Selling Your Home This Winter? You Can Still Make Your Yard Pop - Real Estate News and Advice -

Times past I always told my clients I have sold a home every single day of the year except Christmas.  Well as of a few years ago that is no longer true.  One benefit of selling your home during the holidays is you have much less competition but you are also showing your home at a time of the year that has some distinct challenges.  Here are some tips on showing your home at it's best no matter what the weather brings..
Selling your home in the winter is hard enough without snow.


Love at first sight? Pretty much..

In the span of 30 seconds, a person can:

        * Begin to be annoyed waiting for an elevator.

        * Get bored with a Web page and click away.

        * Fall in love with another.

        …. And even fall in love with a house.


        For most of my real estate career.. over 30 years now, I have known that a home often sells in 30 seconds.  Because of this I have strongly emphasized to my home sellers that the home needs to make an excellent first impression.  Here’s the proof. 

        A new study shows that sellers have just seconds to attract an interested buyer online. Curb appeal should really be thought of as Main Internet Picture Appeal.

        The study, by the Institute for Behavioral and Experimental Real Estate at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA., confirms what real estate agents know: The main photograph of the house's exterior is the make-it or break-it feature of online advertising.

        According to a new study, internet house shoppers, which today is just about everyone, actually spend 2 seconds evaluating the main picture.  If the exterior view grabs them, they'll spend 20 seconds and in that 20 seconds, all things being acceptable, you have a potential buyer.

        That's why it's so important to have a great photos available when you're listing your home for sale.  The study shows that 95 percent of interested viewers spend 20 seconds looking at the photo of the exterior of a home, suggesting that people 'try on' a home just as if they were shopping for a suit or a dress. The lining might matter, but appearance is primary.

        Experts say the photo should be up to date showing the home as it appears today, and showing how the home looks seasonally.

        It goes without saying that the main picture should show the home trimmed and swept and ready for company. The study conclusion suggests that if you need to attract people inside, you'll want to spend some money on the outside. If you want to sell, cut down that shrub you've been meaning to take out.  Perk up the flowers, plant that evergreen. Then take the photo. According to HGTV, research show that investing in curb appeal (or picture appeal) often returns the most value for the money.

        If you are selling a home in the warm months, it doesn't make sense to feature a photo of your home in all its snowy glory. That picture makes it appear that the home has been on the market for a very long time. You might include a snow shot if the home looks especially fetching in the winter, but make sure it isn't the main picture on the page. For spring and summer, stage your main home picture with pots of blooming flowers or ferns. A best practice is to include a photo of your home that matches the season. In fall, feature a picture of your home with that colorful oak. You can even stage your home for fall with simple mums.

        Overall, the house hunter will spend 60 percent of his time on the listing viewing photos. If the main photo catches the viewer, he or she will spend up to 56 seconds viewing all the photos online, according to the study.

        Interestingly, the next most viewed photo will be the backyard. The viewer will spend 8.23 seconds on that photo, just a tad longer than the those of the living room, which attracts 8.06 seconds. Finally, the master bedroom, kitchen and the master bedroom all attract just under 8 seconds each.   

        You should consider the pictures on the Internet as important as what the potential buyer sees in person.  Researcher Michael Seiler found that 76 percent of viewers next glanced at the property description, like the size and number of bedrooms and baths. After the main picture, overall people spent 20 percent of their time on the description and 20 precedent on the agent's remarks.

        Entering the home is another pivotal time. The entry or room they see first can make a lasting impression.

        What does all of this mean for buyers? It makes them feel lucky! The manicured yard and pleasing entry won't raise the price of the home, but the buyers know from the outset that the property is in good condition.

        They can picture themselves living there.


Crowd Staging

Yesterday I was delighted to receive a call from a stager friend of mine, Rebecca Henderson of Alabaster Staging..

Rebecca:  Brian, I have a problem.  I am teaching a staging class this afternoon and the house we were going to stage just canceled.

Brian:  Tell me more.

Rebecca:  I have twenty students and we need a home to stage.  We will go through the home room by room, stage the entire home.  No cost to you or your client.

Brian:  It's your lucky day.  I am listing a home this afternoon at 2:00 PM and I have the most delightful seller in the world.  Let me give them a call. 

Brian, Calling back:  See you at the home 2:30 PM.

So at 2:30 the coolest thing ever.  Rebecca and Brandi Cernohlavek with 20+ of their students show up and start going through the home room by room.  What a blast.


A group of students is assigned to each room..


They go through each room and apply what they learned..


The seller was thrilled, the outcome fantastic.

Kitchen before..


and after..

KI Now

Living room before...


and after..

LR Now

We could go on and on but bottom line is Rebecca and Brandi and the class of February 2014 did an absolutely FANTASTIC job so a big thank you to all from me and a very pleased seller.


By the way.. great new listing in Issaquah Highlands.  Three bedroom in the Outlook.  $245,000 call me for details.

Color influences thought

The Pantone Color Institute researches how color influences thought, emotions and physical reactions. Some of their recent recommendations for interior decoration are:

Yellow: When the eye takes in yellow, it releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked to feeling good. The institute recommends a soft chamois, butterscotch or honey yellow for a living
room, entry or foyer. It will boost moods.

Blue: They say when the blue sky is above you, it's hard to be anxious. Studies show that blue makes the heart rate slow, perspiration drop, and breathing deepen. Pantone recommends it for
bathrooms and for any room where you want to relax.

Brown: It has emerged as a rich mocha linked to the flavors of coffee and chocolate. People love their wood floors and furniture. Brown is associated with stability of the earth. In
bedrooms, it increases sleep-inducing sensations of safety and comfort, whether
it's on a wall, in furniture or bedspreads.

Red: It has an aggressive nature, commanding attention and demanding action. It may introduce a fight-or-flight reaction including elevated breath and pulse rate and an increase in adrenaline
and perspiration.

Black: To
banish sadness, limit the black and dark grays in your life. Leave pure white
on the ceilings.

In preparing a home for sale, color is among many of the considerations. Take a look at for an in depth look at the benefits and many of the techniques of home staging. Barb Schwarz is the leading authority on staging and she is a local talent.

Selling in today's market

In today's market many sellers want to know the secret to selling their homes quickly. They want to know ways to hold on to the equity they've built over the past decade. Unfortunately, there is no golden equation that equals the perfect sale. Yet, while there is no "sure thing" in the housing market these days, there are certain factors that affect how quickly and for how much your home sells.
Here are the top ten. Consider how these apply to your own home, how that affects marketing, as well as what aspects of your home you should "play up" to elicit a better response from buyers.
1. Price: It's a common misconception in today’s market that location is the leading factor of whether or not a home sells. It is, instead, price. Think about this scenario. You have a home located in a prestigious and sought-after neighborhood, yet the list price is tens of thousands of dollars over the comps for the area. No one will be interested. This same property priced just below the competition will fly off the market.
2. Location: Okay, location is still very important. A home that sits next to a transfer station, crime-ridden neighborhood, or busy street is less desirable than one that backs up to green space. If your home has a premier location, then by all means boast about it in your marketing.
3. Livability: This is fast becoming a hot button word in real estate. Buyers today are looking for neighborhoods that deliver amenities such as golf course, restaurants, and theaters.  I am surprised how often people map the walking distance to the nearest Starbucks.   They want good schools, walkable neighborhoods, and plenty of things to keep them entertained.
4. Condition: There is a certain segment of the market that is made up of renovators, flippers, and investors. You won't find as many people these days eager to buy your run-down property that is in a good location. They simply can't sell the property fast enough before monthly mortgage payments begin eating up their profit. Homes that are well-maintained or in move-in ready condition appeal to a broader range of buyers. Even simple fixes, such as new paint, cleaned carpets, or power-washed decks, can have an effect.
5. Competitive Advantage: Don't make the mistake of assuming that you're in this race alone. Past area sales, as well as current listings and foreclosures, are your direct competition. You must take these into consideration when settling on a list price for your home. What amenities and upgrades do these homes have? Do the homes in your neighborhood all have updated baths, kitchens, or landscaped yards? In order to price in line with them you must be able to boast these same things.
6. Curb Appeal: Curb appeal is the first impression of the home. You must keep the yard orderly and maintained when your home is on the market.
7. Staging: Once inside your home, a buyer must be wowed. Intoxicate their senses. They want to see up-to-date furnishings, smell a clean home, touch cabinets that are in good repair, hear peace and quiet, and of course "taste the good life."
8. Kitchens: A kitchen sells a house. It is where families gather and connect. Minor kitchen remodels rank high among the list of top remodeling projects, with owners updating cabinets, counters, and floors. Nobody wants an outdated kitchen. What fixes are in your budget? If your kitchen is already spectacular, be sure you play this up in any marketing.
9. Agents: An accomplished, knowledgeable agent can be your biggest ally during the selling process. They know the latest market trends and have built a network of agents and contacts to whom to market your home. With an arsenal of marketing tools available to agents today, from video tours and webcasts to brochures, websites, and mls listings, they are part of your selling team.
10. Marketing: Marketing has gone global. With the power of the Internet, you can showcase your home to millions of potential buyers. Sit down with your agent and develop a solid marketing plan. This is why you are paying them a commission. Make them earn it!
The market is not what it once was. You must be realistic about what selling in today's market means. You value your home, but it may not be "worth" as much today as it was yesterday, last month, or last year. Consider these top ten ways a home sells and help your home put its best face forward.


The Number 1 Myth of Pricing Property

This market, more so than most, continues to be a very price sensitive market. One of my favorite agents, Dan Edwards, of Northstone Real Estate said it best recently when he said "it is no longer adequate to the priced competitively, your price must be compelling."

The most common objection I get from sellers when working to have a compelling price is a concern over receiving low offers. They frequently have a desire to leave "Padding" in the price so as to have room for negotiation. Over the years I have found this to be the number one myth in pricing property. I have found that it is rarely a good idea to leave"Padding" in the price. The problem in this market, as in most markets, is not low offers, it is no offers. By pricing the property as competitively as we can and striving for a compelling price we get offers that otherwise we would not have. The reason we experience this is that it is crucial to price the subject property against the correct competition. I'll keep the numbers simple here so we can do easy math. Let's say that our subject property is worth $400,000 but the seller decides to list the property for $450,000 so as to have a "buffer" built into the price. The problem is that agents will show the subject property against the wrong competition. Let's say for example, I take a buyer out and show them five properties that are offered at $450,000, let's also assume that all the properties except the subject property are worth $450,000. The seller's thinking is that the buyer will simply make an offer, but the fact is that if I asked the buyer which house they like best the last house they will choose is the subject property. The reason is that it does not compare favorably against the homes we are showing it against. When I ask them why they don't just make an offer on the subject property the answer is quite simple. "That's ridiculous, that was the worst house you showed us for the money." The key here is to show the subject property against the correct competition. By leaving "padding" in the price you are instantly positioning yourself for failure. Once sellers realize this they are more likely to price the property properly; they are more likely to give you a compelling price so that you can show the home against the best competition showing the buyer the value of the property instead of placing it in the class that it will not compete effectively against.

The Easiest Source of New Business


One of the more frequent questions I get from new agents is how do I get business. The short answer is you talk to people and ask for it. Usually it is the new agent who tells me they do not know anyone. Really? Who cuts your hair? Who fixes your car? Who rings up your groceries? My point is we all know LOTS of people. Start by asking the people you trade with to trade with you. If you are giving them business ask for business in return. If you ask your insurance agent for business and they tell you something like.. ""Gee that's kind of hard, I know lots of real estate agents" remind then you know lots of insurance agents. Ask for the business. I will say it again, trade with people who trade with you. This is by far the easiest and fastest source of new business. They want your business and they want you to send them your clients. This is called networking and it is pretty basic. Ok, let's put a little different spin on this.

As I am writing this one of my agents mentioned that he called one of his vendors who is a marketing representative who sadly told him that he had just been laid off. My agent called two of his vendor contacts to see if someone needed a good marketing person and now the guy has been hired. What a great opportunity to get new business. My agent has a client who will most likely tell the world about what a fantastic contact he made and another client who has a great new hire. What an opportune time to ask for business. The key here is putting the other guy first.

Think about it, how excited are you to get a call from a sales person who's every other words are I need, I need. So the question is, what can we do to help our clients? What needs do they have and how can I help them improve their life? Help them THEN ask for business. "Oh by the way, I am looking for some new business, do you know anyone looking to buy or sell?"

Put it in perspective of your vendors. You are giving them business so you have the right to ask for business but going beyond that; what can you do to help them build their business. Ask for the same in return. Tomorrow we will discuss getting your sphere in gear.

Happy selling,


Open House on steriods!

MSNBC reports another string of burglaries at open houses and this time over 70 homes have been burglarized. The report says that the suspects enter and indicate to the agent that they want to look around "without being pressured" they then split up and look for small items of value, jewelry, etc. By the time the agent has an idea anything is going on it is too late. This is one of many reasons open houses in occupied properties are just not a good idea. OK, I'll admit they are great idea for the agent, the agent meets buyers and sellers but rarely do we sell the home we are holding open. Even when the open house guest does not want to be “pressured”, and by the way who does, it is the agents job to sell the home so we still show the guest the home and qualify them as we do so. If they do not want to be accompanied through the home then we ask them to leave. I know what you are thinking, what about multiple groups coming through the home at the same time? Unless you have sufficient staff to accompany every guest then the personal property in the home is vulnerable. Not a problem in an unoccupied home but a big problem otherwise. One solution we have successfully used on occupied homes is to hold an open house extravaganza. By this we mean a total open house blow out. We start by having our staff invite the nearest 500 neighbors. Yes, that’s right, 500. We do this by canvassing the neighborhood and handing out flyers and personal invitations a week before the open. We invite all of the real estate agents in the area as well as all mortgage brokers and loan originators. We invite our support teams such as title, escrow, home repair specialists and all businesses we trade with in the area. We ask the seller to invite all of their friends and neighbors to the open house. We also ask the seller to remove all highly valuable items and, unlike conventional wisdom, we ask the sellers to be there for the open house. On the day of the open we place signs and balloons at every strategic intersection to make the home easy to find and we call everyone we can think of, and we can think of a lot, to come to our open. We staff appropriately with agents, loan originators and assistants to help with the details and to help serve refreshments. We make it a very fun event and yes, we often have over 100 groups come through. Not bad by any standard for an open house. Unfortunately most sellers will only let us do it once because it is really quite a lot of work but well worth it to get this level of comprehensive exposure. Lastly we thoroughly clean up before we go. As for burglars, they don’t stand a chance when we drastically outnumber them. Work hard, have fun.