What’s most important in selling your home

I read a great article this morning in the Chicago Tribune. It talked about why sellers might be upset that the home they’re selling isn’t going under contract and why their neighbor’s home might be.  It listed some good points as to what will help get buyers through the door to get a sale.  Given the current housing market, homes aren’t selling as quick as they used to.  Market times are up, but given the right conditions, these tips will hopefully get your home to sell faster.  I want to go over a few of them.

1. Price.  This is the absolute most important reason why a home is not selling.  If you’ve had 30 buyers through the door and don’t have an offer yet, this is a good reason as to why not.  It’s probably overpriced.  This is not the right economy to “test the water” and list higher than market value for your home.  It will just lead to your home sitting on the market for longer and becoming stale for buyers.  If you need to sell quickly due to a divorce or relocation, for example, you will need to price your home below market value.  Make sure you discuss comparative properties with your Realtor as to what a good price should be.

The article also made a good point that you shouldn’t list your home for $299,900, thinking it will look better than $300,000.  You’re missing out on all the buyers who are looking for homes from 300-350 or 300-400K.  If you have a buyer looking from 250-300, your house will get noticed on both lists.

2) Curb appeal.  I cannot stress enough how important this is.  There’s a home in my friend’s neighborhood that just went on the market.  It looks like a jungle in the front yard where it’s impossible to find the front door.  It doesn’t take much time or money to trip the trees, rip out the weeds, and mow the lawn.  If I were a buyer looking for that home and I drove up for the first time, I wouldn’t even bother going inside.  So make sure your lawn is mowed, you have easy accessibility from the street or driveway to the front door, and even plant a few flowers with bold colors to make the front pop. 

3) Clear the clutter.  I’ve mentioned before how I’ve shown homes with dirty dishes in the sink, dirty laundry on the floor, and so much clutter in one room that you can’t even walk through it.  If you’re selling your home, now is the time to cut back.  Put some belongings in storage.  Clean out half your closet.  Make sure to remove family photos from the walls.  And do the simple things: put your dishes away, set the table, take your lotion and contact solution off your vanity and put it in a cabinet or drawer.  The less stuff of yours showing up, the better.

4) Internet marketing.  Make sure your home is being shown in the places where the buyers are looking.  It might be important for you to make sure your open house is showing up in the newspaper and there’s a big photo of your home there, too.  This is not where the buyers are looking anymore.  You want to make sure your Realtor is advertising on the proper sites: Zillow, Craigslist, Realtor.com, etc.  Ask any agent before you hire them what they do in terms of advertising and how many buyers will see it.  Find out how quickly the sign gets placed in the front yard.

These tips will help you sell a lot quicker.  If you have questions about if your home is ready for the market, please visit me online.

Evanston receives grant money to rebuild/rehab

Ahh, a subject near and dear to my heart.  The town of Evanston.  With 267 foreclosures in 2008, Evanston has one of the highest foreclosure numbers in the Illinois suburbs.  Because of this, legislators found out last week that they would receive $18 million to help address the issue.

Last year they filed an application with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to receive funds as part of a neighborhood stimulation program.  They competed with other communities around the country to receive money out of a possible pool of $2 billion.

So what do they plan to do with the money?  They have it broken down into a few different areas:

1. Create a new neighborhood of 8 homes and 6 condos to sell to buyers

2. Create 86 rental units as part of an affordable housing program made available to those earning 60% or less than the median area income

3. Acquire and rehab foreclosed properties to resell

4. Focus on an area just north of Howard Street and south of Oakton and running from Asbury on the west to the rail tracks on the east to rehab foreclosures

Aldermen and reps from Evanston are ecstatic over the news and think it’s a great thing for the area.  They’re hoping to purchase vacant and foreclosed homes to resell them back at market value. 

But is this a good thing?  One comment from the newspaper article mentions that the city doesn’t know who the ultimate purchaser of the properties will be.  And what’s to keep this from happening all over again?  A new buyer buys the rehabbed home, defaults on their mortgage, and the property gets foreclosed on again … all to start a new cycle.  What can we do to prevent that?

I’d love to hear your comments on the subject.  Please leave me a comment or visit me online.

Location near Metra boosts sales

trainWhile the housing market is in flux throughout the country and the Chicago area, there is good news for those of you that live near a Metra station.  According to a recent survey by Re/Max, housing prices in 2009 declined less in the Chicago suburbs that were located near the Metra than in other Chicago suburbs.

Great news for those in the Evanston area and other North Shore suburbs with locations near the stations.  There were three lines that had the strongest results: North Line (that runs through Evanston, Winnetka, and Lake Bluff), the BNSF (Riverside, Western Springs, and Lisle), and Heritage Corridor (Summit, Lemont, and Lockport).  The number of homes sold in these areas were less than the rest of the suburbs.  They also showed housing price declines of less than 7% and an increase of market time as less than 10%, much lower than the rest of the suburbs as a whole.

More results on the study can be found here.

So what does this mean for those in the area?  This is what sellers should do if they are listing their homes for sale:

1. Include your location to Metra in all remarks and advertising.  Advertise if you can walk to the station.  Let buyers know it’s only a 5 minute drive.  This is a huge benefit to buyers, especially those that are moving in from out of state and aren’t completely sure how they’ll get to their jobs in the city.  Even those that have gotten a new job might not know how easy it is to get downtown if they’re used to a previous job in the suburbs.  This can be a huge selling point.

2. To go along with that, insert a map to the Metra station in all of your brochures that are created for your home.  Show how easy it is to get to, and you might even want to include a Metra brochure with all the different lines and train schedules for your buyer.  If you’ve got a great looking station near you, include a few photos of that in your brochures, as well.  A map will definitely help prove how close you are.

3. Post flyers of your home at the Metra station, if possible, or hand out cards with your Realtor’s information to people you sit next to on the train.  You never know if the commuter next to you is looking to buy a home closer to the line!

For all map, schedules, and ticket information to provide to your buyers, you can view the Metra’s Web site here. If you’re ready to sell your home on the North Shore and need the expertise of a Realtor who frequently sells in the area, please visit my Web site.

Losing value may inhibit your desire to sell

140772_FullWith the recent news that home sales did increase slightly in the month of August, unfortunately, it wasn’t so true for the Midwest in general.  The Midwest home sales decreased about a total of 6%.  Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I want to make sure you’re educated before you decide if now is the right time to sell.  If you have a need, such as a relocation, new job, divorce, budget concerns, etc., by all means, you need to sell. 

However, there is a very interesting article from Smart Money that will give you some signs that your home may be losing value.  This should help you determine if now is the right time for you to sell, especially if there’s not a strong need.  Losing value in a home will not affect you unless you have an immediate need to sell.  If you plan on being in your house for years to come, there are no worries whatsoever. 

The article states, “‘Individuals who are staying put for at least the next five to seven years will likely recoup the lost value of their home,’ says Amy Bohutinsky, a Zillow.com spokeswoman.”  She goes on to say to be wary of borrowing money from your mortgage, however. 

So what are the signs?  Some are more obvious than others.

1. Foreclosures in your neighborhood.  Some of these may be easy to notice because of riders on the real estate signs that say “Foreclosure” or “Bank Owned.”  You may have heard gossip from another neighbor.  You can contact your local Realtor to look up the property to see what the status is.  As homes go into foreclosure, it creates a domino effect in the neighborhood, effectively lowering surrounding homes’ values.

2. Homes with excessive market time.  Any home sitting on the market without a sale for more than 3 months can be another factor.  It’s generally a good time for the seller to lower their price, which means that a price for another home in the area would most likely be lower, unless there is a significant difference in features of the home. 

3. Homes in disrepair.  This is one you probably haven’t thought about.  If you see homes in your neighborhood in need of a new roof, siding, have missing paint, etc., there’s a good chance that homeowner may be unable to afford to make those repairs.  Unfortunately, this could affect the value of your home.  It may be worth it to have a neighborhood pow-wow to determine if anything can be done to help everyone out and keep home values steady for the time being.

If you have questions about your home value, or need to know if a neighbor might be in foreclosure, please be sure to visit me online.

Ogling over how the billionaires live

home_10This photo is of Skywalker Ranch in California.  It’s owned by famous Star Wars Director George Lucas and sits on over 5,000 acres.  It’s not just a pretty home to look at, though.  Lucas works in his home which contains a post-production studio.  Tom Hanks used it for sound effects in Castaway as did Sean Penn for Into the Wild. 


Not all billionaires live in such high style, however.  One of the world’s richest men, Warren Buffett, lives in this 5 bedroom home that he bought for $31,500 in 1958.  The home is located in Omaha, Nebraska, and despite Buffett’s riches, he hasn’t moved yet.


This compound in Medina, Washington is home to Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft.  The actual home is 66,000 square feet and contains tennis courts and bowling alleys (plural).  You have to climb 84 stairs to get just to the ground floor, or, you could just take the elevator.


Featuring a gold-plated indoor pool, this 17,000 square foot London home is home to Lev Leviev, the world’s largest diamond cutter.  He’s a neighbor of Ringo Starr’s and bought the home for $65 million.  It also features an indoor nightclub.

View more homes of the rich and famous in this Forbes article. Visit me online for any real estate needs.

Lawn care tips for adding value

I’ve talked plenty before about some house fixes that were cheaper and could potentially add a lot of value to your home if you’re planning to sell soon or sometime in the future.  While indoor improvements can definitely mean a return on investment, it’s also important to be aware of what you can do outside to add value.  There’s a lot of importance in landscaping.  Now, you don’t have to be a landscape architect or master gardener to help your house show its best.  These easy tips are ones that anybody can do and they’ll increase your investment easily.

1. Take care of clutter.  Get rid of junk that’s sitting against the side of your house.  Do you have patio furniture from 30 years ago that’s completely rusted but still sitting on your patio?  Trash it.  Keep garbage cans in the garage and out of sight.  Move yard waste out of the yard and into the garage or out of view until garbage day.  And if you’re a fan of lawn ornaments, try to tone them down to an appropriate level. 

2. Give your lawn some TLC.  Fertilize it when it’s in its growing stage (starting in the spring).  Don’t let it get too long, but don’t cut the grass too short, either.  This exposes the bare patches in the lawn for all to see.  It also allows bugs and weeds to take over.  The Yard Doctor says to mow only one-third of the lawn’s height for each mowing.  This lawn will be stronger and be able to protect itself against weeds.  lawn-care

3. Trim!  Nothing is less appealing than driving up to a house seeing overgrown trees and branches hanging in front of a front door or blocking a side of the house.  It really ruins the curb appeal.  You also want to cut back near decks and patios.

4. Add color.  Choose some annual flowers with a burst of color like hot pink, purple, or orange.  Try planting some near your front walk or around the base of trees in your yard.

5. Install an automatic sprinkler system.  Could lawn care be any more easy?  This is a great selling point for new buyers.  You choose when you want the sprinklers to go off.  This could be very beneficial for those living in towns where they’re trying to save water by only allowing you to water your plants and lawn at certain times and on certain days.  If you’re not around, your automatic system sure is.

View some more great tips at this Web site. Hopefully this Chicago weather will start to warm up a bit, but these cooler days could be the perfect opportunity for you to make some quick lawn fixes. Visit me online if you have any questions.

Tips for selling if you’re on a busy street

Are you having trouble selling your home because you’re either:
A. located on a busy residential street
B. backing up to a busy street
C. backing up to railroad tracks??

This article is for you.  Typically homes in these situations will take longer to sell.  Buyers worry about the excessive noise and traffic when choosing to purchase these types of home.  However, if they are priced fairly for their location, they should still be able to sell.  Sid Davis is the author of “A Survival Guide to Selling a Home.”  He says that empty nesters might be a good buyer for these homes because they’re not as worried about traffic with little kids running around.  Another good buyer could be a foreign-born one because they “have a very different mindset about living with traffic.”

Mark Nash is a real estate broker and author of “1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home.”  He says, “In today’s market, even singles, empty nesters or foreign-born buyers who are willing to take the roadside location are expecting a deep discount or they won’t buy that house,” he says. “Because there is such a glut of bargain homes now on the market in better locations, you’re going to have to take a bigger discount than you would have had to in the past.”  So you definitely have to keep in mind where your house sits when determining the price.  No matter how glamorous it is on the inside, it still can’t be worth as much as one down a different street that doesn’t back to the railroad, for example.

Nash offers these tips when trying to sell your property:

1. Find an agent that’s willing to work hard to get your property sold.  Make sure they are realistic on the price, however.  The agent needs to know that this property will take longer to sell.  Discuss ahead of time what creative marketing ideas you can come up with prior to getting it listed. 

2. It might be hard, but take advantage of your location.  Busier streets get a lot more passerby traffic than less congested one.  So make sure you have at least one real estate sign.  If you’re on a corner lot or back to a busy street, make sure to also put a for sale sign on the back fence or in the backyard where people can see it.  Ask your agent about adding a rider to the sign that plays up some of the great features of your home, like “Finished basement” or “New Jacuzzi tub,” for example.

CommutersES_415x2753. Let the commuters know about it.  If you do back to the Chicago Metra line, for instance, what a great place to put fliers for your home.  They might love that they can walk to the train station even during the winter.  Other professionals that need easy access to the highway should know about it, too, if you’re close.  Nash says, “Doctors, police and others who often have to get to work quickly are especially keen on highway access,” he says. “This is something you can offer if you live on a main road.”

Again, talk to your Realtor about the best ways to highlight the not so great location of your home.  You could be surprised at who’s interested!

Visit me online for more tips or for a free market analysis of your home.