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How Art Staging Can Impact the Sale of Your Home

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How Art Staging Can Impact the Sale of Your Home

There is a perception paradox that sometimes exists within real estate: the idea that an empty minimalist home offers a blank slate for potential buyers to imagine their perfect home. While a small slice of the general population may have the unique vision to picture a space with cascading light features, warm and inviting furniture arrangements, or eye-catching objets d’art, the majority of buyers look to experts in interior design for help. The truth is, the benefits of staging your home are extensive. Properly staged homes spend substantially less time on the market, routinely sell for more money, and frequently end up on must-see lists.

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You Need an Expert Negotiator Now More Than Ever

In the ‘old days’, real estate negotiations were often a fairly simple process. The parties agreed to a price, identified items included in the sale, and determined when the property would change hands. These days, however, real estate negotiations can be extremely complicated. Not only are the parties negotiating on price, but they are working their way through several pages of contract items – all of which need thoughtful and careful consideration.

In today’s market, buyers and sellers need an extremely skilled negotiator on their side. While many people still believe that an agent’s primary duty is simply to show buyers houses or put a seller’s property on the market, that’s just the beginning of their job.

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Your agent needs to know how to read the subtle cues and telltale signs of what is required to close a deal. They need to know how to articulate your position to the other side in a way that fosters mutual acceptance. They need to be experienced in dealing with conflict, and how to calm emotions when they get in the way and threaten to derail a transaction.

The number one skill of being a good negotiator—a skill in which real estate agents should excel—is resolution. Your agent must be able to listen carefully to each side, find ways to resolve any objections that come up, and negotiate “win/win” solutions where both parties ultimately walk away satisfied that the transaction was done in fairness.

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If you’re a buyer, you absolutely need experience on your side when negotiating with nervous sellers, or with a bank or an asset manager who could live thousands of miles away.

If you are selling a home, hire an agent who is well-versed in your local market and can anticipate how buyers are structuring their offers.

Your agent needs a strong track record of experience in negotiating difficult transactions. The person you want on your side is someone who knows exactly how to negotiate effectively on your behalf and who knows how to successfully guide you in reaching your real estate goals.

Going it alone – or hiring an agent without the professional skills you need – is never in your best interest.

Want to know how I’ve handled some recent tough negotiations? Give me a call at (206) 391-1718 or email me at kristi@livingonbainbridgeisland.com and I’ll share with you the elements of a true “win/win” transaction, based on my own experience.

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Credit Score Fallacies Shouldn’t Stymie Home Buyers

Most Americans have now arrived at the conclusion that it is a good time to buy a home. That’s the top line analysis from one of the country’s major mortgage creators, but there’s a secondary finding about credit scores that could also have a sizeable impact on real estate activity. Some would-be area homeowners would benefit from learning the information—which is about misinformation.

The second annual “Wells Fargo Homeownership Survey” is a national survey of 2,016 respondents, and the source upon which last week’s Franklin Codel analysis is based. The excellent news for current and soon-to-be home sellers is that a whopping 72% of respondents think now is a good time to buy a home. Most Americans also agree that “owning a home remains a vital part” of the American dream— and continues to be a key element in the strength of the nation.

Running counter to that upbeat survey result is the finding that despite the efforts of lenders (and the government) to make credit more available to potential mortgage applicants, two misconceptions are widespread enough that they are “holding many potential buyers back.”

The misinformation:

  •  The misconception that every buyer must have at least 20% for a down payment; and
  • A belief that credit scores alone determine whether an applicant will land a home loan

Under the heading The legend of the 20% down payment, Wells Fargo’s Codel  points out that 36% of the general population (and larger proportions of minority groups) qualify for loans with lower down payment options— some of them as low as 3%.

But equally illuminating is what Codel has to say about the importance of credit scores. He is the head of mortgage production at Wells Fargo, so home seekers can be expected to pay attention to what he has to say, which is that credit scores are not as all-important as most people think. Because creditworthiness is not determined based on a single factor, homebuyers should do some investigating of their options “before excluding themselves based on credit scores alone.” And when it comes to the actual scores themselves, it’s not true that a ‘good credit score’ has to be above 780. There are multiple models and investor guidelines—and under some of them, more than 660 “is generally considered good.”

If it’s true that homebuyers agree that now is the time to make a foray into the market, it’s refreshing (and rare) to hear a top mortgage lending insider provide that kind of encouragement. His conclusion is that the cited misconceptions can be overcome with a “better understanding of how credit works”—and that a good lender will use a borrower’s “entire financial picture, not just credit score” to decide whether to issue a mortgage.

The takeaway is for prospective buyers to do some investigating to find out what their home owning prospects actually are: they might be pleasantly surprised. A good place to start: giving me a call!  

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Bainbridge Island Home Curb Appeal - an 8 Second Opportunity?

“Buyers make their decisions in exactly eight seconds. After that, they’ve either fallen in love or are just honoring an appointment.”

You’re likely to come across that quotation (from prominent Manhattan Realtor® Barbara Corcoran) whenever you’re researching how to add the most value to your home with the least expense. For Bainbridge Island home owners about to list their property, it’s a somewhat unnerving prospect. If true, then every showing may start with what sports fans call a sudden death playoff!  

If you are a future seller with an island home that needs improvement, it’s only realistic to accept the likelihood that should you go to market without doing anything about it, it will cost you one way or another. Either the offers you garner will be lower than they needed to be, or (worse), the home will linger too long with no real offers at all. If you have any leeway in time and/or budget, there are two approaches you can take to fix the problem.

First, you can hire a professional to assess the problem and lay out solutions. It may be expensive (not necessarily); but it’s a pretty foolproof approach. You and your real estate representative can go over the recommendations, assess which will be most cost-effective—most certain to reflect in the value your home realizes—and then get them done.

The other way is to make your own evaluation, and act on it. Drive up to your curb just as prospective buyers will, get out of the car, approach your home, and take in what needs fixing. If your curbside mailbox doesn’t have clearly recognizable numbers on it; if the walkway looks stained or broken; if the bushes have last fall’s dead leaves lodged in them; if the front doorbell is rusty…you get the idea! Note what’s wrong (heave a sigh of relief for what’s right), and get going! It will pay off!

On the other hand, if you have an home that’s undisputedly a true eye-pleaser, you’re probably content with the Love at First Sight precept—as you should be. If you’ve done your job of maintaining your home’s exterior and landscaping, you’re steps ahead. But a word of caution: that first decision doesn’t have to be final. If what buyers experience once they are inside is persuasively positive, any off-putting first-glance judgement can be turned around. What’s of key importance is that no single glaring negative element be present. If it is, it can seal a negative first impression…or undermine a positive one.

I’m here to lend experience and advice every step of the way. And a good first step is a really simple one: call!

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Puget Sound Spring Real Estate Selling Season: it’s Sprung!

When the first spring day comes along (as opposed to the first day of spring), a goodly proportion of Bainbridge Island’s residents feel the annual pull toward the garden store aisles. Even those who’ve stoutly resisted ordering seeds, gardening tools, or any of the other back yard paraphernalia the catalogs kept hawking all winter can succumb to this particular Call of Nature.

Burpee, Scotts and Miracle-Gro shareholders can relax: spring has sprung.

The local spring real estate selling season starts stirring, too, pretty much in lockstep with the appearance of the tulips. Whether or not the tulips have succeeded in poking up out of the ground, it’s a cinch that by this time they will have made colorful appearances on store shelves everywhere, just like the Peeps and chocolate bunnies. Unlike the rest of the early spring’s trappings, though, the spring real estate phenomenon doesn’t disappear from sight once Easter Sunday is a memory. In fact, it picks up steam.

There are any number of explanations why spring real estate in BI is always expected to ramp up. Part of the reason is the calendar. For families with children, if a move is going to involve a change in school districts, summer vacation is the least disruptive time of year for it to happen, so spring is the time to start house hunting. Part of the reason is due to the comparative difficulty of selling a home in wintertime: not only can foul weather make it harder to keep a home at its showy best, it also can throw a monkey wrench into property maintenance and the few cosmetic fixes that almost every home could use before it hits the local listings. The result is a certain amount of bottled-up inventory that bursts onto the scene all at once—and springtime is the single time of the year when that happens.

Then there is the automatic momentum effect. When you sell a Puget Sound area home, most families need to turn around and buy the next. The National Association of Realtors® tells us that the spring real estate selling season may actually be stronger than the numbers indicate, because many sales that really did begin “in season” don’t actually close until summer begins. Spring real estate as a phenomenon is “real” enough that you can’t blame them for lines like “Spring brings rain and flowers—and possibly extra green in the final sales price of your home.”

The spring real estate selling season is indeed underway, so if you are planning on listing your own home anytime soon, now is a great time to give me a call. It’s the best way to take advantage of the traditional boom in prospective buyers!  

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Patience + a Bainbridge Island Real Estate Agent = Job Done!

Unless you’ve had occasion to buy a corporate jet or office building recently, the sheer size of a home purchase puts it in a class of its own. One indicator is that most people decide to engage the services of a Bainbridge Island agent to help them out. This is not a trip to the mall...

It follows that first-time home buyers usually approach the whole process with a great deal of caution—an entirely appropriate attitude. Buying a home is one purchase you will be living with for a long time, so getting it right is worth any amount of effort.

Veterans of the home-buying fray start out with the advantages experience brings. They know the how’s, when’s and why’s of the home inspection and loan application processes, and when their real estate agent supplies them with listing printouts, their eyes quickly fall to the details that are most important in their current quest (which could be anything from property tax figures to details about the mechanicals). If they aren’t yet familiar with all of the area’s neighborhoods, they know to quiz their real estate agent about the pertinent local characteristics, especially when some features like school ratings or traffic patterns are likely to be key factors in the final choice. And they know that the first property that looks good on paper may not pan out in person.

For first-timers as well as home-buying veterans, there is one key mental predisposition that is sure to make the experience less stressful—and possibly more rewarding. It’s a mindset that doesn’t always come without effort—especially when time pressures are involved. The virtue in question is straightforward: patience.  

· Don’t Rush

Don’t give up after the first five (or eight) houses. Home buying is a process, and it can be a glacial one at times. By showing you houses, your area real estate agent gets an ever-sharper idea of what you’re searching for. You may not wind up with the first or even tenth house you are shown. If you prepare yourself for a house-buying process that could take several months, you’re much less likely to let impatience cause you to settle for less than otherwise.

· Bid for Value

The offer and negotiation processes are more of an art than a science—and this alone would be reason enough to want a local real estate agent to be on your team. A town agent knows the comps in the area, how truly comparable each is, what they sold for, and how the market is moving. If an offer is countered, your agent can suggest non-monetary inducements where appropriate…and let you know if it might be time to move on.

· Don’t Be Discouraged

If you bid on a home but wind up losing it, don’t become discouraged. It’s hard to temper emotions when house hunting, but it works to your interest when you continue to view the entire process as a business proposition.

Even should a house offer fall through, you can rest assured that there are other viable candidates out there. With patience, a businesslike frame of mind, and an experienced local real estate agent by your side, the odds are definitely stacked in your favor. Giving me a call is a good way to start taking advantage of them!

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Why Nearing Retirement Makes Buying a Home Easier

One of the advantages of reaching retirement age is that your needs can be much clearer to gauge than they were in the past. When it comes to planning for buying a home on Bainbridge Island, for instance, you no longer have to worry about many of the contingencies that created vast unknowns earlier on.

When we were at the starting line in careers and family life, we couldn’t know exactly where our career would send us, so the level of certainty we had when we bought our first house was sketchy at best. Likewise, the shape of our family, needs of our children (and even those of our parents) loomed as giant question marks. We might have had definite ideas about what we wanted the future to bring, but sooner or later, most of us learned that what happens is up for grabs. In the words of the immortal philosopher John Lennon,

Life is what happens to you
While you’re busy makin’ other plans…

But as more life experience builds, the better we get at predicting what the future holds. But that’s a skill that is only useful if we take what we now know and apply it. As retirement nears, here are four areas where most of us should be better able to make much better informed decisions when it comes to buying a home on Bainbridge Island:

1. Choose an Appropriate Size

Many couples seek large houses early in life because they expect to have children. Once the next generation has vacated the premises, though, staying in a home that’s larger than necessary means blown money—not to mention wasted time spent cleaning unused rooms. Retirees may be slow to recognize their new downsizing option: buying a home that better correlates with current needs. They may even want to consider a condo or apartment if minimal upkeep will free up income to direct toward more enjoyable activities.

2. Consider a Single-Level Home

Most people experience mobility issues as they age. Some solve the problem by installing expensive devices in their homes, even though they could deal more directly with those problems by moving to a home configured to present fewer challenges. For some people, moving to a simplified home lets them live independently for many additional years--for example, a single-level home without a front porch eliminates stairs entirely.

3. Find a Convenient Location

At some point, retirees may reluctantly decide that they don’t feel safe driving their cars. If anyone experiences warning signs of unsafe driving, it’s prudent to give up the keys before an accident forces the issue. This causes fewer problems when a retiree has chosen a convenient location. It could mean living close to stores, public transportation—or near relatives who can help with everyday tasks.

4. Stay under Budget

Retirees need to take seriously realistic budget expectations, since it’s usually true that they will have less money coming in than heretofore. An inelastic income may take some getting used to—but knowing what’s coming will make intelligent planning possible.

When it comes to locating and buying a home that fits your specifications, I hope you will give me a call to discuss the current crop of appropriate available properties!

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