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How I Work with Home Sellers.

A. Getting to Know Each Other
My first meeting with home sellers begins with a tour of their property where I get info about the home and improvements they've made, ask questions and assess it's condition. This also allows us a chance to get to know each other and develop a rappoir which is important for a home selling team.

After the tour, we discuss their plans and schedule, and I make a brief presentation which I leave with them, about how I work, marketing, pricing, about us, preparing to sell, the Home Selling Guide which details the various steps from listing to closing, and other essential information. Before leaving, I explain what's involved in preparing an "Opinion of Value" and promise to have it for them in the next 2 or 3 days.

NOTE: Prior to completing an "Opinion of Value" I'll visit the Falmouth Town Hall and get a "Field Card" which describes the property, and a "Deed" to determine ownership. Only actual owners can sign the various legal real estate documents. If the current owners names are not on the deed, an attorney should get on this as soon as possible if they plan to sell because probate court can take months to correct the deed.

B. The Opinion of Value
The purpose of the "Opinion of Value" is to determine a realistic price range for the sale of their home. This is done by viewing and assessing the condition of the property, analyzing all comparable sales in the last 6-12 months, looking over the active competition, pointing out some stengths and weaknesses, and by providing an assessment of the current real estate market. It is important to be forthright about all factors that affect it's value - either up or down - such as condition, location, age, and etc. as these will influence all offers.

In preparing an "Opinion," it is important to be accurate as possible, eliminate guesswork and support the "opinion" with all the data, documentation, and listings of comparable "sold" properties available. This may seem like a lot of work, but the sellers must be given the most realistic price for their property and avoid either under or overpricing it. This proof is especially important when working with sellers who think their property is worth considerably more than it is. In order to convince them of the dangers of "overpricing," they are given the following article on overpriced homes.

Unique properties - Some homes are almost impossible to price accurately with confidence. These are unique properties, unlike any others which tend to defy any scientific approach. In such situations, the sellers must be informed, as I'm sure they are already aware, that they have a "unique" property that is difficult to price. Provide your best realistic estimate, discuss it, and agree to a reasonable starting price.

It is not uncommon in situations like this to test the market on the high side for a couple weeks and if there is a lack of response, keep adjusting the price until there is.

C. Decision Time
When complete, the "Opinion" is dropped off for the sellers to digest for a couple days. After analyzing and discussing it, asking questions about the price range and other issues, the sellers may decide to do one of the following: (1) not to sell their home at all; (2) we're not ready to sell yet, perhaps next spring; (3) we'd like to follow your sugestions and take time to prepare our home for the market; or (4) we are ready to sell now and want to list our home with you.

Preparing to List. With the home prepared for the market and the Title V Inspection completed (important to do before listing), the sellers are now ready to list their home. I'll present and explain the different listing agreements, discuss the terms, and when agreeable they will sign it so that the property can be listed in the Cape Cod MLS or Multiple Listing Service. Also discussed are showing instructions, their Rights and Responsibilities as home sellers, and I'll advise that they use an attorney. Before leaving they give me a key to the home.

Downloading. Info about the property gathered from the sellers, "field card" and "deed" is entered into the MLS computer form. When downloaded, the listing is immediately available for all realtors in our MLS to show their customers.

D. Marketing Your Home
Showtime. Once their home is listed into the MLS, the sellers should be ready physically and mentally to have their home always ready for unexpected guests. It doesn't have to be perfect, but try to keep it clean, neat and uncluttered.

We like to provide as much time as possible, preferably scheduling home showings a day or two in advance, but with cell phones, we frequently get requests for to show ASAP. It may be inconvenient, but when potential buyers are here for the day, we try to accomodate them to avoid losing a potential sale.

Marketing. Once your home is listed, we place a FOR SALE sign in the front and begin to implement our marketing plan. This includes promoting your home through regular advertising, the realtors tour, open houses, on our websites, and via phone, email and direct mail programs to customer lists and neighbors. Your listing will also be available on the internet to potential buyers on national real estate websites which allows them to pick out homes they's like to see.

Showing Your Home. As discussed earlier, the procedure we follow is to notify the sellers after every request to show their home with the time and date and ask if it's OK. If the sellers are not home, we'll leave a message and a call back number to confirm. If the request to show is within an hour or two, we'll leave the same message and say that we will go ahead and show your home unless we hear otherwise from you. Following each showing, the sellers will be given feedback.

Your home will be put on the weekly realtor's home tour which takes place on Wednesday mornings in Falmouth. This will give all local realtors the chance to see your home. We also like to schedule weekend Open Houses for the public to visit. They are on either a Saturday or Sunday for 2 or 3 hours. It is preferable that the sellers are not present for any showings.

Normal home showings take about 15 minutes, but can range from 5 minutes to an hour depending on degree of interest with serious buyers returning for a second showing the same or next day. With all details taken care of, we'll continue this way until we have a buyer.

Note: It is important that the agent keep sellers updated on marketing progress, reactions by buyers and realtors to the price and conditions of the home and adjust as necessary. This will eliminate any surprises when offers come in.

E. Selling Your Home
Offers and negotiations. When a serious buyer comes along, their agent will present an offer which includes the Offer to Purchase agreement, Addendum A, several Disclosure forms, and a copy of the buyers deposit check. The main parts of the Agreement itself include the purchase price and deposits, the closing with several intermediate dates, a list of possible contingencies, and the buyers signature/s.

Note: It is not unusual in the course of selling your home to have several offers and sometimes more than one at once. Offers that fail usually do so for either being too low or the buyer can't get the financing. Sometimes because the "home inspection" was not to their satisfaction which is often a favored reason for a buyer to get out of the deal without penalty.

All offers are to be presented by law to the sellers as soon as possible after they are received. Time is of the essence as offers must be responded to within a short time frame of generally 6 to 48 hours as most. The experience of the realtor can be very helpful to the sellers when analyzing, as many of the factors previously discussed such as time on market, condition, showing activity, and price should be considered before responding to the details. It is now a matter of reacting to the details of the offer:

(1) Price - is it too low and totally rejectable, or within the ballpark and worth making a counter offer to. Is the additional deposit too low or OK?
(2) Dates - can we move out within that time frame or must we add our own dates. The sellers time frame should be defined in the listing agreement.
(3) Contingencies - There are many possibilities, the most common include the home inspection, mortgage committment, and request for Title V report. Selling another property is also common, but one sellers either reject or give only 30 days to put under agreement. A cash sale closing in 30 days is most desirable, but unusual financing or contingencies have to be dealt with on an individual basis.

Responding - After discussing the offer with the sellers, the listing agent will contact the buyers agent with either a total rejection of the offer, or an acceptance of some details and a willingness to negotiate some others. The amended offer can be faxed, but it's easier at this stage to negotiate verbally between the two agents until all points are settled and then amend the original offer with the changes initialed and signed by both parties. Prior to signing, both parties would be wise to seek the review by their attorneys because at this point we now have a "Legally Binding Contract."

F. Closing the Sale
The following steps - as defined in the "Offer" are completed in the next 6 weeks prior to the closing: home inspection - before signing of purchase and sales agreement in 10 days or less, signing purchase and sales agreement - 10-12 days from signing of offer, application for mortgage - made before signing P & S agreement, mortgage committment - usually 30 days from submitting application, satisfying other contingencies by dates defined in "Offer," smoke inspection - test smoke detectors in home by Fire Dept. 2-3 weeks before closing.

Prior to Closing - During the 6 week period prior to closing, the sellers will be cleaning out their home and preparing to move. The buyers will either be doing the same or lining up contractors to make alterations to their new home. Both will alert utility companies and other services of the changes to service.

The Closing - A walkthrough by the buyers is usually scheduled the morning of the closing to be sure everything about the home they are buying is as they expected it to be. Now is the time to point out and correct anything out of order, even though it may delay the closing, and not after which is too late. The following link will fill you in more details of The Closing.

Frequently buyers and sellers are present at the same time while each in turn or separately go over and sign the paperwork presented by the closing attorney. Sometimes the paperwork for one or the other or both is handled long distance with no actual closing event occuring and in some cases the "power of attorney" is given to a friend of relative to sign for one of the parties.

At this point, the keys are given to the new home owners, everyone shakes hands and congratulates each other and begin a new phase of life.

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