How to choose a realtor to sell your house

When it comes time to sell your house, choose your real estate agent wisely.  I see so many people selling their houses where they take the “easy way out.”  I’m here to advise you that’s often not the best choice.

 

For most home owner, their house is their largest asset.  And, you don’t just want to entrust the task of selling it to just anyone.

 

Here are the 2 most common mistakes I see home sellers making:

MISTAKE 1:  Choosing a realtor based on the one who gives you the highest list price.  Big mistake!  In fact, this is probably the biggest mistake.  Most people do this, because they “hear what they want to hear.”  The highest price sounds the best, right?  Well, often the opposite is true.

FACT:  The realtor does not set the market price!  The market (or the buyer(s) set the market price!  Just because a real estate agent tells you they can get a higher price doesn’t mean it’s true.  Rather, the realtor usually sets (or recommends) the list price.  There is a BIG difference.

If the list price is too high, you will have fewer buyers even looking at your house…and your house will stay on the market longer and ultimately (because of this), sell for a lower price.

If your list price is in the bull’s eye area (or even slightly below), you are likely to attract the right type of buyers (i.e. those that will actually have an interest in your house and those that are likely to make offers).  And, at times, you may even be able to attract multiple buyers at the same time and get a bidding war (which can raise the price).

Selecting a list price is about strategy.  And, some agents know better than others.  They know what your house is ACTUALLY worth (and worth right now), and they know how to STRATEGICALLY price it to get it sold fastest and for the highest amount.

So, don’t be fooled by the agent who tells you the highest price.  Chances are, they are more desperate for business and telling you what you want to hear (vs. what will actually happen).  For many, the only way they can win a listing is to tell you a higher price so you’ll choose them.

 

MISTAKE 2:  Choosing a realtor because you know them (e.g. they are a friend, relative, etc.). No, no, no.  Choose the BEST PERSON for the job, regardless of whether you know them or not.  Sometimes, that may be a friend (but chances are it isn’t).

I won’t even get into the whole thing about potentially ruining your friendship (i.e. mixing business and friendship…e.g. what if the house doesn’t sell or it won’t sell for the price you want, or something goes very wrong, and do you want your friends/family to know your financial situation?).

Rather, simply choose the person that you think it the best to get the job done the best.  That may be your friend or may not be.

So interview a few agents to get opinions and advice and carefully make your selection.

 

ADVICE ON SELECTING A REALTOR:

1. Choose a neighborhood expert – someone who knows YOUR area and hence knows how to price your house well.  They know the inventory, they know what it will take to get the house sold.

 

2.  Choose someone with a proven track record – Yes, experience counts in this industry (probably moreso than other industries).  Remember, this is your largest asset.  Don’t gamble with it.  Look at the person’s experience.  Look at how well they have done in YOUR area (not necessarily the county).  Look at well they do with LISTINGS.  Look at how long their listings stay on the market (what is the average days on market?)  And, importantly, look at the ratio of list price vs sold price.  This will help you ferret out those that inflating a price to tell you what you want to hear.

 

3.  Ask them about their marketing plan.  How will they market your house.  How do they do it differently/better than the others?

 

4.  Pick someone you feel comfortable with and trust.  I’ve said this a few times, but this is your largest asset.  You need to trust your agent.  They have a fiduciary responsibility to you. You will be working with them throughout the process.

 

5.  Check to validate that they have a proven record.  Check the facts, read reviews and think thing through.

 

Don’t just go with the agent you find.  Go with the BEST agent you find.

 

I hope this info is useful. I’ve worked with so many real estate agents (as a contractor) and I can clearly see that there are great agents, so so agents and bad agents (just like any other profession).  So choose wisely.

My fireworks post is off to a strong start

It always feels good when something starts to work.  So far, so good on my Fourth of July Fireworks post.  So far, it’s at 901 clicks in just3 days (and there are still 5 more hours in the day).  I’m hoping it will reach 1000 clicks by the end of the night.  We’ll see.

 

Generally, the 4th of July fireworks articles have a short but intense shelf life with most of the clicks happening between 7/2 and 7/4.  The fact that I’m already getting some traction and the clicks have increased each day (or at least it appears that way…still have to see how today ends up) is a good sign.  And, the fact that highest source of traffic is from google is also a good sign.

 

Last night I added it to a local facebook group for the county, and just a little while ago to a local town FB group.  I have a few others I plan to share it to tomorrow and then I’ll see if I can recycle it as we get closer.

 

This year, the article is on my site and as I have some ads on there, it’s being monetized a bit.  I added in some Amazon stuff, but that’s just a bonus and not sure if it will lead to anything extra.  We’ll see.  This is an experiment.  And, if it works, I can add some other future holiday articles.

I can’t believe it’s summer

I think summer is my favorite season.  (I love spring too and the 1st half of fall, too).  Summer means pool time to me. And, it’s a more relaxed atmosphere…a semi vacation.

This year, we sort of skipped most of spring.  The weather was so weird, especially in June as it was much cooler than usual and lots of rain.  Well all of a sudden it’s summer – weatherwise and calendar wise.  I can’t believe it’s almost the Fourth of July.  Crazy.

So right now I’m trying to get as much productive work done between now and then and as much swimming time as I can.  I’m going in the pool almost every day, and sometimes even twice a day.  It feels so good – for my mind and body.

I’m really glad that I have flexibility in my calendar now to be able to do this.  I think next year will be much better than this one as things will have stabilized for me a bit more.  Having this pool in my building is awesome.  And, being able to really use it again is awesome.

Summer Solstice thoughts

Wow, it’s the longest day of the year.  I can’t believe it’s here already.  I love the late spring and summer.  It’s the best time of the year.  It’s time for the pool (yes, I swam already) and time for ice cream (my favorite) and extra long days to hang out and relax.

 

This year, the weather has been so strange.  The spring has been especially cool and rather rainy.  It’s so odd. It’s hard to believe that it’s June, because it hasn’t felt that way on most days.

 

But, today is a beautiful day – sunny and warm, but not too warm.  It’s a nice day to choose for the longest day of the year.  My swim was nice, and since it will be light late, and I think I’m going to go in again after dinner.  Yay.

 

It’s hard to believe that it’s actually summer now, and July 4th is right around the corner (how did that happen?)  Yesterday, I wrote an article on my main site for the 4th of July Fireworks in Westchester County.  I’m hoping it does well and drives a lot of traffic to my site.  We shall see.

 

I’m so glad that I still have the remainder of June, all of July and August and 1st half of September to enjoy the pool in my building.  I love the water.  I always have.  I feel at peace in the water.  I chose my building because of the large beautiful pool.  I’m hoping to go to the pool at least 4 times/week until the week after Labor Day.  Now, given my new shift in career, it’s much easier to find time to go to the pool and relax.  And, I love it.

Father’s Day 2017

Yes, today is Father’s Day 2017.  We are so thankful to have my dad around.  He is 77.  At the end of April, he went into the hospital to have a heart valve replaced.  It didn’t sound like it was going to be too big of a deal, until the night before when they did the angiogram and then said he had to get a double bypass.

We were all, of course, very nervous.  Thankfully, the operation was a success.  Because he’s older, his recovery time was a bit longer. It was not a fun experience for him and he was in the hospital for 2 weeks.  He was so happy to go home, and we are all so happy for him.  He’s been doing better each week.

We were so happy to celebrate his 77th birthday on June 3rd.  And, we are so happy to have him here for Father’s Day.  I hope there are many more, but I know he’s getting older each year (and so am I), so that’s kind of scary.

My dad grew up in The Bronx.  You can’t tell because he really doesn’t have an accent.  My mom grew up on Long Island.  She still has a bit of an accent (but not as bad as most people on Long Island and it’s lessened over the years).

We are going to celebrate by having a “BBQ” at my parents’ house later today.  It may rain, so it sounds like we’ll be eating inside.  Looking forward to seeing his progress in the last 2 weeks.

Progress update – June 2017

Yes, I’ve had some big set backs in June.

On the one hand, a few things have stabilized and things are running more normally.  On the other hand, I was expecting a big chunk of “found” money, and after 6 months of waiting I received it.  However, it was way less than I expected. I’m still in debt and have a ways to go.  I need to amp up my income earning efforts.

At the same time, I’m not sure what’s going on with our economy here.  Typically, June is one of the busiest and most productive months for home improvement.  But, our painting leads have slowed down and close rate has decreased.  This isn’t good.  I’m hoping the last 2 months are much stronger.

On the positive side, I have 2 new upcoming clients. One is small and one may be a good ongoing client.  I’m still trying to coordinate when we can get together to meet…hopefully next week.  Then, I can get started on their projects and make up for a some hours lost.

I’m thrilled to be working with one of my best clients who has given me some steady work.  He helps people who need to sell their Long Island homes fast.

On the other positive side, my blog income this month has grown and it’s looking like I may have my best month ever. I’m hoping it’s the start of a real growth trend.  I just published a new article that I hope will take off and I’m re-energizing my pinterest pinning approach by creating a whole bunch of images and experimenting again with manual pinning.  I’m also making progress on some of my projects which can lead to some long term growth.

On the painting business, I have 3 large proposals out there and if these close soon, I’m in much better shape, so I’m crossing my fingers.

Here’s hoping for an awesome 2nd half of the month.

10 Advantages to living on Long Island

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing and remembering things back from my childhood.  One of those places I have fond memories for is Long Island.  Why?  Because that’s where my my grew up and one set of grandparents live.

 

I know it’s kind of crazy, but a couple of weeks ago, I found the street and house that my mom grew up in (I looked it up online).  We used to go there every Thanksgiving, and of course we’d go there in the summer.  I think I remember their next door neighbor’s pool more than anything.  I’ve always loved that water.  We live in Westchester, so not too far away from Long Island, but it was definitely a good drive to get there.

 

So, I thought it would be fun to jot down some of the amazing advantages of living on Long Island.

 

1.  The beaches and the water.  Yes, I love love love the water.  We used to go to Atlantic Beach and Jones Beach every summer.  The ocean and waves are awesome.  And, of course as you drive out further on the island, you have The Hamptons.  Many here in NYC metro area love to go there for the weekends.  In fact, many have a second summer house just for that purpose.  Of course, on the North Fork of the Island, you also have the Long Island Sound which is very peaceful and calm.  For me, I preferred the waves, but I suppose that’s not for everyone.  Oh, and don’t forget the concerts on the beach, especially Jones Beach.

 

2.  Amazing swim clubs and golf courses.  We used to go to Woodmere and again, anytime I was near any sort of water, I was in heaven.  But, there are tons of them – everywhere.  And, there are some amazing resorts, too.  One summer, we went out to Gurney’s in Montauk at the tip of Long Island.  That was amazing.

 

3.  You are just a hop, skip and jump away from NYC.  NYC is probably the or one of the greatest cities on earth.  I love Paris, London and Rome, and NYC is right up there with them.  Can anybody say Broadway shows?  Love them.  And, the restaurants are AMAZING.  Many who live on Long Island work in Manhattan and commute.  So, naturally finding a home near a train station is key (and of course this improves the value of your house).  On Long Island you have the advantages of The City while living in the suburbs.  It’s the best of both worlds.

 

4.  Great schools.  Yes, this area of the country has amazing public schools.  Of course the quality can vary town by town, but for the most part, amazing school systems.

 

5.  Amazing shopping.  Yes, great shopping all over the place.  Afterall, it’s just outside NYC.  So, you have tons of stores and plenty of farmer’s markets.

 

6.  Lots of parks.  The land is amazing and diverse, so you have parks, walking trails, places to ride horses. You have apple orchards (yes, we have tons of apples in this state).  And, there’s berry picking.  Yummy.  In the fall, you have pumpkin patches and corn mazes.

 

7. The 4 seasons.  The naturally beauty is impeccable and you have a variety.  Yes, there are winters (not my fave), but this helps you appreciate spring even more and it’s absolutely beautiful with the trees and all the flowers.  And, you have real grass.  Then summer, my favorite…that means beach and pool time.  And, ice cream.  Yes, find some cool homemade ice cream and savor any lick.  Fall is spectacular with breathtaking fall foliage. It’s unbeatable.

 

8.  Vineyards.  If you’re into wine, you can find plenty of places for a tour and wine tasting.

 

9.  Amazing restaurants.  Being right outside NYC, you can find amazing restaurants with a huge diversity of ethnicities.   And, the prices are much lower than the City.  And, you may have heard me mention the ocean a few times…yes, of course there is awesome seafood on Long Island.  And, in some of those seafood restaurants, you can dine with a view of the Ocean.  How perfect.  And, if you’re a sushi lover, you can get it fresh on Long Island.  And, don’t forget, Long Island is in New York, so that means the greatest bagels on earth.

 

10.  Lots of museums and historical sites.  You have art museums, aquariums, libraries and old shoppes.  You’ll find sites from before the Revolutionary war here.  Such diversity.

 

As you can see, Long Island is a great place to live, and if you are looking to buy a house on Long Island, it’s a great investment, as Long Island never goes out of style…it just has so much to offer.  If have a house on Long Island that you need to sell fast, you shouldn’t have a problem as it’s in high demand.

 

So, Long Island is really a great place to live.  It’s also a wonderful place to visit or go for a long weekend, especially in the summer and early fall.

 

 

When you are buying a house, what should be inspected?

When you’re looking to buy a new house on Long Island, you want to be careful and basically have EVERYTHING inspected.  You can never be too careful.  After all, for most this is the biggest purchase of their lives.   It’s worth it to make sure that this is a smart investment, and to avoid any costly issues that may arise.

 

Many people look to reduce the cost of an inspector.  My advice is don’t…if you do, chances are you’ll miss something and that will cost you much more down the road.

 

You want to make sure that all elements of the house are inspected, especially the roof and basement/foundation.  These are the 2 most common problem areas (and they are often the most costly to fix).  Here in the NY area, it’s often adviseable to do a radon test, as well as termite inspection (usually hiring a specialist for this is best).

 

If you are buying an older home (e.g. 1920 and before), it’s best to have an inspector who specializes in older homes (which often have more issues with them due to their age).  If you have other specialty items such as a pool/hot tub or septic system, I’d also recommend a specialist for these areas.  Inspectors are great, but they are generalists and often don’t know all the ins and outs on some of these specialty items.

 

Also, if you’ve noticed a some issues that could be more serious (e.g. cracks in foundation or issues with a roof), you may want to call in a building engineer both to see if these are serious issues and whether they are fixable/how much they may cost.

 

My overall advice is it’s better to be safe than sorry.  Forewarned is forearmed. If you find major issue, you may want to pass on the house, or consider renegotiating.

 

If you find yourself on the other side of the equation and you own a house on Long Island that has a lot of issues and you need someone to take it off your hands, here’s a great resource.

Hidden Costs of Owning a House

Personally, I think home ownership is great.  But, it’s not for everybody, and I’m not here to make judgments on that.

 

One thing I have seen over the years is that many first time home buyers don’t realize the full costs of owning a house on Long Island.  They initially look at the price of the house and do some math/division and figure that it’s no problem to pay for that.  They quickly learn that there are many other costs they need to consider.

 

Of course on top of the principal, there is interest.  Most people get this.  Then, they learn that there are other monthly costs such as Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) if they put less than 20% down payment.  There also need to consider taxes and Home Owner’s insurance.  And, then for some homes, there may be Home Owner Association fees or Common Charges (especially if you live in a condo, town house or Co-op).

 

Then, they quickly learn that there are closing costs (thankfully these are just a one time expense).  So, there are costs for inspections, attorney and bank fees.  And, you often have to contribute to the taxes that will be paid and put into escrow.  Here in NY state, there is also a mortgage tax, and this can be pretty high.  I believe it’s around 1.1% of the cost of the mortgage.

 

Once you get past that, you need to contend with “move in” costs which would include moving, and one time deposits for various utilities (e.g. cable, heat, phone, etc.).  And, many new homeowners also need to (or want to fix up the place before they move in (e.g. sanding the floors, replacing the carpets, painting, adding hardwood, and often many other items).  Most new home buyers quickly learn these costs are more expensive than they expected and more than they have in the budget, so they need to make some challenging choices and prioritize.  The good news is that there is plenty of time to space these costs out over time.

 

Another big piece that people overlook is that there are ongoing maintenance costs.  Things break.  Things get worn down.  Accidents happen.  Sometimes these issues happen at inconvenient times.  Replacing your roof can be expensive.  Appliances often wear out (and sometimes, when they break they can have a domino effect and cause additional damage – think about what happens when your water heater breaks and you have water all over the floors.  So, plan ahead as you will have ongoing costs.  Hopefully, they don’t happen right away, but sometimes unexpected things happen, especially if there is a big storm.

 

So, when you are deciding whether or not to buy a house (or how big or expensive a house you can afford), remember all of these added costs and factor them into your budget.  You don’t want to house poor…or worse…and find yourself in a bad situation where you can’t afford everything.

 

Those are my thoughts for the day.

Quick staging tips to sell your New York house

Tips for selling your house faster and for a higher value

I’ve worked with so many buyers and sellers, and it’s fascinating to watch home sellers prepare their houses for the market.  In some cases, the sellers are leaving a lot of money on the table by not investing in fixing and prepping their home; in other instances, I see people over spending and not getting their return on investment.

 

(And, of course there are times when sellers acknowledge that making some improvements will have a positive ROI, but it doesn’t matter as they don’t have any money to invest).

 

The advice in this article assumes that the the seller does in fact have some money to prep their homes.  And, of course all houses and circumstances are different, so this article makes some generalizations.

 

The goal here is to balance what will give you the best value/return for your money and sell your house faster.

 

1.  Hire a Stager for a consultation.  This small investment for an outside consultant is usually worth its weight in gold.  The good stager should be able to help you prioritize the most important items during the consultation.  They can also give you good advice on color selection for whatever changes you may make (e.g. paint colors, floor colors, etc.)  Note:  There are many ways to stage, and many levels.  Getting a staging consultation is very different than renting furniture to stage your house.  Start with the consultation.

 

2.  If you have hardwood flooring under your carpet, you should refinish them.  Hardwood flooring is the preferred flooring surface in the New York Metro area.  If you have hardwood floors, by all means rip up the carpet and refinish the floors.  This is one of the strongest return on investment items you can find.  You will instantly improve the value of your home and it will help you sell it much faster.

 

Usually, sanding and refinishing costs less than what most people think, so you may be pleasantly surprised with the price.  Conversely, buyers often think it costs more to refinish than it really does…so if you don’t do it, they will and they’ll deduct that perceived price from their offer (and they’ll capture that added value).  Check out this article on hardwood flooring colors and trends to see what’s most popular.

 

3.  Generally, adding a fresh coat of paint will have a positive ROI.  If you have dark colors or taste specific colors, you should strongly consider repainting and going with a more neutral color (e.g. light gray, light beige or even an off white.  This will make your space more neutral and attractive and will also make your space look larger and more inviting.  And, the more consistent you can be with colors across rooms, the better off you’ll be.

 

If you already have neutral colors, great.  But, look at the condition of your walls and moldings.  Do they look clean and bright, or have they seen their better days.  If they look tired or dirty, it’s probably smart to add a fresh coat of paint, even if you do it yourself.

 

4.  Clean, clean, clean.  I think this one goes without saying.  Just do it!

 

5.  Clear the clutter and open up your space as much as possible.  This may include eliminating furniture, as well as extra “stuff.”  Less is more for sure.  A stager can help you determine which items should go (as well as ideal ways to arrange your furniture.

 

6.  Do any obvious repairs.  This is a general statement.  If you have broken items, either repair or replace them.  In particular, if you have any areas damaged from water, fix the issue and the area.  These are red flags for buyers (and inspectors).

 

7.  Replace or clean any carpets that are visually dirty or smelly.  Generally smelly ones will need to be replaced (especially if it’s pet damage as that has usually penetrated into the carpet cushion beneath.  If it’s surface dirt, carpet cleaning may take care of it.

 

Generally, you will not get your return on carpeting if you replace it…but sometimes you have no choice and if you don’t replace it, it will simply reduce your selling price.  However, as mentioned above, if you have hardwood underneath your carpet, you will get a positive ROI if you refinish the floors (and this is less expensive than replacing the carpet).

 

8.  Make sure you have strong curb appeal.  This is the first impression for your potential buyers, so make sure it’s a good one.  Make sure that the driveway and walkways are clear (and safe).  Make sure they look nice too (trim trees/shrubs if needed).  Add flowers.  Make sure your front door looks great (consider a fresh coat of paint if it needs it).

 

9.  Be careful about how much you spend on the kitchen and bathrooms. While they say kitchens and baths sell homes (and this is true), most neglect to tell you that you generally do not get your return on investment on them.  Generally kitchen remodels have a 70% ROI and bathrooms have a 60% ROI.  So, try not to spend too much here and go for easy and inexpensive wins here (e.g paint the cabinets/replace the hardware rather than replace them, reglaze the pink colors rather than retile the bathroom).

 

I hope these quick selling tips will help you when you are preparing to sell your New York home fast.  Remember, you can’t do everything.  You want to do enough to get your home in good shape so that potential buyers will want to make an offer.  If your house needs “too much work” and you just sell your house “as is,” most will just pass (as they don’t have the available cash to get the house ready).