Based on my son's ACT scores and his excellent high school GPA, I'm fairly certain Tristan is bound for a good college next fall,
BUT there are those moments, when I have just the slightest doubt . . . Yesterday I received a call from him during the storm asking where his rain coat might be. "Um, did you try the coat closet in the front hall?" I asked, sure of the answer.
"Oh, right, I'll look there." (Good thing he's handsome too.) ??????????????
Maybe it's just me, but shouldn't the coat closet have been the first place he looked - rather than the last? It's not as if there are mounds of clothes all over the house and piles to sort through. In fact, I'm a gal who prides herself on having everything in its place. (I like the illusion of control even when I know that it's truly an illusion.) At the risk of sounding like a "mom," (eye roll please) it just seems that Tristan should start with the obvious choice and then branch out from there. Ditto for the text books, the backpack, the permission slips, the baseball bat, the mitt, the uniform, etc, etc,. etc. (you know the drill). Maybe it's a "Y" chromosome thing; his dad has the same issue so I suppose my son comes by this trait honestly. (Evidently, the apple didn't fall far from the tree.)
Perhaps the obvious isn't so obvious after all. But here are some things that should be obvious to every Buyer and Seller before entering the marketplace, and if they aren't, let me count the ways:
1) Market value is based on supply and demand - NOT on what an agent, an appraiser, or GodZillow says. The "Zestimate," although a catchy title, is frankly, the bane of every Realtor's existence. Consider it one tool only, and not necessarily an accurate measure of the market value of your home, or of your future home.
2) Market value changes over time, which means values may go UP or DOWN, depending on the economics and stability of the surrounding marketplace and of the prevailing interest rates. (It's important to note that a 1% change in the interest rates typically translates to a 10% decrease in spending power for a Buyer.) Don't worry about "timing" the marketplace (I'm not sure it's even possible) but DO understand the volatility of the marketplace.
3) Real estate markets are highly localized. What's true in one area, isn't necessarily true in another, which is why you should always work with a local agent instead of a friend or relative who is out-of-area, no matter how well-intentioned. Choose an agent who knows the lay of the land, has relationships with the other agents in the area, and has closed many transactions successfully in the neighborhood you seek. That high school friend you just reconnected with on Facebook means well, but doesn't necessarily serve you well. Those are two entirely different things. Whom you choose can make or break your sale so work locally!
4) A local lender is almost as important as a local Realtor, especially in a highly competitive marketplace. In competition, the experience and reputation of the lender are often the tipping points between your offer and another. Quicken online? No doubt they are great, but save this impersonal avenue for the refi down the road, when it won't matter who the lender is or how quickly they can perform.
5) The recent sale of the house down the street SETS your comparison - even when your house is "much more special." (Let's just assume for argument's sake that it is.) Granted, there are exceptions to this rule, but they are few and far between. It's unrealistic to expect a million dollars more than your neighbor's sale unless your home has outstanding characteristics that truly set it apart. Conversely, if you have less to spend than the market commands, geographically expand your search or reset your expectations to better align with market realities. In other words, work the odds instead of the long shots.
6) Agents can't guarantee an outcome or promise a result (although we dearly wish we could). Wouldn't that save a tremendous amount of anxiety, uncertainty, and time for everyone involved? (Yes, it would.) DO be suspicious of Realtors that try to "buy" your listing by giving you a highly inflated number or by telling you they already have your buyer in their pocket. (They usually don't and duel agency rarely favors you even if they did.) He/she will eventually work that number down when the market fails to deliver, but you will have lost valuable time in the process.
7) Painting and staging aren't merely suggestions; they are now standard practice. Unless your house is magazine worthy (instead of piled high with magazines!) the dollars spent to bring your home to market "camera ready," typically return high dividends. (93% of ALL buyers begin their search online.) Moreover, unstaged listings pale by comparison to their staged counterparts, and your final sales result will be markedly different. (Staging isn't necessarily the norm for major "fixers" that really need more than just cosmetic face-lifts. In this case, you may actually be misleading the consumer by covering up the faults and you'll undoubtedly be throwing good money after bad. Inspect only and disclose thoroughly.)
8) Disclosures and inspections aren't designed to frustrate you; their function is to protect you. The more you disclose and correct upfront, the fewer hurdles you will have on the back end. No one likes renegotiations during the escrow process - especially the Sellers. Disclose, disclose, DISCLOSE! (Did I say disclose?)
9) Time is of the essence! You don't want a protracted sale as in: "Let's just throw it out there and test the market to see if we get our price." IF your agent has done his/her job correctly, has prepared the property appropriately, has thoroughly exposed the listing to the Broker community and the general public, then your house should sell within a few swift weeks (not months). Homes that linger, unfortunately chase the market down, thus, the relationship with your agent should be short and memorable for the BEST results. The longer a house sits on the marketplace, the less successful the outcome.
10) Good preparation - on both the buy side and the sell side - is the key to being able to move swiftly and jump on any opportunity. Last year, I began to prepare my own home for sale at Christmas in spite of my husband's mild objections; thus when the spring market bloomed earlier than usual, Cliff and I were fully primed to take advantage of it - and did. On the flip side, the Buyer who has ALL of their documentation to their lender and has a mortgage guarantee in place, can be first in line when the right home comes along, and to quote Martha Stewart: "That's a very good thing."
So now you're in the know. If these items weren't obvious before, they certainly should be now. How can I help you?
(Hey, I'd love to hear your "obvious" insights. Pass them along and I'll share your comments in a follow-up column. )
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 18 years and has published more than 670 essays on life and real estate.