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Virtual Staging

I’d never tried virtual staging….but when I had a seller that had no interest in having furniture moved in and out of their home I realized quickly…no buyer was interested in even visiting the home because they couldn’t figure out how to place their furniture.

I ran across a very talented artist that offered virtual staging as a solution….so I sent him over 8 photos of my listing…and these are what were returned.

I know this is going to help sell this home…..it now looks warm and inviting…and it’s easy to see how pretty it can be with the right furniture.

Knowing where to put your furniture can be a challenge…and having a huge living room can be difficult for everyone.

Note how cozy the dining room looks with the added bar cart!

The master bedroom seemed very “cold” with the white tile floors….but once staged, you can appreciate the advantage of having a rug instead of wall to wall carpet.

Even secondary bedrooms can use the virtual staging help…look how much nicer these rooms look with furniture!

Walk AWAY from that house….oh, wait…RUN!

Sometimes it’s best to walk away from a house purchase…..even after spending money on an option fee and inspections.

In fact, that’s why we have an option period in Texas….so you can have professionals go out and inspect the house to see if it’s worth owning.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to have our buyers sign a “Termination of Contract”…..even though it wasn’t our buyers asking to sign it.

Our first warning should have been when the seller’s son-in-law called to let us know that all communication for the purchase would be directly to him….bypassing the agent on the Multiple Listing Service .  We knew a “For Sale By Owner” sign was on the property….but had also seen the property on the local MLS.  We checked our MLS….still showing as “active” but in remarks…it asked us to send all correspondence to the seller.  Turns out…not really the seller, the sellers son in law.

Our buyers hired a home inspector and also had a septic company go out to the property to make sure the septic system was in working condition.  A number of items were brought up by the home inspector that were items of concern…so our buyers asked for a few repairs.  The seller’s son (not a Realtor, nor the owner) immediately responded that no repairs would be made.  Our buyers decided to move forward…they really wanted the house.

Closing was to occur on October 5th and the offer was contingent on the sale of the buyer’s home.  The sellers son in law called on September 11th asking for our buyers to remove the contingency.  He also stated that if they didn’t release the seller from selling the house to them he would do his best to make sure the buyer’s didn’t ever get the  earnest money back.  His words (in WRITING) followed with an ugly email:  There is no “good faith” on this side because we feel we have been misled (?),  and mistreated (?), the appraisal has not even been completed, we want to be released from this contract immediately.  If your clients hold us up any longer and will not release us until 10/5 and do not close as promised and signed they can kiss the $1K earnest money goodbye, I will tie it up indefinitely.  Sign the release….get your $1K refunded.

The buyers, after reading the email, decided to forget about the purchase.  They don’t qualify without the proceeds from their home…..which is why it was contingent on their sale.  They had put new windows in their house, new siding outside, had it painted inside and out, replaced the fence….all done and ready to put on the market for a very quick sale at $200,000 on Sept 12th.  The house they were buying…..$310,000 and needed lots of updating. We have since learned the sellers daughter called the lender and told her they had another offer…but it wasn’t as good as this offer.  She also told the lender that the Mom, the seller, had borrowed money to fix up the new house she had bought in a new city and needed the funds from the sale to pay the borrowed money back.

I can’t help but believe if we had been able to work with another agent on this sale…..instead of the seller’s son in law, a hot head, we might have been able to close on this home.  We wouldn’t have seen an email that was so “heated” from the son-in-law…..we would have either got a call from the Realtor or an email asking how the process was going for putting the home on the market and getting it sold.   In San Antonio…homes that are fixed up and ready for quick move in for $200,000 or under FLY off the market….especially in North Central San Antonio with great schools and in a great neighborhood.  We probably would close sooner than  the next buyer…..and it appears, from the disclosed call to the lender, that the seller would have netted more from our sale than the next sale.  So…did the seller borrow the money from the son-in-law and he couldn’t afford to risk it not being back in his account by October 5th?  We’ll never know…..but I still believe you hire Realtors to get your home SOLD and keep the emotions out of the transaction….and everyone wins because they understand what is happening, when it is happening and why it is happening.  Without the Realtors you have this situation….a seller who has no clue what really is happening and why….and a seller that will end up with less money in her pocket because her spokesperson was a hot headed relative that didn’t know real estate.

 

 

 

 

What stays with the house?

Not sure what is supposed to stay when you’ve sold your house?

When you sell a lot of houses you tend to have some pretty amazing stories about items that weren’t clear to the sellers…..how about these?

  1.  The sellers moved the water bed and forgot they carpeted around it….so a big hole without carpet was in the master bedroom for our walk through before signing to buy.
  2. The buyers drove up to discover all the rose bushes were missing….the sellers said they thought they were theirs because they planted them in honor of their Mom years ago (this happened twice….both my sellers blamed it on Mom)
  3. The front door was not the leaded glass door that was there when they bought it…it was a much cheaper door.  The seller wanted the old door for the new house but forgot to tell anyone.
  4. The curtains in a guest room were the same color…but not the eyelet fabric….the seller told me this a few weeks after closing bragging that the buyer hadn’t even noticed that she took the curtains…..when the buyer called me years later to sell the house for her she pointed out that she would leave the same curtains that were up in that room and would not be replacing them with eyelet fabric.
  5. All the curtains were gone and holes in the wall from where the curtain rods had been.
  6. All the curtains and rods were gone and the holes patched.
  7. The gas logs in the fireplace had been removed (by the seller…..caution….this could be  a gas leak).
  8. The lamppost light in the front flower bed was bent from the seller trying to dig it up as the buyers drove up to their new house.
  9. No floor molding or tile was behind the desk the seller removed from the kitchen (it was personal property but once again….they had installed the tile floors around the desk that they decided was a personal item later).
  10. An older black stove was in the kitchen instead of the new black double oven stove that had originally been in the house when the buyer wrote the offer.

If it’s attached, it probably stays…unless you have something in the contract specifically stating it doesn’t stay.

So…what stays?

In Texas, all appliances….except the refrigerator.  That means dishwasher, stove, microwave.  Your washer and dryer are yours unless you agreed in a Non-Realty Items addendum to leave them or sell them to the buyers.

DishwasherStove

 

 

 

 

Your faucets, the disposal under the sink, the water softener, chandelier, light fixtures and fans are the new buyers.  The mirrors above the bathroom sinks stay.  If you have cabinets in the bathrooms, kitchen, utility room and garage….they stay.  Even shelves can become an issue if you remove them.  This does not mean replace them with cheaper versions before closing….the items that were in the house when the buyer saw the house must be in the house at closing.

 

The curtains and rods stay…unless you have agreed in the contract that you are allowed to take them.  The lampshades on the chandelier remain with the house.

The fireplace screen remains—unless you have agreed in the contract that it does not stay.

Per the Texas Earnest Money Contract:  “The house, garage and all other fixtures and improvements including appliances, valances, screens, shutters, awnings, wall to wall carpeting, mirrors, ceiling fans, attic fans mail boxes, television antennas, mounts and brackets for televisions and speakers, heating and air conditioning units, security and fire detection equipment, wiring, plumbing and lighting fixtures, chandeliers, water softener system, kitchen equipment, garage door openers, cleaning equipment, shrubbery, landscaping, outdoor cooking equipment, and all other property owned by the seller and attached to the above described real property.”

“Accessories:  window air conditioning units, stove, fireplace screens, curtains and rods, blinds, window shades, draperies and rods, door keys, mailbox keys, above ground pool equipment and maintenance accessories, artificial fireplace logs, and controls for garage doors, entry gates, and other improvements and accessories”.

Mirrors are considered realty items if they are attached above sinks.  Always check before you buy if a beautiful mirror is staying….just because it is attached to the wall doesn’t mean the seller is leaving it.  Lots of homes have room for large mirrors in closets and bathrooms that could be considered “personal property”……always ask if there is a question…and add a “Non-Realty Items Addendum” to avoid problems later if you believe it could be questionable later.

Brackets for television and speakers can be tricky…..if the seller has a huge TV in the living room and you aren’t planning on putting a TV there….discuss this during your option period.  Know before you close if wires are going to be left dangling from the ceiling from the surround sound speakers the seller removed or if you will have a huge bracket for  a TV that you didn’t want to hang on that particular wall.  The seller may prefer to take the TV bracket and patch the hole for you…..these items can (and should) be negotiated before closing day.

I got a phone call last year from an agent that was walking the property with her buyer before the buyer went to sign the final papers to purchase.  Her question?  “Where are the surround sound speakers?”  This was the first discussion about speakers…..clearly, from the contract, they were not sold with the house.  I assume that was a long ride to the title company for that agent and buyer.

Once your house is under contract…if something breaks before closing it needs to be repaired.  I recommend you tell your Realtor and buyer the item  broke and you are repairing it.   If it didn’t work when you put the house on the market….put this information in your sellers disclosure.

The number one reason why Sellers  gets sued after closing is for not disclosing items properly on their sellers disclosure….so carefully fill the seller’s disclosure out correctly.  If something is in the house that you want (Mom’s Roses, a chandelier, a mirror above a sink, curtains and rods)….if possible, remove them before you put them on the market.  If that isn’t possible….make sure in your MLS write up that that item is discussed and THEN make sure it is written in the contract as not remaining.

When it’s all said and done….the happiest Sellers and Buyers are those who are informed.

 

 

Buyers Option Period

Today is day 8 of a buyer’s ten day option period and we don’t have an amendment back from the buyer’s agent…..but we did receive a call yesterday from the agent telling us that she was in the process of writing an amendment up.

What buyers (and sometimes their buyer’s agents) don’t understand….when we don’t get an amendment within a few days of the home inspection (done 5 days ago) the seller begins to believe they have no repairs to worry about.  When an amendment requesting repairs shows up at the last minute  (to sellers two days before the option up seems like “last minute”) it is difficult for me, as the seller’s agent, and the seller’s to decide if we should agree to making any repairs….because the seller doesn’t have time to get contractors over to their house to get bids.  Signing a blank check doesn’t typically work for most seller’s….they have a bottom line.

When a list of repairs gets sent over with an amendment to the contract…..I like to go over the request with the seller’s and also get bids on the repairs requested….before the seller’s sign an amendment agreeing to repairs.  Thankfully, I work with my husband, David, Broker Associate, who is familiar with repair costs and can estimate what repairs might be…..but those are estimates….not actual bids so we are “guessing” when it comes to repairs that might be required on expensive items like air conditioner repairs.  A repair to an air conditioner or heater can be under $100….or it could be a total replacement….sometimes costly over $10,000 or more.

So buyers….when you are “active option” in Texas (have a signed contract and have an option period to do inspections) PLEASE get the inspection done as quickly as possible AND submit an amendment if you want to negotiate repairs.  Keep in mind…some seller’s wont agree to making any repairs.  Some will…..but most want to know how much the repair is going to cost.

One thing I am certain of………if you wait until the last few days of your option period…you may find the seller unwilling to make any repairs.  Many folks don’t like agreeing to a “blank” check…and that is what you are requesting them to do when you wait until the final days of your option period to submit an amendment requesting repairs.

Pocket Listing

I ran into a good friend from out of state last week who shared with me her most recent real estate transaction/experience.  She needed to help her daughter sell her daughter’s condo in Colorado.  None of the Realtors she knew responded to her emails requesting they contact her…..I didn’t press to find out how many Realtors she emailed or if she called any of them…….but she shared that her next step was to complain to another friend about how none of the Realtors  wanted to help her sell her daughters condo because none of them responded to her emails (shame on them)……..so the friend recommended a Realtor to help.

The Realtor referred to her was young, innovative, aggressive and had an idea that she had never heard of…..he would sell the condo for only 3.5%!  He told her to think of ALL the money she would save by only paying 3.5%!  He also told her that if he sold it himself….he was only going to take THREE percent!  AMAZINGLY…..he sold it himself in just a few months…..so “THEY SAVED TONS OF MONEY by only paying 3 PERCENT”!

What this “innovative, aggressive and young” agent did to sell her daughter’s condo wasn’t anything new….but I didn’t burst her bubble by explaining.  She is a friend and thinks she got a fantastic deal.  It’s called a “pocket listing”….not a “new idea to sell a condo or home”.

MANY years ago….before the internet…..no one but the listing agent knew when a house was for sale unless you were the lucky agent that had the listing.  People drove through neighborhoods looking for signs.  Agents called other agents in other real estate offices asking if they knew of any homes or condos in certain areas for sale….and once a week a book was published with the latest homes for sale in San Antonio…….before the “world wide internet” began!  With the “world wide internet” and MLS we can set up searches for buyers!  Buyers get emails WHEN a new property hits the market…..which drives up the price because MORE people can compete to buy it!  When a property doesn’t go into MLS I wonder…..would it have sold for more?  If buyers ALL OVER THE WORLD knew about this property…..would more than one buyer want to buy it….and if more than one wanted to buy it…..could it sell for more? Who was this “young, aggressive, innovative agent” really representing?  His paycheck….or the sellers bottom line?

The only time I recommend “pocket listings”?

  1. Celebrity owners…..lots of real estate agents wont be able to resist showing their friends and/or family homes of the rich and famous.  Selling your home doesn’t mean part time agents or new, inexperienced agents should be allowed to waste your time and mine so they can have a fun day looking at a home that is magazine worthy and would normally only be seen in a TV show documentary.
  2. Luxury home owners….again…part time or new inexperienced agents might enjoy showing their friends and family a home that they might never be able to see in person in their lifetime…once again, wasting your time and mine.

My out of state friends daughter was NOT a celebrity nor was her condo considered a luxury property…..so I can’t help but think that it would have sold in less time and for more money if millions of buyers had viewed the photos and had an opportunity to buy the condo.  Nothing drives a price up more than competition for a home!  I know it sounded fantastic….less commission…..but worry about your bottom line first!  Saving a few thousand dollars to put $20,000 in your pocket?  Do the math!

If you are a celebrity or have a home that would be considered a “luxury” property….you can count on me to keep your information private and get it sold quickly and for top dollar.  But if you have a home in San Antonio under $1,000,000….do the math first.  Maybe you should get top dollar and sell quickly…..that’s what this great Realtor wants for you!  YOUR bottom line is more important than my bottom line!

 

 

 

 

Best Day to get Keys

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Lots of people don’t think about what the best day is to close on their new home….when you’re buying…thinking about a few things in advance may help by not adding additional stress.  Don’t just pick a great date and think that’s going to work without taking into consideration a few items:

  1.  How long it will take to get your loan….very important.  There are no “sure” dates in this situation…. the type of loan and your situation can delay closing.  If you are getting a VA loan (because you’re  Veteran….God Bless You and Thank YOU for your service!) your loan may sometimes be delayed because the VA appraiser is just very busy.  Your lender might be great….but your lender can not “rush” the appraiser.  We’ve had appraisers (VA and regular appraisers) write in the wrong neighborhood…a delay….take 2 weeks to submit their final appraiser….a delay….say a property is a commercial property and it is not….another delay.  Maybe you should ask for almost 60 days to close for a VA loan?  Happens more often than you think.
  2. If you are self employed….your lender and the underwriter may ask you to provide items that just seem like they are “none of their business”….trust me…if you don’t provide these items….you won’t get the loan.  Get your lender the information asap…the longer you delay getting them these items….the longer it takes to get the loan. I tell people all the time that they need to put their underwear (clean, please) in a paper bag and add it to the pile of items the lender will need….it’s a joke…but almost the truth!
  3. You went online and applied….sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  We had a buyer that picked a lender and after 60 days still didn’t have a loan….or even a clue if they were even near getting a loan.  We had the buyer switch to a lender we trust….and it still took almost 60 days because the appraiser wrote the condo as a “commercial building”….and the borrower/buyer was self employed and the lender needed TONS of paperwork to document it was a good loan to the underwriter.  Be prepared…these things can happen and do happen all the time.
  4. The appraisal comes in with a value lower than the sales price….sadly, some appraisers are in a hurry and pick properties that may not justify or even qualify as comparable homes so the appraisal value comes in low.  Good luck getting the appraiser to adjust his values…..he doesn’t have to do anything or change anything.  But your loan now may change…you may have to put up additional funds to make up the difference…you can get lucky and have the seller agree to lower the price.  But this usually  delays the closing date.
  5. How many holidays occur between the contract date and the closing date may make a difference in when you get a loan.  Lots of lenders take holidays off….which means a 4 day weekend and no one is working on your file.  Guess what….some appraisers even take off for holidays….another possible delay.
  6. Try not to pick a Friday….if the seller can’t sign until 1 pm you might not get keys until Monday when the property “funds”…..very frustrating if you have a moving van sitting outside the title company with all your stuff in it and the dog waiting in the lobby.  Try to pick a Wednesday or a Thursday….to make sure you get keys in time for your move.  We had a seller close at 4:30 on a Friday….and the buyers were in the lobby of the title company waiting for keys.  The agent called us at 10 that morning asking us if there was any way our sellers could come in earlier so the buyers could make sure they got keys.  One seller was at work…..unable to leave early without giving notice….a common practice for most jobs.  I wanted to tell the agent “your poor lack of planning is not my seller’s emergency”…but I resisted and called the seller to see if there was any way he and his wife could come earlier….I want everyone to be happy all the time.  I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the buyers…it wasn’t their fault that no one considered that the seller might not be able to make an appointment to close early in the day.
  7. Try not to pick the day before a long weekend….because EVERYONE else is closing on that date also….so you run the risk of not getting keys  because some offices have “skeleton” crews because the most “senior” staff  is on vacation already.

Wishing you much luck and happiness with your new home and I hope this information has been helpful!

 

The House that Leo Built

One of my favorite real estate stories began from a random call I got one day at the office……a prospective tenant was calling to find out about a house to rent near Mahncke Park  that was already rented.  I asked him why he would want to rent when he could buy a home around the corner for almost the same amount a month…. he gasped…..”I could really pay the same amount to buy?”…..and I confirmed….Leo called my preferred loan officer before meeting me ….and yes, it was true….his mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance, would actually be a little less than the rental amount was going to be.

I quickly ran out to look at the house before meeting Leo…..and when I opened the door…..a horrible smell hit my nose.  I called my husband before continuing to walk inside……I was afraid it was a dead body.  It wasn’t a dead body….but it was the largest squirrel I had ever seen…dead in the middle of the living room.  Somehow he got inside (I am assuming the squirrel was male) through the fireplace…and couldn’t figure out how to get out.  I called the listing agent and told her about the squirrel…..and she called someone to have it removed.

I met Leo for the first time…..at the front curb of the house.   Once I explained about the squirrel….we walked inside.  Leo loved the house….it was perfect for him.  We made an offer….and it was accepted.  Leo had the home inspected and a few items needed repairs…..the most important item was a bee hive removal…..in the brick on the side of the house….requiring the Queen bee removal….and the seller agreed.    Leo was buying the house with a VA loan…. the appraiser came out and gave it a value much higher than our sales price but required several items to be repaired….but somehow, by mistake, the seller was told of the appraised value (not by me)…..so she refused to make the repairs in hopes that the buyer would back out and she could sell again at a higher price.  Leo decided to make the repairs at his expense….and the seller agreed to let him hoping he wouldn’t make his closing date on the contract.

We made the closing date…..but not without a little stress.  One of the repairs was regarding the yard (adding extra dirt on the side of the house) and the appraiser had to come back out to re-inspect.  Leo and I met early that morning at the house…I brought him donuts.  Leo had done the yard work himself….and was sweating and dirty….and scared.  What if the appraiser didn’t approve the repairs?  We said a silent prayer and Leo drank the coffee and ate a donut while watching the appraiser walk around the house…..finally….in what seemed like a million hours (maybe 20 minutes) the appraiser walked up to us…..and asked if Leo was the buyer.  We introduced ourselves….and waited.  The appraiser laughed….and asked if we were as scared as we looked…..so we laughed….and admitted  we were.  He then asked if Leo did the grading…. Leo croaked out, “yes”…..and the appraiser said, “great job”!  Leo jumped up and started dancing around….and I joined him!  What a great way to begin the day!

After Leo closed and moved in….he called.  He found some books in the attic…and one in particular he thought I would want.  He asked me to come by….he wanted to keep the book a secret until I saw it.

The book was “Businesses That Built San Antonio”….and my dad had taken many of the photos and also was one of the businessmen featured in the book.  I didn’t own this book.  I didn’t even know it existed.

Leo’s comment?   “This was the first book I opened after finding the box in the attic…and when I saw your Dad’s name I knew it was just another sign that you were supposed to sell me this house…thank you so much”.

Sometimes being a Realtor is priceless.  This was one of those times.  Thank you, Leo.  It was my pleasure.

 

 

 

HOA…yes or no?

I sold a house last year for a couple I have  known for almost 25 years….the wife called me and said “Do you think you can sell our house?  I am afraid if we don’t move my husband will have a heart attack.  He hates our HOA”.

I sold the house….and wondered if he was just being an “old fuddy duddy” or actually had good reason to hate them.  They’d lived in that neighborhood for 25 years.  Seemed like a long time to hate an HOA.

We’ve owned 13 houses….6 in neighborhoods with HOA’s.  Until then, all my experiences with HOA’s had been pleasant.  A few times I had received notices that weren’t correct.  Twice we received notices that we weren’t allowed to park our car overnight in front of the  house on the street…..both times I took pictures of the neighbor’s car…and then emailed the board with the time stamped photo and explained that we didn’t own that car.  Another time I received a letter telling me I needed to keep my “children from playing on the street as it was dangerous and neighbors were worried that they might hit those pretty blonde girls with their cars while driving”.   I went to the next meeting and explained that those beautiful blonde girls were not my children. My one and only daughter is a brunette with hair so dark it would  be impossible to think she was a blonde.  Yes…I knew the blonde kids….they often visited my child and would sit on our front porch and sip sodas.  But please send your letters to the right Mom.  So three times I had gotten letters….all three were mistakes.  Honest mistakes….assuming the car in front of my house was mine and assuming those beautiful girls must have belonged to me.  But other homeowners had gotten letters because they did park their cars illegally (against HOA rules) and got their cars towed and the MOM’s with the beautiful girls made sure their girls remembered they needed to watch before crossing the street a little more often.

HOA’s are not going away.  If you live in San Antonio inside city limits and your house is younger than 20 years old…you will probably live in one. Before closing on the sale of your home you will get the rules and regulations of your HOA.  Please read these.  They should tell you if you can park a boat in the driveway, park a car on the street overnight, park cars in the driveway and may even go as far as telling you how many potted plants can be on your porch or in your yard.

Another important part of your HOA documents you should receive will be the financials.  They will include how much money the board has saved for maintenance on the amenities in the neighborhood, how much you will pay monthly, quarterly or yearly, how much the HOA spends a year and how much they collect a year.  These items are  important.  If the HOA spends more money a year then they take in you will probably see an increase in dues.  Some neighborhoods, in financial hard times, get rid of amenities which may decrease the value of your own home.  So make sure the HOA has enough money to pay their bills and has a reserve account to cover maintenance.

HOA board members are people that live in the neighborhood and are typically voted into their board positions by their neighbors.

HOA board members have the thankless job of making sure the management company is collecting dues, maintaining the common areas, approving bids for work that needs to be done to keep up common areas,  making sure you are following the rules and protecting your home values.  Board members should serve their fellow members while protecting and enhancing the assets of the community.

So why did my friend’s move?  That’s for a future blog….but nothing he did and nothing you can do will protect you if you follow the above rules and end up in an HOA with board members that forget what their main job is…to serve you and protect and enhance your community.

The good news….board members can’t stay forever and will get replaced.  The bad news….until they are replaced, you may feel like my friends and want to throw up your hands and scream, “get me out of here”!

 

 

 

 

 

Best Price for Roses

Last year before Valentines Day we got lucky…..two of our local grocery stores had price wars over Roses.  Two dozen for $15 at one store….1 dozen for $10 at another.  Surprisingly they lasted almost 10 days…..so please let me know if you live in the San Antonio area and see a “deal” on roses and I’ll be sure and let you know if/when I see the same.  At that price you can afford to even get them for yourself!Roses (2)

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