"How Quickly Can You Get My House on the Market?" are the conversations we've been having with most of our Sellers these days. In the wake of a declining stock market, rising interest rates, increased inventory, and hyperinflation, the housing market is likely poised for a long-overdue correction. (A little parity wouldn't necessarily be such a bad thing after years of rapid growth.) With the realization that the housing market has likely crested, Realtors are feeling increased pressure to get everyone's properties on the market YESTERDAY!
Turns out, that's not as easy as you think . . .
Aside from the fact that most homes require a GREAT deal of clean up and prep prior to the first Sunday Open, here in Piedmont, Sellers must also provide a permit history as well as a sidewalk inspection to meet point-of-sale ordinances, and these are taking a minimum of 3-4 weeks to secure. ("Point-of-sale ordinances" are mandated laws wrapped into the transfer of a property.)
Turns out, Realtors are in the COMPLIANCE business.
Additionally, Sellers will need to include a "home energy score" (HES test) in their disclosures that determines a home's greenhouse footprint (nearly every inspection in Piedmont is scoring 3 or below due to their large scale and older components). AND let's not forget that every listing in the county of Alameda must conduct a sewer lateral test or provide a sewer compliance certificate. (The sewer lateral is the pipe that connects a home's sewer system to the mainline at the street) If you haven't replaced your sewer line in the past 12 years, chances are, it hasn't been done and it will most certainly fail. (The cost of replacement is usually passed along to the Buyers, but that may change IF the market adjusts in favor of Buyers.)
Piedmont's not alone; each city has its own "point-of-sale" ordinances that require a measure of due diligence. In Oakland, Sellers will need a sidewalk inspection, and in Berkeley, Homeowners are required to provide a BESO report (Building Emissions Saving Ordinance).
Turns out, Realtors are in the DISCLOSURE business.
BUT, even if your home were completely locked up and photo-ready the day we walked in (which few of them are), we'd still need a minimum of two weeks to round up the usual suspects to issue these reports and create marketing materials. It should come as no surprise that with the spring inventory on the rise, reliable inspectors are backed up, which is why we prefer to book these inspections weeks in advance.
Turns out, Realtors are in the PRODUCTION business.
Once the inspections are conducted, we still need you to vacate the premises and hand over the keys before we can bring in haulers, painters, window washers, house cleaners, handymen, and stagers to work their magic. This work takes a minimum of 3-4 weeks depending on the home's current condition. Finally, we'll need to add photography and brochures to our timelines (another 2-3 days) before your house is actually ready to be shown.
Turns out, Realtors are in the PRESENTATION business.
Last week, we took receipt of a property that's been occupied for more than 40+ years, which means there's twice as much work to be addressed before it's ready to be shown. (This included sending Sarah into the attic to clear it out - she's the only one petite enough to fit up the ladder!)
Turns out, Realtors are in the SCHLEPPING business.
Moreover, once the trades are on the calendar, they don't necessarily have the flexibility to move the dates for which they are already committed. (They are all juggling multiple properties in different phases of preparation.) In other words, once we've agreed on the dates, any delays on your end may cost you weeks - not days - while we wait for the next available opening on the vendor's calendar.
"Can't you just sell my house "as is" without all the fanfare?"
Absolutely, as long as you're willing to leave hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table. (I didn't think so.)
The reality is that most prospective Buyers cannot see past the "stuff" most homes collect: piles of mail, cards and catalogs, dog bowls, kitty-litter boxes, old furniture and lighting, books, books, and more books, over-stuffed closets, packed-to-the-gills garages, worn linens, garbage cans, toilet-bowl scrubbers, family photos, personalized artwork, laundry baskets, dying house plants, Lazyboy recliners, and overgrown yards, just to name a few. In short, the way we "live" in a house, is not the way we "sell" a house.
Successfully selling a house is about creating the aspirational concept of "home" that encompasses the ideas of neat and orderly, fresh and current, beautiful and turn-key. Of course, once people move in with their BOXES, their rambunctious kids, and their scruffy pets, all bets are off. But for the moment, we can all dream . . . .
Turns out, Realtors are in the DREAM business.
At the end of the day, it's your home, your risk, and your reward, but if it's the highest and best price you desire, (and we've rarely met the Homeseller that is willing to leave money on the table) you'll follow our advice and let us do what you are paying us to do - create the ultimate fantasy - and that takes TIME (at least 3-4 weeks at a minimum).
But if you are willing to give us the time, and better yet, some advanced notice, we'll truly make your home sing - AND we will move as swiftly as possible to do so. Believe me, no one understands that "time is money" better than a Realtor.
Turn out, Realtors are in the TIME business . . . (Now do you understand what you are paying us for? )
How can we help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.