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CA BRE #01904379

NMLS/MLO #355855

Bond #92F388716F

Selling Real Estate: Hire a Pro or DIY?

Selling a home can’t be that hard, right?  Why would I want to hire a Realtor® when I can do it myself and save money?  One reason is that you probably won’t really save any money at all. A Buyer who knows you’re not paying a Broker a commission may likely feel they should share in any savings and get a lower price.

In addition, going it on your own may be more difficult than you anticipate and end up costing you money in the long run. What marketing skills do you have? How do you determine the asking price? What are the proper disclosures and contracts to use? What can and can’t you say to avoid getting into a fair housing, false advertising or other legal issue? These are issues a Realtor® from Real Property Advisors, Inc. are trained to address.

Buyers also feel awkward dealing directly with a Seller. They can be reluctant to speak freely about their concerns or personal or financial situation. Sellers are often too invested in the property financially and emotionally to be objective. Having an Agent involved provides that ‘buffer’ to rationally analyze the pros and cons of a home, while also having the financial incentive to get the home sold quickly at the highest and best price.


What Real Property Advisors, Inc. Does to Earn Your Business.

Here are just a few of the many things Real Property Advisors, Inc. Realtors® takes care of:

      Properly price the property to get you the highest possible price. Over or underpricing your home could mean it will either sit on the market too long, or you might make less on the sale than the true market value.

      Developing a custom, comprehensive, fully integrated marketing plan to get your home maximum exposure to qualified Buyers. The more qualified Buyers that see your home, the more likely you will get multiple offers and the highest possible price.

      Staging consultation to best prepare your home to show on any budget.

      Hiring a professional photographer to show your home at its best on all marketing materials.

      Designing a property website just for your home to market it worldwide, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

      Designing and distributing property flyers, marketing to Buyers Agents through the Multiple Listing Service, posting your listing to dozens of real estate websites such as Zillow, Trulia, etc.

      Conducting Broker and Public Open Home tours.

      Negotiate and prepare the complex contracts and disclosures required to keep you in compliance with the real estate law and avoid legal mistakes.


How Sellers Can Sabotage Their Showings.

Most Buyers need time and space and evaluate whether a home is right for them. They may feel pressured and uncomfortable if an overeager Seller follows them from room to room trying to point out features and upgrades, especially because the Seller doesn’t know the Buyers and their likes and dislikes. Providing Buyers Agents and their clients access to tour your property at their leisure is essential to selling your home quickly and profitably.

A Real Property Advisors, Inc. Realtor® will also provide an electronic lockbox. This allows your home to be shown even if you are working, on vacation, or running errands. The electronic lockbox can only be used by a Realtor® possessing a special, registered electronic ‘key.’ The lockbox records who accessed the home and when. It can also be set to allow access only during certain hours. This makes it safer and more secure to show your home when you’re not there. This is important, because it’s usually best if you can leave the home and allow Brokers and their Buyers to talk freely and frankly about the pros and cons of your home without fear of antagonizing you. Moreover, if Brokers and Buyers have to call numerous times just to get an appointment, they will likely lose interest.


Safety and Legal Issues

The state of California requires Sellers to disclose any knowledge of existing problems before a Buyer purchases a home. This includes not only damage or incidents that may have occurred on the property, but fault lines that may cause an earthquake, fire danger, proximity to airports and even possible military ordnance. DIY Sellers may not even know this, or ‘forget’ to disclose an issue that may threaten a sale. Not only can a Seller be on the hook legally and financially for failure to disclose an issue they had direct knowledge of, but they can also find themselves in hot water over issues that the law says they SHOULD have known.

It is common for homes to be inspected for health, safety, and environmental issues before a sales contract is signed. If your home does have major problems, you probably won’t be able to keep it a secret forever; and not disclosing them can bring you a lawsuit, even if Buyers discover a problem after closing escrow. Real estate law and the paperwork that goes with it are extensive and in near constant flux. Even if you know what forms and disclosures to use, it’s easy to find yourself using ones that are out-of-date or obsolete. Simply filling them out incorrectly could find you in violation of the law.

A Realtor® from Real Property Advisors, Inc. always has the most current forms and knows how to use them. They will earn (and save) Sellers more money as well as help protect them from legal trouble during a real estate transaction.


Other Issues

Even if you are successful in finding a Buyer yourself, can you help the Buyer find financing? Do you know how to open escrow, review a title report for errors and get to a successful closing? Remember, beyond the many possible pitfalls described here, you’ll have to find time to do all these tasks and more if you go it alone.

Your home will get the most attention when it is first put on the market. If you don’t take advantage of that initial interest, you may find yourself waiting a long time to sell your home. In the meantime, you’ll have to keep your home in pristine condition to show it at all hours of the day or night. Oh, and forget about your weekends. You’ll be doing Open Houses hoping to find a Buyer. And if you find one, let’s hope it’s not some scammer taking advantage of your lack of knowledge to tie up your property in a lawsuit or get you to sign a contract allowing them to take ownership without paying you. It happens!

As they say, the bottom line is the bottom line. There’s a reason 91% of home sales are done with the assistance of a real estate professional.[1] Contact Real Property Advisors, Inc. to get your home sold for the highest market value, in the shortest period of time, with the least inconvenience to you!

[1] NAR Economist’s Outlook Blog March 23, 2014

Finding the Right Realtor

Choosing the right Realtor® to sell your home is a major decision.  You may want to interview several Agents before you identify which is most qualified and with whom you will feel most comfortable working with. The key to that decision is to know the right questions to ask during the interview.


Interviewing Agents

Before you begin interviewing Agents, think about your expectations and priorities. People sell for a wide variety of reasons: moving for a job, needing more room for a growing family, downsizing when the kids move out, getting a divorce, etc. Once the decision is made to sell, most people want to sell quickly and move on. However, they also want to get the highest and best price, too. Therefore, focus your questions around how the Agent you are interviewing will meet your goals.


Whats My Home Worth?

The first question most Sellers ask of an Agent is what their home is worth. This is an important question because it will have a significant affect on how much and how soon your home may get sold. Agents know this, and they also know that most people tend to list with the Agent who promises to get them the highest price. Dont fall into the trap of hiring an Agent merely because they tell you what you want to hear!

Before you interview to any Agents, you should do some homework to get an idea of what homes are selling for in your area that are similar to yours. You can do your own research on Zillow, Trulia and other real estate websites. Perhaps the most accurate data will come from www.greathomes.org, the local Sonoma/Napa County multiple listing services available to consumers. Search for homes in your area that are similar in number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, and lot size. Then go drive by those properties and see how the neighborhood and curb appeal of the homes you found compare to yours before you begin interviewing Agents. Keep in mind that all of these estimates can be thousands of dollars off, but at least you have something to compare with whatever the Agents you interview show you. If you are far apart, ask the Agent to explain why.

A good Agent will show you listings of homes similar to yours that have recently sold, are listed for sale and those that were listed but have been taken off the market. Recently sold homes represent the most realistic price; homes listed for sale are usually optimistically priced and may likely sell for less; and those taken off the market were typically priced too high.

Dont just list with an Agent who tells you what you want to hear unless they can back it up with relevant comparable sales of homes similar to yours.


List Price vs. Sales Price

Most Buyers start their search for a home online. They are usually price sensitive to begin with and may screen out homes that they think are more than they want to pay. If too few Buyers are exposed to your home, the listing may sit on the market and grow stale. Once a listing has gone stale, existing Buyers have moved on and new Buyers may be suspicious as to why the listing has languished on the market for so long.

The point here is dont necessarily equate the listing price with the ultimate price at which you will sell. Buyers may pay more than they initially thought once they see a home they fall in love with, so consider listing 1% to 3% less than what your comparable prices suggest to get as many qualified Buyers as possible to see your home. Ultimately your home will sell at the price a qualified Buyer is willing to pay and you are willing to accept. The more people that see your home, the more likely you are to get multiple offers well over the listing price.


Marketing Your Home

Once you find an Agent that provides you with good comparable home prices, ask them to explain exactly how they intend to market your property. A good Agent will have a written, comprehensive marketing plan designed to maximize your homes exposure. This is an absolute MUST if you expect to get the highest market value for your property and get it sold in the shortest amount of time.

The marketing plan should guide both you and the Agent step-by-step through the process. You should know specifically what steps they will take and when. The Agent should be held accountable for doing what they say and be available to meet with you to discuss progress and address any unexpected issues that arise. You should know what the Agent expects you to do as well. Moreover, the time and effort should have a unifying strategy behind it. Anyone can run around and be busy doing things, but if those efforts arent focused on a specific outcome then you may as well hire someone to just run around in circles. A good marketing plan should create demand, include several ways in which the Agent will drive other Agents and their Buyers to your home and get your home sold quickly for top dollar.

Finally, the Agent should provide you with an estimate of what you can expect to net from the proceeds of the sale. The net is the amount of money you will realize after the mortgage and cost of sales have been deducted from the agreed upon sales price.


The Commission

Its a cliché that more often than not, you get what you pay for. However, there are usually some valid truths to a cliché. One consideration you should have when interviewing Agents is the commission they will charge. Many Agents try to get listings by competing on the basis of the lowest commission or giving you a rebate. Once again, this sounds enticing; much like the Agent who promises to get you an unrealistically high price.

A good Agent will be putting a lot of time and effort into selling your home quickly for the highest and best price. Typically, Agents will help the Seller get their property in the best shape possible to sell, actively market the Sellers listing to other Brokers and Agents, place the Sellers property on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and other internet websites, help coordinate additional services (such as staging, movers, inspections, etc.), guide the Seller through reams of required paperwork throughout the transaction, and bring it to a successful closing. Commissions are negotiable, but most good Agents charge a commission of 6%. In reality, commissions are typically split between the offices of the listing and selling Agent, then split again between their Agents office and the Agent, so your Agent is actually only getting a percentage of the total commission. If they value their time and are doing their job, they will earn every bit of the commission.

If an Agent is charging less than 6% commission a Seller might wonder what, if any, services may suffer or be cut entirely. How actively will the discount Agent market your listing? Is the discount Agent trying to make up for charging a lower commission by spending their time trying to get more listings rather than spending time marketing your property? How much assistance would the Seller receive in coordinating additional services, or will you wind up trying to figure that out? Will you be surprised by separate charges for marketing or other services? Is the discount Agent doing anything other than fulfilling their most rudimentary obligations to you?  Do they have a written marketing plan spelling out exactly what the will do and when? Will they be available to meet with you when you have questions or want a progress update?

If a discount Agent is offering to accept a lower commission, or share it with you, are they willing to put in as much effort and expense into selling your property as a full service Broker? And in the end, will they sell your home in a timely manner and get you top dollar? You may believe youre getting a deal by using a discount Broker, only to find you would have sold your home sooner and come out with more money by using a Broker that worked harder and invested in marketing your property to get the highest and best offer.


Coming to a Decision

Upon concluding your interview process, take some time to review the answers from each individual Realtor® and carefully evaluate your options. Selling real estate is a detailed process in which Buyers, Sellers, and their representatives must navigate many potential pit-falls. It can also be an emotional experience, which makes having a neutral third-party that appreciates your situation extremely valuable. The Agent you select should be 100% committed to your best interests. Interviewing several Agents, asking the right questions, and feeling confident the Agent you select has the best solution to help you reach your goals should lead you to the best decision.

Easy, Inexpensive Improvements = Gained Value

Spending a few dollars now can net you many more dollars when your home sells. You’d be amazed at how a few small improvements, like a fresh coat of paint or new shingles, can improve the value of your home and attract buyers. If you want the best price possible in the shortest amount of time, doing some initial work to un-clutter and update your home is a must.

Sometimes, all it takes is a few simple changes to prepare your home for sale, such as cleaning, repairing anything that may be broken, or giving your walls a fresh coat of paint. Other times, you may consider investing in larger upgrades such as new kitchen counters or windows, as long as the greater expense will bring a decent return on your investment.

Walk-Through Your Home with a Buyer’s Perspective

Selling your home can be an emotional process and turning an “indifferent” eye to a space that holds cherished memories can be challenging. However, looking at your home - the decor, the paint, the fixtures, etc. - through the eyes of someone stepping through the door for the first time, you may find ways to add dollars to your bottom line. If you are considering selling your home, visit some open houses in your neighborhood to see what other homes look like. These are your competition. What improvements might be necessary to make your home as attractive as possible compared with other homes on the market?

First impressions matter, so consider what buyers see when they drive by your home. This is “curb appeal”. How your home looks from the outside will determine whether potential buyers even get out of their cars to look inside.

Which Improvements Get the Biggest Bang for Your Buck?

The number one (and LEAST expensive) improvement a Seller can make to their home is de-cluttering. Just a few simple fixes include:

  • Sweep the front walkway
  • Remove clutter such as toys, bikes, and extra cars
  • Trim the shrubs
  • Clean windows, roof, and gutters
  • Mow the lawn and plant flowers
  • Clean up after pets
  • Remove family photographs and other personal items
  • Fix squeaky doors and leaky faucets
  • Remove pet odors and toys

How a home is marketed is completely different from how someone might live there. Potential Buyers need to see themselves living in the home, so create an environment where Buyers feel they can “move in” now. Minor things matter, so try to get an outsider’s perspective, such as your Real Property Advisors, Inc. Realtor®, to help you identify problem areas you might have overlooked.

Consider getting a second opinion before you do any major renovations or improvements. Real Property Advisors, Inc. Realtors® or a home stager can help you decide which are most likely to add to your home’s sales price and which may cost more money than you can get back.

How do you find trustworthy vendors to complete your work?

If you have completed the calculations and some heavier duty improvements or repairs are required to bring your home’s value to the top of the market, who can you trust to get the repairs done in a reasonable time at a reasonable price? Real Property Advisors, Inc. Realtors® have worked with many vendors that they trust and will have several vendor suggestions for you. Ask Real Property Advisors, Inc. for a list of two or three professionals that specialize in the area of your home that needs improvement.

Keep in mind that many home repairs/improvements require work done by licensed professionals and the work may need to be permitted. Not only do these requirements protect you as a consumer and your valuable assets but you can also research the background on such professionals. Is their license in good standing? What kind of customer feedback can you find? Are they insured and bonded? When it comes to home improvements, the lowest bidder or a friend of a friend may not always provide the greatest value.

Selling your home doesn’t have to feel like an emotional mine field. To get a leg-up on your competition in the real estate market, try to view your home as a potential Buyer would. If you can remove some of your collections and the personalized touches in order to create a broader aesthetic appeal, you might just be adding dollars to your bottom line. By focusing on improving minor details (such as squeaky doors, leaky faucets, scuffed paint, an overgrown lawn, etc.), you can remove many of the Buyer’s “red flags”. Buyers tend to become leery of a property that requires many small repairs - it can give them a sense that maintenance was deferred for larger issues as well. If there are larger improvements or repairs that need to be addressed, ask Real Property Advisors, Inc. for a list of their most trusted vendors.

How Are Home Values Determined?

Want to know how much the home down the street sold for?  What about the range of home values in your neighborhood? How significant is the difference in home values between a property in its original condition versus a one with the that has been remodeled? There are several factors to consider when determining the value of a specific property as well as the starting price to list.

Market conditions


Who currently has the advantage in the real estate market place? Are buyers in a position to submit low offers and demand seller credits for closing costs? Are sellers selecting offers and back-up offers from a pile of submissions, most of which exceeded the list price? At what interest rates are most buyers able to qualify?

When getting ready to place your home on the market, it is important to understand the current market conditions. Knowing if Buyers or Sellers have the upper hand will help determine a listing price that will quickly catch the attention of Buyers. You will also know if being willing to offer credits to Buyers will put you ahead of the game or if it is reasonable to refuse such requests without losing an opportunity to make a sale.

You and your Real Property Advisors, Inc. Realtor® will discuss the current market conditions and walk through trends to help determine the best starting price for your listing and negotiations throughout the sales process. 


Realtor® prepared Comparative Market Analysis

If you want to sell your home in this market, Real Property Advisors, Inc. will look at who your competition is and position your home to stand out. You may not be able to control the market conditions, recent property values, or your competition, but you can control your home’s price, condition, marketing, and contract terms. In other words, the better you and Real Property Advisors, Inc. position your home as a “great value” to prospective buyers, the more likely you will sell. 

In order to determine what makes a home in your neighborhood a “great value,” Real Property Advisors, Inc. will check out the competition. Buyers will look at other comparable houses in your neighborhood whether you like it or not. It’s our job to tell them all the benefits they will receive if they buy your house. Here are some questions your Real Property Advisors, Inc. Realtor® will answer while evaluating the competition.

Drive around your neighborhood. Who is the competition on your block? In your neighborhood? Check out their open houses. View their property listing on the web and the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). What features are they advertising? How are they presenting their home during showings? What improvements have they done? 

Identify your house’s benefits. What are the ten best things you like about your house? What are the perks? Have you recently done any remodeling? How is the school district? Are you located in the heart of a city or near a metro station? What features are unique to your home? How is the neighborhood? 

Identify the house’s problem areas. It can be difficult for Sellers to emotionally detach from their home to look at it the way buyers will. Walk across the street and really look at your home as if you have never seen it before. How does the exterior look? What flaws do you see? Now, walk inside and go from room to room. What are the problem areas? 

Consider getting an appraisal done. A home appraiser can point out problem areas that potential buyers are likely to notice. Getting one done before you list your home on the market can help you decide what is a “must fix” and what improvements would be “nice to do.”


Potential value of improvements


Cost of improvements is not typically equal to increased value. Putting $100,000 worth of improvements into your home does not automatically increase the value of your home by $100,000. Though these improvements may make the home more comfortable and pleasing to the owner, Buyers may or may not hold the same appreciation for wall-to-wall Travertine tile, custom paint colors, and ultra-modern fixtures.

When contemplating a full remodel or some updating, Sellers who have a finger on the pulse of current market conditions and their neighborhood’s value range will be able to manage a realistic improvement budget and make the best style selections with mass appeal. Real Property Advisors, Inc. can run a comparable market analysis on your home to help you determine approximately what similar homes in your neighborhood are selling for with and without improvements as well as the type of improvements your neighbors have made.

If a full bathroom remodel will cost $100,000 but recent sales show you will only add $25,000 to the value of your home, it may make more sense to do some smaller, less expensive updates to fixtures and paint. Freshening up a bathroom for a few hundred dollars may still have the potential to add significant value to your home through the eyes of a Buyer.

Savvy Sellers understand that the real estate market is a roller coaster and market conditions can change quickly. Knowing what kind of market you are entering with your listing will keep you competitive. Hiring a Real Property Advisors, Inc. Realtor® to help you compete with other listings and prepare your home for the market will virtually ensure that your home sells quickly at its top market value with little inconvenience to you. Additionally, discussing ideas for pre-market updates or remodeling with Real Property Advisors, Inc. can help you establish a realistic budget and avoid over-improving.

CalBRE #01904379

NMLS/MLO #355855

Bond #92-F3-8975-7

Real Property Advisors, Inc. Sonoma County
6570 Oakmont Dr. Suite 110
Santa Rosa, CA 95409
707-573-9273 Office | 866-524-0442 Fax