Greg Bennett - The Home Expert

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If you are a little bit of a Real Estate geek, you may find a lot of discussions on the For Sale By Owner topic. FSBO has to do with owners selling their own homes without the assistance of an agent. So if you haven’t sold a home for some time, you may be blissfully unaware of this debate.
 
In a nutshell, there are groups of people out there who have a DIY (do it yourself) model that will assist you in selling your own home. Kind of a no-frills version of a typical real estate agent’s function, but the seller does all the work and shoulders all the risk. This service provides the Seller with the ability to list on MLS and, in theory, get out of having to pay the real estate commission.
 
People want to save money wherever they can. People are always suspicious of people charging money for things that 'seem' simple. And in this day & age, there is no shortage of businesses who will tell people they are paying too much for one service, and offer an alternative, cheaper service. Nothing wrong with that I suppose. But if you don’t know what you are giving up with this new, ‘scaled-down’ service, you may find yourself signing up for more than you bargained for. Maybe. Maybe not. ‘Buyer Beware’ as they say.
 
Now I have not sold a home using the ‘For Sale By Owner’ model (being a Real Estate Sales Rep myself), and I don’t know anyone who has gone this route. I have bought and sold a number of my own homes before becoming an agent. As I’ve said, there appears to be lots of material online about it. But oddly, there doesn’t seem to be much when it comes to people talking about their actual experiences with FSBO. Good or bad.
 
So I thought I would try to look at this with my unbiased goggles firmly in place. No talking up the Real Estate Agent value or all the things they do. Just a simple speculation on what I assume the process would look like based on an average homeowner’s point of view. So here we go.
 
I am going to sell my home, and I am considering the ‘For Sale By Owner’ strategy. Where is my head at?
 
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OK, my wife & I have worked hard to accumulate equity in our home, and we want to protect that equity from the cost of a real estate commission. That’s what this is all about anyway, right? So what do we have to do?
 
We investigate and find out that there are a variety of FSBO packages you can buy that include a basic sales kit (lawn signs, etc), and with some of the packages, we could also list on MLS for an additional fee. It seems reasonable that if we’re ‘in the online mix’ with all the other homes available in our area, we stand as good a chance as the next guy of selling. Seems reasonable enough. Then what?
 
We have looked at the market and come up with what we feel is a competitive price. We may choose to lower the price to make it more attractive, factoring in the savings we may make from avoiding commission payments. Probably not the entire amount, but we’d probably put a little bit of the anticipated proceeds in there for good measure. Now, just for the sake of argument, lets say that our home is in perfect selling condition, and staged in such a way that prospective buyers will see the value immediately.
 
We’re all right, ready to go. Bring on the Buyers!
 
Now with this DIY approach, I’m selling my house in pretty much the same way I’d resell a car. I would think that For Sale By Owner would be viewed as the equivalent of not buying from a dealer. To me, that means I’m going to discount the price immediately. No dealer overhead means I should be able to get it cheaper. So from a Real Estate perspective, anyone with a little negotiation savvy is going to know you are taking the FSBO approach to save the commission. So what are they going to do? Immediately discount your asking price by the commission you are trying to save. That may seem unfair, but lets face it. Its clear that you are taking this approach to save money. Why would you expect someone who knows you are saving money on a deal they are doing with you, and not want a piece (or all) of that saving?
 
OK, so moving on, I am also going to assume that the Buyers I’m going to be meeting are going to demonstrate a variety of negotiating strategies. Some may be logical (if I’m lucky). Some may leave me more than a bit agitated. I would expect the ‘Reality TV Effect’, which means the Buyer is going to spend all their time pointing out all the things they see wrong with my home. Real or imagined, they’ll be throwing them out there. Seriously, I’ve sold a couple of things on Kijiji, and most of the time, I felt like I was dealing with a Picker or a Pawn Star. Why would I expect anything different here?
 
Now if I’m not very good at defending the value of my home (or worse, I start to think that maybe I priced my place too high, based on all the negative feedback I’m hearing), then my commission saving is going to take another hit. Of course, I can go into this process with a firm position on my home’s value and what I’m prepared to accept, so I can just tell people who are just trying to cut the price beyond where I’m prepare to go to hit the road.
 
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But again, if I’m selling my home like I’d sell a used laptop, I have no control over who shows interest, when they choose to show interest, how they behave when they show up, or even if they’re sincerely interested in buying my home (or any home for that matter). That means, we should expect to have a number of people tromping through our home, who may or may not be serious Buyers, and who may or may not leave us wanting to scream into a pillow for 15 minutes afterward.
 
But you’re still getting some interested Buyers, right? Theoretically yes. It is worth pointing out that the vast majority of Buyers are represented by Buyer Agents. Buyer Agents have an expectation on how their deals are done, so you should be prepared to have all your ducks in a row in terms of the agreement, because they will have requirements and specific clauses they will want included in the deal. Keep in mind, an Agent is obligated to serve & protect their clients interests. One way they do this is by making sure the paperwork includes those protections. So if you have an agent who is insisting on specific language included in the contract to sell, you can just ‘go with it’ (which means you are theoretically putting yourself at risk) or you can have a lawyer look every deal you are considering. Lawyers are not cheap.
 
And finally, from what I can see online, the FSBO timeline from listed to sold is much longer than a sale by agent. Because I’m trying to be unbiased, I’m not going to speculate as to why that is. It just seems to be a general point of view out there. So it seems to me that by going the FSBO route, you may be subjecting yourself to living in your house that is setup to satisfy someone else’s needs (remember, staged to appeal to prospective buyers), dealing with all manner of ‘interesting personalities’, who may not be on the level, and may think that because you’re doing this yourself, you can be taken advantage of.
 
Now some people may enjoy the whole social interaction that would seem to come along with this approach. Me? If there is someone out there who is willing to help me prepare, give advice not only on how much to ask, but on how to get my home ready for sale, and then someone who will act as a buffer between myself and the rest of the world (that includes both legitimate Buyers and…. well ….. weirdos), and then finally make sure the deal is pretty much bullet-proof and I’m protected, well I’m prepared to pay for that.
 
Maybe I’m reading this entirely wrong. And again, I haven’t been able to find many confessions of actual sellers who have been through the FSBO process. I may be projecting things on this that just don’t happen. I’d love to hear of some experiences, start to finish. I’ll keep looking. But I’ll leave you with this, and this is strictly my perspective as a homeowner.
 
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Everyone has heard numerous and seemingly endless news items about people who are finding more & more creative ways to rip people off. Some of them wear really nice suits & ties and look completely legit. Two words. Bernie Madoff. You have to be really careful when putting your investments in play.
 
Also, if I don’t have the skills to ‘deal with’ something important to me, I am willing to pay someone a fair wage to do it for me. I don’t know how to change the brakes in my truck. I could probably find a video on YouTube that’ll show me how, but what do I do if the video skipped an important step, and I end up in a river somewhere? Send a strongly worded letter to the guy who made the video?
 
On all of the FSBO services I’ve seen advertised online, none seem to indicate that if your deal goes sideways, they will stand behind you until everything is sorted out. That is scary to me. But leaving the sale of your biggest investment in the hands of a rookie just seems…. well…. Like a rookie move. As they say 'I may be paranoid, but that doesn't mean everyone isn't out to get me'...  
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Ahhh, the dreaded ‘Which Comes First’ question. Chicken or Egg. Multiply or Divide. Weights or Cardio. OK, that last one is completely new to me, but I digress.

 
All of these questions have some philosophical undertone to them. Which is to say, there is always a seemingly good argument on either side. And so too is the case when it comes to Buying a Home. Do you do it before you sell your existing home or wait until the deal is done?
 
Sometimes people over-think this process, cant figure it out and end up staying in their home….like forever. And others just charge ahead with one part of the equation without understanding the implications the other has on their current activities.
 
Now under certain circumstances, the decision can be a little easier. If you find yourself having to move for work reasons, or something similar, the decision is often a little bit easier. You know this has got to happen, and you generally may accept that there could be a period in-between where you are not a home owner. Renter? Somebody’s new roommate? Whatever. You know there may be a gap in there, so you prepare yourself for that inevitability. If you’re lucky, whomever is behind the move is helping you out with some of the implications of this type of move. ‘Should We’ can sometimes be more stressful a decision than ‘When We’ is.
 
But for many of us, the idea of moving is a decision you contemplate until you come to terms with it.
 
You may consider moving because you have outgrown your place. You may have too much space, now that the kids have grown. Maybe you figure you have enough equity that you can now find a place that you can afford mortgage free (once you’ve sold your place). These types of moves tend to be a little less urgent, so you often have ample time to think things through. Doesn’t mean you can always come up with the ideal scenario, but again, if it looks like things aren’t going to fall together in an acceptable way, you can back off a bit and re-think it.
 
And then there are the people who….well….just move around. It may be motivated by a desire to take advantage of a hot market they currently live in. It may be an opportunity to move into a newer, nicer home being offered at a great price. It may be someone who needs a ‘fresh canvas’ now that they have re-decorated every room in their current home.


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The fact is, if you are in one place and you are trying to get to your next destination, it can be tricky. In some cases, it can completely work against you. For example, lets say you found an area that is just perfect in your mind. You HAVE to live there. But it’s a hot market. And in a hot market, there may be a few things you might not otherwise have to deal with.
 
First, the homes in a hot market go quickly. Under these conditions, you need to be motivated and ready to jump when the right place becomes available. Otherwise, you just end up getting frustrated when it seems like everything you like is gone before the weekend comes.
 
Second, the Sellers in a hot market can be a little more picky about the offers they will take. Hot market means they could be getting a lot of offers. More specifically, they want (and typically favor) offers with few conditions. If  you want to buy, but you have to sell your own home first, the Seller is less likely to have their deal hung up on your success selling your own place before you can buy theirs.  The fact is, most Sellers period are less inclined to accept ‘conditional on sale’ types of clauses, hot market or not.
 
You can certainly try anything & everything you want to get to where you want to be. But there are some things that can at least lessen the anxiety a bit. So if you own a home, which you plan to sell in order to ‘move on’, here are some things to consider.


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Is your house ready to sell? 


This is a really key step. First and foremost, you want to get the most for your home and sell it as quick as possible. There are all kinds of headaches that come with selling your home, so the faster the better. If you spend the time up front getting everything ‘just so’, you really will be doing yourself a favour.
 
Now this doesn’t mean you have to invest a ton of time & money in your home. It can be as simple as a coat of paint, trimming up some landscaping that has gotten out of hand, or fixing up a couple of those small dents & dimples you’ve grown to live with. Of course, some people may choose to do some significant work on their homes. The general rule of thumb is to make sure that whatever you choose to renovate, you can get back a solid percentage of that cost when you sell. Kitchens & bathrooms often pay off. Putting down new wall to wall carpeting may not.
 
One really easy one (again, in theory) is clear out your junk. Now I have heard about these shows where they help hoarders…. uhhh, de-hoardify their homes. You may not be one of these types, but you should keep in mind that potential buyers want to see open space. As George Carlin once said ‘Everyone needs a place for their stuff’. If your home is full of your stuff, people wont get a good sense of where their stuff is going to go.
 
That doesn’t mean you have to throw everything out. But you really should think about netting it down. The guideline I try to follow:
 

  • Do you use it more than once a month (during certain seasons)? Leave it alone.

  • Do you use it only once or twice a year? Put it in some sort of box or container.

  • Do you rarely ever use it, but it has sentimental value? Put it in a box or container, or even consider a storage facility.

  • Do you rarely even use it, or even think about it? Kijiji or the dump. Seriously, if you move, you are going to pay someone to move it. Get rid of it.

 
Once you have things in boxes or containers, try to stack them as nicely as possible. A big, unruly pile of boxes isn’t going to do you any favors.
 
I know I’m making this sound really easy, and I know it isn’t. But you will thank yourself for it later if you at least take a shot at it.


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Can you buy before you sell? 


Lets say you are of the mind that you don’t want to seriously consider a move before you’ve found your ‘Dream Home’. Now even though I’ve mentioned that Sellers tend to shy away from conditional offers, some may accept your conditions. If the home you’re looking at is not a popular design, the Seller may be happy to work with you. The area itself may not be ‘hot’ at then time, so again, the Sellers may entertain your offer.
 
However, you do have some other options open to you, depending on your situation.
 
You might be able to get some form of ‘bridge financing’. Now this depends on the lenders you choose to deal with. And there are risks that both you should be considering and the lender will be considering. In short, if you take out a loan in order to buy a new home, and you haven’t sold your existing home, can you afford to cover your living expenses plus the cost of the loan.
 
People have been known to get themselves into all manner of financial trouble doing this, so you should always be cautious when taking on additional debt. You may think your existing house is really nice and should move quickly, but there are all kinds of things that are out of your control, which can throw a monkey wrench into your situation. Be careful not to get ahead of yourself.


Do you have to buy right now? 


Some people honestly feel like when they see something that they ‘just have to have’, that it will never be available again. Now of course in some situations, that can be true. I believe there is such a thing as ‘a once in a lifetime’ opportunity. And maybe I’m conservative in my views, but when it comes to real estate, the ‘once in a lifetime’ means EVERYTHING comes together. Not just the availability of a house you really like. Everything including the conditions that will make it possible to buy it without putting yourself at risk.
 
I mean, houses are built. And if someone has built one, chances are it has been built a number of times. Sure, custom-made homes are…well… custom. But generally, most people who can muster up a sufficient amount of patience will be able to find a number of homes that are pretty darn nice.
You may have found a number of homes that you really love, and none of them were for sale. That shouldn’t discourage you. You should keep track of them, and establish a relationship with an agent who will keep a watch out for you. Most agents, if not all, would be happy to do so.


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Should you buy right now? 


Another thing to consider is the nature of your move. Are you making a fundamental change to the type of residence you are going to live in? Then consider this.
 
I know a gentleman who had decided to sell his 2000+ sq ft home and downsize. He was thinking something along the lines of a 2 bedroom condo. Perfect, given his needs. He had owned several homes similar to the one he was currently living in, but never a condo.
 
So he sold his place, and arranged for a closing that would allow him to deal with all the downsizing activities he knew he would have to do. Note: I will touch on this another time, but downsizing is probably a lot harder than you think it is. Anyway, rather than buy that 2 BR condo right away, he decided to rent a 2 BR apartment. That turned out to be the smartest move he could have made. Let me explain.
 
When he got the floor plan of the apartment he was considering, as most people do, he started marking out where he’d place his furniture. Everything he planned to move looked like it would fit pretty well. The location seemed convenient to everything he thought he would need. Although he’d never lived in an apartment/condo residence, when he did the pre-lease walk-through, it seemed pretty much what he expected. So he signed a one year lease, and moved in. And having invested the proceeds of his home sale, he was making enough to cover his rent and then some.
 
And then he moved in.
 
Now he expected he’d need a bit of time to adjust, so he took a few months to mull over this new scenario. It didn’t take him long to realize a few things that you simply cannot know beforehand.
 
First, he felt crowded. Not tripping over things and always walking sideways crowded, but just not comfortable. His kitchen simply didn’t have enough cupboard and counter space. And this was a single guy with no real flair for fancy cooking or entertaining numerous people. The location turned out to be quite dusty, due to the amount of traffic outside his windows. And although he hadn’t really given it too much weight (no pun intended), having some on-site exercise facilities would have also been nice.
 
But the good news was, he rented first. Sure, he would have to move again, but he wasn’t going to have to pay all the Seller costs all over again. Most importantly, he now knew (a) he would need a place at least 1100 sq ft, (b) he needed a kitchen with a certain amount of countertop and cabinet space, (c) he wanted workout facilities, and (d) he wanted the area around his new residence to be ‘less pavement, more grass’.
 
Well, 8 months into his lease, he went condo shopping and found the perfect place, with what he now refers to as ‘his million dollar view’.
 
Now this was a perfect ending to a somewhat rocky start. In some cases, renting gives a seller a perfect amount of buffer to deal with major changes. As with this particular case, if you want to move into a style of residence you’re not familiar with, you might do well to rent first. I mean, an alternative ending to this might have been he absolutely hated apartment / condo living, and ended up just buying a smaller bungalow somewhere. You never know until you try.
 
On the other hand, I’ve seen people decide to sell their place and rent, wait too long, and then find the cost of housing has increased so quickly that they cant get back into the market at the same level they got out at..
 
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Renting isn’t for everyone. People who have owned most of their lives often find it a bitter pill to swallow. But it does have its advantages under certain circumstances.

Wow. Sorry, that was a lot of information. So as we’ve outlined here, there are a number of things that can and/or should factor into your decision. If you own a home and you are ready for a move, the best advice I can offer you is this:
 

  • If you are thinking about a move, make sure your existing home is ready to sell. You should try to avoid rushing around at the last second, trying to get your home in ‘sell-ready’ condition.

  • If you are going to buy a home before you sell your existing home, be careful not to put yourself in a risky financial position. Nobody has a crystal ball, so nobody can guarantee you will be able to sell your home exactly when you want it to sell.

  • Be patient. Odds are, you will find more than one home that you will be excited to move into.  Try not to feel disappointed if you can get a specific home because you aren’t ready. There are lots of great homes on the market just about all the time.

  • Renting may be a good option for you, particularly if you are moving into a style of home that you are unfamiliar with. Living in a condo is much different than living in a detached 2 story. Be careful not to jump too soon.

  • I know I obviously have a bias here, but having bought & sold my own homes prior to getting into real estate myself, I can tell you, there is value in securing a good agent to evaluate your unique circumstances and help you determine some strategies for you to consider. And whatever course of action you choose, there will be times when you need someone (other than your significant other) to clarify things that are happening, make sure you understand both what is and what will be happening, and sometimes remind you of what you set out to do (in case you have a severe attack of ADD, as we all have from time to time).

 
Looking at a move to a new place can be a lot of fun. But to insure it stays fun, make sure you are cautious about your approach. Enjoy!

  
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Working in Real Estate, you see a broad spectrum of human emotions in play. Now given buying or selling Real Estate for most people means the biggest investment they have made or will make is ‘in play’, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that people get a little twitchy.

 
But what is it specifically about the transaction that sets people on edge? I don’t think it is any one thing. People worry about different things, most likely based on their own upbringing and experiences. If it’s a couple that is buying or selling, the stress may be the combination of their collective concerns, or conflicting priorities or desires.
 
So leaving aside the ‘better living through pharmaceuticals’ strategy for dealing with Buyer/Seller anxiety, I will try to outline some of the more common root issues that leave people lying awake at night during this process. Hopefully by dragging them out into the light, we can identify some ways to avoid a troubled mind.
 
At a high level, it really comes down to ‘Fear’. Something bad is going to happen that will negatively impact your investment. For the Seller, the investment is clear, in that you have a home that you have paid for, or have been paying for for some time. For the Buyer, you have money you have been saving for some time that you are going to sink into this purchase and commit to years to regular payments. But fear is a little to broad a term, so here are some more specific thoughts on the subject.


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The Grass Is Always Greener… 


Obviously, when people are buying or selling, they want to get the best deal. Makes perfect sense. But when someone is looking for a home, they need to be cautious not to get stuck in a cycle of thinking that they are going to end up getting the short end of the stick with every potential home they consider.
 
How can you possibly avoid this? There are a couple of ways, but it all really comes down to having access to the right information at the right time. You can achieve this yourself or with a Real Estate Professional, but ultimately you should be prepared in advance.
 
For example, if someone came to me and said that just yesterday, they decided to buy a home, and they want me to take them out looking tomorrow, I would probably be inclined to get them to take a step back, take a deep breath, and at least spend a bit of time to figure out a little more than the fact that they are capable of buying a home.
 
Why? Maybe I’m a little selfish, but I know that people going into a complex process like this with little more than confidence and a pre-approved mortgage are going to have a harder time than they need to.  And if my client is having a hard time, so will I. And I’ve already got enough grey hair as it is.
 
If you are prepared, and/or you have someone working with you who is equally or even better prepared, you can protect yourself for thinking you are never going to get a good deal.


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Cant Always Get What You Want… 

Sorry, I’m a sucker for quoting classic rock tunes. Anyway, often people find themselves constantly disappointed during the buying or selling process. They feel like they’ve been at it for so long, they are starting to doubt if its ever going to happen. They cant get the price they want for their home. They cant find the home they want.
 
Now for Sellers, feeling like the process is taking too long might come from the frustration of having to keep their home ‘showing ready’, and having to leave their house and find something to do for an hour while someone checks their place out. I’ve been through it myself. It can be exhausting.
 
For Buyers, it may come from burning off countless hours out of their weekend looking at homes and not finding anything that feels right, or worse (in a hot market) having to forego a little decompression time after a hard days work to rush off to see a house that just came on the market.
 
In both of these scenarios, your best defense against this type of frustration may simply be patience, and knowing that going into this process, your normal routine is going to take a hit.
 
Now a second and often equally important consideration is to make sure you have the right perspective in the first place.
 
For the Seller, this can point to their expectations of what they can get for their home. This is a fine line, and a few percentage points on either side of the ideal selling price (which can be a challenging thing to establish, depending on the situation) can mean the difference between a stampede of potential buyers and lots of offers (when the price is below that ideal price) and a much slower, much longer timeframe before the place sells (when the price is above that ideal price).
 
For the Buyer, knowing what types of homes exist in the location they’ve chosen and what they go for is critical to getting through the process without going out of your mind.
 
In both cases, a pro should try to ensure you have the right perspective going into it. Now I’m not going to say that you should blindly follow any and all advice you get from an Agent. But you should always at a minimum be provided with sufficient information to support the advice you get, such that you are comfortable with what is ahead of you. If you aren’t comfortable with what you are hearing, get a second opinion.
 
But again. Be cautious. If you have talked to 3 different Agents, and they are all telling you the same thing, and you don’t like what you are hearing, maybe you might need to re-evaluate your expectations. And I say be cautious because unfortunately, if you interview enough Agents, you may eventually find someone who will tell you what you want to hear. That doesn’t mean either of you are right. That might just mean they don’t care how miserable you will become trying to find a certain type of home for 50% of what its worth or sell your home for 50% more than it is worth.


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Is That Your Final Answer? 

For some people, their fear is rooted in the simple act of committing to something. Now before some of you have an ADD moment and you start thinking about ‘those other’ commitment challenges that don’t relate to Real Estate, let me keep us on track.
 
If you are not ready to buy a home or sell your home…. that’s totally OK. Really, its OK.
 
In most cases, this is or should be a decision you have given ample thought to. As I have mentioned, you should have looked into this and prepared yourself a bit up front. But just because you are comfortable that you can get a pre-approved mortgage or can get a price for your home you are comfortable with, doesn’t necessarily mean you are committed.
 
A wise man once said, ‘I don’t fear commitment. I fear wasting my time’. Buying or selling Real Estate takes effort. And I’m not just referring to the prep work I’ve mentioned here. I mean making decisions. Making arrangements. Meeting with people. There is a big difference between shopping for Real Estate and shopping for your basic consumer products.
 
But more importantly, there is a lot of emotional factors that you need to come to terms with to be committed.
 
If you are buying for the first time (say as a couple), you may very well find yourself staring at yourself in the rearview mirror asking ‘are we ready for this?’.
 
If you are a selling a home you have lived in for years, maybe raised your kids in, you might have a hard time turning over that house full of memories.


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These are all very real things you need to come to terms with, or have at least given ample consideration to before you get serious.
 
So for those of you considering a change, good for you. I cant tell you that even if you take my advice, that you wont have a few emotional moments along the way. In fact, I’d be surprised if you didn’t.
 
Maybe you should not so much prepare yourself for the inevitable fear (in all its forms), but prepare yourself to be courageous. So I’ll leave you with another quote that seems to fit.
 
‘Courage is not living without fear, courage is being scared to death and doing the right thing anyway’.

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When you decide to sell your home, the bottom line is get the best price as quickly as possible, with the most favourable terms for you, the seller. Seems pretty simple, but obviously there is a lot that goes into achieving that goal.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to how your home is marketed. Your Agent has a lot to do with how this comes together, but you also have a role to play as well. In my opinion, there is a sweet-spot in terms of what your role is. I should also point out that there is a difference between being actively engaged by your Agent throughout the selling process and actively contributing to the marketing of your home.

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Active engagement is mandatory in my mind. As your Agent, I will be making sure you have as much information as is possible to ensure you feel comfortable making decisions on things like price, strategies and the eventual offers you will receive.  You are fully engaged in the process. You shouldn’t ever feel like something important is going on, but you really don’t know what that something is. You should always have ‘trust’ in your Agent, but that doesn’t mean blind trust. You should be aware, and shouldn’t ever feel uncomfortable asking for clarity on what plans are being made, who your agent is engaging as part of the process or really anything you might simply want to better understand.
 
When we talk about active participation, people have different views on what should be expected of them. Now as a Seller, you can decide what you are prepared to do to get your home sold. It really is entirely up to you. However, every Seller should know that their participation can make the difference in how well a home is marketed. Some examples are as follows:


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Home Readiness
 
Getting your home ready for sale is key, and although there is a broad spectrum of activities that can go into this (and a number of services available to assist a Seller on this front), some of the basics are:


- Making sure your home is clean at all times during ‘showings’
- Making sure your home has been de-cluttered
- Making sure anything that is visibly damaged has been repaired
- Making sure your home ‘s exterior is being regularly maintained 


Generally, these things don’t cost money unless damage requires some sort of trade to come in to affect repairs. It is really a time investment by the homeowner.  Often the Agent will provide some guidance on what really needs to be done.
 
From a marketing perspective, these activities almost always pay off. And this is not something your agent can do for you. You need to ‘participate’.


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Home Staging
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Now ‘staging’ has become a fairly common term in Real Estate, and it’s value is relative. It can also mean a lot of things, so don’t get ahead of yourself on this. I would throw all of the following things into the ‘staging’ category:


- Putting a new coat of paint on one or more rooms in the home
- Replacement of flooring, cabinetry or fixtures
- Temporarily substituting furnishing in one or more rooms in the home 

The list goes on and on here, and the big difference between ‘staging’ and ‘readiness’ in my mind is cost. And as I’ve indicated, the value is relative. I have seen people pay to have brand new flooring put down to make their home ‘more marketable’ and then see the buyer take possession and promptly pull all that new flooring up and throw it out. I would suggest you & your Agent should feel pretty sure that any money you sink into the home is going to have a net-benefit to the selling process.  And you need to be careful how you approach it. For example, putting a fresh coat of paint on things does often have a net benefit in the overall marketability of the home. Neutral colours will help a prospective Buyer visualize their furnishings fitting in better. However, if you chose to pick some bold colours based on your personal preferences, it may look great to you, but ultimately it might put someone else off altogether.

So to recap, the things just outlined would fall into the category of ‘participation’. Activities you as a Seller undertake to improve the overall marketing picture. Now there are some additional things that you may be involved in, but more in terms of agreeing to the strategy. That said, it is becoming more commonplace for Sellers to suggest these strategies, and that is certainly welcome participation. However, I think its important to know what you are asking for. Not every strategy works for every situation.


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Creating a Bidding War
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Now this one has been around for a while, and yet many Sellers are not always clear on what might be involved. In short, the idea here is to put the home on the market, allow people to see the home but do not accept bids on the home until sometime after the showings have begun. In doing so, they hope to get competing bids on the home, thus pushing up the price of the offers received.
 
Now depending on the market at that time, this alone can result in more favorable offers due to the increased competition. However in some cases, an Agent may suggest a list price, which is slightly lower than the anticipated ‘market’ price, simply to attract more Buyers to the home because it has a ‘bargain’ price. Again, this does work under certain circumstances, but in some cases the bidding may only takes the price to that original ‘market’ price. No real benefit but a lot more activity. There are no guarantees here.
 
One new twist in this approach is the concept of a ‘bully’ offer. This means that someone submits an offer (often an attractive offer) in advance of the date when offers were originally to be accepted. It is still up to the Seller if they want to accept a bully offer, but if it is to be considered, the Agent is obliged to notify anyone who might have looked at the property up to the point that a bully offer is being considered and give them the option to submit an offer as well.
 
Overall, this strategy has become popular (one would assume) because it gets the desired results. I have seen it work well and occasionally not so well.


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Coming Soon
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This seems to have become a very popular strategy recently. So much so, that many Sellers are demanding their Agents that they want their home listed as ‘Coming Soon’. Myself, the approach seems to run contrary to most marketing logic.
 
How this works is, when a Seller is ready to list their home, the Agent will market the home as ‘Coming Soon’, which means most of the marketing tools are used (the sign goes in the front yard, the promotional materials are prepared, it may be put on the Realtors website in a Coming Soon section, etc) but it is not put on MLS right away.  Now for those of you who don’t know, the MLS listing is considered the biggest and most effective promotional tool an Agent has a their disposal. Most people who are looking for a home, will almost certainly have visited an MLS Listing Site.
 
So in my mind, I cant reconcile holding back on using one of the most effective tools available to reach prospective Buyers, simply to be able to say ‘Coming Soon’. But that’s just me. And if my Client insists, well….. they are the Client. But I would definitely explain it as I have here.


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Open Houses
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Ahhh the old standby. Once again, depending on the market, the Open House can be very effective in terms of allowing people to go beyond the information and pictures available online, and really look at a place. Often times, Open Houses can turn a Buyer who might not yet be serious about buying to a real player. And for serious Buyers, it can be a convenient way to look at homes without having to coordinate directly with an Agent (who typically book and attend client showings on a case by case basis).
 
Now some will argue that an Open House is often an opportunity for nosey neighbors to come and look at your stuff. Others worry that if the Agent does not manage an Open House properly, light-fingered individuals may help themselves to things along the way.


As with all of these approaches, the market will always dictate how successful the sale is. These can all be combined as well. And as I said initially, Client Engagement and Client Participation will ultimately strengthen the overall marketing strategy for a home.


Generally your Agent will provide you with sound advice on this topic, and hopefully any efforts you do make will pay off in spades. Best of luck!

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Greg Bennett - The Home Expert
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