Friday, June 1, 2007

Not So Random Acts of Kindness

Annette Bening wasn’t so far off in American Beauty when she played a Realtor stripped down to her unmentionables in order to scrub toilets for her open house. Sometimes we have to do what it takes. Sometimes you go the extra mile because you know that’s what it will take to sell the house. More often, we go the extra mile because we want to create greater opportunities for our clients.

Take a current listing our company has in the Berkeley Hills: It is well maintained with a good floor plan, original charm, and a desirable street address. This property will likely sell quickly based on its own merits. A relatively new agent in our office has the listing, so she has been mentored through the process by a couple of more seasoned associates. We recommended the usual to the Sellers; an intense cleaning, some de-cluttering, window washing…. In the meantime, the owners (a sweet couple with an infant and a two-year-old to add to the challenge) have been working their tails off to get this house ready for the market. In less than two-weeks time, they have packed up all the superfluous baby gear, touched up paint inside and out, repelled down the west side of the property to remove an awning that was robbing light and outlooks from the living room, and moved some large heavy furniture. This is only a partial list, but you get the idea. We, the agents, have been there almost daily through the process; re-arranging the furniture to best showcase each rooms potential, hanging a few or our own photos and props, picking paint colors, running errands, replacing light bulbs….

Upon the second trip back from the nursery with a car load of plants for the landscaping, our new agent (who is very hardworking and bright, but wearing impossibly high heels for a trip to the nursery) asked, “Do you do this for all of your clients?” The short answer was, “you need to create your own sense of boundaries, but when people need us we try to be there.” The longer truth is that the Sellers themselves were adding to the momentum and helping lead the charge. Through the stress of everything they have going on, including inspections on the house they were buying (not to mention the infant and two-year-old), they were always pleasant and appreciative. It’s sometimes these simple niceties that give you energy to do more. I work at a company where our mission statement is to take the best possible care of each person that walks through our doors. That said, our best work – the work which exceeds our own expectations, is often a reflection of someone else’s kindness.

Seller Tip: Light sells. Be critical of things that may be robbing your home of light. Trees that have become over-grown and now block windows should be pruned or removed. The awnings that have spared your heirloom carpets, need to be removed now in order to let the sunshine in. Heavy draperies may need to come down in favor of sheers. Use the maximum wattage allowed by the manufacturer in all of the light fixtures. Add lamps or up-lights to dark corners.

Buyer Tip: Ask your agent to help you track sale's prices of all of the homes you have visited. Even if you did not like all of the homes you have seen in your price range, knowing the sale's price will give you valuable insight into the current market.

1 comment:

Muskego Jeff said...

It's amazing how few agents (around here, at least) get their sellers ready to sell their house. When we were looking at houses, only two of the ten we looked at were clean and presentable, and those were both vacant and completely empty! The typical place we saw needed HEAVY de-cluttering, and a couple of them just plain needed to be cleaned (clothes on the floors, TVs left on, medications left on the table, dishes in the sink, etc). I loved walking into places like that, because I knew that not only would the seller not have people lining up to buy, but that I'd have a lot better chance in buying the place for less. Our Realtor was worried when we walked into the first place in less-than-stellar condition, until he realized that we could look past the "junk" and see the potential in the house (we were looking for a house that needed updating). It almost became of game of "which house is worse".

Anybody who watches HGTV probably realizes how important it is to have a presentable house when you're trying to sell. Our realtor couldn't come up with anything we could do on our place other than empty out the garage (it was full of boxes waiting for the move). We had already cleaned it out top to bottom, did new paint in all the rooms (no nail holes, family pictures, or personal effects which would keep somebody from picturing their own stuff in the house), new carpet throughout, freshly painted front door, and a series of pictures showing the landscape in the summer (we sold in the winter, in Wisconsin) which all made the place extremely ready for showings. It couldn't have been any more "neutral" in color, layout, and general appearance - this meant painting over some borders and re-painting the high traffic areas. All lightbulbs were replaced the maximum wattage the lights would handle, and since most of our showings were in the evenings (it got dark by 4:00), the place was lit up to the point where the electric company sent us a "thank you" card. New larger lights on the front and rear porches were installed to make sure people could see the yard, even at night. The result? We had an accepted offer in less than two months, during one of the worst times to try and sell a house (it hit the MLS two weeks before Christmas/New Year). The final selling price was only 3% less than our asking price.

By knowing what the buyer's home inspector was going to look for, I also took care of everything which the buyers could use against me on their offer. Turns out I missed a cracked seal on one thermo-pane window and only a couple of other minor things which cost me $500 off the selling price. I think their inspector was trying hard for them, but couldn't come up with any real defects. I don't consider a bed (which we were taking with us) sitting against the wall in front of the breaker box a "defect", but that's what he had to do to fluff up his report. Our realtor was there during the inspection and said it was one of the easiest he had been through.

This is all stuff that helped us sell fast and for the price we wanted. Honestly, our realtor had an easy time with us because I knew what was needed and had been through it before. It's too bad that many realtors don't seem to be doing anything other than listing the property. It sounds like your office is doing everything possible to give sellers a selling experience like I had. Keep up the good work and extra effort - it benefits everybody!