Seller Help

Short Sell your Phoenix home

If you're underwater, you're in a very crowded, very unhappy club. Possibly tens of thousands of Phoenix homeowners are underwater. Whether you bought too much house, or carefully avoided over-extending yourself; whether you borrowed equity for vacations or for home improvements... sometimes through no fault of your own, you're underwater on your home mortgage.

If you're thinking about walking away, or about trying a short sale, you almost certainly need a lawyer's help through the process. You're going to need a Realtor too, because you're in a double whammy situation:

  1. You have a real estate problem AND

  2. You have a legal problem

The real estate problem is obvious: you need to pay somebody something in order to get your home listed in the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) so buyers can find it online. Moreover, the paperwork involved in a short sale is so bloody complex you're going to want to tear your hair out before it's all over. Hire a professional Realtor who handles short sales regularly, and let them do some of the hair pulling. The Realtor's fees are going to come out of the proceeds of the sale anyway, so it'll end up costing you nothing (or next to nothing, depending on your situation) to have an experienced professional Realtor handling your listing, marketing and sale. Lucky you! We're Realtors and we have people at our brokerage who do nothing but short sale listings and closings. Contact us for more information.

The legal problem is a little harder to grasp. Think of it this way; your mortgage is a contract. When you walk away or attempt a short sale, you're breaching a contract. And your mortgage was probably the single most valuable contract you'll ever sign in your entire life. Breaching that contract shouldn't be undertaken without professional advice.

You know that the banks have scores of lawyers on staff, protecting them when their mortgage contract is breached. You should have at least 1 attorney in your corner. Best of all, the attorney's fees are generally going to be paid for out of the proceeds of the sale of the house, not out of your pocket.

So, to boil it all down: you can hire 2 professionals - a Realtor and an attorney - to guide you through the short sale process, and in almost every case, it won't cost you a dime out of your pocket. It's a win-win.

Contact us for advice about listing, marketing and selling your home. We'll also hook you up with 1 or 2 of our trusted, tested local attorneys who specializes in short sales.

Disclaimer: this article was written about metro Phoenix, Arizona homes sales in the Summer of 2011. If you're reading this article from far away, or long after the fact, consult a professional in your area!

Underwater in Scottsdale. Do you need a lawyer for a short sale?

For a number of years, many homeowners in tony Scottsdale thought they would be insulated from the real estate crisis. For years, they were right. Not any longer. In general, Scottsdale median home prices are down about 43% from their peak in late 2006. Many Scottsdale homeowners are "underwater", owing more on their home than it's currently worth.

Are you underwater on your home? If you plan to stay in your home for another decade or so, and you can still afford the fixed-rate mortgage payment, this might be no big deal. It depends on your financial situation. You might be able to ignore the dismal media headlines, love your house, raise your family, pay your mortgage and live your life.

But if you have other financial issues compounding your housing value issue, you might need to think about your options. We here at The Phoenix Agents strongly recommend you retain an attorney. As Kevin Hardin of  Thomson Conant law firm says, "you don't have a real estate problem, you have a debt problem."

Your mortgage is a contract and if you're thinking about walking away or trying a short sale, you're actually contemplating breaching a legal contract. You're going to want a lawyer to help you do that.

Don't be fooled by people who casually toss around the phrase, "Arizona is a non-recourse state."  What they mean is that in general, a mortgage lender can't sue a homeowner after a foreclosure. But there are serious loopholes in that law, and the biggest loophole applies to short sales. Arizona's law covers foreclosures, not short sales. There's also a giant loophole on the topic of second mortgages and equity lines/loans.

If you short sale your home without getting precise language in the Short Sale Agreement from your lender, you might be leaving yourself wide open to a gigantic lawsuit for many years to come.

We happen to know several great short sale and foreclosure attorneys and accountants. Give me a call and I'll give you their names and numbers. Once you've spoken to an attorney, if you're ready to try a short sale, we'll help. Our broker has several agents on staff who focus on short sales and have remarkable track records of success.

Heather Barr, Realtor
The Phoenix Agents at Thompson's Realty
602-999-8831   or


Avoid foreclosure: tips to short sell your home

If you live in metro Phoenix, chances are that your home might be "underwater" - you owe more on it than it's worth in the current real estate market. Is this a problem? That depends.

cartoon image of brick house with "for sale" written on roofIf you don't want to move for many more years in the future, it might not be a problem to be underwater. If you can afford the mortgage payment, it might not be a problem to be underwater. But, if you're struggling to make your mortgage payments and/or you absolutely *must* move, you might need to consider a short sale of your home. (see our series on when strategic default sometimes makes the most sense)

There are serious tax and credit consequences of foreclosure. Some lenders and credit experts estimate that foreclosure can knock 250 to 300 points off your credit score! In addition, some experts believe a short sale is less damaging to your credit than a foreclosure. For many metro-Phoenix area homeowners, a short sale can be a viable alternative to foreclosure.

Here are a couple of tips for successfully requesting and completing a short sale with your mortgage lender.

(1) Hire an experienced Realtor and then share your financial information fully with him/her. (see this prior article for a partial list of information homeowners must send their lender in a short sale situation). This might be tough advice to take, but your Realtor must know your complete financial picture in order to successfully advise you the best way to proceed in a short sale situation. Realtors are bound by a strict Ethics Code that requires they keep their clients' sensitive information absolutely secret from anyone not authorized to view the information. Don't feel you can trust your Realtor not to share your sensitive financial information with unauthorized people? Hire a different Realtor.

(2) Consider hiring an attorney. Arizona is an "anti-deficiency" state. This means that generally, lenders cannot sue homeowners for the money lost during after foreclosure. Example: your Realtor helped your short sell your home for $125,000 but you owed $225,000. In most cases in Arizona your lender cannot sue you later for the "lost" $100,000. BUT! There are loopholes in the Arizona anti-deficiency statute. We here at The Phoenix Agents highly recommend you consider hiring an attorney to help you determine if you fall into the Arizona foreclosure anti-deficiency loophole. An experienced attorney can probably help you avoid being sued later for the debt anyway. Do you need a referral to an attorney experienced in handling metro-Phoenix area short sales? Contact us, we know several.

Need more help? This blog is run by Chris & Heather, The Phoenix Agents @ Thompson’s Realty. We’re a boutique brokerage of 20 or 30 dedicated, full time professionals. We really do have a good track record at helping homeowners avoid foreclosure by completing a short sale. Give us a call, a text, an email or a Tweet. We’re here to help and look forward to speaking with you about your unique situation.

Image credit - Image ID 1235157 from Stock Exchange user meerlap

Top 3 tips to short sell your Phoenix home

Stock Exchange image ID 1098685 by user svilen001You can avoid foreclosure and instead do a short sale on your Phoenix area home. Short sales are not always easy, and not always short, but they can be done when you work with experienced professionals. Here are our top 3 tips for successfully requesting and completing a short sale with your mortgage lender.

1. Hire a Realtor with a record. It’s important to hire a professional, full time Realtor who’s got a track record of successfully selling short sales in Phoenix. Ask for information about their prior successes, but be skeptical of agents who claim to “have a 95% success rate”.  Success rate at what? As of winter 2010-2011, only 15% of the short sale homes listed in the MLS actually close. It’s unlikely that any agent has a 95% success rate at closing every attempted short sale. Don’t rely on claims of success: ask for references from past clients and call them for reviews.

2. Get your documents ready early. In order to complete a short sale of your metro Phoenix home, your lender will require copies of tax returns, bank statements, proof of income and other debts, and your “hardship letter” which is a short letter explaining why you’re requesting the short sale. The earlier these things are available, the better.  Contact a professional – CPA, attorney and Realtor - for help figuring out what documents you need to attempt a short sale.

3. Know the implications of a short sale of your home. There are tax and credit score consequences of a short sale. Your credit score will sustain some damage: contact a credit non-profit housing counselor or do some online research about managing your credit. The amount of debt forgiven by your lender could be considered taxable income. As of Winter 2010-2011 there are federal waivers in place and the IRS will not treat debt forgiven in a short sale as income. But the writers of this blog are not attorneys or accountants. Please contact your attorney and/or your accountant to find out the tax rules that apply to you now.

Need more help? This blog is run by Chris & Heather, The Phoenix Agents @ Thompson’s Realty. We’re a boutique brokerage of 20 or 30 dedicated, full time professionals. We really do have a good track record at helping homeowners avoid foreclosure by completing a short sale. Give us a call, a text, an email or a Tweet. We’re here to help and look forward to speaking with you about your unique situation.

Price cuts on nearly half of homes for sale

Nearly half of homes on the market [took] a price reduction at least once in October, according to a monthly review of multiple listing service listings in 26 major markets conducted by national online brokerage ZipRealty.

The ratio of price-reduction amount to list price was 7.5 percent...

If you’re selling your home, read that again. Let it sink in. Half of your competition cut their price last month. And most did so by more than 7%.

Do the math with me – if you’re priced at $150,000 and you need to take a price cut, you probably need to cut the price by just over $11,00 – down to $138,000 or $139,000 – to remain competitive with your neighbors’ homes for sale.

The old real estate adage is true: if you have to take a price cut, don’t use a scalpel, use a hack-saw.

More pricing wisdom in the days to come…

Will my house ever sell?!?

Sometimes selling your home in Metro Phoenix in 2010 can feel like a lot of hurry up and wait.  There are some things you can do to make the process quicker and less stressful.  This is reprinted from December 6, 2008. Gives you a little idea how long sellers have been struggling to sell their homes.

A Few Ideas for Handling Seller’s Stress

  1. Paint everything: every wall, baseboard, door frame and window frame. Inside and out. Year after year, national studies reveal that a fresh coat of paint provides something like a 400% return on investment.

  2. Invest $20 or $30 in a brand new, thick and cushy welcome mat for the front door. First impressions count.

  3. Weed out your closets and bookcases. Pack up 1/3 of what’s in there. Donate it or store it for your upcoming move.

  4. Take everything off the kitchen fridge. Buyers aren’t considering buying your 5-year old’s macaroni craft project so they don’t need to see it. They also don’t need to know what time Johnny has soccer practice or which Doctor Susie sees.

  5. Enlist the entire family in keeping the house clean for showings.

  6. To present the appearance of a clean house in under 5 minutes: wipe down counters, kitchen appliances and mirrors with diluted Windex or plain diluted ammonia. (Windex costs more but smells better)

  7. Hide your personal papers, bills, and so forth from the office/desk area (it’s nobody else’s business).

  8. Take down family photos from every wall and dresser top.

  9. Remove the prescriptions from the medicine cabinet (yes, people WILL look. Potential buyers do not need to know that you’re mixing a custom cocktail of Prozac and Viagra.

  10. If possible, find temporary foster homes for your pets. Try family, friends and/or neighbors. This is challenging but important. I love my cat. But if my house smells like cat, it WILL NOT sell.

  11. Take up yoga, tai-chi or meditation.

  12. Ignore your neighbors’ asking prices; concentrate on nearby sold prices.

  13. While you’re at it, (mostly) ignore your friends’ and family’s advice. They are not Realtors. You hired a Realtor for a reason. Ask questions, request documentation of market trends, but trust him/her.

  14. If your Realtor isn’t giving you a weekly or every-other-week update, ask for one.

  15. Write a counteroffer for every offer you receive, even the ones that make you want to scream profanities at the buyer (and see below about Handling Low Ball Offers)

Related Posts:

Wells Fargo allows 1 shortsale extension

Wells Fargo is no longer granting more than one extension for homeowners to complete a short sale.
"We do allow for one foreclosure postponement provided we have a short sale in hand that has been approved, the buyer has proof of funds of financing approved, and the short sale can close within 30 days of the scheduled foreclosure sale."

If your home mortgage is owned by Wells Fargo and you’re thinking about a short sale, this means you should not waste any time in listing your house for sale. Once the bank issues the Notice of Trustee’s Sale, you’ve got 90 days plus 1 extension to get it sold, or go to auction. Or if you’ve got a shortsale in progress but you’re not going to close the sale before the scheduled auction date, you’ll only get 1 extension.

Talk to your Realtor, your CPA/accountant, or your attorney!

story source: October 4, 2010 daily mortgage email newsletter produced by Rob Chrisman; view online at

Staging Insider: how to de-clutter

Reality TV shows on networks like HGTV and DIY Network tell the tale of the economy’s impact on housing: Flip & Sell, Flip That House, and Flipping Out have moved over to make room for Staged to Sell, Sell It Right, and Real Estate Intervention.

On TV and in real life, one of the most overlooked ways sellers can get ready to sell their home is depicted here:

declutter from MLS 4448037, sep 2010
photo credit MLS #4448xxx (number truncated to protect the innocent)

Mr. & Mrs. Seller, de-clutter already! Space is your friend; clutter eats equity. (Besides, between me and my readers, the 1991 Sears Roebuck catalog called, and wants it’s furniture back.)

I’m sure these homeowners love their home and live in it very comfortably. But when you list your home for sale, it immediately ceases to be your home. It becomes a product. Treat it as such.

Each room in your Home-for-Sale Product needs only enough stuff to suggest what the room is used for.

The room above needs the following fixes to make it show-ready and maximize the selling price:

The goal is to transform the room into a bigger-than-it-looks space that has 2 sofas, 1 coffee table, 1 end table and mostly bare entertainment center.  Here’s how you get there.

**Remove everything from the sofas: bear, pillows, afghans. Everything. If you must have pillows, go buy new, oversized, beige fluffy pillows that look expensive.

**Adios the exercise equipment. Visually it implies the home isn’t roomy enough.

**Remove all pictures from the wall and replace them with one large, horizontally oriented, generic picture in a good quality wooden frame. No gold flocking!  Colors should be an assortment of beiges & browns with a touch of navy blue. Style: modern art or a landscape. Size: at least 2/3rds of the length of the couch. If you find a picture looks like it belongs in a model home or a doctor’s office, you’ve got the right one.

**Lose the dining room table set, entirely. Do not replace it with anything. Having it there reinforces the fact that the house isn’t big enough to have dining & living in 2 separate rooms. Pack it, put it in storage or sell it.

**I’m assuming the counter top in the foreground is a fixed, immovable cabinet, probably located in the kitchen. If it will move, pack it, store it or sell it. If it won’t move, remove everything from the top of it.

**Lose the Barcalounger in the corner and what look like TV tray tables next to it. Pack, store or sell. Leave the space empty.

**I’m assuming that stuff on the left frame of the photo is sitting on the entertainment center. Remove 1/3 of everything visible on the unit. Pack, store or sell. This gives buyers the visual cue that “there’s room for your stuff here.”

**Remove all but 1 coffee table and possibly 1 end table. Leave no more than 3 items on the coffee table, and 1 item on the end table. And I don’t mean a tall stack of magazines and 2 others things. If you leave magazines on display, fan them and use 3 or 5 at most.

**That rug probably serves its rightful purpose of anchoring the sitting area visually on the floor space. But depending on how the room looks when all the above is complete, and depending on the sellers’ budget, I might suggest replacing it with another rug. The replacement rug should have a large, bold pattern. That visually suggests a bigger space.

The End Result

Are all these things going to take time, possibly cost money and almost certainly be emotionally hard for the sellers? Yeah, probably. But I’m not your pre-school teacher here to give you a gold star tell you that “everybody loves you just the way you are!” 

Bottom line: If I’m your Realtor, you hired me to get a SOLD sign in your front yard, pronto, with the best possible price.

Pack your clutter away for now.  Because if you de-clutter and stage properly, and resist the temptation to overprice, you’ll be in that new home pretty soon. Then you can let the clutter out of their boxes to explode all over the new place.

Lease Purchase, Rent to Own

Rent to own and lease-purchase agreements are cropping up in the Greater Phoenix real estate world these days. They’re a natural result of the continuing tight credit market.

Lease-purchase and rent to own are essentially the same things.  A lease with a purchase option is almost the same, just with more complicated legalese thrown in there.

We don’t typically assist folks with leases that turn into purchases, no matter what the terms. We feel strongly that you really should hire a lawyer if you’re going to do anything that involves renting a house now and buying it in the future.

Here’s some brief thoughts on the situation; I took these from a quick email I sent out earlier today to some friends of ours.

Rent to owns (lease-purchase and lease-purchase options) are usually a little tricky --

  • does tenant pay a little extra each month towards down payment?
  • or does the tenant pay a lump sum amount now? (usually several thousand dollars!)
  • if so, who's bank account “gets” the deposit(s)? does that money earn interest? for whom?
  • under what circumstances are extra payments refundable?
  • what happens to that extra deposits/payments if the rent is late a day or two? if it’s late several weeks?
  • do you value the purchase price of the home now or in several years when the purchase happens?
  • do you get an appraiser? who pays for the appraiser?
  • what if the appraisal comes in lower than the agreed-on purchase price?
  • what if either side changes their mind between now and the purchase?

As you can see, there are a lot of questions. We recommend you hire a real estate attorney to help you figure out the answers. Call or email us, we know several excellent Greater Phoenix attorneys!

Photographing the front of your house

Sometimes a head-on shot of the exterior front of a house isn’t the best way to showcase what the home has to offer.

2 story head on

Sometimes you should take a picture from an angle you’d never normally use.

2 story from side

That’s the same house and the two pictures were taken within about 60 seconds of each other. You’d hardly even know it. While it’s a very unusual angle for a real estate “front” photo, I’d argue that picture number 2 is the better way to showcase this home.


When to *not* re-do a kitchen

FLB201 Stove

When the kitchen is vintage and the building is “mid-century modern”, and it’s a condo, there’s a good argument to be made for not re-doing the kitchen.

This is kitschy and cute and “period”.  Long time readers may have deduced by now that I am a sucker for the mid-century modern look. And I even fall hard for the untouched, true vintage homes from the 1950s and 1960s. We are a small but passionate group.

Sometimes when you’re selling your home/condo and your kitchen looks like this, you don’t have to remodel. You just have to find the few, passionate lovers of the vintage 1950s and 1960s look.  Look for lovers of Mad Men online at sites like You’ll find your home buyer there.

Resources for this style

Phoenix’s online hub for mid-century modern is

The Mid-Century Modernist


MetroRetro Furniture

Vintage Swank (they cover the 1970s and early 1980s too; true mid-century modernists will recoil)

Don’t leave your house naked

Just me popping in with a little tip for home sellers.


We’ve all heard of “curb appeal”. The home above has none of it. The home below, on the other hand. . . .


. . .  now that’s curb appeal!

These two homes are approximately the same floor plan in the same neighborhood. Neither is my listing. In fact, neither is for sale as far as I know. I just took pictures of homes in a Central Phoenix neighborhood I happen to like, so I could make a point about dressing up the front of your house when you’re trying to sell.

Obviously there’s a lot of difference between the two. Sellers, you wouldn’t have to do everything the homeowners in picture number 2 did to give this sort of home more curb appeal.

Adding shutters might be enough. Or get the grass lush & green. Full grown shrubs planted against the house might be expensive, but you could add some eye-catching color with small flowering plants like lantana or verbena. See Moon Valley Nursery’s website for more flowering ideas.

A fresh coat of paint goes miles towards snazzing up any home, exterior or interior. Those crisp white shutters really dress up the front of what’s essentially a plain red brick house.

Just some food for thought for the day.

With MLS photos, details really matter


what a difference a door makes, before


what a difference a door makes, after

There are a few crucial details that made the After picture much more appealing (not counting the angle at which the photos were taken):

  • red door

  • black shutters

  • green grass

  • possibly fresh granite gravel in the semi-circle shape

  • flowerbed filled with red flowers

  • white window rollershades all the way down

Red shows up exceptionally well on the Internet, where something like 90% of home buyers start their search. Yellow is the same. The contrast between the black shutters & white house is also eye-catching.

Usually I don’t recommend or like head-on photos of the front of a home. It tends to make the house look one-dimensional, as if it could be a movie facade. But in this case, it works, proving there’s an exception to every rule.

I'm betting the cash outlay for this seller was about $200 for the door, $120 for shutters and another $100 or $150 for the plants. Granite gravel can be pricey, as can sod. But as you can see, the results are beautiful and buyers will respond by coming to look in person.

More proof that a couple hundred of these

Image ID 377234 by Stock Exchange user ede design ($1 bill picture courtesy of Stock Exchange user Leonardini)

can frequently get you several dozen of these

Dollars seamless background. ($100 bill picture courtesy of Stock Exchange user ede design)

at closing time.

Photo credits - Joanna Siravo of Coldwell Banker and Lisa M. Juel of John Hall & Associates. Disclosure: photos were taken about 3 years apart, this wasn’t a seller doing a fix-up before listing for sale. This Realtor was not involved in the sale of the home in either time frame.

Listing Strategy – Trapping vs Hunting

“What did I do today to sell my listings?”

That was a question which used to haunt me early in my career.  I knew I had marketed my listings everywhere buyers were likely to be looking for houses, and I had campaigned to the neighbors who might know somebody wanting to move into their neighborhood.  But at 4:00 in the afternoon, for a listing which hadn’t received an offer, this was a question that drove me crazy with anxiety.

Turns out I was a trapper without patience; I felt like I should be hunting in addition to trapping.  What am I talking about, you ask?  Let’s take a look at the differences between hunting and trapping.


Let’s assume we’re going to hunt for a rabbit.  (without a gun, mind you – we’re talking “catch & release” here!)

For comparison to real estate, hunting for a rabbit will be the same as hunting for a Buyer – finding the specific person who will buy my listing.

First we’ll need to identify where the rabbit might be – hedges, trails, meadows, burrows, etc.

Where will the buyer come from – a local church, a different city (which one?), a divorce attorney, one of the neighbors?  etc.

Next we’ll need to determine & build the tools for the job – our bare hands, a net, a lasso?

How will we “capture” that buyer – postcard, letter, email, advertisement, open house?

Finally the action – go out and find that rabbit (or buyer)!  Look in all the places he might be hiding.  Do this day after day if necessary.  And finding him is only half the job; I still have to capture him once I find him!

It’s nice because I’ll feel like I’m really “doing something”, but what I’m really doing is spending an awful lot of time and energy hoping that one day I am lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.


A different approach to hunting is to trap the rabbit – let’s entice him to come to us rather than chasing him all over god’s green earth.

In real estate, let’s entice the buyer to bring a generous offer to us!

First we’ll have to think about what would entice the rabbit to come out of his hiding place – maybe a nice, fresh carrot, cut into bite-sized slices?

What would a buyer like – how about a beautiful home, clean & well-maintained, in move-in ready condition, offered at a reasonable price?

Next we’ll need to determine where the rabbit is most likely to find our carrot.  Is there a path he travels frequently, or a stream he drinks from?  Can we position our carrot where the wind will carry its flavorful aroma to the rabbit’s burrow?

Where will buyers be looking for a home?  On the internet? (and at which internet site(s)?)  Driving through the neighborhood?  Calling their Realtor?  Talking to their friends in areas they’d like to live?

Now we set the trap.  The rabbit will smell the carrot as he leaves his burrow and heads down the trail towards the stream.  He’ll approach it with suspicion, but after waiting for a bit and seeing no sign of danger he’ll step in for a yummy treat, and… TRAPPED!  Touching the carrot activated an infrared signal which closed the door of a 6-foot diameter pen around him (including a floor buried underground so he can’t dig his way out!)

Setting our Buyer’s trap:  Our listing is clean, well-decorated, and clutter-free.  The front & back yards are manicured to perfection.  We’ve taken fantastic photos (and possibly video) of the home and the neighborhood.  We’ve written descriptive text which presents the home in its best light and captures potential buyers’ emotions.  We’ve highlighted the outstanding features of the home, neighborhood, schools, shopping, parks, freeways, etc etc.

We’ve researched the neighborhood’s pricing in extreme detail, searching for recent activity, trends, and what the competition is doing.  We’ve analyzed what other homes, in what other neighborhoods, potential buyers might be looking at.  We’ve priced our listing to be attractive (but fair).

We’ve placed this home EVERYWHERE a buyer might be searching online.  We’ve installed a conspicuous sign in the front yard so anyone driving through the neighborhood will see it, as well as for the neighbors to notice.  We’ve built a customized website for this home (and for the neighbors to see), which shows even more pictures and more information.

Finally the action – PATIENTLY waiting for the rabbit to find our carrot.  Occasionally we can check on the carrot-trap setup, we can check the prevailing winds, and we can monitor the water level in the stream.  But we’re going to wait for the rabbit to come eat our carrot.

Patiently waiting for a buyer is the hardest part.  We’ll continue to monitor the comps and the competition; we’ll get feedback from anybody who calls &/or shows the listing; we’ll answer our phones & return calls immediately; we’ll update pictures and make other adjustments as necessary.  And we’ll patiently wait for our buyer to find us.

Patience is the hardest part.

Once we’ve done everything else right, whether we’re trapping rabbits or buyers, we have to play the waiting game.  And that’s the hardest part!

(Ask any fisherman who’s identified the right spot, chosen the right bait, and then waited all afternoon for a nibble…)

Your doesn’t have enough patience left over for fishing after using it all up waiting for buyers Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Great packing, moving idea

color coded strapping tape from UHaul

Color-coded packing tape marked with the name of the room the stuff goes in. This is so cool! sells this stuff, $2.95 for a 30yard roll.

Frugalista bargain-hunter anal-retentive tightwad that I am, I wondered if I could do better on pricing.  I looked around online and found that OfficeMax sells ‘paper tape’ for $3.49 for 500 inches. Who measures tape in inches??

Of course, now I need a measurement converter to figure out if 500 inches is more or less than 30 yards. If you are reading this shouting out “I can do that in my head!” I officially hate dislike you. <Chris, I’m lookin’ at you>

I might be able to convert 500 inches to yards in my head but it would hurt. So I checked the lovely folks at and their length converter. Five hundred inches is 14 yards. So the U-haul tape is the better deal.

I checked, OfficeDepot, and Target and couldn’t find anybody selling packing tape that’s color-coded. Readers, can you?

Listing Price: What Matters, What Doesn't

(this article is reprint)

I was watching one of those HGTV shows not too long ago. Flip That House, or Sell This House or one of those. The show featured a novice investor who bought and rehabbed a 1970’s tract home. She managed an amazing transformation of the entire house. She opened up the kitchen and installed brand new cabinets and slab granite counters. She re-did both bathrooms were redone with beautiful materials.

The rookie investor did a great job on the remodel and added some real value to the home. BUT she went 2 weeks over schedule, about $20,000 over budget.

darts-nultiple.jpgJust before the home was staged for the first showings, the show’s producers sent in 3 real world Realtors to give price opinions. They were: $519,000 ; $511,000 and $499,000. I'm assuming the rookie Fix and Flipper got that information. In a camera confession, the investor says she’s stretched to her financial limits and needs to get her money back pronto.

She lists the house for sale at $539,000. (this leads me to assume the investor agreed with Realtor #1's estimate of $519,000, but tacked on her $20k over-run)

Big mistake. Sellers, believe me when I tell you that there is a long list of things that do NOT impact how much you can ask for your home for sale. Here’s a short list:

  1. How much you paid for the home

  2. How much your remodeling or improvements cost

  3. How much you “need” to get out of the sale

  4. How much your next house is going to cost

  5. How much your neighbor sold for 2-1/2 years ago

Things that impact your listing price:

  1. How much buyers are willing to pay for it

  2. How long you want to be 'for sale'

Period. It’s really that simple. Welcome to the Age of the Internet, where buyers have access to almost every piece of information available, about every home for sale or sold in the past few years. Buyers have a very good idea of your home's market value and they're not going to pay more than market value. In fact, these days most buyers expect to buy homes for less than market value.

If buyers don’t see your home as a good value at the listing price, they’ll pass you by. If your home seems like a good value at the listing price, you'll get offers.

Of course figuring out what the buyers are willing to pay for your home is the tricky bit. It’s an art, not a science. If it were a science, they’d have computer programs that picked listing prices. We Realtors would all be out of a job because the computers would be 100% correct, 100% of the time, on 100% of the homes for sale. Houses would sell in a few days and nobody would negotiate over price because the computer generated price would be right every time.

That’s fantasy land. Picking the right list price is an art. It involves lots of data analysis, a history of in-depth knowledge of the neighborhood, and a little bit of gut checking. But it should never involve calculating what the seller “needs” to recoup on their investment. The buyers don’t care about your needs; they care about theirs.

PS-The investor on the TV show sold after about 3 weeks on the market. She took $511,000. (remember this article is a reprint. the original show air-date was Fall 2008 and at least in metro Phoenix, the market has gotten worse for most sellers since then.)

Personality goes a long way

A conversation between Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega, from the movie Pulp Fiction:

Jules: Pigs are filthy animals.  I don’t eat filthy animals.

Vincent: Yeah, but bacon tastes good.  Pork chops taste good.

Jules:  Hey, sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I’d never know ‘cause I wouldn’t eat the filthy mother-fu**ers.  Pigs sleep and root in sh**.  That’s a filthy animal.  I ain’t eating nothin that ain’t got sense enough to disregard his own feces.

Vincent:  How ‘bout a dog?  Dog eats his own feces.

Jules: I don’t eat dog either.

Vincent:  Yeah, but do you consider a dog to be a filthy animal?

Jules: I wouldn’t go so far as to call a dog filthy, but they definitely dirty.  But, dog’s got personality; personality goes a long way.

Vincent:  Ah, so by that rationale, if a pig had a better personality, he would cease to be a filthy animal.  Is that true?

Jules:  Well, we’d have to be talking one charming mother fu**ing pig.  I mean he’d have to be ten times more charmin’ than that Arnold on Green Acres, you know what I’m sayin’?

We had a neighborhood-wide garage sale last month, where the HOA provided advertising and signage.  We participated, and had a garage-full of stuff to sell.  One of the things I had set out for sale was a computer monitor.  I had it tagged at $40, and was expecting to sell it for $30.

Personality Minus.  The very first guy to stop by our house was a jerk (or at the very least, not friendly).  He showed up an hour before the sale started; I had just started setting things up & was pulling tables out of the garage.  This guy didn’t say much of a hello, and proceeded to wander through my garage while I was setting up.  He picked through our stuff (even the stuff I wasn’t selling) with an attitude and body language that said he was slumming and didn’t like other people’s junk.  He made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Eventually he offered me $20 for the monitor. I declined, thinking to myself that I wouldn’t sell it to him for $40!  He then offered $25, and then $30, telling me I had to be willing to negotiate or I wouldn’t sell anything today.  I said flatly, “The sale hasn’t even started yet.  If you want it for $40 you can have it.”  He huffed at me and walked away.

Personality Plus.  A couple hours later a woman asked about the same monitor.  She had been in our driveway for 20 minutes already, chatting us up about the sale, the neighborhood, the weather, the holidays.  She was genuinely friendly, and we enjoyed her company.  Finally she got to the monitor, and asked if I would take $25 for it.  My response - “you can have it for $20.”

Personality counts when negotiating your home, too.  That buyer or seller you’re negotiating with is a person, and people pay attention to how they’re treated.

Another example?  I wrote A Tale of Two Buyers almost 3 years ago.  The story holds true today.

Your was always the “but he’s got a great personality” guy Realtor,

Chris Butterworth

Beige Paint Sells Houses

I’ve written before about “real estate beige”, and Chris Butterworth has written about getting a crisp, clean line between two colors of paint.

This is a textbook example of real estate beige.

Real estate beige, textbook example

This is exactly the tonal difference you’re aiming for when repainting beige to sell your home. And believe me, nothing impresses buyers more than a neat coat of beige paint on the walls and crisp, shiny white trim. Don’t believe me? BigMedia printed the evidence of this recently…

HomeGain Top 10 Home Improvements and ROI

(click chart to embiggen; click browser's Back to return)

Painting the interior returns 250% on your investment. Holy Off-White Latex Liquid, Batman!

It’s the same reason car dealers detail every car they sell. We’re all suckers for clean & neat. Sellers, take note. Grab your paint brushes and bring home the bacon.

Right-Pricing: List Price vs Sales Price

Yesterday our colleague and good friend Dru Bloomfield wrote a terrific post comparing sales prices with list prices, and what can happen to sellers employing various pricing strategies.

A couple of highlights:

  • “On September 25 the percentage for all areas & types within the ARMLS database hit 97.01%, exceeding 97% for the first time since September 4, 2006. This is a very positive sign. The number has been rising rapidly since hitting a low of 93.82% on February 5, 2009. The highest reading was 99.54% reached on June 5, 2005.”
  • “Savvy sellers know they can get a lot of attention with what may seem like an aggressive price.”
  • From first-hand experience, a high-priced home listed $100,000 below the neighborhood comps and received multiple offers within the first week!

I couldn’t have written this post any better, so I’m encouraging you to click over and read the whole article on Dru’s site.

Your thinking, “yeah, what she said” Realtor,

Chris Butterworth