Blog :: 03-2014

Seller Beware...5 Reasons You Shouldn’t For Sale by Owner

Some homeowners consider trying to sell their home on their own, known in the industry as For Sale By Owner (FSBO). I think there are several reasons this might not be a good idea for the vast majority of sellers.


Here are five of my reasons:

1. There Are Too Many People to Negotiate With

Here is a list of some of the people with whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to FSBO.

  • The buyer who wants the best deal possible
  • The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interest of the buyer
  • The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)
  • The home inspection companies which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house
  • The appraiser if there is a question of value
  • Your bank in the case of a short sale

2. Exposure to Prospective Purchasers

Recent studies have shown that 92% of buyers search online for a home. That is in comparison to only 28% looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an internet strategy to promote the sale of your home. Do you?

3. Results Come from the Internet

Where do buyers find the home they actually purchased?

  • 43% on the internet
  • 9% from a yard sign
  • 1% from newspapers

The days of selling your house by just putting up a sign and putting it in the paper are long gone. Having a strong internet strategy is crucial.

4. FSBOing has Become More and More Difficult

The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 9% over the last 20+ years.

5. You Net More Money when Using an Agent

Many homeowners believe that they will save the real estate commission by selling on their own. Realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe they can save the real commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.

Studies have shown that the typical house sold by the homeowner sells for $184,000 while the typical house sold by an agent sells for $230,000 (keep in mind this is a national average). This doesn’t mean that an agent can get $46,000 more for your home as studies have shown that people are more likely to FSBO in markets with lower price points. However, it does show that selling on your own might not make sense.

Bottom Line

Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your house on your own, call me to see what I have to offer. (203) 536-2232.

8 Shockingly Bad Staging Decisions (And What to Do About Them)

landscape before and after

staged homesbedroom before and after

Real estate is an intensely personal experience for many buyers and sellers. After all, a home, at its core, is a personal expression of a homeowner’s entire life wrapped inside four small (okay, sometimes not so small) walls.

And while, ultimately, buyers should be more focused on the bones of the home-the things that will stay after the current owner has vacated-this is not the case and staging can often be the difference between a buyer bonanza and a lack of hot offers. Don’t suffer at the hands of poor staging.

Here are 8 of the biggest staging sins sellers make:

1. Collection Overload.

It is very difficult for almost any collection to look orderly and neutral, two high-level aims of home staging. Unless the homeowner has attractive, high-end built-in cases to house the collections and the target buyers share a similar affinity for the objects, even the coolest collection can come off as a pile of space-consuming clutter.

When it comes to shockingly bad staging decisions, the choice to give a taxidermy collection a starring role in a home’s staging is high in the oh-so-bad rankings. For some buyers, these collections can trigger ethical and sanitation and can distract from the strengths and features the property has to offer.

2. Echo-Chamber Staging.

In an echo chamber, sounds are amplified because they simply bounce around in that closed space. When left alone, the same thing can happen to sellers if they do not have outside input. And unfortunately, it seems to be the bad staging ideas that get amplified, more than the good ones. Echo chamber staging happens when the sum total of a staging team, well, one person. That bold wallpaper in the bathroom may seem like a good idea, but a little perspective-and another opinion-may prove otherwise.

It make may helpful to view a home with tasteful bring-in-the-buyers staging and another to a home with cover-your-eyes-bad décor. It can be tough to self assess, but once you see what a big difference a little staging makes, you may be more open to the suggestions.

3. Failure to edit.

You’ve heard thirty-somethings who still live at home diagnosed with failure to launch? Well, failure to edit is a close cousin of this syndrome. As the New York Times recently put it, “the job of stagers is to reverse the accumulated creep of hundreds of small and misguided design decisions, and to erase any hints of the messiness of daily life.†You might have a fantastic rug, a beautiful sofa, amazing tchotchkes and the highest-end personal effects, but chances are good that the cumulative first impression to a buyer viewing the home will still fall short of the “one broad stroke of gorgeousness†the Times piece correctly says home sellers should aim for, with their staging.

The failure to edit is a generalized syndrome which can manifest in all sorts of specific staging woes, from garden variety clutter to disastrous decor style mash-ups.

The take away is... edit, edit, edit. Then go back and edit again. Sellers should think of de-cluttering as pre-packing.

4. Silly scenarios.

The difference between staging and interior design is simple: staging is cost-and-time efficient design undertaken with the specific objective of showing a home off to its best advantage, playing up its features and helping prospective buyers visualize the best lives they could possibly live in the home, should they choose it. Unfortunately, this has led some well-intentioned sellers and stagers to believe they should stage one bedroom as a Parisian boulevard (Eiffel tower mural included), another with a full-blown butterfly theme and the third as the beach-complete with umbrella, towels on the wall and sunscreen bottles on the nightstand. I saw this house, folks. With my own two eyes.

You should stage your home to show off its space, light and conveniences, and the best, basic purposes that unusually small or large spaces could be used for. If the backyard is a huge selling point, stage it with outdoor dining or living room furnishings. Similarly, if the home is a two-bedroom with a bonus room in an area of four-bedroom homes, staging the bonus room as a bedroom or home office helps buyers understand the solutions that can minimize the brunt of your home’s challenges.

Staging your home to create “cute†scenarios with no relationship to the selling points or solutions buyers care about is of no value and can create a low-budget feel.

5. The ‘lived-in’ look.

When a home is being shown for sale, it must be immaculate, every single time it’s being shown. It should look like no one lives there: no toothbrushes, curling irons, protein shake mixes or paperwork allowed.

Is this difficult to keep up? Absolutely. But you’d be surprised at how bad an impression just a few personal toiletries or dishes can make.

You can set up a system for putting everything away and wiping down all kitchens, bathrooms and other daily mess hot spots every single time the home is going to be shown.

6. Closet cramming.

Out of sight is not out of mind. Home buyers today are desperate for storage space and will undoubtedly open those same, crammed-tight doors in an effort to evaluate how the home ranks for storage. Beautifully organized closets with ample room create an impression in the buyer’s mind that they, too, can have an orderly life in the home.

This is an opportunity to sell, donate or throw out things you no longer need or don't want to move. Remember that even huge closets, if crammed to the gills, make buyers wonder how they’ll ever get by with so little closet space.

7. Failing to stage for all the senses.

A house that smells like pet mayhem or smoke or has a noisily defective heater is a tough house to sell, no matter how beautifully it is staged. Unfortunately, smells and sounds are very easy to get acclimated to, when you live with them. Buyers, though, will detect them the second they walk in-and the moment they do is the moment we in the business call “turn-off time", or as one Realtor likes to say "if you can smell it, you cannot sell it".

8. Not to.

Ultimately, the most shockingly bad of all staging decisions is the surprisingly frequent decision not to bother staging the home at all. This explains homes like the one I once viewed which had residents still sound asleep in their beds, in the dining room, as the listing agent walked myself and my mortified buyer clients through the property. On the less bizarre end of the non-staged spectrum, this is how lovely homes with vast potential end up selling at a discount, as cosmetic fixers at a discount. This is a particular tragedy in cases where the owners could have painted, spruced, moved loads of things out and a few newer things in and made much, much more money on their homes

I work with professional stagers that understand how to best show off your space and attributes. Call me to book a free consultation. (203) 536-2232.

Is Your House in Compliance?

approved pic

Have you done work to your home where the contractor said you didn't need a permit or you would save property tax dollars by not having one? In Stamford, you basically need a permit to change to light bulb (not really, but you get the point). Though the building permit process is not always the easiest to navigate, it can save last minute heartache by crossing all your T's and dotting all your I's, when you are having the work done.

In the last few years municipal searches done by the buyers' attorney, just prior to closing of title, has created a lot of last minute scrambling. An old open building permit can threaten to derail a closing, and sometimes that permit pre-dates your ownership. It is now easier and cheaper to resolve the issue of old open building permits due to a new ordinance recently passed by the City of Stamford. An "open" building permit is a building permit which has not been closed out by the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy or a Certificate of Completion. Before the new ordinance, the most common way to resolve the issue of open permits that were more than 6 years old was by way of a "6 Year Letter". A "6 Year Letter" is a letter issued by the Stamford Building Department that simply recites Section 29-265 of the Connecticut General Statutes. It used to cost $1,000.00 per open building permit for a 6 Year Letter.

Now, the Stamford Building Department will issue a Certificate of Estoppel which states that "absent evidence that life, health or safety are in jeopardy no action will be taken by the Stamford Building Department to prevent use and occupancy of the above referenced premises in its present form." The cost of a Certificate of Estoppel is $200.00 per open permit.

Doing your own municipal search may be a great pre-emptive tool. Call me for more information. (203) 536-2232


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