Here is a re-post from Rhonda Duffy, Real Estate Wizard, in Atlanta, GA.

top 10 reasons that your home has not sold.

10. Your home has no curb appeal.

9. The front of the subdivision looks unappealing.

8. Your home is cluttered and people who have no imagination are only seeing your stuff.

7. You have offended the buyer in some way with your personal items so they can’t see themselves living where you live.

6. You have objections that need to be covered but you have not covered them because you are not offering to be flexible in price or allowances.

5. The energy of the home is negative. One person in the home wants to move and the other one does not.

4. Your commission for a buyer’s agent is below what they expect to be paid.

3. Showing your home is difficult for agents to do because you are “appointment only”, there are pets etc…

2. Your pictures don’t look good online.

And the number 1 reason, you can’t sell your home is…

1. Your house smells!

note:  There is one more that I think ought to be number 1, and that is…Your house is overpriced for the market.  Sellers MUST be realistic about what their home is actually worth.  What you need to get out of it or what you think it OUGHT to be worth are irrelevant.  It must be priced, and FROM THE BEGINNING of the listing period, competitively with other homes in your area.  If the price is too high, you won’t even get lookers, much less offers.  Price reductions only scream “Overpriced to begin with” and “C’mon, we’re getting desperate!”  Once you have been passed over as a potential purchase, buyers seldom return for a second look, even after you drop the price.  Agents don’t want to show overpriced homes because it’s a waste of their time.  And, even if you did get an overpriced offer, it’s likely that the house won’t appraise based on area comps, and you’ll either have to lower the price anyway of lose your buyer.

When I go to a listing appointment, the first thing some buyers tell me is, “You know, I don’t really HAVE to sell right now.”  Well then, the fact is, they probably WILL not sell, because they won’t do what it takes to capture a buyer, and that includes pricing the home right to begin with.  I love all my sellers.  I really do.  But when they call me months down the road wondering why their house hasn’t sold while others around them have…the answer is simple:  review the top ten reasons above, and then LOOK AT YOUR ASKING PRICE!  As of November, 2012, our Birmingham market has not rebounded.  National numbers don’t mean anything, all real estate is LOCAL.  We may be showing some signs of life, but it’s not what it used to be, and the truth is that your home has lost value since you bought it (with a very few exceptions.)  So please, if you want to sell your home, or need to sell your home, let us help you get it listed, but PLEASE listen to our advice about pricing it correctly based on current area comp sales.  It might be a shock, I know.  But it is what it is.  The bubble burst a few years ago, and we all have to live with today’s realities, especially when it comes to pricing your home to sell.

Advertisements Perhaps the one thing more precious to home owners than their homes is the health and happiness of their family. Natural disasters can take both away in an instant. Tornados, hurricanes, floods, blizzards, and earthquakes are all part of living on this planet. We can’t prevent them, but we can do our best to prepare for them.

As we approach the Anniversary of the April 27th tornadoes that devastated our area, I want to share this helpful site with you.  The government site contains a wide range of information on types of disasters and how to prepare. One of the most important things you can do is prepare a “Disaster Kit” to get you through the first few days after a major disaster. The site contains information to help you do just that.

Be prepared for major natural disasters for the sake of your family and friends:

Thanks to the Tuesday Tactics Newsletter and Scott Levitt from Oakley Signs for sharing this info and link.

Does Pricing Matter?

April12, by Rhonda Duffy, Duffy Realty of Atlanta

Search the Internet right now in any price range and then ask yourself, are you expecting to see every home in your price range? Of course you do, why else would you be searching? So why is it that many marketing geniuses are still pricing homes for example at $299,900? Let’s run a quick scenario. You are a buyer looking from 300K to 400K. You use the search engine pull down menu on any major real estate website and pull 300K to 400K. Do you think to then look at 250K to 300K to see what is priced at $299,900? No probably not. So the agent of the sellers who have priced these homes to attract buyers at the 300K range have skipped those buyers all together even though they sold the idea to the seller that this would be the best marketing for them as their marketing expert.

Okay, let’s skip over all the buyers out there that determine what they want to see and tell their agent such. What about the agents who are told by their buyers that their top range is 350K and told to search for homes in that price range and to show them those homes? The buyer’s agent typically makes the choice to pull 300K to 350K, just by habit. Don’t even fool yourself into thinking that the buyer’s agent thought to pull $299,900 to $350,000. Forget it, it did not happen. So, again why are the marketing gurus and I am talking about top agents around the country still pricing homes ending in 900 when it is obvious tin this market hat every buyer searches the Internet to see all the homes that are listed in their price range. Is it that the agents have never searched the sites themselves? I think we have hit on something here. It has always been the legacy in real estate to follow our forefathers. And our forefathers have always listed homes ending in 900.

Agents use the MLS; we don’t use the public real estate sites. I would guess that many agents have never searched as a buyer on or other major real estate websites that the public is using routinely. So, the prevailing psychology of being under the price range is just the musicology that we have always used. However, even if the musicology of the buyer is best expressed in the 900 pricing methodology, any agent would have to argue that the Internet is more powerful in producing buyers than the old pricing musicology ever was. Some sites search in the 25K ranges some in the 50K range and all in the 100K range. Any house currently on the market with anything less than round numbers is missing extra exposure and ultimately buyers.

Even houses that are listed in anything less than 5K increments are missing the boat from the searching of agents. In other words, let’s say that I am searching for a client from 145K to 200K. Anything listed at 144,900 will be missed by my search when in fact if they had been listed at 145K they would have met the same search criteria. So much emphasis is put on getting the right price on the home and yet many or I should say most agents are missing the right price all together. I guess this is a time when we must ask, why do we do the things we do?

Many of the calls we get on our listings these days are from people who want to know whether or not the seller would consider a lease-purchase on their home.  We also get frequent requests from sellers wanting to know if they should consider one.  The answer is NO…or, YES. 

First, what is a lease-purchase agreement?  It is an agreement whereby the seller would lease their property to a buyer for a period of time, at the end of which the buyer would purchase the home.  The lease and the purchase contract are both signed at the beginning of the lease period.  In effect, the seller has a tenant for a period of time, often one to two years, and collects monthly rent on the property.  Of course, the seller still owns the property, must insure it, continues to make mortgage payments, and keeps the all the  tax and other financial obligations for the property on their books, which can affect their credit worthiness, credit score, and ability to take on additional financial liabilities (i.e., a new mortgage.)  The seller is OBLIGATED to close on the sale of the home to the tenant at the end of the lease period for the price stated in the purchase contract.  However, the tenant IS NOT OBLIGATED to buy the home at the end of the lease…they can walk away, leaving the seller with a vacant and unsold property.  In exchange for this option, the seller usually either receives a large non-refundable down payment at the beginning of the lease or inflated monthly rent payments for the period of the lease, both of which would be applied to the buyer’s down payment at closing or forfeited to the seller at the end of the lease if the closing does not occur.  Many people would buy a house if they could.  They might have the monthly cash flow to make the payments, but not enough cash to cover the large down payment on an outright purchase.  Or they may have started a new job and need to build up an employment history to re-establish their credit.  Or they may have gone through a bankrupcy and cannot qualify to purchase for a certain period of time after the bankrucy’s discharge.  Their only alternative is to rent, and a lease option generally tilts in favor of the lessee/purchaser by keeping the mortgage liability off of their credit rating and delaying the closing that requires a good credit history and a large down payment at the time of purchase.

So, why should your answer be “no”?  In a lease-purchase, you, the seller, are taking on a big risk and very little guaranteed reward.  Your tenant can walk at the end of the lease, but you can’t refuse to sell at the end of the lease.  Your creditworthiness may be tied up in the house, which could prevent you from having the ability to move on and  purchase your next home, where you’ll most likely need the equity from your current home as the down payment for your next one.  You also take on all the other financial burdens of any typical lessor, as mentioned above, plus the likelihood of having to pay for repairs and damages that occur during the lease period.  We had a seller who was desparate to sell and, against our advice, signed a onne year lease-purchase agreement with a young management professional who certainly looked “safe” on paper.  However, the tenant stopped paying rent after 6 months.  The seller had to execute a normal eviction process, which typically takes at least 6 months.  The tenant ended up occupying the house for 15 months, not 12, having paid 6 months’ rent.  When the tenant was finally physically evicted by the sherriff’s office, the seller re-entered the house only to find that the tenant had done over $50,000 worth of damage to the property.  By the time repairs were made, the seller’s credit was ruined, their nerves were shot, and they still owned the house, preventing them from buying in another city where a job transfer had taken them.  The Birmgham Association of Realtors provides contracts and forms for almost any scenario in real estate transactions, but has consistently refused to provide a lease-purchase option form because of the complexities and potential liabilities of doing them.  So, overall, the best thing you can do is avoid a lease-purchase option if at all possible.

And…when should your answer be “yes”?  Probably never, if you want to buy a move-up home in the same market.  However, say you are facing foreclosure or bankrupcy unless you can get current on your mortgage payments, or you’ve taken a new job in another city and have to move.  You want, or need, to buy a home in your new location, or maybe you have ended up with two mortgages for some other reason.  You have enough cash and good enough credit to make the down payment on a second home, but you don’t want to bear the full financial burden of carrying 2 mortgages (or you have already done so, and your funds are rapidly being depleted.)  A lease-option might be your last alternative.  If you can collect some rent on your house, with a reasonable hope of selling it at the end of the lease, you might be able to offset the ongoing expenses of the home you wanted to sell, and cover your mortgage payment, taxes and insurance escrows.  At least a tenant would be paying the utilities.  And if they bail at the end of the lease, you will at least be able to keep the non-refundable down payment or inflated rental amounts you’ve collected.  (One word of caution…don’t spend the down payment or excess rent before the end of the lease term…if the tenant does go to closing with you, you will have to give it back to them to be applied as part of their down payment.)  So you might decide to go ahead with this alternative.  That’s okay, if you’re willing to assume the risk of damages, eviction, or the tenant not proceeding to close, all outlined earlier.

One other thing you should know:  If your property is listed for sale with a Real Estate Company, the commission on the sale usually will be due at the time the lease is signed, not when the purchase actually closes, so be prepared to lay out that cash obligation at the beginning of the process, not the end.  Your home will remain in MLS during the lease period or until the agreement expires as a “pending sale.”  You should check with your agent AND read your listing agreement carefully so you know what to expect.

Crawford Realty agrees with the position of the Birmingham Association of Realtors, and does not negotiate or handle the processes of negotiating and executing lease-purchase agreements.  When our sellers decide to go that route, we will refer them to an attorney who will handle all the lease and purchase documents and processes for whatever rate they charge.

Thanks for your assistance with the sale of my house.  It was a little rocky at times, but we finally accomplished the goal.  I was very pleased with Crawford Realty.  I saved about $3000 but still received expert assistance throughout the process.  I can definitely recommend your services to others.  Thanks again.  JG, Center Point.

Thank you so much for making the sale of our house an easy process.  We really appreciated the personalized assistance you gave us.  If we were staying in the area we would be using your business again. We can only hope that we will be able to find such fantastic service in our new location!  We will always recommend your business to anyone looking to buy or sell a house. Thank you, A & M B., Leeds

Helena:  Using Crawford Realty to sell my home was without a doubt the best decision I made when putting my house up for sale. I tried for sale by owner, not wanting to give most of my money away to commission, and got nowhere. Then I heard about Crawford realty and how little financial resources went along with it and all the exposure and assistance you get using Crawford.  Within 2 weeks of listing with Crawford realty, I got an offer! Just putting the house on MLS made the biggest difference and I started having agents call for showings immediately after. Mr. Crawford was very attentive to my needs and requests and helped guide me through the entire process – from listing the house all the way to closing. I would highly recommend Crawford realty to anyone wanting to put their house up for sale.  Because of you, we were able to move into our dream home just in time.  RC 

Mountain Brook:  Wayne, Thank you very much for all the hard work you put into the sale of our home and into the purchase of our new place.  I wanted to thank you personally since I know it was difficult dealing with me being out of touch so much.  As for your performance, I can say without any reservation that I would recommend Crawford Realty to anyone selling or purchasing a home.  After having sold two homes and purchased one [with you as our agent] over the past few months, I can say that the true value a real estate agent brings is knowledge and expertise in the negotiation of the sale contract and in the closing of the home.  Crawford Realty made that process smooth, simple and professional.  In addition, I felt like you, Wayne, were not more than a phone call away – anytime – day or night, weekends and holidays, and your laid-back approach really made a difference during the more stressful times of this process.  Given the low commissions paid on the sale of our old house and the monies we received for the purchase of our new home, I can say working that with Crawford Realty was a wonderful experience all-around and the best real estate value I’ve ever seen.  RK

When should you paint?  Perhaps your walls and trim just need a good scrubbing to remove scuff marks.  But if they are severely marked, banged up and/or peeling, then painting is your best option.  Or if some of the rooms are painted in colors that you love but may not appeal to the greatest number of potential buyers, then it’s time to paint.  Paint is an inexpensive and effective way to update your home. 

What colors should I select?  Select a color palette that unifies the home and allows the eye to flow easily from room to room – perhaps 3 to 5 colors plus your ceiling and trim colors.  I suggest neutral colors for the public rooms with soft colors for the bedrooms if additional color is desired.  Paint your trim and doors the same color throughout the house.   If you have crown molding, a painted ceiling can really make it pop! 

 Kay recently staged a vacant home that had been listed for nearly a year.  We had a contract within 3 weeks after staging, and the closing was July 30th!  Woo Hoo!

Contact Kay if you need a color consultation or want to discuss staging your home to sell faster.  Birmingham Real Estate sells faster when it’s properly staged and looks its best.

Kay McWhirter Home Staging and Design Consultant 205.531.8725

Many sellers will agonize for hours over how to price their home when they’re getting ready to put it on the market.  Sellers and agents will pour over recently sold comps and analyze other active properties with which they are competing (don’t get me wrong, research is important to making an informed decision, but you have to know the other factors, too.)  The sellers and agents finally settle on a price that “sounds” right, usually ending in “something something, $500,” or “something something $900”.  And for what?  Do they, then, EVER get an offer that equals their asking price?  Not in this market!  Any price you set only guarantees a lower offer, and from that point, sellers and their potential buyer must negotiate to an actual contract price that both will agree on.  So how SHOULD sellers approach the pricing process?

At Crawford Realty, we know that, beyond the house itself, the most important marketing tool you have is your asking price.  Your price must do two things for you:  1.) It must net you a high enough offer to be able to sell for what you absolutely need to get out of it and, 2.) It must land your home in the right ballpark for buyers who are looking to buy a property like yours.  In regard to #1, you, therefore, must know how much you need to walk away with in order to payoff your existing mortgage, pay your commissions and closing costs, and make the profit you absolutely need to be able to move on, buy your next place, and relocate your stuff.  Crawford agents can help you figure out what that number is, but you can probably come pretty close on your own, too.  This, in large part, will determine what your listing price ballpark will be once you add in some reasonable number for negotiating room.   In regard to #2, understand that buyers will search in a minimum to maximum price range, based on what they ultimately plan to pay.  When you price your home to get the maximum marketing exposure, it’s really only important that you get your home in the right range…the right ballpark, so to speak, so that the right potential buyers will see it when they search the range.  They’re going to make you a lower offer anyway, so anywhere in the right range that you can price it will get their visibility. 

Two things sell homes…timing and exposure.  You only need one buyer, so the timing of getting buyer and seller together is critical, but you may have only limited control over that.  Your buyer could be the first person who sees it, or it might take 6 months or more to make the right connection.   You have to ride this one out.  Exposure…now that’s where you can be more proactive.  It’s all about eyeballs on your listing.  The more potential buyers who see it, the more likely you will get an offer.  To that end, if it’s at all possible, we recommend trying to price it EXACTLY ON one of the natural pricing breakpoints that are often choices potential buyers must choose from a dropdown box when they search.  For instance, on many real estate search engines, selections run in $25,000 increments, i.e.; $125,000, $150,000, $175,000, $200,000.  If your house falls in the range (ballpark) Between $125,000-$150,000, you might naturally think of pricing it at $149,900.  Sounds good, like, you know, less than $150,000, right?  Wrong.  Bad mistake.  For the sake of $100, you have cut your internet visibility in half.  Why?  Because $149,900 falls in the $125,000-$150,000 range, and only that range.  But if you price it at $150,000, you double your visibility, and show up to twice as many people because that EXACT number falls in two price ranges.  So now, everyone searching from $125,000 to $175,000 sees you.  You are at the top of the $125,000-$150,000 range and at the bottom of the $150,000-$175,000 range.  Voila!  twice the exposure by merely raising your price $100.  So if the price you need to get is anywhere near one of those natural break points, GET ON THAT NUMBER!  Simple enough.  It amazes me how many agents haven’t figured this out, and you will see it time and time again when you do your own searches.  The ones who miss out most often on this are usually very experienced agents who have run in their markets for years and years but who are not the least bit internet savvy.  Avoid them.  They might be less than up to speed on the other technological changes in the real estate business that dramatically drive the way it’s conducted today.

Now, there is one other big issue to consider, and over time I have looked at both angles on this situation.  I used to feel that a lower price would bring more offers.  So I would advise people to price their property as close to their actual bottom line acceptable number as possible, and then, when they received an offer, just say, “I priced this as low as possible to sell quickly, but I don’t have much (or any) room to negotiate lower, so I have to get my asking price.  Certainly that worked in a seller’s market.  However, this market has done crazy things to people, and, over the last two to three years, it has become VERY important to buyers to be able to get a “deal” on a purchase.  (Witness the number of buyers looking for foreclosures, short sales, and desperate situations to take advantage of.)  For a buyer to be happy with a deal, I’ve increasingly observed that they need to feel like the won a big concession from a seller.  Therefore, it is now imperative to build a good bit of “wiggle room” into your price, so that when you receive a stupidly low offer, you can come down, give the buyer a concession, and still be at or above your minimum number and be able to accept a deal. 

Finally, a few thoughts to clean up this subject:  first, neither I nor any other Realtor(r) on the planet can possibly KNOW the price at which your house will sell, so if anyone tells you they do, show them the door, politely but quickly and firmly.  You must be responsible to determine your asking price, and you must be the one to determine whether or not you can or will accept whatever offers you receive.  There are a lot of considerations, but remember, Right Ballpark, Maximum Exposure, and Enough Wiggle Room to throw the buyer a bone if he wants one.  (Because of Crawford Realty’s reduced commission structure, our sellers automatically have a price advantage over their competition who have listed with a full-price agency:  they are going to save at LEAST 2.5% in commission, and maybe up to 5.5%, so they can negotiate to a lower selling price and still make the proceeds they need.  Sorry for the plug, but you couldn’t expect all this great thinking without getting at least ONE informercial!)  One caveat:  even when buyer and seller agree on a deal, it’s not a deal until the appraiser and the buyer’s loan underwriter agree that the house is worth the purchase price.  If not, the buyer cannot get financing.  Either the deal dies, the buyer has to come up with the difference in more cash, or the seller has to drop the price to the appraised value to get the buyer’s loan funded.

Here at Crawford Realty, we’ve always tried to build our business success (i.e.: selling YOUR home in the most efficient, flexible, and cost-effective way possible) on a lot of “Out of the Box” thinking. We don’t claim that all the good ideas are ours, but when we hear a good one, we try to incorporate it into a process that might help you sell your home faster. We think the idea of a REVERSE OFFER is pretty creative, and want to pass it on to you. We got this idea from our affiliate, Rhonda Duffy at Duffy Realty of Atlanta.

The idea of making something happen in this market (or any other) is an idea that sellers can really sink their teeth into and get their arms around. You know that we have always maintained that your listing agent won’t sell your house…YOU and YOUR HOUSE will sell your house! However, there may be an opportunity out there that we have all missed, even though it’s right there beneath our noses. One of my clients today told me that showing activity was up but still there was no offer. (Your Crawford agent has instructed buyers’ agents to call you directly to set showing appointments, so we don’t usually have a realistic idea of the level of showing activity you are getting.) I think there are a lot of fence-sitting tire kickers out there who are potential buyers but who are afraid to take action by making an offer for any number of reasons; they may be waiting for home prices and/or interest rates to fall even farther, they may have a house to sell, or they may be concerned about their own job security in light of the 24/7 gloom and doom that the media continues to spew. But there are serious lookers out there, too. All too often there may have been serious interest in a home but the interested party just never came forth with an offer, So we just assumed that that buyer must not have liked the home well enough to make an offer.

We are going to suggest something that is quite a different approach, and one that might create quite a stir in our Birmingham Real Estate Market. And we hope that, whether this works for them or not, our sellers will be grateful that we are their agent and at least we are trying to make something happen. We want all of our clients to be raving fans! So we call this a REVERSE OFFER. Here’s how it works: In a situation where a buyer has seen a house two times, let your Crawford agent know. We will call the buyer’s agent and ask if we are on their short list. When they say yes, we are on the short list but they don’t say that we are the top house, we ask what the objection is on the house. (One situation was that there was no heating and air in the basement.) We say okay and then ask; “Do you mind if we give your buyers an offer?”

This will throw the agent off quite a bit (we love that part,) but then they’ll say “okay” after thinking about it and asking us over and over if it is legal to do that. I promise you, that is going to be exactly what will happen, and it really makes you wonder why agents are so much in-the-box that they would think that something out-of-the-box would be illegal. (Of course it’s legal.)

Certainly there may be objections on the part of some buyers that cannot be overcome if a property is, in some un-alterable way, unsuitable for them. Anyway, we go to work now and call our seller to try to get an offer together based on our desire to overcome the objection and then we present the offer to the buyer through their agent. From there on the negotiation is the same as with any other offer.

Whereas the Reverse Offer will not work 100% of the time, our Atlanta affiliates are working the ones they write to a successful closing in about the same amount of time as when they get the more standard offer from the buyer to the seller. The most important thing now is that we, the sellers, are making something happen instead of sitting on our hands, and waiting for indecisive buyers to make an offer. How exciting is the idea of making the selling of your house a PROACTIVE event rather than a REACTIVE one!

As you know and–hopefully–appreciate, our business model has always been to get some aggressive marketing in place for you and then to remain sort of hands-off in the rest of the process, allowing you to control and drive the process, and letting you sell your house your way. However, if the idea of doing a REVERSE OFFER appeals to you, we will be glad to assist you in that. Please keep track of your showings, and if you get a prospect who has looked at your home at least twice, let us know. We will be happy to make contact with the buyer’s agent, discuss their objections, and manage the reverse offer process for you. Working together on this, we might be able to sell your home faster than you ever thought!

And, finally, here’s some lagniappe: we clearly anticipate that working reverse offers for our seller clients will become a permanent part of our a la carte menu of services. However, for the next few months, we will waive any a la carte fees to our clients who want to make use of our time to write and present reverse offers. We will work this process for you at no additional cost and no increase in our commission at closing. It’s FREE.

So, one more time, lets lead the pack, and forever change the way Real Estate is done in Birmingham. Hope you like the idea….

Here are some ideas that a broker friend of mine shared with me. I thought you might be interested in considering them if you run into similar situations:
I just had a lengthy conversation with a seller who had used an agent from another company on their last full-priced listing. The listing expired 4 days ago. We discussed the following which I want you to be aware of:
1. The agent told him that he can not do any allowances to the buyer as the lender will not allow it. I told the seller to take a non-refundable earnest money check after due diligence and do the allowance that the buyer wanted 2 days before closing. Carpet for instance: they could go pick out the carpet or get a carpet place from Dalton to send the samples and the seller could have the carpet installed 2 days before closing. Same with paint, kitchen, bathroom etc…

2. We talked about him giving the agent and buyer a large plasma T.V. and to put up a sign where the T.V. would go.

3. We also talked about the fact that creative financing programs still exist and that he needs to find some and take down the conservative lender’s sign that is next to his for sale sign. Sellers today in certain price ranges and areas must make the deal work and that takes finding the lenders that offer 100% financing on down. They still exist, they just have to be found.

4. Then we talked about when he finds the lender to post his ad and the creative financing offer on Craigslist everyday.

Offers coming in still tend to be low. However, consider this: if you are planning to buy another home after you sell, you should seriously consider negotiating as best you can, but accepting an offer that is lower than what you would like. Why? Because if you can get freed up to sell now, you might well make up MORE than the difference in the low low purchase price of the next home you buy. It would be a shame to miss the buying opportunities out there now because you couldn’t come to an agreement over a few thousand dollars. And remember, you’re saving thousands with your Crawford Realty listing already, and if you use us as your buyers agent on your next home (assuming you’re staying in the area) you could potentially earn back 1to1.5% of the purchase price of your next home, which we would pay you out of our commission, if it’s a property that’s listed in MLS or a for sale by owner willing to pay a 3% commission. Please call us for details on this incredible program that no other real estate company in the state is offering.

Birmingham:  Thank you for all your help in selling my home.  What a relief, and it was so easy with your help.  I would recommend your Flat Fee program to anyone as it was a pleasure to work with you.  K L


Birmingham:  I was very impressed with your Discount Listing service from the beginning to the end.  You took great pictures and created a wonderful MLS listing.  You also stayed on top of the sale until it was made final.  Thanks for all your help! – M F


Homewood:  Lisa and I really enjoyed working with your company.  We love the value that your flat fee program offers, and all the support you have given us.  Thanks, C W



Birmingham:  Wayne, thanks so much for your professionalism and thorough approach to what you do in Birmingham Real Estate.  You did not miss a beat and I sincerely appreciate it…R D


Oak Meadows (Hwy 119):  Wayne, we found that your service was what sold our home!  We had a difficult Realtor® to deal with and you were helpful in every area of dealing with them, keeping us informed and organized, and working out each detail of the sale.  I would definitely recommend you and your discount services!  Thanks for all your help!  A


Vestavia:  Our house had been already on the market for 7 months when we decided to list it in MLS. We chose Flat Fee MLS  and contacted Mr. Crawford in Birmingham. From that moment things sped up: Mr. Crawford gave us useful instructions that helped us to have a lot of visitors – we did not have them before. Soon we had a primary contract and, right after, a backup contract. Our house got sold in about 2 months. If you plan to sell your property in the Birmingham area I can highly recommend using Crawford Realty of Alabama’s flat fee MLS services. It will be a great and reliable help while it saves you several thousands of dollars.  Dr. B


Wayne:  Thanks for everything you did to help us sell our home. We sold it just two weeks after listing it in MLS with you!! You were always prompt in returning phone calls and emails and gave us solid advice on our selling price and other contract negotiation issues. Your Discount service  exceeded my expectations. If I ever move again I will call you immediately.  Thanks again.  C H


Vestavia:  We saved THOUSANDS of dollars using Wayne at Crawford Realty!

Wayne is very professional and super helpful! We sold our house quickly for the market in our area. Wayne promptly answered every phone call and e-mail we sent. He was always available whenever we needed him but not constantly calling us like some real estate agents have done in the past.

If you like a more “hands off” approach to selling a home, but want the benefits of being on the MLS and having a Birmingham Realtor® help you with all of the legal stuff, this is the company for you! We could not have been more pleased.

We are using Wayne for the purchase of our next home, too….Thank you so much, Wayne, for doing what you do!  K & W McC


Homewood:  We were looking for a “middle of the road” between For Sale By Owner  and using a Realtor®.  Crawford Realty’ flat fee listing service provided just that:  screening of prospective buyers, how to negotiate the contract, what we needed to do as the seller toward closing, and advice on the “not planned for” scenarios after the inspection.  We had a contract and closed in five weeks.  We were pleased with Crawford Realty  in every way!   D & S G


Hoover: “We truly feel that being listed in the Birmingham MLS is the very best way to sell a home. With Crawford Realty, you can enjoy the benefits of the MLS and save lots of money in real estate commissions! Wayne was very professional and helpful along the way. We enjoyed meeting potential buyers! After one week of listing with Crawford Realty of Alabama, we had 2 offers. We listed and closed within 3 weeks! Thanks Crawford Realty!” The G’s


Hoover:  Wayne, we were very pleased with your service and Crawford Realty’s Discount Services.  I believe that many people think “how do I sell a home” on my own and your company had the answers to that question.  I for one would not do it any other way.  T & K S


Helena: “We were very pleased with the service that Wayne and Crawford Realty provided.  We had a contract that fell through, but then very soon after, a full price offer and a successful contract!  Wayne walked us through the entire process and provided very valuable assistance.  We saved several thousand dollars in Realtor® commissions.  The Flat Fee Real Estate service Wayne provided exceeded our expectations, and we would list with him again and recommend him to anyone. ”   J & L W


Birmingham:  Thank you Wayne Crawford Realty!  I appreciate the help.   M J


Hayden:  Crawford Realty’s Flat Fee service is the only way to go!  We were amazed at the responses to sale of our home which sold in less than 1 month.  Wayne’s expert advice about pricing our home was right on the money and we were very grateful for that. Wayne was so helpful, patient and quick to respond with the constant questions we had. If or when we decide to do it again you can bet we will be calling him again.  You can’t beat the savings on Realtor® fees either. Mr. & Mrs. C


Pelham:  A note to express my thanks and sincere admiration for the way you run your business. Within one day of you posting my home in the Birmingham MLS the traffic increase was amazing. Your responsiveness, willingness to patiently answer any questions and lightning fast turn around response to calls and emails was excellent. I know many others who have paid thousands more for so much less customer service. Forget traditional selling agents – I’m sold!  KAC


Helena:  Wayne, of Crawford Realty, is “Simply the Best!”  He sold my house within 24 hours which was truly amazing.  Wayne is such a pleasure to work with because he is professional, kind and extremely helpful.  I still can’t believe my house sold so quickly!  Thanks for the great service!  I highly recommend Crawford Realty.  K T


Hoover: I really do not know what to say. I do know that if I had a chance to do this all over again, I would start with Crawford Realty (instead of trying to sell as a For Sale By Owner listing.) You offered assistance that greatly exceeded my expectations and I am grateful.  I have told all of my friends that if they are interested in selling their homes, they should consider you first. Thanks for everything. D W


Homewood:  Crawford Realty of Alabama provided all the services of a traditional Birmingham Realtor® at much less cost.  Our home sold very fast for a few thousand less than asking price and Crawford Realty provided all the necessary information and instructions on exactly what to do to prepare for the sale and closing.  Thanks.  B McD


Dear Wayne,
I wanted to take time to send this email to just let you know just how valuable your Real Estate Services have been to my wife and I.  I can’t say enough about you and your services… they are the best.  If anyone has any doubts, I can rest them assured that the way you do business is unequalled.  In every respect, you have given us invaluable advice in listing our home, particularly the pricing strategy.  I want you to know that as a builder, this is invaluable information and strategy and I have since used it and it did work, perfectly!  Furthermore, whenever I have asked for your help you not only have always responded positively but very quickly.  I could not ask for more.  Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you, because you have certainly helped me and I could not recommend your services more highly.
Designer Home Builder


Vestavia:  Crawford Realty of Alabama”..The best thing since sliced bread and Wayne is an expert in the real estate market and shares his in-depth knowledge readily. I would not only highly recommend Crawford Realty of Alabama, but would insist that you take my word and use only them. There are other agents but Wayne and Crawford realty just rock as they are Honest , Open, Meticulous and Expert which makes selling your home a breeze.” A & S L


Trussville: “Wayne, we appreciate all of your help in the sale of our investment property. With your guidance we were able to make this a success. Because of your help we were able to make more of a profit on our sale. We will definitely use your Flat Fee Real Estate services again and also recommend you to others.”  WD & LB

Hoover:Crawford Realty was a blessing to us in selling our home. We are not “business minded” people and were cautious in taking the first steps, but Wayne made us relax and feel confident that we could do this. Wayne was available at all times to give his professional opinion and to answer any of our questions. I really felt that he was “on our side” and doing his best to promote the property. It was shown many, many times which told me the advertising was very good. When it came time to sell Wayne was extremely helpful in taking care of all matters including dealing with real estate agents and attorneys. I would recommend Crawford Realty to everyone regardless of prior knowledge of the real estate business. Call Wayne and go for it! All you can lose is the high real estate commission.”  C & J K


Helena:  “Wayne, Thank you so much for everything!  We had our reservations about going with a Flat Fee Realtor® with but no one could have been more professional or could have gotten better results for us!  We saved money and sold our home for full price. Keep up the good work!”  Mr. and Mrs. H


Vestavia Hills:  “We initially decided to list our home as For Sale By Owner.  We had fair traffic and much of it was Birmingham Realtors® who wanted to know if we would work with them.  We were contacted by Crawford Realty and this Discount Listing Service seemed to be a great way to expand our presence and have Realtors® KNOW that we would work with them.  Within a few days we went from fair traffic to GREAT traffic.  We had 2 offers on our house within 3 weeks.  I have to admit that when my wife mentioned Flat Fee MLS to me I was skeptical, but decided to do it for the exposure.  This was the best move I made and I do not believe that we would have had the quality and number of GOOD offers on our house in such a short time otherwise.  If you want to sell your home and don’t want to pay full commissions, I recommend Crawford Realty.”  D & C B


Avondale:  Crawford Realty of Alabama…what a great experience!  Your Flat Fee Service provided all the necessary exposure to sell our house and at a savings of thousands.  Thanks for your expert advice on “pricing it right”.  As a result, our house sold quickly and very close to the listing price.”  PP & P McL


Riverchase:  “Wayne, this new way of listing my house (Flat Fee MLS Listings)  saved me over $20,000, and the house sold in two weeks.  Your service is amazing and everyone should try this approach before using a traditional real estate agent.”  P M


Alabaster:  We weren’t sure if we would be successful in selling our home without a traditional realtor but decided to try Crawford Realty’s Flat Fee MLS Listing Service to see what would happen. Wayne professionally guided us through each step with patience and great suggestions. He was easy to contact and his services exceeded our expectations. We were amazed when we received a FULL PRICE offer in just 19 days! We are already referring all of our friends! …Thank you Crawford Realty.” The M Family


Forest Park: “we were shocked to learn our home’s value was over $600,000.00 when we decided to sell. We listed with a traditional realtor and reluctantly faced paying $40,000.00 in commission. When it didn’t sell we pulled the listing and called Wayne. He listed our home for a flat fee, put it on all of the websites and within 2 weeks it was sold, for $50,000.00 over list price and with a total marketing cost of less than $4000.00. That’s the way it should be! Nothing that any other Realtor® could have done would be worth $40,000.00!”  G & M C


Greystone:  “We were moving back to Birmingham when we heard of Crawford Realty of Alabama and their concept of a buyers agent where the agent receives their commission based on the work they did.  What a CONCEPT.  We had always done our own work prior to moving to a new area.  We knew what we wanted, by looking at the internet, previewing homes and talking to others about the area. All this without an agent.  In most cases after contacting an agent they showed us houses we were not interested in.  Using Crawford Realty’s concept we looked at the homes we had located and by doing the footwork we benefited.  Once we found the home we liked, Wayne helped us through the process of making the offer.  Wayne was there to help every step of the way.  Even the mortgage people were impressed with how Wayne responded to questions they had.  I would and do recommend Crawford Realty to people I know.  Crawford Realty is changing the way people buy homes just as the internet has changed the way people shop for homes.  Thanks Wayne and Crawford Realty.”  The P’s

Reprinted with permission from Pat Zaby at

Better Than a Price Reduction
  by Pat Zaby


A 2% reduction on the list price of a $225,000 home might not encourage any additional activity on the home but the same money spent might attract lots of buyers if it is applied to an interest rate buy-down. Of the five marketing factors that affect the sale of a home, most agents concentrate on price. While that will certainly cure a lot of what ails a listing, terms for the buyer is another alternative.

Assuming that the current market rate is 6.5%, a seller could prepay the interest so the buyer would make payments based on 4.5% on their mortgage for the first 12 months and 5.5% for the next 12 months. At the end of two years, the payments would be based on the note rate for the balance of the term which is usually 28 years.

It is a fixed rate mortgage so the buyer will know what the payments will ultimately be. It subsidizes the payments for two years that will allow the buyer to get into the home and get settled. In the example shown, the buyer’s payment is $227.73 less for the first year and $104.00 less the second year.

The seller prepays the interest at closing. The terms offered to the buyer makes the home more attractive and will cause more activity in the form of showings. This strategy may even help the home sell for more money.

Reduced Price

2/1 Buy Down – $4,608.78

Sales Price




















Monthly Savings





Let’s say that you get your seller to agree to participate with $5,000 in financing incentives that the borrower can apply to the mortgage of their choice. In this example, the borrower would be getting a market rate loan but the first year’s payment would be based on a two-percent lower rate and the second year’s payment on a one-percent lower rate.

The borrower doesn’t have the risk associated with an adjustable rate mortgage but they do have lower payments for the first two years that will ease them into the new home while they get settled with their other expenses that always accompany a move.


The sad fact is that I have not seen incentives work in this market.  I have had sellers offer new in-the-box 42” flat screen TV’s, $1,000 agent bonuses, 1-year home warranties, carpet allowances, gas cards, even “price reduced” riders on their sign, and just about anything else you can think of.  All those things cost – or will cost – the seller money at closing.  Here’s why they generally haven’t worked:

  • TV’s are nice, but aren’t enough incentive (they’re not very expensive any more) to sway a decision on a major purchase such as a home.
  • Agent bonuses:  the agent does not make the decision on what to buy, the buyer does, so putting money in the agent’s pocket is nice for them but doesn’t help sell the home, especially since buyers are doing their own research on the internet.
  • Buyers are going to ask you for (and probably get) a home warranty as part of the contract, anyway, and they know it.
  • Advertising a carpet allowance (or any other allowance) up front only tells potential buyers that the home is in bad shape.
  • Gas cards:  Even a $500 gas card only translates to 5 or 6 fill-ups, and that’s not enough incentive to buy a house.
  • “Price reduced” signs say one of 2 things… “This house was overpriced to begin with” or “This house is failing to sell” so maybe there’s something wrong with it.


Of course, if they don’t work, most of the incentives cost you nothing, but they don’t gain you anything either.

However, since they don’t really work, the better strategy is to take what you would have spent on an incentive and deduct it from your price.  As a matter of fact, I believe that you should price your house as close to your bottom acceptable price as possible, then just negotiate hard to get as close as possible to that number when you get an offer.  Having listed your home with Crawford Realty, you have at LEAST a 2.5% advantage (and maybe as much as 5 ½% over traditionally-listed comparable homes because of the higher commission structure they are locked into.  In this market, other buyer requirements like bedrooms or school systems being met, price will be the winning factor.  Many people out there on the market are keeping their prices up so they have “wiggle room” to negotiate, but the fact is they’re missing the boat, because price-conscious buyers are passing them by, not even looking at their home.  Better to bite the bullet up front and get the activity if you can, because you can’t sell anything to someone who isn’t even looking at it.


There is only one thing that I can think of other than rock bottom pricing, and that is a “purchase money mortgage” or seller financing.  If a seller can hold a mortgage for a buyer, the buyer who might have a tough time getting a standard mortgage now might be able to buy, and an appraisal isn’t necessary.  Most sellers can’t afford to do it, so it’s a huge advantage over your competition, if you can.  Of course, if the buyer defaults, you still get your collateral…the house…back!  Talk to me if this is interesting to you.


Finally, it’s tough to catch a fish when the fish aren’t biting.  Of course there are buyers out there, but relatively few, with a huge selection to choose from.  So patience may be the only final alternative…things will come back, but with the bank failure news of last Friday, they were saying on TV this morning that getting a mortgage is going to become even more difficult right now, so with gas prices, oversupply of homes, too few buyers, people’s savings dwindling on the stock market, and the tough economy, we are in a perfect storm for real estate sales.  It will come back, but probably not soon. 


I hope all this makes sense.  I desperately wish I were a house selling wizard, and I’ve tried to get as close to that as possible, but I just can’t seem to find that magic wand…yet.

From “”

You’ll likely be responsible for a variety of fees and expenses that you and the seller will have to pay at the time of closing. Your lender must provide a good-faith estimate of all settlement costs. The title company or other entity conducting the closing will tell you the required amount for:

  • Down payment
  • Loan origination
  • Points, or loan discount fees, which you pay to receive a lower interest rate
  • Home inspection
  • Appraisal
  • Credit report
  • Private mortgage insurance premium
  • Insurance escrow for homeowner’s insurance, if being paid as part of the mortgage
  • Property tax escrow, if being paid as part of the mortgage. Lenders keep funds for taxes and insurance in escrow accounts as they are paid with the mortgage, then pay the insurance or taxes for you.
  • Deed recording
  • Title insurance policy premiums
  • Land survey
  • Notary fees
  • Prorations for your share of costs, such as utility bills and property taxes

A Note About Prorations: Because such costs are usually paid on either a monthly or yearly basis, you might have to pay a bill for services used by the sellers before they moved. Proration is a way for the sellers to pay you back or for you to pay them for bills they may have paid in advance. For example, the gas company usually sends a bill each month for the gas used during the previous month. But assume you buy the home on the 6th of the month. You would owe the gas company for only the days from the 6th to the end for the month. The seller would owe for the first five days. The bill would be prorated for the number of days in the month, and then each person would be responsible for the days of his or her ownership.

From “”

1. Trim bushes so they don’t block windows or architectural details.
2. Mow your lawn, and turn on the sprinklers for 30 minutes before the showing to make the lawn sparkle.
3. Put a pot of bright flowers (or a small evergreen in winter) on your porch.
4. Install new doorknobs on your front door.
Repair any cracks in the driveway.
Edge the grass around walkways and trees.
Keep your garden tools and hoses out of sight.
8. Clear toys from the lawn.
Buy a new mailbox.
Upgrade your outside lighting.
11. Buy a new doormat for the outside of your front door.
Clean your windows, inside and outside.
Polish or replace your house numbers.
Place a seasonal wreath on your door

What’s In, What’s Out

Each year, Mark Nash of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Chicago asks subscribers to his e-zine what buyers want most. His most recent poll shows:


  • A reduced carbon footprint: How your home and you impact the earth matters to more buyers who want a home that lets them save energy and lessen their contribution to global warming.
  • Outdoor living: Massive fireplaces, outdoor kitchens, and under-patio heating to extend the season are not just for the Sun Belt anymore.
  • Fully concealed appliances: That wood-printed cover for the fridge is not enough any longer; now appliances are hidden behind hinged doors.
  • Floating homes: Not your father’s houseboat, these nonmobile homes are basically ranch houses sitting on stationary barges in a lake or river.
  • Home elevators: Even builders of mid-priced homes are adding this essential for boomers wanting to age in place.
  • Pet showers: Clean pets mean clean homes, and who wants to mess up the bathtub when this feature can be a part of the garage or mudroom?
  • Freestanding bathtubs: These oversized soaker tubs, or “bath thrones,” have supplanted whirlpool baths as the must-have bathroom centerpiece.
  • Bathroom suites: Whether it’s multiple flat-screen TVs or a mini fridge and cappuccino maker, you’ll soon have a whole home inside this one room.

(This information was re-printed from

There is good news and bad news in the current real estate market.  February numbers are in for the Birmingham market, and the average sales price, compared to a year ago, has dropped from $186,311 to $178,600, although “DOM” (days on market) has also dropped from 113 to 90, indicating brisker sales, according to Dave Mace, at the Birmingham Association of Realtors.  He also said that total sales in the Birmingham MLS in February were 979, compared to 1,250 in February, 2007.  The median home price has stayed the same.  Homes in lower price brackets tend to turn over faster than the $300+ price points, in my experience.

NOW IS A GREAT TIME TO BUY.  The selection is amazing, in both new homes and re-sales.  Interest rates remain low.  The limit on FHA loans has increased to just over  $178,000, and, while subprime loans and other risky mortgage products have all but disappeared, more buyers will have access to these safer FHA loans and other lower-interest rate loans in high-cost areas, according to Mace.  On the other hand, by the end of March, 100% financing will virtually disappear.  We have heard the new max will be 97%.

Yet many buyers seem to be holding out.  For what?  Are they expecting further dramatic decreases in home prices?…more desperate sellers trying to dump their homes at any cost  hoping to avoid foreclosure?  (well, yes, there’s always some of that going on…)  Wayne’s personal experience has been that buyers have so much to choose from right now that they are looking…looking…looking…for exactly what they want (or for a fire sale on something close) but remain very slow to make offers.  Frequently the offers they do make are so low that sellers, realistically, can’t even consider them, so they are, essentially, a waste of everybody’s time, and never result in a binding contract.  Other Realtors® have said to me that they think buyers’ expectations may be somewhat unrealistic, in terms of what they can get for the money.  Sellers who are anywhere short of facing impending foreclosure may be willing to reduce their profit, but are not going to suffer a loss on their property.  While it may be that sellers don’t really expect full price offers in this market, it is so competitive that many have cut their asking price to very near their bare bones minimum.  To take much less could mean a loss, and if they DO have to take a loss, it won’t be a very big one. 

Bottom line?  There will probably not be, in the foreseeable future, a better time to buy than now.  Inflation, rising costs of construction, and the state of the economy (are we in a recession?) are all still pushing up the cost of housing over time.  Who knows where interest rates will go, but they probably won’t go a whole lot lower.  Good, safe loans are out there for those who qualify.  The selection is way more than adequate.  So IF you are serious buyer, now is the time.  But be realistic when you make an offer, whether to a re-seller or a builder.  The myth that you’re going to get something for half of what it’s worth is…at least 98% of the time…just a myth.  The standard for sellers a few years ago was to seriously consider an offer down to 97% of asking price.  It may be lower than that now, maybe 94-95%.  But sellers have already come way off the price they want, and have less room to dicker.  Birmingham is NOT Detroit, South Florida, Las Vegas or Silicone Valley.  We never really had a real estate bubble, and the bubble has not burst.  Our home  price appreciation over the years has remained realistic, at an average 3-5% per year, not 3-040%; so housing here is not dramatically overpriced, even for today’s market.  So buyers AND sellers have to use reason in cutting deals that can actually work. 

Come “off the sidelines” and Buy something.  You’ll be glad you did.  So will I.!  And, by the way, one way to get an even BETTER deal on the home your buying is to take advantage of the unique Buyer’s incentive program that we offer our buyers.  Check it out on our website.  We can, literally, put THOUSANDS of dollars back in your pocket when you close on your next home.

Open House Safety

March 12, 2008

An open house might give your home the exposure it needs to find your buyer.  It’s easy to hold open houses, and I highly encourage you to do them often.  Now, I don’t want to alarm you, but there are some common-sense precautions you can and should take to protect yourself and your property and to be prepared for your open house.  Below are things that agents know and do to minimize the threat of a “crime of opportunity” against themselves when holding an open house.  These are important things to think about, because, after all, when you hold an open house, you are inviting absolute strangers into your home to wander around and see everything you have.  If you plan to hold your own open house, please be sure to follow these guidelines:


  1. Never do it alone.  Have a friend or family member with you at your home at all times during the open house. 
  2. Set up a call schedule with a friend or neighbor (one calls the other every 30 minutes) and a coded distress signal, so that you can call with a message that would appear harmless to a prospect but would alert others to potential danger.
  3. Prepare ahead.  Remove from view any object that could be used as a weapon (i.e.; stow knife blocks inside cabinets, make sure guns are secured in a gun safe, scissors are not left out on the desk, etc.)
  4. Do not wear expensive jewelry or carry large amounts of money.  Do not have valuables (coin jars, jewelry boxes, silver settings, pocket-sized pieces of crystal or valuable knick-knacks, car keys) in view.  Safely stow credit cards & cash.
  5. When prospects arrive at your home, ask them to register on a sign-in sheet (or in a guest book.)  Get their name, address, telephone, car make & model, tag number, and driver’s license number.  It sounds like a lot to ask, but legitimate prospects will not mind, and remember…you are giving an unknown person complete access to your home.  You need to know some information about them first.
  6. Keep groups of lookers together.  Do not let anyone wander around the house unattended.  Stay with them and carry your cell phone or a cordless phone with you in case you need to make an emergency call.  Don’t hesitate to call your friend, neighbor, or 911 if you become suspicious of a prospect’s behavior.
  7. Always let a prospect enter a room first and follow them in.  Stay between them and the door.  Never let them get between you and the doorway.  If you need to get out of the room, don’t let them block your exit. 
  8. Finish the open house while it’s still light out.  Do not hold an open house after dark. 


How to Sell a House

March 4, 2008


You want to sell.  You must try EVERYTHING.  Here are some more tactics that are worth considering.  Be prepared…you might need to spend some money to sell, and you might need to invest some time and effort.  You can’t just turn it over to a Realtor® who is going to get it sold for you, it honestly just doesn’t happen that way.  YOU and YOUR HOUSE are going to sell your house.  A Realtor® is an expert with ideas and marketing access; an invaluable asset in the process.  But unless you get intimately involved in the details, it is going to be difficult to find your buyer.  You don’t want to waste your marketing opportunities by being less than completely prepared when timing and exposure bring your buyer your way.

Re-think open houses: 

The most serious buyers are looking in the evenings and off-times like Saturday mornings.  Hold an open house THEN instead of the usual Sunday afternoons, when you will be attracted more “lookie-lu’s” than serious buyer prospects.  Make sure you get everyone’s name and number who looks at your house, and call them back within 24 hours for feedback.  Ask them what it would take to get an offer from them.  What can you lose?  Whenever you have an open house, stick out a fish bowl with a note that says “Drop your business card here for a chance to win a free lunch.”  You’ll get an email, a work number, a name…every opportunity to connect with a possible buyer.  All for the cost of one lunch…payable when you get a binding contract or actually close!  (And you really should follow through, draw a card and buy lunch…it’s great PR.)

Organize a neighborhood open house day: 

Ever notice how car dealerships are bunched together in the same area…or the bars & restaurants…or those big neighborhood yard sales?  Why?  Because that attracts bigger crowds, and everyone benefits.  You can do the same thing with an open house.  Why not go around the neighborhood and talk to the other sellers…they have the same problem you do…they haven’t sold yet, and they need a buyer.  Get all your neighbors with homes for sale together and organize a neighborhood open house day that will attract volumes of potential buyers, and split the cost of the ad.  Offer some food or drink or door prizes or drawings at each house.  (That’s how they get agents to attend those agent open houses.)  The great thing is that, as we learned in Real Estate School, ALL real estate is “non-homogeneous,” which means that no two properties are exactly alike. Real Estate is always local, and unique.  And that means that the buyer who would buy your neighbor’s house probably wouldn’t buy yours anyway, whether it’s the number of bedrooms, shape of the back yard, or any of a hundred other things.  By making it a neighborhood event you can buy a bigger ad, share the cost, and attract buyers and agents who know they can see a variety of options in one trip. 

Google “St. Joseph statue:”

You’ll find lots of places you can buy one for just a few bucks, with instructions on what to do with it.  Many sellers swear that they’ve sold their property in the past by burying the statue for good luck.  Maybe it works, probably does if you believe it, and it certainly can’t do any harm!

Participate in an agent open house:

They are usually held on Tuesdays, from 10AM – 2PM.  We don’t do them, but you can let your selling neighbors know that if their agent will set one up, you would like to participate.  Agents will “caravan” through 4 or 5 homes.  Each home provides something; first, soup and/or salad, second, lunch entrée, third, dessert & coffee, last, a drawing for a gift or gift certificate or cash.  I’m not sure this sells houses, but it does expose them to agents who might influence a buyer and, after all, you only need ONE buyer.  At any rate, if you’re going to try EVERYTHING, this is included!

Post notes:

I love this idea!  Make signs on neon-colored 3×5 cards, and post them (with removable tape) throughout your house to point out details that prospects might otherwise miss.  Is the refrigerator or washer/dryer included?  Put a note on them saying so.  New carpet?  Custom draperies?  Italian light fixtures?  Home Warranty included?  Electric pet fence?  Gas fireplace starter?  Make sure visitors are aware of everything that adds value to your home.  Are notes tacky?  Absolutely.  Do buyers mind?  They LOVE them, and will walk around looking for every one to find and read.  And here’s the BEST one:  Right inside the front door, put one that says “KINDLY REMOVE YOUR SHOES.”  Some people will, some won’t, but they will all get the impression that it’s a well maintained home that the owners have really cared about.  I’ve known sellers who have put out a basket of those blue shoe booties at the front door.  I know having those signs around will annoy you, but they work.  Remember, you don’t sell a house the way you live in it.  Buyers have no emotional attachment to your home, and you are selling a product.  They need information, so give it to them.

Get Feng Shui Savvy:

Get a book or research it online, and then arrange your furniture and accessories by the principles you’ve learned.  Your house will look better, you might sell faster, and you’ll feel more peaceful about the whole process.

Hire a home stager:

For $150-200, they will honestly and objectively tell you what you need to do.  It will probably include de-personalizing (removing an abundance of family photos, etc., religious wall hangings that could possibly eliminate someone who might otherwise have made you an offer but was offended.)  It will include “editing” or removal of a lot of stuff.  I know you don’t want to spend money on the house now that you plan to leave, but you might have to.  You might need to rent a storage unit to put stuff in for awhile.  (The garage might hold some stuff, but if you fill it up more than it already is buyers will get uncomfortable.  You probably should “edit” the garage, too.)  It could include re-arrangement of furniture, artwork and accessories.  This can make rooms feel larger, traffic flow work better, and it can help people to imagine their own stuff in your space, if it’s done right.  Another recommendation might be re-painting.  Sure, you love your chartreuse hall bath, and the jelly-bean purple master bedroom is your childhood dream.  But as easy as it is for them to re-paint, most buyers can’t see beyond what they are actually looking at to the potential of a room.  Not only that, they want the house to be move-in ready so they don’t have to launch right into renovations.  They can usually live with neutrals or earth tones, where pastels or extreme hues might rule you out.  Couldn’t you live with new bland paint for just a little while if it will help market your product…you house…to a wider audience?  So, invest in a home stager, and follow the recommendations you get.  Remember, you need to turn your house into a product. (Think of model homes you might have been in…lovely, well decorated, yet impersonal and with as broad an appeal as possible.)   You could hardly spend more than the cost of another month or two’s mortgage payments, and, in the long run, a quicker sale could save you more than you spend.

Stand out front and check the curb appeal, and hang out awhile at the front door:

Take action.  Buyers have so many choices these days that if the picture they see on the internet…or the house they see driving by…doesn’t really grab their attention, you will never get to show them the spectacular floor plan and interior drama.  WhatEVER it takes, it must look good outside.  This means new mulch or pine straw, new flowering annuals, trimmed and pruned shrubs (if they’ve overgrown the house, you MUST cut them back, unless you are trying to appeal to the curator of the botanical gardens,) lawns, sidewalks and curbs mowed and edged, mailbox painted, gutters and trim paint clean and fresh.  The single place that buyers spend most of their time is on your front porch waiting for their agent to finish fumbling around to get the key out of the lockbox.  And they are looking around.  They see everything from old rusty front door hardware (lets face it, you never even look at this…you come in through the garage), cobwebs in the corners to sickly plants in the urn to cracked mortar on the brick steps, peeling paint on the wrought iron, and faded shutters and window trim.  You know what they say about first impressions, so what will they be saying about yours?  Make sure you make this a fun, beautiful, spotlessly clean, well-maintained place.  Investing a few…or a few hundred…dollars on a new front doorknob, updated light fixture, and necessary upkeep can not only pay off…it will bite you badly, if you don’t do it.

Bake a pie.  Or a chicken.  And turn on the lights.  Oh, you’ve heard this before:

When you list, get your carpets cleaned. 

Sniff your closets…pare down the Imelda Marcus shoe wardrobe, and keep a mild deodorizer in each closet.  Put a bounce sheet in every shoe. 

When you have a showing, go all out with the good smells.  Bake something that smells great (leave out the curry, don’t bake a fish, and don’t cook cauliflower or broccoli for a day or two before the showing.)

Remove litter boxes to a faraway place outside during the showing, and clean their usual area well.  Pet odors = bad.

A mild potpourri or Aroma candles – good ones – are okay in small doses, but be sure not to leave candles burning after the showing.  You want to have something left to sell at the end of the day, and it’s easy to forget they’re lit in the daytime.

Bright idea:  Turn on Every light in the house.  Saying this goes against my inclination to be “green.”  But bright rooms appear larger and happier, so turn them ALL on, then just turn them off after the showing.  Of course, they shed light on dirt too, so be sure you have cleaned, cleaned and cleaned again.