Posts Tagged ‘Best Places to Live in America’

Like new home on a quiet street in Garner

December 21, 2013
Welcome to your new home! A well maintained home in a quiet neighborhood close to amenities and downtown Raleigh.

Welcome to your new home! A well maintained home in a quiet neighborhood close to amenities and downtown Raleigh.

I am pleased to announce a like-new home for sale in Garner that I am representing. This home has many upgrades and additional features that would be hard to find in a home priced in this range or this neighborhood. Priced at $129900, this 3 bedroom 2 bath home offers over 1,300 square feet on a corner lot.

Home offers a drip irrigation system for the flower beds with each plant getting direct water on a timer. As one who attempted to do this myself, I know the time required to install this system. It is the most efficient way to water as your plants do not get too much water and you use less water. Furthermore, this house offers a very well manicured lawn (best in the neighborhood) and the drainage ditch is in the backyard, eliminating the front yard ditch. The seller has even installed a decorative cap over the main drain so it doesn’t stick out.

The house offers a whole house water filtration system that give you the best tasting water. It uses city water and sewer, so there are no issues with a backed up sewer or replacing of a pump for the well. The seller has even placed a water filtration on the shower head to ensure the best water being used for your showers. This treated water ensures smooth skin and is more healthier.

The sellers have also upgraded the appliances. A like-new solid surface oven and a refrigerator with a filtered ice maker are just a few of the upgrades with the appliances. It also offers a built-in microwave and a dishwasher. The washer and dryer, which are being included, are front loaders with the capacity to wash a comforter.

The home has additional energy-efficient features to include a higher grade of insulation to ensure a lower utility bill. The seller actually had the builders remove the original, lesser quality insulation and replace it with the higher end insulation.

The family room offers cathedral ceilings and a wood-burning fireplace with a mantle that is a focal point in this room. The fireplace can easily be converted to a gas fireplace should that be your preference. The plush carpet is in great condition and is great for those cold winter evenings. The master bedroom also has cathedral ceilings with a large, decorative picture window for tons of natural light. The master bathroom offers a separated double vanity and a huge walk-in closet.

The kitchen is amazing for the size of this house. It is spacious with tons of cabinets and counters for those large family meals. It offers pull-out shelves for easy access to its contents and a corner lazy susan. The seller has taken great care of the counter tops. It has two pantries for storage, one in the kitchen and the other just outside the kitchen. The attached dining room is cozy and offers a warm window that overlooks the backyard.

With two additional bedrooms, this house is waiting for your family. Each of the bedrooms are spacious with oversized closets and huge windows for natural light. It has a split bedroom floor plan to allow for privacy for the masters of the house.

The community is quiet and well situated. It is close to shopping, dining, movie theaters and less than ten minutes from downtown Raleigh and all that Raleigh has to offer. It is a real find and is move-in ready, waiting for your family. You will not be disappointed.

For more information and photos, please visit its own website at 123GrassyRio.com.

 

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A Raleigh Cultural Experience

October 16, 2013

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to meet an Editor for the New York Times and a resident of that city. He had come here to visit his daughter whom I sold a house to and wanted to take me and my wife out to dinner. We ate at the always amazing Second Empire Tavern and as a New Yorker, he was eminently impressed with this restaurant. We are lucky here in Raleigh to have some fine dining experiences without the New York, Boston, Chicago, or Los Angeles prices.

Raleigh, A Great Place to Live and Work!

Raleigh, A Great Place to Live and Work!

This led me to consider all of the cultural benefits to this fine city. After dinner, I drove him around the downtown area and pointed out the many amenities our great city has to offer and he was impressed with the vibrant downtown. This further impressed upon me the important cultural relevance our city offers both North Carolina and tourist, but the local residents as well. If you do not take full advantage of the arts and museums, it is at your own peril.

My wife and I recently attended the dinner at the NC Museum of History for the new exhibit of the Russian Czar. It was a wonderful evening and the history was awe-inspiring. While in St. Petersburg Russia last year, my wife and I attended a Dinner with the Czar at Catherine’s palace and this experience led us to partake in this evening. The dinner here was much more impressive with the lone exception of the entertainment at the palace that featured Russian dancers and singers. The exhibit at the museum was very educational and flowed beautifully. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would highly encourage you to visit the museum on Edenton Street. It will be worth the effort. The exhibit will be in Raleigh until March 5, 2014, so you should plan accordingly.

At the same time, the NC Art Museum has an exhibit that I am sure most husbands will be willing to attend, the Porsche by Design: Seducing Speed. Yes, you heard me correctly…Porsche. My wife and I are planning on visiting the exhibit this Saturday and it should be amazing. As a car buff, I have always appreciated the Porsche and their design. This exhibit shows cars from the 1930s to the present to include Janice Joplin Porsche that is on loan from the Rock and Roll Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. It should be a wonderful exhibit and one you are sure to remember for years. It runs through January 20, 2014, so don’t miss it.

Until the 27th of this month, the NC History Museum has the “Turn the Radio On” exhibit which is a salute to Carolina Bluegrass. If you enjoyed the Bluegrass festival last month, you are sure to appreciate this exhibit which is in the lobby of the museum. While there, check out the North Carolina and the Civil War: The Ragin exhibit which will also close on the 27th of October. It is the second exhibit in a three-part series that commemorates the Civil War and the tumultuous year of 1863 which saw tremendous losses for North Carolina troops.

There are numerous events in the Downtown area throughout the month and I would encourage you to visit the Downtown Raleigh Alliance events to plan the rest of your month. If you are not taking advantage of these opportunities to expand your knowledge and appreciation of the world around us, you are missing a treat.

To see more of the exhibits at the NC Museum of Art, click here for more information.

Mortgage rates level off…but what is the future of Interest Rates?

August 16, 2013
Do you have your Crystal Ball to tell you where interest rates will be in a year? I don't!

Do you have your Crystal Ball to tell you where interest rates will be in a year? I don’t!

Freddie Mac is reporting that interest rates have leveled off a bit after rising since last year. They are averaging 4.4% for a 30-year mortgage.  The average 15-year mortgage rate is 3.4%, slightly up from last week.

30-year mortgage rates hit a record low last November at 3.31% but has crept up ever since. The result is a person borrowing $200,000 would be paying $125 more a month today then at its lowest point in November. Demand for mortgages to purchase homes has increased as the market continues to improve, but the demand for refinancing mortgages has fallen in 12 of the last 15 weeks since early May. It can be attributed to the fact that many of those who refinanced over the last year are at a lower rate than is currently being offered.

With the overall decrease in mortgage applications, it has leveled demand and as a result, leveled the rate charged. The Market Composite Index, a measure of total loan applications volume fell 4.7% from the previous week. Another indication that the need for a lower rate has subsided. The Refinance Index went down 4% and the Purchase Index went down 5%.

According to the Washington Post, the refinance share of mortgage activity has not moved in a month when it reached its lowest point in 27 months. Overall, refinance activity makes up 63% of all mortgage activity.

The future of the mortgage rate is anybody’s guess. Some are predicting that as the Federal Reserve relaxes their hold on interest rates, they will start to climb. Part of the reason Interest rates have been so low over the past several years it due to the Fed keeping rates low by buying up mortgages from institutions allowing them to free up capital to make new mortgages. As some point, this will cease, or at least decline, which will result in higher interest rates.

According to an article by Yahoo Homes in March, the average rate today compared to 1981, there is no comparison. Rates in 1981 averaged 18.45% where in March of this year, they were 3.51%. If you break down the numbers, a loan for $300,000 in 1981 would cost the borrower over $4,600 per month where in March that same mortgage would be $1,348.81. Will rates ever get back to that level?

I would highly doubt they would rise to that level unless the economy collapses as it did during the Carter administration, but I would predict they would continue to rise. I don’t have a crystal ball to say how high the rates will go, but I would think they would inch up to the 6-8% as the market attempt to adjust to inflation and economic trends. I don’t think the Feds would allow the rates to climb to 1981 levels, but they cannot continue to keep them at such low levels. If the economy continues to improve, which is not a guarantee with the Affordable Health Care act taking effect next year and all of the cost associated with it, then rates will follow. Supply and demand is the number one indicator of Interest rates, especially without the interference of the Feds.

I would personally recommend you make your home buying or selling decisions while the market is good. Currently, houses are selling and there is a limited number of homes available. Since there is no crystal ball to tell us the future, I would strongly encourage you to take full advantage of the market we are experiencing.

How to Select a great bottle of Wine!

July 26, 2013
Don't get discouraged, even you can select a great bottle of wine with little effort!

Don’t get discouraged, even you can select a great bottle of wine with little effort!

You may think it strange that I will write about purchasing wine on a real estate blog, but sometimes I get tired of simply writing about real estate and want to mix it up. As a passionate wine consumer, I have a few ideas about purchasing wine and as one who has well over 200 bottles in my cellar, I have learned a few things about purchasing wine. Most of the wines that I purchased using some of these concepts have been winners. It has only been when we purchased wine without fully understanding that wine or grape variety, have we made some poor purchases that made for bad wine experiences.

Before I get into it too much, I want to encourage each of you to expand your horizon and experience varietals that you may not know. There are about 8-10 well-known types of grapes, but there are literally thousands of different grapes though not all are made into wines. If I hadn’t taken the time to understand some of these different varietals, I would never have experienced the Carmenere grape, which has become one of my favorite varieties. With over 60 different varietals in my wine cellar, I can attest that there’s more to wine than a simple Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Zinfandel. Try new varieties and you may be surprised.

You do not have to be an expert to enjoy and purchase great wines and you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Twenty years ago, you may would have to pay for good quality wines, but today, there are many more great producers of wines that are also cost-effective. Of all of my wines, I only have a handful that are considered costly by my standards. I actually prefer not to spend too much for a bottle of wine. As a frugal individual, it is hard for me to open an expensive bottle of wine as you can only enjoy it once.

The most important suggestion I could give you would be to ask an expert. As I wouldn’t recommend you purchase a house without the assistance of an expert, you shouldn’t purchase a bottle of wine without the aid of an expert. This is especially true if you are in a wine store. The sales associates taste and learn about the wines they have in stock and can be very helpful. Since there is no one producer that dominates the market share, it is nearly impossible for an individual novice to know about all of these wines. Don’t think you are less of a connoisseur if you need to ask for help. Many of the bottles in my cellar made their way there because an expert recommended it to me. Be wary of those experts who point you to the highest priced wines. They may not be as knowledgeable as they may seem. Give them your price range and the features you want in that wine and they can help you select the right bottle for a memorable evening.

The next suggestion would be to pay attention to what you taste. Of course, this is easier said than done. Unless you take professional classes and have tasted hundreds of wines, it is difficult to fully understand what you are tasting. The key is to be able to pick out a note that you can identify and help you with future selections. For example, I sometimes like a little pepper on the finish, so I would look for a Shiraz or a Zinfandel. Of course, you have to realize that the soil and temperature of vineyard makes a difference in the finish. For example, a Zinfandel grown in cooler regions will be more fruity with hints of raspberry where warmer climates will produce a Zin that has more of a blackberry, anise and pepper notes. You are not expected to know all of this, but it is a good idea to understand what you taste and what appeals to you. From there, you can find a wine that works for you.

Another suggestion would be to trust your own palate. My wife and I have very different ideas of what makes for a great wine as our palates are much different. I cut my teeth on the sweeter wines such as Riesling, but my palate has grown to the point where I predominantly drink red wines today. My wife is a huge fan of un-oaked Chardonnay. She has learned that she doesn’t like much oak, so she shops for the un-oaked. In a restaurant, we look for French Chardonnay as they are typically fermented in steel casts. A little bit of knowledge has helped her find what she is looking for in nearly any restaurant or bar. Compared to my increasing knowledge of wines, she knows very little about wines, but she knows what she likes and has embraced it. On a side note, don’t be too concerned about parings your wine with your meal. Today, this is a little overrated and served only to keep the wine experts in business.

Don’t be too loyal to a particular wine producer or variety. With the countless number of producers and varieties that are out there, you are doing yourself and your palate a disservice if you are too loyal to a particular wine. This is one reason I have over 60 varieties in my cellar and I rarely purchase a case of a specific wine. I am not loyal in the least and will try many different wines. It is due to this effort that I have become more aware of the differences between a Merlot and a Pinot Noir. I have tasted several offerings of each and enjoy each in its own time. If I am not in the mood for a heavy wine, I will typically choose a Merlot, but if I want a robust drink with lengthy tannins, I will choose a Pinot Noir or a Shiraz. Life is too short…try new wines!

Finally, I would suggest you read. If you are like me, I don’t have the time to read all of the magazines and articles from wine snobs who pontificate on certain wines. I don’t expect you do to it unless you have the time and the inclination to do it. I would suggest that you find a source that you can trust and use when purchasing a wine. As many of you know, I have an I-Pad and rarely am without it. I have several applications on it that I use to research a specific wine to help me make a better decision. If you have a SmartPhone, you will be able to download a similar app that can be of assistance to you.

The key is to have fun with it and don’t take it too serious. We are not talking about life and death and any poor decision can easily be rectified. Make sure you are enjoying your wine because that is the reason we drink it.

I hope you enjoyed my two cents worth on purchasing wines. If you want to learn more from true experts (I am not an expert), there are many ways to find out keys to purchasing and enjoying good wines on the Internet. The app I use the most is Cor.kz. It is associated with the website, http://www.CellarTracker.com. If you have a collection of wines, I would encourage you to visit this site as it allows you to keep tabs on what wines you have in your cellar. I use it and with my tablet, I have access to the contents of my wine cellar where ever I go.

Easy ways to Update your kitchen at little cost

July 12, 2013
Low cost kitchen updates can help you sell your home!

Low cost kitchen updates can help you sell your home!

One of the major features that homebuyers look at when inspecting potential homes for purchase is the kitchen. As you may know, kitchen renovations can be very costly and you will only see a portion return on investment when you sell. Many agents will say that a renovated kitchen or bath will result in a higher return on investment, but in reality, it is hard to put a number on it as there are so many different factors that play a major role in the price your home will get. For instance, the neighborhood plays a huge role in the price. As the old saying in real estate, “Location, Location, and LOCATION”.

One thing I always recommend to my sellers is to keep your updates in line with your neighborhood if you hope to see any return on your investment. Otherwise, you will simply sell quicker, but not necessarily for more money. For instance, if your home is in a lower end town home community where the average price is less than $150,000, you may not want to go to the expense of placing granite counter tops in your home. Buyers in that price point are not counting on having granite so your impact will be limited. For example, my wife sold her pre-marital town house, which was priced around the $120,000. Her house did not have granite, but rather a laminate counter top. We did touch up the paint and replaced the aging carpet. At the other end of her building, which was further away from the parking lot, had granite counter tops. It also had bright red and blue colored walls. My wife’s house sold before her competition, for more money and in fact, the buyer of that home had scheduled to see her town house, but she had gone under contract prior to them seeing the home. I know the agent personally and she mentioned to me that her buyers wanted to buy our house, but had to settle for that one.

The theme is keep your upgrades in line with your competition. In the Raleigh market, pools do not get the same value as they would in other parts of the country such as south Florida. You don’t want to over update to see the value. It could assist you in selling quicker than the competition. For instance, I had a town house listing where the sellers had purchased a very nice refrigerator that was much nicer than all of the competition. Even though we did not sell for much more money, we sold quicker because the buyers saw an added value in the refrigerator. With everything being equal, these items can ensure you get sold quicker.

Now for the easy, low-cost updates. These are easy, do-it yourself projects that can pay huge dividends if you are trying to sell your home. Remember, it is not how much you spend, but how you spend your money that will make the largest contributions to your ability to sell your house quickly and for the most amount of money.

Paint

This is a no-brainer and can make the kitchen appear modern. A fresh coat of paint on the walls will make everything look better. Depending on your market and the overall decor of the house, you can even consider painting the cabinets. This can give your kitchen a more modern look. The caution here is it may turn off some of the more traditional buyers who are turned off by the modern look.

Lighting

Great lighting can make all the difference in a kitchen. A dark kitchen will almost never sell a house. Under the counter lighting can add illumination and definition to your space. Select your lighting carefully. It is not always the most energy-efficient lighting that will give you the best impact. Consider the impact the lighting will have when selecting the right light source. Strip light or puck lights can do wonders to your space.

Organizers

An organized kitchen can do wonders for the sale of your home. You can buy some for both the pantry/cabinets as well as for the counter top. Often times, a kitchen will have a corner that is not very usable space. A great organizer can optimize this space and show your potential buyers the advantages of this space. My wife has placed a simple stand shelf organizer to our kitchen and it doubles the space. We have some items below this shelf while placing smaller items such as spices on the shelf. It optimizes the space and for little cost. The larger, more spacious a room looks, the better it is for that potential buyer.

Flooring

Modifying the flooring can be expensive and not an easy do-it yourself. Cutting tile or laminate is a more exact science and I would recommend expertise when installing some of these flooring options. Depending on your current floor and its condition, a simple approach can be to utilize area rugs or carpet runners. It will give your kitchen a new look and make it stand out. The key when selling is to make your home stand out, but not be so unique that the pool of potential buyers will be minimal. A simple carpet runner can segregate the space and make it memorable.

Rearranging

Simply rearranging the kitchen to make it more usable is a very low-cost way to revitalize your kitchen. If you have an eat-in kitchen, rearranging the table and chairs can open up the space. The key is eye-flow when arranging the space. Use your imagination how to open the space and make it appear more open.

As a non-professional decorator, these are some simple ways to make your kitchen appear more modern and up-to-date. Use your imagination and seek professional help. You do not have to hire a professional, but simply reading some of the decorating magazines can give you some great ideas.

Whenever you sell your home remember, you are responsible for the product (house) and the agent is responsible for the marketing.

Tips for selling your house in 2013!

June 17, 2013
When sellers market their homes properly, buyers will find that home and buy it!

When sellers market their homes properly, buyers will find that home and buy it!

Many people are excited about the continuously improving real estate market around the country as well as in the Triangle. With demand up and the supply down, the housing market has finally moved back in the favor of the seller. More homes are selling for at or above list price and some even have multiple offers on them. This is still rare in this market, but the right property can see multiple offers. With all of that said, is it still difficult to sell a home in this market?

If you are not prepared to sell your home and make your home stand out, it can still be a challenge. We are not in a market where every home is selling, no matter the price. Those days are probably gone forever…and for good reason. Today, the appraisal process is more difficult so unless you are paying cash, you have to take this into account when selling your home.

Some basics of the home selling process has not changed and will not change, no matter the housing market. Your home has to be well positioned if you hope to sell your home. If you don’t believe me, check the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and see all of the homes that have not sold and are either expired or withdrawn. The odds are up that you will sell in 2013, but it is still not a sure thing.

Differentiate from the competition

It is important to make your home stand out among the competition. It may not be something big, but it should be something that most of the homes you are competing with do not have. For instance, I had a townhouse listing in a large community. Many of the town homes in this community were virtually similar to the other, with the major difference being price. My client did a couple of things to ensure that her home would sell quicker than the competition. First, she did not wait for the Home Owner’s Association (HOA) to refresh her deck, she did it herself. She sanded and stained the deck to make it stand out. Additionally, she had a high-end refrigerator that she considered taking with her. Since most of the competition had very simple refrigerators, this made a huge difference in getting a buyer for her home. Of course, it was included at no additional value, but she obtained her goal of selling her home quickly and at fair market value.

Other ways to differentiate your home would be curb appeal. It’s not a highly expensive task and a do-it-yourself project, but it can make the difference. Do you know how many buyers do not even walk into the front door if the curb appeal is poor? If you cannot get them in the door, you will not sell the house.

Many of the things you can do to differentiate will not add value to your home. So, I caution not to go overboard with this project. For instance, when my wife was selling her townhouse, which was priced in the low $100,000s, her neighbor had the same floor plan and was similar in many ways. However, the neighbor had granite countertops and my wife had laminate. What made my wife’s home sell quicker? She had replaced the carpets and did touch-up paint throughout the unit where the neighbor had some very loud colors in her home. Both homes sold, but the other sold only after our’s was already off the market. Caution: your upgrades should be typical for your community and price point to get the best bang for your buck.

De-Clutter

Nothing turns off buyers more than a cluttered house. I have seen perfectly decent homes stay on the market until the clutter was cleaned. For example, I had a listing when I first got into business. The sellers had several children and the home was a complete clutter mess. I had informed the sellers that it would be difficult to sell the home until the clutter was cleared up. As with many sellers, they did not listen to me and the house sat on the market for several months. It wasn’t until my clients actually moved out of the house and thus, taking the clutter, that is sold. It actually sold quickly after they had left.

Clutter also makes the house look much smaller and the clutter is not just trash. For instance, I showed a large home in one of the nicest communities in North Raleigh. As we walked into the house, there was so much furniture that barely an inch of wall space did not have a piece of furniture in front of it. There were probably six grandfather clocks and this home that was around 4,000 square feet looked very small. The house was clean, but all of the furniture acted like clutter and my buyers could not get past all of the furniture. They wondered if their own furniture would fit in the space even though they didn’t have nearly as much. It took the home quite a while to sell. If you have a lot of furniture that you do not want to get rid of, put it in storage until you make your next move. You may not mind the excessive furniture, but a buyer will.

Remove offensive items

This can be a very sensitive area to address, but one that must be addressed if you are to sell your home. Unfortunately, in our society, everyone it seems is easily offended. This is no different in the real estate business. If you are a hunter and have stuffed prey or deer heads, remove them and put them in storage for your next home. You never know who will walk in your home as a prospective buyer and they may get offended by this display of trophies. Even if the buyer does not get offended, it is a distraction. When my wife and I were looking at homes, she was turned off by all of the stuffed animals and deer heads. In fact, she came within a couple of inches of kissing a deer head because the sellers had so many, they placed one at the top of the back staircase and she was distracted while walking up the stairs. She turned just in time and nearly gave the deer a tongue bath. She is not offended by hunters, but it turned her off.

Additionally, if you smoke, you should refrain from smoking in your house while you are trying to sell it. You should even get a company in to remove the odor from your house. As sensitive an issue as smoking is for many people, if someone who is anti-smoking walks into your home and smells the lingering effects of cigarette smoke, they are likely to turn around and leave without looking at the house. I have seen it done by clients, so remove the odor and smoke outside. I realize it is an inconvenience, but you are trying to sell a product, your home.

This may not be offensive, but rather distracting, but you should remove anything that may be a distraction for the buyers. For instance, while my wife and I were looking for a house several years ago, we went into the home of the producers of the “Golden Girls”. She is a huge fan of the show. Unfortunately for the sellers, they kept all of the memorabilia and awards from the show on display. My wife could not tell you five things about the house after we left it, but she could recall all of the memorabilia she encountered. Some agents will take this to the extreme and inform their clients to remove all family photos. I don’t think this is a requirement, but the number of photos should be limited. For example, my personal home has many family photos mounted on the up the staircase and several in the hallway at the top of the stairs. When we sell, we will have to remove the majority of these photos and caulk and paint over the holes. This can be a major distraction for many buyers.

Sweeten the Deal

Often, in a competitive market, you need to sweeten the deal to ensure the potential buyer will select your home. In the current market where there are fewer listings, this is not as imperative, but if the competition starts to strengthen, you may have to consider it. This could be anything from offering to pay some of the buyer’s closing cost to simply offering a home warranty for the buyer. As housing values have tightened throughout the bust, many sellers may not be able to pay for the closing cost of the buyers, but simply adding a home warranty, which cost between $300-400, is an easy way to encourage a buyer to select your home.

With most home warranties, if you purchase one while you are selling it, you pay for it when it closes and you are covered while it is on the market. Basically, you get a free warranty while you are selling your home and if it doesn’t sell, it didn’t cost you anything. Most warranties have a $75 service charge when you bring out a handyman to repair something, but this is minimal compared to what it could cost you. I always consider this to be a no-brainer.

Move-in Ready

I consider this to be imperative if you want to sell your home quickly and for the most money. If your home looks like the buyer can move in right away, then it will stand out among its competition. The walls should be at least touched up if not completely painted and the carpets should be in pristine condition. The colors should be more neutral, but that doesn’t mean boring. Warm, neutral colors are always best and the bright reds and blues should be avoided at all cost; even in the children’s bedrooms. If the home is positioned for the first-time homebuyers, then having move-in ready conditions is even more important. Many first timers do not know how easy it is to paint the walls and will discount your home if they believe they will have to do it.

I equate this to buying a new or used car from a dealer. When you walk onto a lot to buy that used car, what is the condition of that car? In most cases, that car is in the best condition and looks like brand new. Quality used car dealers know how to market their cars to appeal to the masses. The car is usually very clean and detailed with everything working properly. Of course, there’s no guarantee how long it will stay that way after the purchase, but while it’s on the lot, it is marketed to sell. Your home is no different. The best marketing for your home is the condition of that home. This goes with the inside as well as the outside.

Curb appeal

I have already mentioned this, but this shows how important curb appeal is. It has to look like a home before people will go inside to see the interior. The lawn should be mowed weekly and the hedges should be trimmed. Look at your house from the street and try to think like a buyer. If you were buying your house today, would you purchase it based on the curb appeal?

Buying a home is an emotional decision. I have seen it many times that when a buyer finds a home that evokes an emotional response, they will buy that home. When it becomes an emotional attachment to your home, they will also be less likely to negotiate the price down too much as they don’t want to lose the house. I have had several buyers who did very little negotiating on price or terms because they ‘love’ the house and have to have it. It all starts at the curb. I typically park the car on the street when showing a house so my clients get the full benefit of the curb appeal. If they don’t love the exterior, they will already be skeptical about the house when they walk into the front door.

Pricing it Right

Price is the number one reason a home sells…period! This sounds simplistic, but think about it. The buyer has to be able to afford the house based upon their income. The item that is negotiated the hardest is typically the price. Unless the buyer is paying cash, the house has to appraise for the sales price or they will not be able to get the mortgage approved. They may fall in love with the house, but if you cannot come to an agreement on price, it will not sell.

Now, here’s the dirty little secret. Sellers don’t set the price, the market does. If you don’t price the house competitively, it will sit there with little activity and no offers. Buyers will not overpay for a house, especially after so many were burned during the housing boom. They are cautious of overpaying. What’s more, if you are overpriced to begin, studies have shown that you eventually sell for much less than had you priced it right at the beginning.

How? I’m glad you asked. It’s as simple as this. Most of the activity you will see on your home will be when it is first listed. This is when you really know if you are overpriced. If you don’t get showings, it means the buyers think it is not priced well. After you have been on the market for several months, you will eventually decide you need to reduce your price to sell it. Then, you may be competitive after the reduction. However, now the potential buyers will see how long your home has been on the market and will begin to believe you are getting desperate to sell. This will lead to lower offers for your home. Eventually, the home will be sold for much less than it should have been. Perception is reality. Whether you are desperate or not, this will be the perception and the buyers will act accordingly.

In the Raleigh market, a home that is priced right typically sells for 97-98% of list price. However, homes that are overpriced eventually sell for about 80% of the original list price. This is not just a Wake County trend, but a national trends. So, where ever you are selling your home, you need to be priced correctly.

When I list a home, I tell my clients that we are testing the market. Once all of the marketing is in place, it becomes about testing the price. Once we get the price where the market demands, it will usually sell; especially in a good market.

If you have had difficulty selling in the past several months, you should look to these as potential reasons why it didn’t sell. In good markets, there is typically a buyer for every product, but again, this is not a guarantee. Price it right and it should sell!

Continuation of Rules for Great Customer Service!

May 17, 2013
Are you giving Ultimate Customer Service to your clients?

Are you giving Ultimate Customer Service to your clients?

If you have been following my discussion of the last few weeks, you will have already read a couple of articles on Customer Service. The rules are not all-encompassing, just a starting point that is meant to make you think about the all-encompassing aspects of customer service. We have already covered the initial four rules for great customer service and this entrance includes the final four rules.

As a reminder, the first four rules include Answer the phoneDon’t make promises unless you will keep them, Listen to your customer,  and Deal with complaints. In this post, we will extend those areas to include several other rules that should be observed if you hope to have great customer service.

We will start with one that is a challenge to many, especially those who are self-employed. Be helpful-even if there is no immediate profit in it.  This is especially difficult for those who need to maximize their efforts towards creating income and profit for their business. I have seen many who limit the amount of helpfulness they will give if they cannot see immediate results in terms of being profitable. This is especially true in the real estate industry and other such professions. Lawyers are not inclined to give free consultations because there is no income in if for them.

In my business, I give away many hours a week to people asking questions about the market, most of which are not actually interested in buying or selling a home. They simply have an interest in knowing what the market is doing. They may not buy or sell a home for several months or years, and there is no guarantee they will come to me when they make their decisions. Yet, this helps to build my reputation as a helpful agent throughout the community. Furthermore, if you only give assistance to those who will pay you, you are very short-sighted. It is not all about the money, but about the client. As long as you give clients what they need, the income and sales will take care of itself.

Train your staff (if you have any) to be always helpful, courteous, and knowledgeable. This goes in line with the previous rule, but adds to it by making sure your staff is always helpful. It is not required for you to know everything about any question your client may have, but you need to have a general knowledge and know where to find the answers. I always get questions about housing prices or sales for a certain community or area of the Triangle. Unless I have just looked up the information for a client or do tons of business in that area, there is no way for me to have the kind of information that will be helpful for my potential clients that will not be misleading. I am courteous with them and may give them some general knowledge about that area, then inform them I will get back with them once I get a chance to look into it further.

Always be wary of anyone who tends to have the answers to every question, no matter the profession. It is impossible to have all of the answers and those who do may be misinforming you just to appear that they are knowledgeable. In real estate, as in any business, it is important to know what you know and know when you don’t know and how to get the information you need. Don’t ever just “wing” it. There is no shame in informing your client that you do not know the answer to their question and you will get back to them.

Take the extra step. This is imperative to show your customer that you care. If you are in retail, take them to the item, don’t just point them in the right direction. And once you get there, wait to see if they have any questions. In any field, there are many ways to take the extra step.

In my field, the extra step means that I do additional research for my clients to help them make better, more informed decisions whether to buy or sell a home. Taking the extra step means that if my client needs to look at five homes or fifty homes to make a decision, I should show them as many as they need to see to help them find the home that will best meet their needs and wants. Taking the extra step requires a commitment to the customer that few are willing to give and many customers are not inclined to require. As a rule, customers in the U.S. accept less than great customer service and I think that is a disservice to business. They don’t know they are not giving great service if they are not given direction.

Throw in something extra. This is a little thing to do that can pay huge dividends in the end. It doesn’t have to be anything large and can simply be a guanine smile. Some professions do not give you the opportunity to give coupons or specific discounts, but it doesn’t have to be monetary. In my industry, I always give a closing gift to clients. The value is very minimal, but it is something that they were not expecting and a way to show them that I appreciate their business.

This goes beyond just working with clients, but with employees. When I was managing people, I was constantly giving praise to those who had done a good job for me and the company. I didn’t have the control to give raises, but in most situations, simply acknowledging they are doing a great job is worth more than a monetary raise.

Giving something extra will also benefit with obtaining referrals from your customers base. As with my business, referrals are imperative for success, so the more you can give your clients above and beyond the sale, will go a long way to developing a lasting relationship with them. If you are in an industry that gets repeat business, then you may want to send your past clients something extra every month or year. One year, I sent many of my past clients a bag of coffee. The coffee cost me $10 and most of them, I hand delivered, so I had an opportunity to see them again. It is a simple touch that will help you to keep in touch with them and remind them of the level of customer service you gave them.

 

I hope you have found this helpful and beneficial for your business. As I have stated before, customer service is a touchy point for me. To really give a high level of customer service, it is important to also like and respect your customer. It is always easier to be nice and helpful to those you like, respect and want to do business. As Joe Williams, co-founder of Keller Williams Realty, stated, “Anyone can do dumb deals”. It is important to have a mutual respect with your customers. Otherwise, it is a dumb deal and not worth your effort or the customer’s effort.

What is Customer Service? What should consumers expect?

April 17, 2013
Have you ever waited 30 minutes for service only to be disappointed?

Have you ever waited 30 minutes for service only to be disappointed?

Customer service is an issue that has been prominent in society for many years and no less than in today’s market. Many professional fields require a level of service that can benefit from this debate. As I prepared a presentation last week to a networking group, I thought this would be a great subject for this blog. You see, customer service is important in the real estate business just as it is important for restaurants or retail stores. For professional, customer service is more important since it is more important to remain in business. If I had the marketing budget of a Home Depot or Wal-Mart, I could afford not to focus as much attention to each individual customer/client. But alas, I have a very modest marketing budget, so most of my new business is generated via personal referrals from past clients who have experienced quality service from me.

In this article, I plan to cover a few areas of customer service that many businesses fail to attend to properly. When it comes to service, you must consider why it is important, the communication aspects of customer service, time and details of customer service. In my many years of service both in the retail industry, territory sales and now real estate, I have developed a specific sense of customer service. I had a professor who once told me that one poor customer service experience is like having ten since most people have at least that many friends they will tell. In today’s social media, you can multiply that number by the hundreds. I personally have well over 700 Facebook friends and many people have many more than I do. So, if you are in business, it is important to understand customer service.

Why is it important? As mentioned earlier, unless you have a large marketing budget, word of mouth can be very imperative to your business. It works both with positive and negative. As Shakespeare mentions in his play Julius Caesar, ‘the good a man does dies with him, but the bad lives on forever’. That is not a perfect quote, but you get the gist of his words. If you do not get positive word of mouth, you will never get quality referrals to enhance your business.

Communication is important when it comes to customer service. For one thing, you must speak their language and understand their body language. If your customer is Joe Friday and only wants the facts, you need to simply give them the facts and nothing else. For this type of customer, you do not need to run completely through all of the details as they are not interested in it and you will lose them quickly. Determine their language and speak it. Additionally, you need to understand the basic body languages of your customer. For instance, if your client walks into an office supply store with a focus and the body language that they know where they are going, then you will lose the customer if you stop them to ask them if you can help them. This is me and it upsets me every time an associate stops me when I did not ask for help. It is a “self-service” retail store, so let me self-serve myself. It would be better service if they made themselves available should I have a question. I don’t have any issues with greeting customers, but pay attention to the customer and speak their language.

Time is the most valuable asset any of us will ever own. We can make more money, but we cannot make more time. If this is the case, why do you see retail store associates wasting their customer’s time by not properly stocking the shelves. If you go into a home improvement store and the shelf is out, it can take as much as thirty minutes or more for an associate to get the lift machine with a spotter, block off two aisles and get the product down for you. This is saying that their time is not important to that store and its management. Furthermore, if I walk into a store and the store doesn’t have the item I am looking to purchase, they are virtually out-of-business as far as I am concerned.

When it comes to my business, I always conduct a thorough buyer’s interview to determine what the client wants to purchase to ensure I am not showing them homes that will not meet their needs. When I am working with sellers, I take the time to understand the client, their needs and determine the reason for their selling of the home. Of course, I try to understand and speak their language to ensure I am not wasting their time.

Paying attention to detail is one of the most important aspects of good customer service. A long time ago when I was in the meat business, I improved the sales from $35,000/week to over $55,000/week by paying attention to details. I took the time to understand my customer base and from that, made the decision that we would never be out of pork products, especially on the weekends. The result, we improved sales and thus, had better customer service. It did not result in letters being written to praise the fact that the product they wanted to purchase was on the shelf, but the best reward for customer service is repeat business. By giving my customers what they needed and wanted, sales went up and my department was no longer ‘out-of-business’.

In my current business, the details that are most important for them is the contract and negotiations. It is both my fiduciary responsibility and my customer service credo to give my best in all situations. The ‘devil’s in the details’ as they say, and many contracts that go awry do so because of a lack of attention to details. Every business has details that need to be attended to ensure the best customer experience for your clients. Pay attention to the details.

In closing, one of my favorite professors in college once told me that it is not enough to satisfy your clients, but you need to make them ‘raving fans’ of your business. This is the challenge of any business entity and one that I extend to you today. Make them ‘raving fans’ of your business. In our society, too many patrons are wiling to take less than great customer service. Don’t let your customers take less than ultimate service.

Just this evening, I went to the drive thru at PDQ on Falls of the Neuse. I don’t usually do this for dinner, but as I had an appointment in less than an hour, I needed to get a quick meal since the meeting was apt to go long into the evening. When I pulled up, I was tempted to either leave or go inside as there were five vehicles in front of me. They noticed this and to ensure a speedy service experience, the management sent out two associates to take orders from the waiting vehicles. A situation that at a normal fast food restaurant would have taken 20-30 minutes to get my food, it took less than 10 minutes. They paid attention to the customer’s needs and went above the call of duty to make me a ‘raving fan’ of their enterprise.

Tips for Selling your Home!

April 1, 2013
Selling your home is a process!

Selling your home is a process!

I am often asked about some tips to sell a home. It differs to an extent based upon the market, but generally, I give the same advice to anyone looking to sell their home. As usual, this is not all-encompassing as I am prone to leave things out that I ‘meant’ to put into this post, but the goal is to give you a general idea of what is required to sell a home.

In a great market it is not always necessary to hire a real estate professional to assist you in the sale of your home to get it sold, but you will typically get what you paid for. If you are acting as your own agent, I would caution you that it can be a hard road to travel. First of all, you may have difficulty pricing your home competitively. Often those who do not hire an agent sell their homes for much less than the market value. I won’t get into the specifics, but the research performed by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has pointed towards this trend. Much more than price, a competent agent can assist with negotiating the price, terms, repairs, and miscellaneous items that are likely to arise. For instance, an agent can help you negotiate with the mortgage lender or the title insurance company. I had a listing once where I needed to negotiate with the Title company in order to provide a clear title for the buyer. You never know what may come up while you are selling your home and an agent can be instrumental in helping you navigate these special circumstances. Also, an agent can keep you legal. State law requires that all homes sold in North Carolina be accompanied with a Property Disclosure and HOA Disclosure with a few exceptions. These are primarily for information purposes only, but if you do not have one, the buyer can back out of the contract. If you do not have this in place, you will not be protected and may have your home off the market for several weeks, losing prospective buyers, just to discover the buyer has ‘cold feet’ and are utilizing the absence of a Property Disclosure to terminate the contract and keep the earnest money. If you do not have an agent, you may not be protected from this ‘out’.

The main ingredient in the sales process is price. You have to have your home priced competitively if you hope to sell it. This goes beyond any market conditions. For most people, price is the number one determinant to whether they purchase Home A or Home B. If you are not priced competitively, you will lose potential buyers who may think you are overpriced. Even if you are underpriced, the perception will be that the home needs too much work and thus, it is not worth the effort to view the home. I was in a meeting today where the speaker stated, “Perception is Reality”. If you look at it, this is the case. Potential buyers will make an assessment of your home based upon their perceptions. I have seen this many times where my buyer discounts a home based upon a perception they have acquired of a house, whether they viewed the home or not. Perception is important. A quality agent can assist you with a pricing strategy that will work.

As I just stated, perception is reality. So, your home has to give the perception of quality and value if you wish to sell it. You do not have to hire a professional stager, but you will have to look at your home objectively as if you were the buyer. If you have too much stuff in your home, you will have to remove it and put it in storage. A clutter space looks much smaller. So, de-clutter your home is key to selling your home. Look at it this way, you are moving anyway so this is a great opportunity to purge your belongings as all of us have more stuff than we really need. Right?

Cosmetic appeal is imperative to sell a home. Not as much in a strong market, but it is still important. Your home should have neutral colors as the bright colors may be your taste, but the odds are, the next owner will have much different taste. Sure, they can paint the home and will most likely do so, but it may take them a couple of years to get around to painting. Meanwhile, they know they will have to live with the neon green living room. You need to neutralize the space. More than simply taste, cosmetic appeal runs the gauntlet from chipped paint to shabby and stained carpets. The old mantra in the marketing business is “Sex sells”. You don’t see overweight people as spokespeople for a sports car. No, you see models standing in front of a sports car like you would have the same appeal if you purchased that vehicle. It is not reality, but a perception they are trying to sell you. The same goes with real estate. You shouldn’t hire a model to stand in front of your home, but you need to make it as appealing as possible. The home should be in its best condition if you are hoping to sell it for the most money. Of course, if you cannot get these cosmetic repairs done, you will not get top dollar for your home and should price it accordingly. Along these lines, curb appeal is important to get the buyers out of their cars and into your house. I have seen situations where the curb appeal was so bad, my buyers told me to keep driving.

One way to prepare your home to sell would be to differentiate your home from the competition. Know your competition and what they are offering and try to find a way to be better than the competition. This may mean you will have to do more in the interim and have greater cost to get the home ready, but ultimately, it can make the difference; especially in a difficult market. For example, I had a seller in a community where she had 15-20 similar town homes for sale at the same time. There was little she could do to differentiate from her competition on the outside of the home, but instead, she offered to include her high-end refrigerator for the right price. This was about a $2,500 refrigerator where all of  her competitors had very basic refrigerators priced for less than a thousand dollars. She couldn’t price her home higher for this appliance, but we sold her home quicker because of that refrigerator. It made her home more appealing than the competition.

Finally, be willing, ready and able to negotiate any offer that you get. This doesn’t mean you have to accept the offer, but be willing to negotiate every offer. I always tell my clients that we are not going to walk away from an offer to purchase. We may counter the offer several times, but we are going to leave it up to the other side to be the party to walk away from the negotiations. It is hard, but I also inform them to take the emotion out of the negotiations. Buying or selling a home is an emotional process. The more you can separate your emotions from this transaction, the better you will be able to negotiate. Remember, the buyer, in most cases, is emotionally attached to your home. They can see themselves living in your home, raising their children there, sharing special moments with friends and family there. They are emotionally attached to your home. So, to get the better negotiating position on this transaction, you need to remove the emotion from your side. It is a business transaction. You may have put much blood, sweat and tears into your home, and we hope the buyers appreciate all that you have done to the home. Ultimately, they may be planning on changing the house dramatically once they own it. Your taste and their taste may not be similar, so do not get offended if they do not see the value in the remodeled kitchen. Keep the emotions out of it.

In closing, there are many lists you can find online that spell out exact items for you to complete to prepare you for selling your house. These lists are good, but I am not too much into these lists. For one reason, a list gives the perception of being all-encompassing and including everything you would ever need to do. If that were the case, all of these lists would be identical (and they are not). Look at these lists, but ultimately, you need to look at your home as if you were the buyer. What was important to you when you purchased that house? It may not be a bad idea to attend a few open houses before you list your home just to put your mindset into that of a buyer. You can never satisfy every buyer, but you only need to satisfy one buyer. To ensure that you do this, you have to appeal to the masses to give you the best odds of finding that one buyer who can see themselves living in your house.

In many people’s vocabulary, house and home are interchangeable. If you are selling, you need to start looking at your home as a house. It is a product, not your home. Mentally, the moment you made the decision to sell your home, you had moved out of that home. Now, you are living in a house until you can find your next ‘home’.

Upcoming Golf Tournaments and other important items

March 4, 2013
The pose of a Champion

The pose of a Champion

As the Golfing Realtor, I feel it is important for me to emphasis and promote upcoming golf tournaments and other important items. There are many exciting golf opportunities that should impress many people. This post will not have all of the golf tournaments in the Triangle, just some that I know are coming.

Before I get into the tournament schedule, I would be remiss not to mention that the real estate season that is quickly approaching. March tends to be the month that showing and general activity begins to really take hold. The market has traditionally shown that it is tied to the spring and summer seasons. If you have been reading blog, you will know that 2012 was a very successful year for the Triangle real estate market. Sales were up and inventory was down. By some indications, foreclosures in 2013 will be up over last year. If last year’s trends continue, 2013 is shaping up to be another very successful year.

With that said, if you have been thinking of either buying or selling in 2013, now is the time to get your home ready for sale and get it onto the market. The best thing you can do to sell your home quickly is to have it ready for show from the beginning as research has shown that the most showings you will have on your home will be in the first few weeks it is on the market. So, be ready to sell and then call a qualified agent whom you like and trust to help you price your home correctly and sell it in a timely manner. Most people looking to sell a home are doing it so they can either move-up or downsize their living quarters. This means you need to definitely be priced right and showing your best foot when it officially goes on the market.

Now that we got the business out of the way, there are several golf tournaments coming up that may interest you. Also, I have listed several golf outing (not tournaments) that may interest you. As a committee member of the Downtown Links, we have monthly outings and have secured some very nice courses throughout the Triangle. If you are not a member of the Downtown Clubs of Raleigh, you can be my guest to any of these events as I will be at most of them. Please let me know if you are interested in any of these dates.

 

Downtown Links

Wednesday, March 13- Devil’s Ridge Golf Club, 1pm shotgun start

Monday, April 15-Prestonwood Country Club, 12:30 pm shotgun start

Tuesday, May 14-Raleigh Country Club, 12:30 shotgun start

Thursday, June 6-North Ridge Country Club, 1pm shotgun start

Monday, July 22-Brier Creek Country Club, 1 pm shotgun start

August-TBD-Hasentree Country Club,

Monday, September 23-Treyburn Country Club, 12:30 shotgun start

October, TBD-The Neuse Golf Club, tee times starting at 12:30

Thursday, November 7-Lochmere Golf Club

*Some of these dates and details are subject to change.

Local Golf Tournaments

April 9, 9th HNC Charity Golf Tournament, The Preserve at Jordan Lake, noon shotgun start. More

April 22, 4th Annual North Raleigh Rotary Golf Tournament, Wildwood Green Golf Club, 1pm shotgun start. $350 for a team, $87.50 for individuals. Email me.

April 29, RRAR Annual Charity Golf Tournament, Devil’s Ridge Golf Club, 8 am check-in. Details

May 3, AIA Triangle Golf Tournament, Lonnie Poole Golf Club, 1pm shotgun start. Info.

May 13, Wheels4Hope Golf Charity Event, Wildwood Green Golf Club, noon check-in

 

As you may imagine, this is just a small sampling of the golf tournaments that are available this spring. I will add more in the future. If you have a tournament you would like listed here, please let me know and I will be happy to add them to the list.

Golf tournaments are a wonderful way to spend the day while giving back to a great cause. There are typically many opportunities to play golf throughout the area while raising much needed funds for causes that may or may not be dear to your heart. I would encourage you to plan to play in one or more tournaments this year. I have only won a couple of the tournaments I have played, but I have always had fun.