United Realty | Selling | Selling a Home in Northeast Indiana

Selling a Home in Northeast Indiana

Selling a Home in Northeast Indiana

Advice For Sellers

If you are thinking of selling your home, chances are you’re caught up in a mass of emotions.You may be looking forward to moving up to a new home or facing theuncertainty of a major move across country. You may be reluctant toleave your memories behind or eager to start new and excitingadventures. Remember, we are here to help you with any of your needs.Call or e-mail us today!

Getting Your House Ready To Sell

Introduction: Emotion vs. Reason

When conversing with real estate agents, you will often find that whenthey talk to you about buying real estate, they will refer to yourpurchase as a “home.” Yet if you are selling property, they will oftenrefer to it as a “house.” There is a reason for this. Buying real estateis often an emotional decision, but when selling real estate you needto remove emotion from the equation.You need to think of your house as amarketable commodity. Property. Real estate. Your goal is to get othersto see it as their potential home, not yours. If you do not consciouslymake this decision, you can inadvertently create a situation where ittakes longer to sell your property.The first step in getting your homeready to sell is to “de-personalize” it. 

De-Personalize the House

The reason you want to “de-personalize” your home is because you wantbuyers to view it as their potential home. When a potential homebuyersees your family photos hanging on the wall, it puts your own brand onthe home and momentarily shatters their illusions about owning thehouse. Therefore, put away family photos, sports trophies, collectibleitems, knick-knacks, and souvenirs. Put them in a box. Rent a storagearea for a few months and put the box in the storage unit.Do not justput the box in the attic, basement, garage or a closet. Part ofpreparing a house for sale is to remove “clutter,” and that is the nextstep in preparing your house for sale. 

Removing Clutter, Though Yo May Not Think of it as Clutter

This is the hardest thing for most people to do because they areemotionally attached to everything in the house. After years of livingin the same home, clutter collects in such a way that may not be evidentto the homeowner. However, it does affect the way buyers see the home,even if you do not realize it. Clutter collects on shelves, countertops, drawers, closets, garages, attics, and basements.

Take a step back and pretend you are a buyer. Let a friend help pointout areas of clutter, as long as you can accept their views withoutgetting defensive. Let your agent help you, too.

Kitchen Clutter

The kitchen is a good place to start removing clutter, because it isan easy place to start. First, get everything off the counters.Everything. Even the toaster. Put the toaster in a cabinet and take itout when you use it. Find a place where you can store everything incabinets and drawers. Of course, you may notice that you do not havecabinet space to put everything. Clean them out. The dishes, pots andpans that rarely get used? Put them in a box and put that box instorage, too.

You see, homebuyers will open all your cabinets and drawers,especially in the kitchen. They want to be sure there is enough room fortheir “stuff.” If your kitchen cabinets, pantries, and drawers lookjammed full, it sends a negative message to the buyer and does notpromote an image of plentiful storage space. The best way to do that isto have as much “empty space” as possible.

For that reason, if you have a “junk drawer,” get rid of the junk. Ifyou have a rarely used crock pot, put it in storage. Do this with everycabinet and drawer. Create open space.

If you have a large amount of foodstuffs crammed into the shelves orpantry, begin using them – especially canned goods. Canned goods areheavy and you don’t want to be lugging them to a new house, anyway – orpaying a mover to do so. Let what you have on the shelves determine yourmenus and use up as much as you can.

Beneath the sink is very critical, too. Make sure the area beneaththe sink is as empty as possible, removing all extra cleaning supplies.You should scrub the area down as well, and determine if there are anytell-tale signs of water leaks that may cause a homebuyer to hesitate inbuying your home.

Closet Clutter

Closets are great for accumulating clutter, though you may not thinkof it as clutter. We are talking about extra clothes and shoes – thingsyou rarely wear but cannot bear to be without. Do without these itemsfor a couple of months by putting them in a box, because these items canmake your closets look “crammed full.” Sometimes there are shoeboxesfull of “stuff” or other accumulated personal items, too.

Furniture Clutter

Many people have too much furniture in certain rooms – not too muchfor your own personal living needs – but too much to give the illusionof space that a homebuyer would like to see. You may want to tour somebuilders’ models to see how they place furniture in the model homes.Observe how they place furniture in the models so you get some ideas onwhat to remove and what to leave in your house.

Storage Area Clutter

Basements, garages, attics, and sheds accumulate not only clutter,but junk. These areas should be as empty as possible so that buyers canimagine what they would do with the space. Remove anything that is notessential and take it to the storage area. Or have a garage sale.

Fixing Up the House Interior

Plumbing and Fixtures

All your sink fixtures should look shiny and new. If this cannot beaccomplished by cleaning, buy new ones where needed. If you don’t buysomething fancy, this can be accomplished inexpensively and they arefairly easy to install. Make sure all the hot and cold water knobs areeasy to turn and that the faucets do not leak. If they do, replace thewashers. It is not difficult at all.

Check to make sure you have good water pressure and that there are nostains on any of the porcelain. If you have a difficult stain toremove, one trick is to hire a cleaning crew to go through and cleanyour home on a one-time basis. They seem to be wonderful at makingstains go away.

Ceilings, Walls and Painting

Check all the ceilings for water stains. Sometimes old leaks leavestains, even after you have repaired the leak. Of course, if you do havea leak, you will have to get it repaired, whether it is a plumbingproblem or the roof leaks.

You should do the same for walls, looking for not only stains, butalso areas where dirt has accumulated and you just may not have noticed.Plus, you may have an outdated color scheme.

Painting can be your best investment when selling your home. It isnot a very expensive operation and often you can do it yourself. Do notchoose colors based on your own preferences, but based on what wouldappeal to the widest possible number of buyers. You should almost alwayschoose an off-white color because white helps your rooms appear brightand spacious.

Carpet and Flooring

Unless your carpet appears old and worn, or it is definitely anoutdated style or color, you probably should do nothing more than hire agood carpet cleaner. If you do choose to replace it, do so withsomething inexpensive in a fairly neutral color.

Repair or replace broken floor tiles, but do not spend a lot of moneyon anything. Remember, you are not fixing up the place for yourself.You want to move. Your goal is simply to have as few negativeimpressions upon those who may want to purchase your property.

Windows and Doors

Check all of your windows to make sure they open and close easily. Ifnot, a spray of WD40 often helps. Make sure there are no cracked orbroken windowpanes. If there are, replace them before you begin showingyour home.

Do the same things with the doors – make sure they open and closeproperly, without creaking. If they do, a shot of WD40 on the hingesusually makes the creak go away. Be sure the doorknobs turn easily, andthat they are cleaned and polished to look sharp. As buyers go from roomto room, someone opens each door and you want to do everythingnecessary to create a positive impression.

Odor Control

For those who smoke, you might want to minimize smoking indoors whiletrying to sell your home. You could also purchase an ozone spray thathelps to remove odors without creating a masking odor.

Pets of all kinds create odors that you may have become used to, butare immediately noticeable to those with more finely tuned olfactorysenses. For those with cats, be sure to empty kitty litter boxes daily.There are also products that you can sprinkle in a layer below the kittylitter that helps to control odor. For those with dogs, keep the dogoutdoors as much as possible. You might also try sprinkling carpetfreshener on the carpet on a periodic basis.

Costs of Repairs

Do not do anything expensive, such as remodeling. If possible, usesavings to pay for any repairs and improvements – do not go charging upcredit cards or obtaining new loans. Remember that part of selling ahouse is also preparing to buy your next home. You do not want to doanything that will affect your credit scores or hurt your ability toqualify for your next mortgage.

Fixing Up Outside the House

Most real estate advice tells you to work on the outside of the housefirst, but unless there is a major project involved, we believe it isbest to do it last. There are two main reasons for this. First, thefirst steps in preparing the interior of the house are easier. They alsohelp develop the proper mind set required for selling – beginning tothink of your “home” as a marketable commodity. Second, the exterior isthe most important. A homebuyer’s first impression is based on his orher view of the house from the real estate agent’s car.

So take a walk across the street and take a good look at your house. Look at nearby houses, too, and see how yours compares.


Is your landscaping at least average for the neighborhood? If it isnot, buy a few bushes and plant them. Do not put in trees. Mature treesare expensive, and you will not get back your investment. Also, immaturetrees do not really add much to the appearance value of the home.

If you have an area for flowers, buy mature colorful flowers andplant them. They add a splash of vibrancy and color, creating afavorable first impression. Do not buy bulbs or seeds and plant them.They will not mature fast enough to create the desired effect and youcertainly don’t want a patch of brown earth for homebuyers to view.

Your lawn should be evenly cut, freshly edged, well watered, and freeof brown spots. If there are problems with your lawn, you shouldprobably take care of them before working on the inside of your home.This is because certain areas may need re-soding, and you want to giveit a chance to grow so that re-sod areas are not immediately apparent.Plus, you might want to give fertilizer enough time to be effective.

Always rake up loose leaves and grass cuttings.

House Exterior

The big decision is whether to paint or not to paint. When you lookat your house from across the street, does it look tired and faded? Ifso, a paint job may be in order. It is often a very good investment andreally spruces up the appearance of a house, adding dollars to offersfrom potential homebuyers.

When choosing a color, it should not be something garish and unusual,but a color that fits well in your neighborhood. Of course, the coloralso depends on the style of your house, too. For some reason, differentshades of yellow seem to illicit the best response in homebuyers,whether it is in the trim or the basic color of the house.

As for the roof, if you know your house has an old leaky roof,replace it. If you do not replace a leaky roof, you are going to have todisclose it and the buyer will want a new roof, anyway. Otherwise, waitand see what the home inspector says. Why spend money unnecessarily?

The Back Yard

The back yard should be tidy. If you have a pool or spa, keep itfreshly maintained and constantly cleaned. For those that have dogs, besure to constantly keep the area clear of “debris.” If you have swingsets or anything elaborate for your kids, it probably makes more senseto remove them than to leave them in place. They take up room, and youwant your back yard to appear as spacious as possible, especially innewer homes where the yards are not as large.

The Front Door & Entryway

The front door should be especially sharp, since it is the entrywayinto the house. Polish the door fixture so it gleams. If the door needsrefinishing or repainting, make sure to get that done.

If you have a cute little plaque or shingle with your family name onit, remove it. Even if it is just on the mailbox. You can always put itup again once you move. Get a new plush door mat, too. This is somethingelse you can take with you once you move.

Make sure the lock works easily and the key fits properly. When ahomebuyer comes to visit your home, the agent uses the key from the lockbox to unlock the door. If there is trouble working the lock whileeveryone else stands around twiddling their thumbs, this sends anegative first impression to prospective homebuyers.

Meeting With REALTORS®

So you’ve decided to sell your home and have a fairly good idea of whatyou think it is worth. Being a sensible home seller, you scheduleappointments with three local listing agents who’ve been hanging stuffon your front doorknob for years. Each REALTOR® comes prepared with a“Competitive Market Analysis” on fancy paper and they each recommend aspecific sales price.Amazingly, a couple of the REALTORS® have come upwith prices that are lower than you expected. Although they back uptheir recommendations with recent sales data of similar homes, youremain convinced your house is worth more. When you interview the thirdagent’s figures, they are much more in line with your own anticipatedvalue, or maybe even higher. Suddenly, you are a happy and excited homeseller, already counting the money. 

Want To Start Off With a High Sales Price? Beware!

Meeting With REALTORS®

So you’ve decided to sell your home and have a fairly good idea of whatyou think it is worth. Being a sensible home seller, you scheduleappointments with three local listing agents who’ve been hanging stuffon your front doorknob for years. Each REALTOR® comes prepared with a“Competitive Market Analysis” on fancy paper and they each recommend aspecific sales price.Amazingly, a couple of the REALTORS® have come upwith prices that are lower than you expected. Although they back uptheir recommendations with recent sales data of similar homes, youremain convinced your house is worth more. When you interview the thirdagent’s figures, they are much more in line with your own anticipatedvalue, or maybe even higher. Suddenly, you are a happy and excited homeseller, already counting the money. 

Which REALTOR® Do You Choose?

If you’re like many people, you pick REALTOR® number three. This isan agent who seems willing to listen to your input and work with you.This is an agent that cares about putting the most money in your pocket.This is an agent that is willing to start out at your price and if youneed to drop the price later, you can do that easily, right? After all,everyone else does it!The truth is that you may have just met an agentengaging in a questionable sales practice called “buying a listing.” He“bought” the listing by suggesting you might be able to get a highersales price than the other agents recommended. Most likely, he is quitedoubtful that your home will actually sell at that price. The intentionfrom the beginning is to eventually talk you into lowering the price.

Why do agents “buy” listings? There are basically two reasons. Awell-meaning and hard working agent can feel pressure from a homeownerwho has an inflated perception of his home’s value. On the other hand,there are some agents who engage in this sales practice routinely.

What Happened Behind the Scenes?

Whichever the case, if you start out with too high a price on yourhome, you may have just added to your stress level, and selling a homeis stressful enough. There will be a lot of “behind the scenes” actiontaking place that you don’t know about.

Contrary to popular opinion, the listing agent does not usuallyattempt to sell your home to a homebuyer. That isn’t very efficient.Listing agents market and promote your home to the hordes of other localagents who do work with homebuyers, dramatically increasing yourpersonal sales force. During the first couple of weeks your home shouldbe a flurry of activity with buyer’s agents coming to preview your homeso they can sell it to their clients…if the price is right.

If the price is right.

If you and your agent have overpriced, fewer agents will preview yourhome. After all, they are Realtors, and it is their job to know localmarket conditions and home values. If your house is dramatically abovemarket, why waste time? Their time is better spent previewing homes thatare priced realistically.

Dropping Your Price…Too Late?

Later, when you drop your price, your house is “old news.” You willnever be able to recapture that flurry of initial activity you wouldhave had with a realistic price. Your house could take longer to sell.Even if you do successfully sell at an above market price, your buyerwill need a mortgage. The mortgage lender requires an appraisal. Ifcomparable sales for the last six months and current market conditionsdo not support your sales price, the house won’t appraise. Your dealfalls apart. Of course, you can always attempt to renegotiate the price,but only if the buyer is willing to listen. Your house could go “backon the market.” Once your home has fallen out of escrow or sits on themarket awhile, it is harder to get a good offer. Potential buyers willthink you might be getting desperate, so they will make lower offers. Byoverpricing your home in the beginning, you could actually end upsettling for a lower price than you would have normally received. 

Types of Listings Contracts

Open Listings

The “open listing” is mostly used by people trying to sell their homeby owner who are also willing to work with real estate agents.Basically, it gives a real estate agent the right to bring buyers aroundto view your home. If their client buys your home, the agent earns acommission. There is nothing exclusive about an open listing and a homeseller can give out such listings to every agent who comes around.Forthat reason, no agent is going to market your home or put it in theMultiple Listing Service. If your home fits the criteria for one oftheir clients, and it is convenient, they may be willing to show it totheir client. That is all an “open listing” is good for. 

One-Time Show

A “one-time show” is similar to an open listing in many respects, as itis most often used by real estate agents who are showing a FSBO (forsale by owner) to one of their clients. The home seller signs theagreement, which identifies the potential buyer and guarantees the agenta commission should that buyer purchase the home. This prevents thebuyer and seller from negotiating directly later and trying to avoidpaying the agent’s commission.As with an open listing, agents will notbe spending money on marketing your home and it will not be placed inthe Multiple Listing System. 

Exclusive Agency Listings

An “exclusive agency” listing allows an agent to list and market yourhome, guaranteeing them a commission if the house sells through anyreal estate agent or company. It also allows sellers to seek out buyerson their own.This is not a popular type of listing agreement. The reasonis that there is not much incentive for agents to spend money marketingyour home. If you come up with your own buyer, they have spent moneythey cannot earn back through the real estate commission. Plus, it istoo easy for a greedy buyer to go around the agent and negotiatedirectly with the seller.

If you find an agent willing to accept such a listing, do not expecttoo much from them. They will probably just place it in the MultipleListing Service and sit around to see if something happens. A good agentwould never accept such a listing, and you probably want a good agent.

Exclusive Right to Sell

Giving a real estate agent the “exclusive right to sell” your propertydoes not mean that there will not be other agents involved. Your agentis the listing agent and part of his or her job is to market your hometo other agents who work with buyers. Those agents will show your hometo their clients. Regardless of who sells the home, even if you sell ityourself to a friend at work, your listing agent will earn acommission.An exclusive right to sell is the only type of listing aneffective real estate agent will accept. This is because they have areasonable expectation of earning back any money they spend on promotingand marketing your property. 

Details of a Listing Contract

Price and Terms of Sale

When setting the terms of sale, the main thing you are concerned withis the price. You should have a basic idea of what your home is worthby keeping track of other sales in the neighborhood. Plus, you haveprobably interviewed at least two real estate agents and they have givenyou their own ideas. Exercise great care in determining your askingprice, making sure not to set it too high or too low.

In addition to the price, you will disclose what personal property,if any, goes with the house when you sell it. Personal property isanything that is not attached or fixed to the home, such as washers,dryers, refrigerators, and so on.

There may be some item that is considered “real property” that you donot intend to include in the sale. Real property is anything that isattached to the home. For example, you may have a chandelier that hasbeen in your family for generations and you take it from home to homewhen you move. Since the chandelier is attached to the house, it isconsidered “real property” and a reasonable buyer would normally expectit to go with the house.

Lockbox – Yes of No?

A lockbox is a basically a padlock with a cavity inside where a keyto your home can be placed. Only someone with an electronic key or thecombination can get into the lockbox and access the key. Having alockbox available at your house makes it easy for other agents to getaccess to your house.

Without the lockbox, agents representing buyers would have to setappointments to meet you or your agent at the house so they could gainaccess and view the home. This would be inconvenient. Since almost everyother house does have a lockbox available, if you do not allow one mostagents will simply not show your property. You will miss out on lots ofpotential buyers.

The listing contract specifies whether you allow a lockbox or not. Itis locked into place, usually on the front door and cannot be removed.Only other agents can access the key that is located within the lockbox.

Real Estate Commision

In some areas of the country there is a certain percentage that realestate agents expect to earn as a commission.This commission amount is acertain percent of the sales price. Or, some companies will charge aset fee for their services. However, just like anything else in realestate, this amount is negotiable.When completing the listing agreement,you and your agent will agree on the amount of the real estatecommission. 

Multiple Listing Service

Your listing contract should specify whether or not the house will belisted with the local MLS (multiple listing service). It is definitelyin your interest to have the house listed. This is because your salesforce is automatically multiplied by however many agents are members ofthe local MLS. If your house is not listed, then you only have one agentworking for you instead of many. 

Agency Duties of a Listing Agent

The listing contract will specify that your agent is acting as a“seller’s agent.” This means that, in the sale of your house, they areworking for you and only you. However, there may be times when yourlisting agent has a client who wants to buy your home. For that reason,there is a little “wiggle room” in the listing contract. If your agentalso represents the buyer, the listing contract should specify that theyprovide an additional disclosure that details their duties as a dualagent.

The contract also provides permission for your listing agent to actas an agent for others on other transactions. They can continue to listother properties, and represent buyers looking at other homes.

Resolution of Disputes

There are times when you and your agent have a disagreement that youcannot resolve by yourselves. Maybe the agent did a poor job ormisrepresented something. Maybe your agent was really doing their jobcorrectly, but you did not understand. Perhaps the agent will have adispute with you.

The listing contract specifies what methods will be used to settlesuch disputes. You can choose to accept binding arbitration, which isusually cheaper than hiring a lawyer and going to court. Usually,matters that can be dealt with in a small claims court are excluded fromhaving to go to binding arbitration.

You are not required to sign or initial the binding arbitrationclause. This would leave you free to hire an attorney and pursuedisputes in civil court instead of binding arbitration. Consult yourattorney for advise on this legal matter.

Listing Commissions and Related Issues

Are Commissions Negotiable?

In some areas of the country there is a certain percentage that realestate agents expect to earn as a commission.This commission amount is acertain percent of the sales price. Or, some companies will charge aset fee for their services. However, just like anything else in realestate, this amount is negotiable.When completing the listing agreement,you and your agent will agree on the amount of the real estatecommission. 

How and When the Commission is Earned

Your listing contract specifies a listing price. Your agent’s job isto bring a “ready, willing and able” buyer to present an offer. If youreach agreement with the buyer, then the agent has done his job andearned the commission. Once the sale has closed, the real estate brokergets paid from the proceeds of the sale.

If the buyer proves unable or unwilling to conclude the sale, thehouse is placed back on the market and the agent has to begin earninghis or her commission all over again.

However, if the seller backs out or does not accept an offer thatmeets the price and terms of the listing agreement, the listing brokerhas still earned the commission. They may want to be paid, even thoughyou did not actually sell your home. Therefore, it is very important tocarefully consider every detail when completing your listing contractand accepting an offer to buy your property.

Hot Market Under-Pricing Strategy – Commission Issues

During a “hot market” there is a certain marketing technique which,though very effective, could cause trouble because of the way thecontract is written. This is the practice of “under-pricing” the home.In a hot market, a home that is under-priced gets a lot of attentionfrom other Realtors, and they all start showing your home to theirclients. Often, you get into a situation where multiple offers arepresented and the price starts going up because of the frenzy. You endup selling the house above your asking price and perhaps above what youcould have received if you had priced it traditionally.

However, the technique does have the potential to backfire, so youshould build safeguards to prevent having to pay a commission “just incase.”

You see, the listing contract usually states that if an offer isreceived that meets the terms presented in the contract (includingprice), the real estate agent has earned his or her commission – even ifyou decide not to sell. A reputable agent would never attempt tocollect a commission if they were using the “under-pricing” techniqueand it backfired, even if they are technically entitled to one. For thatreason, in the “additional terms” space on the listing contract, youshould specify your true target price – when the agent has really earnedthe commission.

The Listing Agent – Marketing Your House

The Real Role of a Listing Agent

When you bought your home, you probably used the services of a realestate agent. You found that agent through a referral from a friend orfamily member, or through some sort of advertising or marketing. Theagent helped you in many ways and eventually you found the house of yourdreams, made an offer, closed the deal, and moved in.

For whatever reason, now it is time to sell your home and you need areal estate agent again. Many home sellers, especially those sellingtheir first home, tend to think all agents are similar to the one thathelped them buy their home.

Although real estate agents can (and do) work with both buyers andsellers, most tend to concentrate more on one than the other. Theyspecialize. When you bought your home, you probably worked with a“selling agent” – an agent that works mostly with buyers. Because of thenature of real estate advertising and marketing, the public’s mainimage of the real estate profession is that of the selling agent.

As a result, many homeowners expect their listing agent to do thesame things that a selling agent does – find someone to buy their home.After all, they do the things you would expect if they were searchingfor buyers. A sign goes up in the front yard. Ads are placed in thelocal newspaper and real estate magazines. Your agent holds an openhouse on the weekend. Your house is proudly displayed on the Internet.

But this is only “surface” marketing. More important activity occursbehind the scenes. After the “for sale” sign goes up and flyers areprinted, your agent’s main job is to market your home to other agents,not to homebuyers.

The “For Sale” Sign

It seems fairly obvious that when you put your house up for sale thatyour agent will put a “for sale” sign in the front yard. The sign willidentify the agent’s company, the agent, and have a phone number soprospective buyers can call and get information.

Signs are great at generating phone calls, even if very few actuallypurchase the home they call about. However, you might be one of thelucky ones. For that reason, you should determine what happens whensomeone calls the number on the sign. Does a live person answer thephone or does the call go to a voicemail or recorder?

You want someone to answer the phone while the caller is “hot.” Whenbuyers call the number on the sign, the call should go to a live personwho can answer questions immediately. A potential buyer may be on thestreet outside your home, placing the call using a cell phone.

Flyers and a Brochure Box

Your agent should prepare a flyer that displays a photo and providesdetails about your house. There should also be a phone number so buyerscan contact your agent to get additional information. The flyers shouldbe displayed in a prominent location in your home and also in a brochurebox attached to the “for sale” sign.

The brochure box is convenient for those buyers who drive by and justhappen to see the “for sale” sign in front of your house. It providesenough information so they can determine if they want to follow up with aphone call or inform their own agent they are interested in your house.

The Listing Agent – Marketing Your House to Other Agents

The Multiple Listing Service

Even before the sign is up and the brochures are ready, your agentshould list your property with the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service).The MLS is a database of all the homes listed by local real estateagents who are members of the service, which is practically all of thelocal agents.

Important information about your property is listed here, fromgeneral data such as square footage and number of rooms, to such detailsas whether you have central air conditioning or hard wood flooring.There should also be a photo, and a short verbal description of whatmakes your house “special.”

Agents search the database for homes that fit the price range andneeds of their clients. They pay special attention to homes that havebeen recently placed on the market, which is one reason you get a lot ofattention when your house is first listed. Many agents will want topreview the home before they show it to their clients.

The main point about having your house listed in the MLS is that youexpand your sales force by the number of local MLS members. Instead ofhaving just one agent working for you, now you may have hundreds ormore, depending on the size of your community.

The listing agent’s main job to make sure that the other MLS membersknow about your house. This is accomplished through listing your housein the Multiple Listing Service, broker previews and advertisingtargeted toward other agents, not homebuyers.

Office Preview

If your listing agent belongs to a fairly sizable office, an “officepreview” will introduce your house to other agents working in the sameoffice. In effect, they get a “head start” on selling your property.Once a week, the office’s agents will get together, share vehicles, and“caravan” to all of the new listings. They generally pull up in front ofyour house at about the same time (some even use a bus) then filequickly through your home like some bizarre “follow the leader” game.

It can be amazing to watch.

They go through very quickly, since most of them are familiar withsimilar models of your house. They are usually looking for anythingmemorable or different and to determine if your house is one they wouldbe proud to show their clients. Then they all pile back into their carsand move on to the next house on the tour.

But some of them come back…with buyers.

Broker Previews and Culinary Delights

Broker preview is very similar to an office preview, except it isopen to all the members of the local multiple listing service. Itusually occurs within the first week your house is placed on the market,just after the office preview. However, there are lots of new listingsto choose from, and not all the agents preview all the new listings eachweek. You may not get as many agents visiting your home as there wereon the office preview.

Unless your agent “entices” them to come. This is where you could provide some help, if you are so inclined.

Though it may seem funny, nothing seems to attract a real estateagent like the offer of free food. So if your agent offers “free eats”at a broker preview, you are likely to get more visitors than if nothingis offered. Realize that many agents have been on this weekly circuitfor years, so “boring” food does not really accomplish much. In otherwords, sandwiches supplied from the local grocery chain are not veryenticing.

If you want to help your agent sell your home quickly, try and helpthem be creative and original in the choice of a culinary treat.

Of course, some agents will actually to come look at your house, too – whether food is offered or not.


Office Flyers

Your agent will undoubtedly prepare flyers about your property sothat prospective homebuyers can be informed about the attractivefeatures of your house. These flyers (or similar ones) should also besent to all the local real estate offices, too. Most areas have a weeklyflyer service that delivers advertisements to all of the local offices.Since agents get these flyers every week, they do not always look atthem. However, a large percentage of them do. Some agents will keep theflyer and bring buyers to your house.

The flyer should be done professionally and photocopy well. Ask youragent to show you copies of office flyers they have done in the past.

Marketing Sessions

Your agent probably belongs to a local association of Realtors andthey often have meetings once a month. At these meetings there is often a“marketing session” where some agents stand up and tell about theirlistings and other agents stand up and tell about their buyers. Yourlisting agent has an opportunity to “pitch” your house at thesemarketing sessions.

At the same time, these sessions may not be as effective as they werein the past. One reason is that they are often more social occasionsthan serious business meetings. Another reason is that, as technologyhas expanded, local associations have tended to merge and create largerMultiple Listing Services and Associations. Local meetings have becomepoorly attended gatherings.

The Listing Agent – Marketing Your House to Home Buyers

The Purpose of Advertising in General

Every home seller likes to be assured that their listing agent or thereal estate company will run ads featuring their home. Newspaper adscould be large display ads with lots of listings or small classified adsfeaturing just your property. Ads may also appear in local real estatemagazines and your listing will also show up on the Internet.

Of course the agents and companies will run ads featuring your house, but not for the reasons you expect.

You see, the main job of advertising is not to sell your housedirectly. Advertising creates phone calls and some of those callersbecome clients of the agents answering the calls. This builds up a poolof homebuyers looking for property in general, all represented byselling agents. Multiply this by all the agents and companies who alsoadvertise homes, and there is a large pool of homebuyers in the marketat any given time – all of whom are represented by selling agents.

The agents representing those homebuyers know about your home becauseit is listed in the Multiple Listing Service, has been on office andbroker preview, and because your agent may have also sent flyers to allthe local real estate offices.

The agents match up their clients with available homes, one of whichmay be yours. Then they show the homes to their clients, who eventuallymake an offer on one. That is how your house gets sold. Ads create apool of clients, one of which buys your home. Ads do not usually sellyour house directly.

Real Estate Office Advertising

As mentioned previously, advertising your home in newspapers andmagazines rarely sells your home directly. More likely than not, thebuyer who eventually purchases your home will have called on a totallydifferent house. The same thing happens with buyers who call on yourhouse. They will probably buy something else.

You still want to be certain the real estate company selling yourhouse runs ads in the local and major newspapers, whether they featureyour house or not. The ads generate phone calls to the real estateoffice, and if those agents viewed your house on the office preview,they will be familiar with it. This is how your property is sold.

Or you could be one of the lucky ones – someone calling on your house may actually end up buying it.

You should also realize that when a company advertises the homes theyhave for sale, there is more than one objective. Sure, the real estateoffice wants to generate phone calls and sell houses, but theadvertising also shows home sellers how effectively they marketproperties. This impresses not only you, but others who may be thinkingof selling their home.

The advertising brings in more listings, which generate more adcalls, which produces more buyers….and that is how real estateadvertising really works.

Individual Agent Advertising

Individual agents may advertise your home for the same reasons ascompanies do. They usually advertise in classified ads or in specialtymagazines featuring houses available for sale.

As in other types of advertising, these ads rarely sell your home.Once again, the main goals of advertising are to accumulate homebuyersas clients, and to impress you and future home sellers with how wellthey market their listings. Some agents actually do sell their ownlistings, but not that often.

It is much more productive and beneficial if your listing agentdirects most of his or her marketing efforts toward other agents. Sincethis is “behind the scenes” marketing that you don’t actually see, it isoften difficult for you to measure how hard the agent is working foryou.

It is a mistake to measure your agent’s effectiveness solely bycounting the number of newspaper and magazine ads featuring yourproperty.

Neighborhood Announcements

When you first list your home many agents send “announcements” to allof the other houses in your neighborhood. This can be done in the formof postcards, a letter, or flyers left hanging on the front door. Theseare important because your neighbors might have friends who are lookingto buy a house.

The announcements create “word of mouth” advertising, which is the best kind.

Open Houses

An open house when your property is first placed on the market can bevery important, but not for the reasons most homeowners think. Justlike with advertising, most visitors to open houses rarely buy the housethey come to look at. They may not even know the price of your homewhen they stop by to visit – they probably just followed an “Open House”sign to your door.

An open house performs a similar function to the neighborhoodannouncements – it lets all of your neighbors know that your house isfor sale, and it practically invites them to come “take a look.” Beinggenerally nosy, a lot of your neighbors will take advantage of theinvitation.

And they may tell their friends about your house, creating more “word of mouth” advertising.

Of course, there are other reasons for holding open houses, too.Listing agents who “farm” a particular neighborhood use them as anopportunity to meet with other local homeowners who will someday beselling their home. Your agent may hope to list their homes in thefuture.

Open houses held after your home has been on the market awhile do notusually serve a useful purpose in selling your home. Most of theneighbors already know your house is for sale and open house visitorsrarely buy the homes they visit.

However, if you really want more open houses, your listing agent mayallow other agents to hold it open. Open houses attract prospectivehomebuyers and agents hope to convince some of those homebuyers tobecome their clients.

Showing Your House to Home Buyers

Convenience and Availability

Your house should always be available for show, even though it mayoccasionally be inconvenient for you. Let your listing agent put a lockbox in a convenient place, to make it easy for other agents to show yourhome to homebuyers. Otherwise, agents will have to scheduleappointments, which is an inconvenience. Most will just skip your hometo show the house of someone else who is more cooperative.

Most agents will call and give you at least a couple of hours noticebefore showing your property. If you refuse to let them show it at thattime, they will just skip your house. Even if they come back anothertime, it will probably be with different buyers and you may have justlost a chance to sell your home.

Why You Should Not Be Home

Homebuyers will feel like intruders if you are home when they visit,and they might not be as receptive toward viewing your home. Visit thelocal coffee house, yogurt shop, or take the kids to the local park. Ifyou absolutely cannot leave, try to remain in an out of the way area ofthe house and do not move from room to room. Do not volunteer anyinformation, but answer any questions the agent may ask. 

Lighting, Fragrances, Pet Contro and More


When you know someone is coming by to tour your home, turn on all theindoor and outdoor lights – even during the day. At night, a lit housegives a “homey” impression when viewed from the street. During thedaytime, turning on the lights prevents harsh shadows from sunlight andit brightens up any dim areas. Your house looks more homey and cheerfulwith the lights on.


Do not use scented sprays to prepare for visitors. It is too obviousand many people find the smells of those sprays offensive, not tomention that some may be allergic. If you want to have a pleasant aromain your house, have a potpourri pot or something natural. Or turn on astove burner for a moment and put a drop of vanilla extract on it. Itwill smell like you have been cooking.

Pet Control

If you have pets, make sure your listing agent puts a notice withyour listing in the multiple listing service. The last thing you want isto have your pet running out the front door and getting lost. If youknow someone is coming, it would be best to try to take the pets withyou while the homebuyers tour your home. If you cannot do that, It isbest to keep dogs in a penned area in the back yard. Try to keep indoorcats in a specific room when you expect visitors, and put a sign on thedoor. Most of the time, an indoor cat will hide when buyers come to viewyour property, but they may panic and try to escape.

The Kitchen Trash

Especially if your kitchen trash can does not have a lid, make sureyou empty it every time someone comes to look at your home – even ifyour trash can is kept under the kitchen sink. Remember that you want tosend a positive image about every aspect of your home. Kitchen trashdoes not send a positive message. You may go through more plastic bagsthan usual, but it will be worth it.

Keeping the House Tidy and Neat

Not everyone makes his or her bed every day, but when selling a home itis recommended that you develop the habit. Pick up papers, do not leaveempty glasses in the family room, keep everything freshly dusted andvacuumed. Try your best to have it look like a model home – a home withfurniture but nobody really lives there.

More Topics

Handle With Care!

Many people rank moving as one of the top five causes of stress. Howyou handle your children before and during the sale of your home canreduce some of their stress – and yours!

Experts recommend the following to make this a smooth transition:

  • Children should only be told of a planned move once the decision has been made. Discussing the possibility of a move beforehand only causes unnecessary anxiety, according to many child psychologists.
  • Minimize the stress your children feel when moving by getting them involved in their favorite activities – sports, academic or artistic – BEFORE the move actually occurs. Children can use the Internet to find out about their favorite activities, events or teams, as well as other interesting facts about their new area.
  • Another way to help children adjust to a new environment is to allow them to become familiar with the area before the move occurs. Take a vacation, or short trip to your new location to allow them to get to know the area. That way, it will seem familiar and reassuring once they’ve moved.
  • And finally, let your children stay with relatives or friends during the actual packing and loading process. That will relieve the stress of seeing their possessions packed into boxes and taken away.

Is a 1031 Exchange Right For You?

You may have heard of people “exchanging” their investment propertyto avoid huge tax bites out of their sale proceeds. An exchange of realproperty can be a valuable tool to defer or avoid capital gains tax onreal estate transactions.

Section 1031 of the IRS Code offers real estate investors a greatinvestment opportunity to build wealth and save taxes. By completing a1031 exchange, you can dispose of investment property, use all of theequity to acquire replacement investment property, defer the capitalgains tax that would ordinarily be paid, and leverage all of you equityinto a replacement property.

Replacement property acquired in an exchange must be of “like-kind”or similar to the property being sold. The following are examples ofproperties that could be eligible for a 1031 exchange:

  • Single Family Rental
  • Multi-Family Rentals
  • Farms/Ranches
  • Raw Land
  • Retail Offices
  • Motels/Hotels
  • Golf Course
  • Industrial
  • Leases of 30 years or more
  • Properties NOT eligible under 1031 include foreign property and primary residences.

1031 exchanges are primarily designed for people interested ininvestment properties, not for typical home sellers and buyers lookingto purchase a residence.

After the SOLD Sign

You’ve probably spent so much time and effort on making sure yourhome sells for the best price possible that you may not realize there’smore to do! Now that the SOLD sign is in your yard, here are some thingsyou can do to get ready for the move.

Stop by your local post office to pick up a change of address form soyour mail will be forwarded to your new home. If you’re not sure ofyour next permanent address, consider renting a post office box for afew months to guarantee your mail delivery will not be interrupted.

Be sure to notify anyone who provides you with service at your homethat you are moving – landscapers, home cleaners or window washers. Ifyou are moving out of the area, ask for recommendations of serviceproviders you could use at your new home.

It’s time to decide now which belongings have sentimental value, andwhich you can part with. Set a weekend aside to have a moving sale andarrange for a local charity to come by and pick up whatever doesn’tsell. This will make it much easier to pack and will also save youmoney, since movers generally charge by the pound.

Getting started on these activities will ensure that you and your family experience a smooth transition to your next property.

Quick Tips!

Call and schedule a date for termination of utilities, phone and cable services so you don’t pay for service after you move.

Give children a job to do during moving preparations. Boxing up theirbooks or toys gets them involved with, and excited about, the move.

Exchanges usually involve slightly greater costs than sales, so not every transaction should be an exchange.

Your personal tax advisor can offer information specific to your situation and help you determine if a 1031 is right for you.

Don’t pack your child’s security blanket or other favorite toy. It should travel with your child instead.

Moving during the middle of the school year allows your children to make new friends right away.

17 Simple Things to Make Your Home More Marketable

  • Make sure your entranceway says “Hey, look at me!”
  • Paint (or touch up) exterior, and repair screens and windows.
  • Check A/C and heating systems.
  • Fix leaky faucets, toilets, and faulty lights.
  • Repair wall cracks, re-caulk bathrooms and kitchen.
  • Mow lawn, edge driveway and walkways.
  • Throw out junk from garage and storage areas.
  • Prune dead limbs from trees.
  • Clean your windows.
  • Vacuum drapes and carpets.
  • Clear out closets.
  • Remove excess furniture.
  • Ensure windows, doors, and locks work smoothly.
  • Weed flowerbeds and trim shrubs.
  • If you have a pool, make it crystal clear.
  • Clean lawn furniture.
  • Keep cats and dogs out of visitors’ way.

Choosing a REALTOR®

Buying or selling a home is a major decision in your life. Before youbegin, find a professional you can trust. Your REALTOR® will be animportant advisor during one of the most personal and excitingexperiences of your life. It is OK to be very careful about choosingsomeone you feel comfortable with.

Look for the word “REALTOR®”

The first factor to understand is the difference between a REALTOR®and a real estate agent. The word “REALTOR®” can only be used byprofessionals who are members of the National Association of REALTOR®s(and, locally, the Houston Association of REALTOR®s).

In order to be a member, an agent must agree to abide by a strictcode of ethics based on values of competency, fairness, and highintegrity. Among other strict standards, REALTOR®s can not be parties toany plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons onthe basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, ornational origin.

An agent who has become a REALTOR® has committed to a higher standard of service and professionalism.

Interview potential REALTOR®s

When you meet a potential REALTOR®, be ready to interview him or herjust as you would interview any person you might be hiring for a job.Here are some good questions to ask:

1. How long have you worked in real estate? Is real estate yourfull-time job? Real estate is a complex business. Experience andcommitment definitely count.

2. Are you a licensed REALTOR®? Are you a member of the HoustonAssociation of REALTOR®s? Do you belong to the HAR MLS? Agents whocannot actually call themselves REALTOR®s have not sworn to uphold theprofession’s code of ethics. REALTOR® members of HAR have access to allof the most current information and training on the real estatebusiness. Members of HAR’s MLS (Multiple Listing Service) can searchthrough thousands of properties in Greater Houston to find a list ofthose that meet your specific needs.

3. How many buyers and sellers have you worked with this year? Howmany of them have “closed a deal” with you? “Closing” on a home meansseeing the process through to the final details of the contract and thetransaction. The average agent closes 10 to 15 transactions a year. AREALTOR® who closes on a lot of homes may be able to help you buy orsell a property much quicker than others. On the other hand, a REALTOR®who only closes a few transactions a year may have more time to spendwith you. The choice is yours.

4. Do you have any assistants who work with you? What do they do?Some REALTOR®s have a team of staff people to help meet customers’ needsfaster and more efficiently. If your REALTOR® does enough business tohave assistants, make sure that the REALTOR® personally handles anynegotiations including the contract and closing. It is perfectly OK foran assistant to handle paperwork and home tours.

5. Do you have any designations, certifications or special training?REALTOR®s learn as much as they can about the real estate business withcontinuing education. Some kinds of education result in specialdesignations for the REALTOR®. For example, if you are interested in ahistoric home, there are agents who have special designations andunderstand the unique market conditions of the older home.

6. How do you stay in touch with your clients? If your REALTOR®prefers to send e-mail, but you want to be called on the telephone, thetwo of you will need to work out an agreeable communication plan.

Choose your REALTOR® carefully, but once you have chosen, stay withthat person. Do not sign a buyer’s agreement at your first meeting with aREALTOR®. Wait until you are certain you have made the best choice.

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