive scratches and wear, have it refinished. If your fixtures are dated or broken, replace them. When potential buyers walk into your home, they won’t see the good if there are too many little things that need fixing. All they’ll be thinking about are the renovations the house needs.

5. Clean, clean, clean! – A decluttered home is NOT a clean home. Your home needs to be scrubbed top to bottom. This includes ceiling fixtures, baseboards, light switches, door frames, heating vents, microwaves ovens…you get the idea. All those places you usually pass over on your weekly clean. Your house should sparkle throughout. This might even mean closing up the kitchen (cooking odors penetrate fabrics and linger for hours), and finding temporary homes for your pets while you have your house on the market. Nothing turns potential buyers off more than a dirty litter box or dog hair in the corners. Especially if they don’t own pets themselves.

6. Infuse Warmth – You’ve decluttered and cleaned. Your house is spotless, even sterile. But that’s not a good look either. Your home can still be warm and inviting while maintaining its tidiness. Lighting is one of the easiest ways to add warmth to a room. Use the maximum wattage for light bulbs that a fixture allows. Neutrals and soft palettes are best for walls. Fabrics are better than shades for windows. That isn’t to say you can’t have some color in a room. But make it portable. That is, put bright colors into the towels, art work or pillows – things you will take with you. The buyer can easily look past these items because they know they won’t be staying there.

7. Remember the Exterior – This is the first image a potential buyer sees on the internet or driving by. If the outside of the house doesn’t look good, then no matter how clean and updated the inside is, they will pass you up for the house down the block. The yard, windows, gutters, walkways, etc., should all be in good condition. The lawn should be clutter-free too. If you have to paint, remember the rule of three – don’t use any more than three colors on your home’s exterior – one for the siding, one for the shutters and one for the front door.

This may seem like a lot of work, but if doing these quick fixes nets you thousands more when your house sells, isn’t it worth the time and effort?

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Why Perfection Is Not A Reasonable Goal and Four Ways To Get Over It http://www.winningagent.com/why-perfection-is-not-a-reasonable-goal-and-four-ways-to-get-over-it/ http://www.winningagent.com/why-perfection-is-not-a-reasonable-goal-and-four-ways-to-get-over-it/#respond Tue, 10 Mar 2015 15:56:47 +0000 http://www.winningagent.com/?p=4130 Why “The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good” and What You Can Do About It Genesis 1:31 tells us that when God created the world, he looked upon what he had done and declared that it was “good.” Notice he didn’t say it was perfect. Just very good. How often do you look over […]

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Why Perfection Is Not A Reasonable Goal and Four Ways To Get Over It

Why “The Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good” and What You Can Do About It

Genesis 1:31 tells us that when God created the world, he looked upon what he had done and declared that it was “good.” Notice he didn’t say it was perfect. Just very good.

How often do you look over your day and pronounce it “good?” Or do you let the little bits of unfinished business eat away at you? Do you wish you had done a better job of that report, or that open house? Do you procrastinate about calling potential clients because you’re not perfectly articulate on the phone?

Let’s recognize that perfect is not a reasonable goal and stop Perfectionism right in his tracks. Here are four key strategies for getting over the perfectionism problem.

  • Remind yourself
  • Leave well enough alone
  • Expect the unexpected
  • Judge not

#1: Remind yourself. This tactic can be applied in two different ways. First of all, when you’re feeling caught in the perfectionism trap, remind yourself of all that you HAVE accomplished. If perfectionism is a significant roadblock for you, do this daily. Make a list of everything you’ve accomplished. Even small things, like skipping dessert at lunch time if you’re trying to lose weight, or spending 30 minutes at the gym when you intended to spend an hour. Starting your blog, even if you didn’t finish it. Tomorrow is another day.

The second use of reminders takes a tip from an old psychologist friend of mine. We were discussing the perfectionism problem one day and he shared an idea he had – make a sign and hang it over your desk. The sign says:

Good Enough Is.

Don’t worry about making the sign perfect. You can print it out on your computer, draw a picture, scribble it on cardboard, or decorate it with stickers—but do it NOW. Don’t wait to be inspired.

#2: Leave well enough alone. This probably should say “Leave other people alone.” Resist the temptation to reset the dining room table after your kids have put the forks in the wrong place. Don’t offer to critique a co-worker’s report because you know you could have done a better job. Let your client get her home staged for the open house and don’t come along behind her and start moving the furniture or rearranging the flowers.

#3: Expect the unexpected. Disasters will strike, so it’s always a good idea to have a Plan B, just in case. Since you know things sometimes fall apart at the last minute, anticipate it and be prepared. Have an extra set of documents ready for closing, in case someone forgets theirs. If you’re nervous about a listing conference with a cantankerous client, wear the power tie that makes you feel like the Chairman of the Board. You won’t be perfect in these situations, but you will definitely be “good enough.”

#4: Judge not. The truth is, you are being judged all the time, and usually by the ultimate critic—yourself. You set impossibly high standards and then get to beat yourself up when you fail to meet them. Do you know that most people don’t set goals because they are afraid of not accomplishing them? So if you set a goal to increase your sales by 10% and you only increase them by 7%, have you failed? Absolutely not! You’re 7% ahead of where you were last year. If you set a goal to lose 25 pounds and you only lose 15, have you failed? Of course not—you’re 15 pounds lighter than you used to be. You’re not perfect, but you’re good enough.

Accepting “good enough” doesn’t mean settling for mediocrity. There is always room for improvement, even after a project is launched or a negotiation has begun. There’s always a chance to learn something so you can do it better next time. Accepting “good enough” simply means that you refuse to let perfectionism get in the way of your accomplishment—or worse, stop you from doing anything at all.

When someone asked famed cellist Pablo Cassals why he continued to practice at the age of 90, he smiled and said, “Because I think I’m improving.” Cassals knew that good enough was good enough, as long as he kept trying to do better. You should too.

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Winning the Negotiation Game: 5 Factors That Make a Difference http://www.winningagent.com/winning-the-negotiation-in-real-estate/ http://www.winningagent.com/winning-the-negotiation-in-real-estate/#respond Sat, 28 Feb 2015 17:30:47 +0000 http://www.winningagent.com/?p=4132 Why do you suppose clients utilize your services to negotiate on their behalf? Because most people aren’t very good negotiators. So if they are not, you better be. Here’s how to play the game and win. And just because you win, it doesn’t mean someone else has to lose. The best deal is one that’s […]

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Hands Holding Negotiation Word Concept

Why do you suppose clients utilize your services to negotiate on their behalf? Because most people aren’t very good negotiators. So if they are not, you better be. Here’s how to play the game and win. And just because you win, it doesn’t mean someone else has to lose. The best deal is one that’s fair to all concerned. Here are your five keys:

  • Be prepared
  • Know the territory
  • “The devil is in the details”
  • Have a plan
  • Don’t take it personally

Key #1: Be prepared. The Boy Scouts are onto something. You may not need to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, but you’ll have a successful negotiation if you do your homework. This means knowing all there is to know about the people you’re negotiating with. Not just the other Realtor, but also the other Realtor’s clients. What motivates them? What are their weak points? Where are they likely to resist a push-back? When it comes to the Realtor, you may already know him or her. If you don’t, you should make your own evaluation based on your interactions. Then follow up with inquiries to colleagues. What kinds of deals has he been making? How many recent closings has she had? (Is she hungry, in other words?)

Key #2: Know the territory. Pay attention to what the market is saying. Is it a buyer’s market or a seller’s? Within that general framework, there are always pockets of difference, neighborhoods that are “hot,” or even single streets where homeowners are upgrading their properties. Pay attention to credible rumors about new developments, infrastructure improvements, and other amenities that make a difference. All properties have their pluses and minuses, so it might be possible to go against the tide, IF you have the information you need. For instance, if your buyer will consider a property in a desirable neighborhood with lackluster sales, that gives you some leverage. Or, if your buyer has all cash and can close quickly, that would motivate a seller who just got transferred across the country.

Key #3: “The devil is in the details.” Again, you need to evaluate how motivated each seller might be. Know what’s going on behind the scenes. For example, let’s say you’ve shown your buyer two similar properties with the same asking price of $200,000. You plan to write a number of concessions into your offer—new paint and carpet, new appliances, and the seller pays half the closing costs. One seller isn’t really that motivated—he’s willing to sit still for six months or more until he gets the price he wants. But the other sellers have personal issues, such as a job transfer, a divorce, or a growing family. They are willing to make concessions, so that the $200,000 selling price is actually discounted down to $190,000 or lower. It’s easy to see which way you should advise your client to move.

Key #4: Have a plan. Before making the initial offer, you need to devise a plan and discuss it with your clients. Decide exactly what you want to get out of the negotiation. If the seller responds with a counter-offer, you should know exactly what your client will and won’t accept. If the seller suggests terms you absolutely cannot agree to, then you and your client should be prepared to walk away. (See #5 below) Buyers and sellers are emotional about their homes. To the seller, you’re not only eating away at his profits, you’re taking away his memories. To the buyer, this may be their dream home and they will do ANYTHING to get it—and they shouldn’t. You have to be the clear-eyed thinker, the grownup in the room at all times.

Key #5: Don’t take it personally. It’s not about you. It’s not even about your clients. It’s always a mistake to take a negotiation personally. If you are operating from your emotions, you are going to appear weak. Keep the personal issues and personalities out of the conversation.

Finally, if the negotiation gets stuck and neither side is willing to budge, the final best negotiation tactic is to pick up your files and walk away. Be matter-of-fact, not angry. You are always stronger if you end the negotiations first. Often when the other person sees that you’re willing to give it up, they will think it over and come back to the table later. Then you will definitely have the upper hand because they already know you are willing to walk away.

No matter who’s sitting on the other side of the table, always think of yourself as a winner, a master negotiator, and behave accordingly. Not with arrogance or egotism, but with confidence because you have prepared both yourself and your client to make the best deal possible.

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How IDX Wrappers Can Boost Your SEO http://www.winningagent.com/idx-wrappers-can-boost-seo/ http://www.winningagent.com/idx-wrappers-can-boost-seo/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 02:10:52 +0000 http://www.winningagent.com/?p=4363 You’ve heard me talk about this before… As a real estate professional you should own your website, create local content and build SEO. I’ve built a few real estate websites for clients this past year and I wanted to share my thoughts on how your IDX data affects your SEO. One of the areas often […]

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image of bullseye with seo and idx
You’ve heard me talk about this before… As a real estate professional you should own your website, create local content and build SEO. I’ve built a few real estate websites for clients this past year and I wanted to share my thoughts on how your IDX data affects your SEO. One of the areas often neglected is a well planned implementation of IDX. Specifically, how to automatically update unique MLS content on your WordPress site that is optimized for SEO. Yes, it is wonderful to provide visitors with a way to search for MLS listings on your site, but don’t stop there.

IDX Basics

IDX stands for Internet Data Exchange and is the method use by a Multiple Listing Service to share property information for public use in a certain area. In a nutshell, it’s a data feed that enables users to search for MLS listings on approved websites.

IDX iFrame vs Wrappers

How you display IDX results on your website depends on whether you are using iframe or wrappers. It may sound technical, but really what matters is how search engines “see” the data on your webpage. An iframe works like a window within a window, placing a webpage content from another website into a window on the webpage. It’s two separate things and search engines see it that way. I don’t recommend this method.

A wrapper seamlessly combines the data together onto one webpage as if it was all from the same source. IDX Broker offers this, and I do recommend it.

Add a Dynamic IDX Wrapper

The beauty of a dynamic IDX wrapper is that it matches the look and feel of your site, because the page is actually from your site. A bit of code is added into the content area to tell IDX Broker exactly were to insert the IDX portion of the page. The page is then served by them, but looks just like a page from your site. By placing the content directly into a specific area of your webpage, search engines see it as content from your website.

The dynamic portion really comes into play when the search engines revisit the page – the content is automatically updated. Search engines are always on the prowl for new content, so they typically visit pages where content changes frequently.

Taking IDX Broker Further

If you are using IDX Broker, they offer a lot of options to customize your page and search content. Admittedly it does take some time to sort it all out, but once you do, it is definitely worth it.

Custom Subdomain

The ability to implement a custom subdomain. This will allow you to use something such as search.yourdomain rather than the standard subdomain that your idx provider offers. IDX Broker has that option and I highly recommend using it to give your site credit for the content from the feed.

Use Dynamic Title and Meta Tags

Make use of dynamic Title and Meta Tags for the page that displays a property’s detail information. Search engine crawlers will see each detail page as unique, improving index and search visibility. For example, the title for the page about 123 Main St could be “123 Main St AnyCity, AnyState, AnyZip, Property For Sale MLS# 123456789″.

You can take things further by adding some unique content to the wrapper pages themselves. Don’t limit yourself to just one global wrapper page either. Create one for featured listings, search results, detail pages, etc. This will give you the opportunity to a some unique content to those pages. The goal here is create dynamic pages that are unique.

Create Saved Link Pages

Create pages for market areas, neighborhoods, or communities you serve. With one click, a visitor can see all of the available listings for a specific market. You can also embed those listings on an information page about that area, creating very unique content. These become rich content pages that differentiate your pages from others, improving the index visibility of those pages.

IDX Site Map

Be sure to include a link to the IDX Site Map in your site footer.

HTML Sitemap

Adding a link to the IDX Sitemap somewhere on your website will help search engines find your IDX pages faster and index them more thoroughly. Your Sitemap is created automatically to include categorized links of all of the active listings from your MLS. Depending on the size of your MLS, that could lead to hundreds or thousands of indexed detail property pages! Note: This sitemap only contains links for IDX pages, not others pages and posts on your site.

XML Sitemap

While not required, it is recommended you submit an XML Sitemap to search engines. IDX Broker provides that, so if you are already using Google Webmaster Tools, you can submit an XML sitemap manually to search engines.

Final Thoughts

Whether you choose to do this work yourself, or hire a professional, I strongly encourage you to do it. Maximize your IDX investment and take full advantage of the SEO features to build unique content.

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Coaching Your Buyers for Success http://www.winningagent.com/coaching-buyers-success/ http://www.winningagent.com/coaching-buyers-success/#respond Thu, 05 Feb 2015 01:53:34 +0000 http://www.winningagent.com/?p=4171 In many neighborhoods across the country, it’s still a buyer’s market. You’d think that would make life easier for both the buyer and the Realtor. Not necessarily. Buyers may be operating from a place of overconfidence in their own situation, combined with the belief that every home in the neighborhood is underwater. This is both […]

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Coaching Your Buyers for Success

In many neighborhoods across the country, it’s still a buyer’s market. You’d think that would make life easier for both the buyer and the Realtor. Not necessarily. Buyers may be operating from a place of overconfidence in their own situation, combined with the belief that every home in the neighborhood is underwater. This is both unrealistic and counterproductive. A little coaching on your part should help get even the most misinformed buyer back on track. Here are some strategies you can share:

  • Don’t be ridiculous
  • Know your seller
  • Know your numbers
  • Timing is everything
  • Make reasonable requests
  • Remember the big picture

1. Don’t be ridiculous. The fact that it is a buyer’s market may go straight to your client’s head. This can cause all kinds of problems, leading the buyer to make a ridiculously low offer right out of the starting gate. Remember, no matter how bad the market, the seller still has some degree of emotional attachment to the home. If your first move is one that insults their intelligence or hurts their feelings, they may end the negotiation process before it ever gets started.

2. Know your seller. It helps to understand the seller’s motivation when you put your offer on the table. What degree of urgency does the seller feel? Is there a negative circumstance involved, such as a divorce or illness? Or perhaps the situation is more positive but no less urgent—a new job out of the area, a new baby demanding a need for more space. Whatever the situation, the more you know, the more you can tailor an offer that acknowledges the seller’s feelings and meets their needs.

3. Know your numbers. The first number you need to know is the balance on the seller’s mortgage, and whether there are any seconds or liens in the deal. Of course if it is a foreclosure or short sale, you need to know who the lender is—some lenders are definitely easier to work with than others, and short sales are notoriously slow processes in many cases. Be sure your clients are prepared to make multiple offers and wait it out, if it’s a property they really want.

4. Timing is everything. If the home has been on the market for a month or two, chances are the seller is pretty sick of keeping the kitchen spotless, the lawn trimmed, and the kids’ Hot Wheels out of sight. Also, a history of one or more price reductions can be a good indicator of a seller’s rising anxiety level. If you can check the history, it’s also useful to know if the house has been on and off the market, or has changed listing agents during the selling process.

5. Make realistic requests. There is always some give and take in the negotiating process. However, you don’t want to hit the sellers with a huge laundry list of “wants” and have them get frustrated trying to sort through them all and make some kind of counteroffer. For example, asking the seller to pay closing costs or share closing costs is a fairly standard negotiating tactic. Depending on the condition of the property and its amenities, you might request an allowance for new appliances or repairs that obviously need to be done (but check with the lender first on how they will handle any repair credit). An allowance is preferable to asking the owner to complete the work themselves. Your buyer needs to control the purchasing and repair process, so that the work is done to his or her satisfaction.

6. Remember the big picture. We recently had a buyer who walked away from a deal over $800 worth of appliances. Sure, it was probably a matter of pride and ego at that point, but in this situation it’s useful to remind the client of the ROI that’s involved. If the average homeowner lives in a property for five years, which is what statistics show, we’re talking about a difference of $160 a year! And for that, you’d lose a good home? Don’t let this happen to you—or your clients.

Of course you need to adapt and adjust all these suggestions to your own specific market situation. For example, if employment is rising in your area, people are moving in to take new jobs, then the market may not be as favorable to buyers. However, if you’re in a stagnant or declining employment situation, or if the inventory of unsold properties is growing, you may be able to make some very good deals, especially while interest rates are still low.

It all comes down to client education and training. Be the good coach and go for the win!

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A Case of Cold Feet: How to Handle the First Time Homebuyer http://www.winningagent.com/case-cold-feet-handle-first-time-homebuyer/ http://www.winningagent.com/case-cold-feet-handle-first-time-homebuyer/#respond Thu, 29 Jan 2015 15:07:02 +0000 http://www.winningagent.com/?p=4038 It’s a common phenomenon. The first time homebuyers have done all the right stuff. They’ve saved for a down payment, run their credit report, pre-qualified for the loan. You’ve shown them dozens of properties. Maybe hundreds. And yet. . . and yet. . . they are still not quite ready to make an offer. What’s […]

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Helping the first time homebuyer

It’s a common phenomenon. The first time homebuyers have done all the right stuff. They’ve saved for a down payment, run their credit report, pre-qualified for the loan. You’ve shown them dozens of properties. Maybe hundreds. And yet. . . and yet. . . they are still not quite ready to make an offer.

What’s a Realtor to do?

First, you have to empathize with the emotions that are behind this behavior. The insecurity comes from several heavy duty what-ifs:

  • What if we’re making a mistake?
  • What if there’s something better out there?
  • What if we don’t like our new neighbors/schools/commute?
  • What if we are paying too much?
  • What if we lose a job or have another baby?

These and many other issues are flying around in the buyers’ minds like a swarm of nervous bees. With all that noise, it’s impossible to have a conversation about possibilities. Your job is to reassure them enough to get that offer on paper. Here’s how:

  1. Review the numbers. Sit down with the buyers and go over their budget. Talk about homeowner’s insurance, utilities, maintenance, property taxes. Point out the benefits of the mortgage tax deduction. Discuss creative ways to reduce expenses in case of a real emergency, such as illness or job loss. 
  2. Make a wish list. Many homebuyers, first time and otherwise, confuse their wants with their needs. They want a home theater. They need to be located in a great school district. They want room for a garden or a pool. They need a lot of storage space. Help them separate these things into two lists—need to have vs. nice to have. If you can zero in on properties with most or all of the need-to-haves and maybe one or two nice-to-haves, you’ll be moving them closer to the offer stage. 
  3. Stop the surfing. First time buyers can become addicted to the Internet. They will be logging on 15 times a day, looking for any new listing that has popped up. Promise them that you will be their surfer and that you’ll call them immediately whenever a property that fits their profile hits the market. This strategy will save you, and your buyers, a lot of time and unnecessary phone calls. 
  4. Hold a seminar. Even though you’ve probably had casual conversations about things like buyer’s vs. seller’s markets, interest rate trends, and other relevant topics, pulling it all together in one well organized meeting is very reassuring to first-timers. Some firms hold first-time homebuyer seminars regularly and invite all their clients or prospective clients. It’s good to have a deck of Power Point slides on your computer, so you can either present these concepts to a group, or easily go one-on-one with a buyer. 
  5. Talk resale. When someone is contemplating buying for the first time, selling that very home is probably the last thing on their mind. But it shouldn’t be. When you are able to point out the resale potential of a property, it will go a long way toward reassuring nervous buyers that they will have options if they fall on hard times or outgrow the home due to changing family situations.
  6. Put it in writing. Assure your buyers that, once they have made a decision, you’ll protect them from losing their dream home by making sure everything is in writing and delivered promptly to the seller’s agent. Too many buyers have heard horror stories about telephone offers made and accepted, only to get there a day later with the paperwork and find that the seller has accepted another offer. Follow up and follow through and let your buyers know that you won’t be sending that bottle of champagne until everything is in order. 
  7. Don’t hide the hidden fees. Novice buyers are often unhappily surprised when they come to closing and are faced with all kinds of costs they didn’t anticipate, such as appraisal fees, escrow fees, credit report fees, home inspection costs, prepaid taxes and insurance etc. etc. It’s enough to make a nervous buyer walk (or run) right out the door. Bring these items up ahead of time so there are no last minute meltdowns.
  8. Falling in love is NOT wonderful. There’s a flip side to all the nervousness that first time homebuyers experience, and that’s falling in love with a home. This brings about a bad case of blindness whereby the prospective buyer is unable to see the dripping water pipes, the leaky roof, the deteriorating porch steps. Keep a couple of DVDs on hand for these occasions— Blandings Builds His Dream House or The Money Pit usually work well. 

Cold feet can be warmed up, as we have described. But buyer’s remorse a month from now or a year from now will haunt you in a dozen unpleasant ways. Don’t let it happen to you.

Whatever state of mind your first time buyers are in right now, these are ways of forwarding the action and getting them to reach a decision they will be happy with, both short and long term. And that’s what keeps clients coming back for more.

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Be Prepared: How to Get Ready for a Home Appraisal http://www.winningagent.com/get-ready-for-a-home-appraisal/ http://www.winningagent.com/get-ready-for-a-home-appraisal/#respond Thu, 22 Jan 2015 02:55:00 +0000 http://www.winningagent.com/?p=4293 The buyer has made an offer, the seller has accepted, and it’s time for next steps. And one of those is, of course, the appraisal. Even though this is an expense that the buyer pays, the seller is basically in control of the outcome. So as a Realtor, it’s your responsibility to assist your seller […]

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How to Get Ready for a Home AppraisalThe buyer has made an offer, the seller has accepted, and it’s time for next steps. And one of those is, of course, the appraisal. Even though this is an expense that the buyer pays, the seller is basically in control of the outcome. So as a Realtor, it’s your responsibility to assist your seller in having the best possible result when the appraiser comes to call.

Here’s the best advice you can give: Instead of waiting until the sale is in process, start getting ready for the appraisal the minute the home is listed. This will accomplish two things. Not only will you be ready when the appraiser shows up, you have an opportunity to get the home into the best possible condition early, thus attracting more buyers and higher offers. You can’t lose. Here are six important steps you can take, before and during the appraisal process.

  • Make cosmetic improvements
  • Compile comparable sales
  • List upgrades
  • Put out the welcome mat
  • Do the disappearing act

1. Make cosmetic improvements. This is something every homeowner should do when getting ready to list the home. Not only will this attract prospective buyers, it will let the appraiser know that there is pride of ownership in the property and that it’s been well maintained. Think about things like caulking around tubs and sinks, regrouting tile or cleaning existing grout. Power wash the home exterior. Touch up paint, both interior and exterior, that’s showing wear, or repaint entire rooms if colors are outdated. If your teenager has plastered walls with hip-hop posters or sprinkled the ceiling with stars, neutralize these items before other Realtors, buyers, or appraisers show up.

2. Compile comparable sales. Of course much of this information is available online, but make sure it is complete and up to the minute. Some homes may have been private sales (FSBOs), for example, and this information should go into whatever material you provide for the appraiser. Add community information as well. For example, if the community pool was recently upgraded or new playground equipment was added to the local park, that affects overall values in the neighborhood.

3. List upgrades. A homeowner who cares about his or her property has doubtless taken steps to improve it, and some of these improvements may not be visible. For example, if you’ve recently had your gas log fireplace and chimney cleaned and old parts replaced, mention it. If you’ve have the driveway resurfaced, repaired the foundation, or cleaned the gutters, add those items to the list. New landscaping, tree trimming, or sprinkler system additions will make a difference to some buyers and certainly add value to the bottom line. Anything the seller does that saves work and expense for the buyer after the sale is well worth mentioning.

4. Put out the welcome mat. You don’t necessarily have to greet the appraiser at the door with a cup of coffee and a warm muffin (although some would probably find that to be a welcome change!) However, you do need to do whatever it takes to make the appraiser’s job as easy as possible. If it’s winter, make sure the home is warm and inviting, and if it’s a hot summer day, turn on the air conditioning. This not only keeps the appraiser comfortable, it assures him or her that all systems are in working order. If your attic, basement, or crawl space is awkward, do what you can to provide easy access.

5. Do the disappearing act. As a Realtor, you should be available during the appraisal, but certainly not intrusive. The homeowners don’t need to be present, but if they are, they should stay well out of sight and only be seen if there are questions that need to be answered. Disappear the kids and pets as well. Bikes and Hot Wheels lying in the yard or Legos scattered across the living room floor can indicate carelessness in other areas and that’s not the impression you want an appraiser to have.

A good appraisal is important to all the parties involved in a home sale. The lender wants to be sure that the home is worth at least as much as the loan amount they are providing. Your sellers want to know that they’re getting a fair price for their property, and the buyers want to be sure that they’re not overpaying. The appraiser, who is an unbiased third party, needs all the appropriate information that will allow him or her to provide all three parties with a realistic picture of the home’s true value. Follow these guidelines and you’ll create a win-win-win for everyone involved.

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5 Tips to Improve Your Real Estate Photography http://www.winningagent.com/5-tips-improve-real-estate-photography/ http://www.winningagent.com/5-tips-improve-real-estate-photography/#respond Thu, 15 Jan 2015 02:39:26 +0000 http://www.winningagent.com/?p=4249 Those gorgeous, jaw dropping real estate photos – we’ve all seen them. Professional photographers can work magic for your listings. Everything is neat, clean and bright. Inviting, and quickly gets added to a buyer’s short-list. We’ve also seen those photos taken by agents that make us cringe. Poor composition, unprofessional and under-exposed. True story. When […]

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featured-photography-tips

Those gorgeous, jaw dropping real estate photos – we’ve all seen them. Professional photographers can work magic for your listings. Everything is neat, clean and bright. Inviting, and quickly gets added to a buyer’s short-list.

bigstock-External-view-of-a-contemporar-61564541

Luxury photo available on BigStockPhoto.com

We’ve also seen those photos taken by agents that make us cringe. Poor composition, unprofessional and under-exposed.

Photo of under-exposed and poorly composed real estate photo interior

Under-exposed and poor composition.

True story. When I was an agent in Houston Texas, a home listed in my neighborhood by another firm. When I viewed the listing in MLS, I was shocked at the photos. One word, awful. Poor composition, under-exposed, and several were blurry. The photo of the fireplace was entered sideways. I thought this must be an oversight and would quickly be corrected. Weeks went by and the photo stayed the same. That got me thinking… Why hadn’t the sellers mentioned this to their agent? They must have seen the listing in the MLS? Eventually the home was taken off the market, and while I don’t know the whole story – it’s clear to me the photography didn’t help.

Hire a professional or do it yourself?

I’ve been a real estate broker since 2006, and while I am no longer practicing, when I was – I struggled with whether to hire a photographer or take the photos myself. I really enjoyed taking pictures, and at the start I simply didn’t have the budget to spend on a photographer.

The Value of a Professional Photographer

Many agents take their own photos, and depending on the property, location and market expectations – that may be appropriate. The luxury market definitely calls for professional photography. I can’t image a multi-million dollar listing agent hauling a camera and tripod around to snap photos for their listings. They hire a professional. They value their time. They focus on what they do best. Unless you love photography and the post processing tools to make your photos shine, my recommendation is to hire a professional.

Going it alone

Okay, so your still reading… There may be circumstances where taking your own photos is preferable:

1. a rural farm/ranch market
2. lower priced listings
3. no budget for a photographer

If you do, here are a few tips that might help you with your Real Estate photography.

Five tips for improving your real estate photos:

1. Choose the right gear. Digital camera terminology is based on the very popular 35mm film cameras. Today, a full frame digital camera refers to a camera with a sensor the size of a piece of 35mm film. A crop camera has a smaller sensor, roughly the size of a piece of APS-C film. There are other cameras that have even smaller sensors like Micro Four Thirds System. The sensor is the part of the camera that captures the image. In theory, larger sensors yield better image quality.

If you’re on a budget, I’d recommend you invest in a used crop sensor camera from Canon or Nikon. Pair that with a wide-angle crop sensor zoom lens in the 10-22mm range. If you are using full frame camera, you want a lens in the 16-35mm range or 17-40mm. I am not going to go into why this is, but if you’re interested, you can learn more about it here at SLRLounge. I recently met a photographer who was using a used Canon 7D with an EF-S 10-22mm lens. His photos were beautiful and he used that camera to shoot the video tour.

2. Use a tripod. Make sure you have a basic understanding on how aperture, shutter speed and ISO work together. Shoot in aperture priority mode in the f11 to f16 range. That will give you a deep depth of field (more of focal range in focus). ISO 400 or less, preferably 100. That leaves the shutter speed to adjust automatically. On a tripod, you won’t have to worry about camera shake (images appearing blurry because of slight hand movements while the shutter is open). You also won’t have to worry about them being unexposed – since camera’s auto exposure metering will set your shutter speed. Generally for hand-held shooting, you may experience camera shake with shutter speeds slower than 1/60 of a second. While you’re at it, a remote shutter release to further reduce any movement of the camera when the shot is taken will improve image sharpness.

3. Let there be light. Light is essential for a good photo, but direct sunlight can be harsh and create shadows. When shooting exterior photos, avoid shooting mid-day when the sun is the strongest. Cloudy days diffuse and soften the light. Depending on which way the home faces, mornings or late afternoons may be yield better results. Try to avoid shooting directly towards the sun. I try to keep it behind me if I can.

For interiors, turn on all the lamps and overhead lights. Leave the windows blinds open but angled up to avoid shadows on furniture. Turn off ceiling fans to avoid blur at slower shutter speeds.

4. Mix it up a little – Don’t shoot everything ultra-wide. A wide angle makes rooms look big, but having all your shots from that angle won’t convey the charm or unique character of the space. Pay attention to the details.

Indoors:
Take some close-ups to highlight features, or to create a warm inviting feeling, like they do in magazines. Be sure to open your aperture a bit or better yet, switch to a prime lens (fixed focal length) for close-ups.

Photo of Kitchen Cooktop with green apples

Kitchen counter photo I shot for a listing

Outdoors:
Get creative with showcasing gardens, porches and backyards. Take some time to compose your shots and pay attention to lighting, shadows and subjects. Sometimes I’ve found a nice vignette is inviting; small table and chairs, a garden bench, flower beds or an evening waterfall from the pool.

Photo of Waterfall in Evening Real Estate Photo

Listing Photo I took of in the earlier evening of the swimming pool waterfall.

Watch for distortion of angles. Wide angle lenses tend to distort and skew vertical and horizontal lines, especially ones close to the camera. Try not to angle your camera up or down – keep it level halfway between the floor and the ceiling. Using a tripod makes it easy to do. If the ceilings are 9 feet high, then your camera lens should be 4 1/2 feet off the floor. Try to avoid shooting at the widest focal length (10mm on a crop frame or 16mm on a full frame) as it can really distort and stretch the edges of the shot.

Photo of Wide Angle Distortion in Real Estate Photo

Notice the angles on the left side of the photo – it appears to be leaning.

 

Wide Angle Photo with Less Distortion

This one has less distortion. The back corner is center better and large objects are away from the edge of the photo.

5. Mirrors, toilet seats and clutter. Finally, don’t shoot directly into a mirror. Find the right angle to shoot where you won’t end up in the reflection – worse yet, with the flash firing. I’ve seen several listings in MLS, where the agent is behind a bright flash of light in a mirror. If you’re using a tripod, more than likely you won’t need the on camera flash.

Toilet seats should be down. You might laugh, but I’ve seen a ton of photos with them up.

This may sound like common sense, but remove obvious clutter in the room especially on the bathroom and kitchen counters. It is easy to forget the small things.

Final thoughts

Evening Real Estate Photo of Estate Home

Early evening photo.

I took this photo using a Canon 16-35mm f2.8L zoom lens on a full frame Canon camera with three bracketed shots and some HDR (High Dynamic Range) processing. Yes that gear is expensive, but honestly, you don’t need to spend that much. I captured beautiful images on my little crop sensor Canon Rebel with a 10-22mm lens, which cost less than $1000.

Ideally, hiring a professional photographer to shoot your listings is my best advice. Many offer video tours and virtual tours that frankly unless you are doing this everyday, the time you’ll spend putting this all together could be spent meeting new clients.

Getting Started with Gear

For real estate, I’ve shot with several cameras from the Canon Rebel xsi to the flagship full frame Canon 5D Mark III. More important than the camera is the lens. For starters, stick with a crop sensor camera. If the camera comes with a lens already it will usually be a kit lens in the 18-55mm range. That’s not wide enough for shooting real estate, but it is a great all around lens to have, especially for close-in shots.

Affordable Crop Sensor choices under $1500
Lenses:
First choice -> Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM SLR Lens for EOS Digital SLRs
Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

Cameras:
Canon EOS 70D Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)
Canon EOS 7D 18 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens (discontinued by manufacturer)* (Body Only)
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 Digital SLR with 18-55mm STM Lens

*Canon recently replaced the 7D with the 7D Mark II – pricing for the 7D recently dropped)

Since I’ve never shot with a Nikon camera, I’ll have to rely on reviews I’ve read and other posts:

Camera: Nikon Nikon D7000 16.2 Megapixel Digital SLR Camera with 18-55mm Lens (Black)
Lens: Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

There are so many tripods to choose from with different kinds of heads (the part that attaches to your camera). Some tripods come with a head, others you purchase separately. Whether you plan to shoot still photos or videos can also affect your decision. Any sturdy tripod will do. Read the reviews.

Start your search on Amazon:
Dolica GX650B204 Proline GX Series 65 inch Aluminum Tripod and Ball Head Combo for DSLR, SLR

Sources for more information:

You’ll find a wealth of information at photographyforrealestate.net – that is where I researched how to select a wide-angle lens for my camera.

Digital Photography School Tips is another excellent resource for digital photography enthusiasts.

Another one is Tips for Real Estate Photography

Highly Recommended Video Courses on Lynda

Finally, if you’re like me and find it easier to learn watching instructional videos, I can highly recommend Lynda.com Photography Training Tutorials. I’ve watched every course by author Ben Long.

Get 10 days of free unlimited access to Lynda.com.

Happy Shooting!

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Mistakes Cost Money: Be Sure Your Seller Makes All the Right Moves http://www.winningagent.com/mistakes-cost-money/ http://www.winningagent.com/mistakes-cost-money/#respond Thu, 08 Jan 2015 00:48:30 +0000 http://www.winningagent.com/?p=4166 Selling a home is one thing. Selling it for the maximum amount possible takes paying attention to details. You and your seller both lose if you miss any important steps in the process. Here are the six most important items for your seller’s to-do list: Be prepared Keep it in neutral Stay away Add exterior […]

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How to keep your client from making a mistake

Selling a home is one thing. Selling it for the maximum amount possible takes paying attention to details. You and your seller both lose if you miss any important steps in the process. Here are the six most important items for your seller’s to-do list:

  • Be prepared
  • Keep it in neutral
  • Stay away
  • Add exterior sparkle
  • Get a home inspection
  • Price it right
  • Tell the truth

1. Be prepared. Whatever your seller’s reason for putting their home on the market, make sure they understand the ins and outs of the entire transaction. Are they relocating out of the area? If so, have they started the process of buying another home? Selling a home in today’s market, depending on the area, can be a slow process. If the process takes longer than the sellers anticipate, they could get caught in a two-mortgage trap, and be forced to lower their selling price to get out of it.

2. Keep it in neutral. This means making sure the home’s interior is ready for prime time. Paint, in an attractive neutral color, is an inexpensive place to start. Hire professional carpet cleaners and make sure every room is clutter-free. Minimize evidence of children and pets whenever the home is being shown. Barking dogs and howling cats have jinxed a lot of home sales, especially if a prospective buyer is fearful or allergic.

3. Stay away. Not only should kids and pets be kept out of sight, sellers need to disappear too, anytime there’s a showing or an open house. Buyers want to be free to look, visualize, discuss, and comment and that won’t happen if the seller is lurking around the yard or hiding out in the bathroom or the basement.

4. Add exterior sparkle. Drive by the home with your sellers and have them look at it as though they had never seen it before. Is the lawn green and freshly mowed? Does the front door need painting? An exterior pressure wash is a great investment, and window washing inside and out will make the whole place shine. Keep kids’ bikes and other toys out of sight. Add seasonal color with flower pots or plant new shrubs for a fresh look. Make sure all fixtures, such as door knobs, mailboxes, and other hardware are polished or painted.

5. Get a home inspection. A lot of buyers want to skip this step, because it costs money and they don’t see the return on investment. Big mistake. Getting a home inspection before the property is listed can save a lot of time frustration later on. A home inspection can uncover problems that even the seller is not aware of and these can be fixed before they become a negotiating point with prospective buyers.

6. Price it right. Every seller is emotionally attached to his or her home and for most, this means they may have unrealistic expectations about the selling price. One of our favorite questions to ask the seller is, “Do you want to list the home, or do you want to sell it?” This is where your professional expertise as a Realtor can be invaluable. Coach your sellers in market realities. Collect current market data, recent comparable sales, and whatever other information you can gather to support your recommendations. Discuss in advance how often to lower the price and by how much if the home is not getting sufficient attention from buyers.

7. Tell the truth. If they’ve completed #4 above, your sellers should already know what needs to be fixed before the house goes on the market and this issue can be avoided altogether. The buyers will do their own inspection and they will find out about the leak under the kitchen sink, the garbage disposal that’s not disposing, and the crack in the basement floor. Anything that hasn’t been fixed needs to be disclosed to prospective buyers and their Realtors up front. Otherwise, negotiations could get nasty. If problems surface after the sale, there could be a lawsuit in your future.

Selling a home can be an exciting, positive experience. To the seller, it may represent new opportunities, a planned lifestyle change and a nice profit to ease the transition. As a Realtor, you can make it happen by guiding your sellers through the process and helping them avoid the pitfalls that can cost them (and  you!) money, time, and stress.

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How to Make the Most of Holiday Downtime http://www.winningagent.com/make-holiday-downtime/ http://www.winningagent.com/make-holiday-downtime/#respond Thu, 11 Dec 2014 02:13:01 +0000 http://www.winningagent.com/?p=4040   It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s. If you’re not taking some planned time off, chances are you’re spending time in the office. Maybe you’re on desk duty or maybe you’re just feeling guilty about that steadily growing stack of paper on your desk. Well, guess what? You can make this normally dead […]

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 How to Make the Most of Holiday Downtime

It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s. If you’re not taking some planned time off, chances are you’re spending time in the office. Maybe you’re on desk duty or maybe you’re just feeling guilty about that steadily growing stack of paper on your desk.

Well, guess what? You can make this normally dead week into a major period of productivity. Here’s how:

  • Start a thank you list
  • Get in touch
  • Volunteer to help someone
  • Review your social media
  • Conduct a performance review

Now, put away the Angry Birds, shut down Facebook, turn off your email, and let’s see what we can accomplish in your business during this dead week.

  1. Start a thank you list. Make a list of everyone you can think of who has helped you in any way during the past year. Maybe you’ve already said a verbal thank you or sent an email. Be different this time—send a handwritten note, mailed with a real postage stamp. Maybe even get a supply of Happy New Year cards and write your notes on those. The end result? You’ll make at least two people feel good—yourself and the person who gets your note. You can never over-thank someone for a favor. 
  2. Get in touch. Yes, this means picking up the phone, not sending emails. Touch base with colleagues you haven’t seen, former clients, vendors, and others in your network. If you think there might be an unresolved issue with any of these, acknowledge it, do what you can to make amends, and start the year with a clean slate. You can even include family and friends in this effort—the niece whose birthday you forgot, the high school chum you haven’t talked to in months. You’ll feel lighter when this project is complete. 
  3. Volunteer to help someone. Perhaps your colleague down the hall has a showing or an open house scheduled but her granddaughter is dancing in The Nutcracker at the very same time. Take over for her. She’ll never forget your kindness, believe me. We all have those times when we are torn between family and work responsibilities. The stress isn’t good for your health. Doing a favor for someone else is. 
  4. Review your social media. How you use social media has a big impact on your personal brand. Google your own name. Find out what’s being said about you online. Maybe it’s nothing, but if it’s something that needs your attention, do it. Delete or cancel accounts you’re not using. Make a list of Tweets, Facebook posts, and blog topics you can start using as soon that ball drops on New Year’s Eve. You might even write a few ahead, so you don’t let this important part of your strategy drop in the post-holiday rush. 
  5. Conduct a performance review—of yourself! What were your goals at the beginning of this year? How many of them did your reach? What derailed you or got in your way? What do you need to recreate for the coming year? The purpose of this is not to beat yourself up or feel bad for what didn’t get done. Congratulate yourself for what you did accomplish. Celebrate your successes, large and small. Then use what you’ve learned to design a plan for 2015.

Yes, this does bring us to the age-old topic of goal setting. According to research conducted by Harvard University and others, fewer than 10% of business people have goals at all and only 3% write them down. So if you write down even one or two, you are way ahead of the game.

In order to be effective, goals must be SMART. This is an acronym which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-sensitive. Some examples:

  • Specific: increase my sales by 10% over 2014. Not specific: Improve my listing strategy.
  • Measurable: If your goal is Specific, it will also be measurable. You’ll know if you’re on track for a 10% sales increase.
  • Attainable: Exercise 30 minutes a day, three days a week. Not attainable: Run the Boston Marathon (unless, of course, you are already a marathon runner).
  • Realistic: This means you feel both willing and able to work on the goal. In your mind, you may want to be president of your firm. But are you willing to do what it takes to get there? Do you even know the steps you’ll have to take?
  • Timely: This simply means you can attach a “by when” to your goal. Will it take you three months, five years, or somewhere in between? Open-ended goals are seldom achieved.

There you have it. You took what could have been a wasted week of fooling around and kicking back and turned it into a road map for your future. Good for you. And Happy New Year!

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