Buyers Need to Love It

We are getting our home ready to sell. The last time we painted it was about 10 years ago. Our agent told us we should repaint and gave us some neutral paint choices. Wouldn’t it be better to offer money to the new buyers so they can choose their own colors instead of painting it a boring neutral, since they may not like neutral?

Your objection to painting makes sense. Why spend money doing something that your buyer may not like? Instead, offer them a credit to do it their way.

 It sounds good, but unfortunately, homes sales do not support it. Buying a home is an emotional decision. Buyers need to love your place. This love affair begins at the front door. A fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest, most dramatic and most inexpensive ways to enhance their first impression. Freshly painted doors, walls and trim give the message that your home is clean, bright and well cared for. If you do not have experience in painting, hire a painter as a sloppy paint job can be worse than no paint job.

 Why neutral, you ask? Buyers want to imagine your home as a blank canvas for their own vision. Neutral colors will help amplify the experience of light and space and will keep them focused on the essentials. As they leave, you don’t want them referring to your place as “the house with the blue den.” Instead, you’re hoping for “the house with the large kitchen” or “the home with the magnificent fireplace.”

 Buyers need to love your home as soon as they step into it. Without a doubt, a fresh coat of paint of a neutral color is one of the best ways to begin that love affair.

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Waiting and Wondering

Dear Esther – We have been looking at homes for some time with a real estate agent. We found one last week that was perfect so we submitted a written offer.  Our agent has been back and forth with the sellers for a few days and we still have not come to agreement on a price and whether the refrigerator, washer and dryer are included.   I’m surprised at the delay.  Is this typical? 

It’s not unusual for offers to be countered a few times before both buyers and sellers come to agreement.  Because it continues to be a buyer’s market, many initial offers are substantially lower than what the sellers were anticipating.  Buyers are looking for deals, and rightfully so, as there are some out there to be had.

 Even though most sellers are serious about selling, they would prefer not to “give” their home away.  At the same time, they don’t want to lose the buyers.  Uncertainties abound   – How much do the buyers want their home? If they don’t accept their offer, will the buyer simply move onto another home?  If so, how long before they get another offer?

As a buyer, you are wondering as well – How low will the sellers go?  How motivated are they? Was your initial offer insulting to them?  If you can’t agree on a price, will you find another home as perfect as this one?

Fortunately, real estate agents are trained and experienced in these negotiations.  It is what they do day in and out.  Use your agent’s expertise; lean on her; ask her questions to keep your concerns at the forefront of her mind.  You hired her to find the home you love at a price you can afford.  A good agent will work hard to do just that.

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Less Is More

Dear Esther – We recently met with a real estate agent about selling our home. She gave us a very long “to do” list which includes removing lots of what she called “clutter”, even mentioning that we should get rid of some of our furniture. Is this typical? What do you think?

A good real estate agent will do much more than take photos and put a sign in your yard. The agent who met with you to sell your home understands that your home will sell more quickly and for more money if it is appealing to prospective buyers.

This is not a personal assault on your taste. Much of what is near and dear to you, sad to say, is clutter to the rest of the world. Pack up knick knacks, photographs, refrigerator magnets, vacation mementos and anything personal. These items are distractions when buyers walk into your home. They get in the way of their appreciation of the space. Your tables, counters and mantels should have very little on them. Less is more.

If a room has too much furniture or furniture that is too big for the space, the room appears smaller than it should and may be confusing to buyers. A large sofa in a small den can crowd the room and make it look cramped. Every room should have a purpose. Buyers are confused if a tread mill is next to the desk. Is it an exercise room or office? Stage the room as one or the other.

Another important task is cleaning out and organizing closets, drawers and storage areas. Buyers are nosy and rightfully so as they want to make sure there is enough room for their stuff. Closets which are too full, piled floor to ceiling, tell buyers there is not enough storage. Throw out, give away or find a storage unit for things you are not using. Less is more.

Then clean, clean and clean some more. Your home should pass the white glove test beginning at the front door. Sidewalks and exterior siding should be pressure washed, light fixtures working and cleaned, windows and mirrors windexed, walls and doors wiped and carpet stains removed. If you’re not into cleaning, hire a cleaning service.  

I suggest you take your agent’s list seriously.   Folks need to feel that life will be better for them if they live in your home. A beautiful place will do that for them.

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Dear Esther – I really would like to buy a home since I have a good job and want to stay in the area.  I talked to a bank representative who told me that I do not have sufficient credit to get a mortgage.  A friend said I may want to look into a lease to purchase.  Can you explain what that is? 

A lease to purchase is an excellent option for someone in your situation.  You understand the benefits in putting your money towards purchasing over renting.  You plan to stay in the area.  Your job is secure and supportive. Your one problem is the ability to get financing now to purchase probably because you’ve experienced some credit issues in the past, you have not established a history of credit or your job is new.  A lease to purchase is a perfect fit for you if you find a property you want to purchase within your price range.

I suggest you find a real estate agent who has a track record of selling and buying properties in your purchase area.  She will contact agents of for sale and lease properties you are interested in to see if their owners will agree to a lease to purchase. When you’ve found one, she will help you sign a purchase contract. Your decisions are the same as for any purchase contract – what you will pay for the home, when you can settle (how long before you have the ability to purchase),  inspections  and your mortgage information. At the same time, you will also sign a lease agreement, deciding on the lease term (when to begin the lease and when it will end). You will also need to decide what your monthly lease amount will be and how much you can give up and above that, which will go towards the purchase of the home when you settle. 

This can be a win/win for sellers and buyers. The seller has income from a house he was formerly paying the bills on (utilities, taxes etc) and eventually a buyer and the buyer has a permanent place to live while working towards purchasing.


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Make Sure It’s Done Right

Dear Esther – We have been looking for a while for a home with a realtor we have come to know and trust.  Yesterday we were discussing our search with friends and found they have friends who would like to sell.  Their friend’s home fits what we are looking for.  Since their friend’s home is not listed with an agent yet, we’ve contacted them directly to see their place.  How should we address this with our realtor?   

If you’re thinking of your realtor as someone who only finds you a home, you are missing much of what she does for you. Buying a home is more than looking at a few and deciding which one you want.  Your agent is much more than a taxi driver. She is trained and experienced in, not only helping you find the best home for the best price, but guiding you through decisions about financing, inspections, contingencies, insurance – the many ins and outs of buying to get you to the settlement table as easily and comfortably as possible. 

Because of her expertise and your trust in her, it is important to let her know about the home so she can contact the sellers to find out if they’re willing to work with a buyer’s agent. If so, your agent will contact them directly to look at the home, working for you to purchase (assuming you want to buy it).

If the sellers are not interested in cooperating with your agent by paying a percentage of the purchase price at settlement, you will either need to decide to pay her or go it alone.  If you signed a buyer’s agency contract, this decision has already been made for you as this contract commits you to using your agent to purchase. 

With no contract, you may be tempted to go it alone to save a few dollars.  However, purchasing a home is usually the largest and most important purchase folks make in their lives.  I believe it’s worth using a professional who is experienced, trust worthy and hard working to make sure it’s done right.

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Is Our Agent to Blame?

Dear Esther – My house has been for sale for 4 months and, although we’ve had a few people look at it, we have had no offers.  People say they like it so we’re confused about why no one has placed an offer.  Is our agent to blame?  Signed – Confused

Dear Confused ,

When you hire an agent to sell your home and it does not sell, it is easy to blame the agent.  She is the expert, trained and hopefully experienced in how to sell homes.  In your confusion and probably also frustration, I suggest you review price, condition and marketing with her.  Make sure all three are in line and eventually your home will sell. 

Price – Before deciding on a price, your agent probably showed you properties similar to yours, called comparables, which sold recently. It is important to price your home leaning heavily on the comparables and NOT on the amount of money you have put in the home.  An overpriced home is a waste of everyone’s time.

Condition – If you’ve updated your home and maintained it well so it is move in ready, you can price it on the higher side of these comparables. If it’s a bit run down and old looking, the price should be on the lower end.  Buyers think about what it will cost to make it work for them and figure that amount into their offer.  If the condition does not match the price, they will not be interested.

Marketing – A good agent will take excellent photos preferably hiring a professional photographer.  Most buyers are looking online for properties and photographs are what draw them.  In addition, the unique features (such as views, fire places, walk out finished basements, desirable location etc) are important to emphasize.  Many times the same reasons you love your home are why buyers will also want it.

If you feel your agent has a good understanding of these three and is working hard to sell it, I suggest listening to her advice by adjusting the price, improving on the condition and/or emphasizing features possibly over looked.  In no time, you will be signing a contract and moving on.

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Ready to Move On

Dear Esther – We just received a contract on our home and we are excited about packing and moving on.  But our agent mentioned there are contingencies and that we should probably wait to pack until these are worked out.  The buyers have an inspection and mortgage contingency.  Does this mean they could back out on buying and get their money back? Signed – Ready to move on


Dear Ready to move on,

I think we all wish, once a contract was signed to purchase, that that would be the end of it.  In buying a home, an agreement of sale is often negotiated three times.  The first is the purchase price, settlement date and terms.  The second time is often the inspection resulting in a report about the condition of your home.  Agreeing on what you as a seller will fix as a result of this report is negotiable.  The last is the mortgage contingency which, in this market, can be a problem since property values are substantially lower.  Most mortgages require that your property appraise for the sales price.  If not, you may need to negotiate a new price, usually the value given by the appraiser.

Your buyers can get all of their deposit money back and walk away from the signed contract if agreement cannot be made on inspections or if they are not able to get a mortgage.  There are dates in the contract which provide deadlines for completion of the inspections and commitment of the mortgage.   I suggest waiting to pack until you are satisfied that these items have been resolved and all deadlines are met.

Usually, when a contract is signed on a home, buyers are excited about owning the home. They’ve pictured themselves there, visually placing their furniture. They want to work through these issues to finally own it.  Not only that, but agents and mortgage brokers are also working with you as they all benefit from the settlement of your home; which means, you will usually be packing and moving on.

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