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What's the scoop on Open Houses

by Pat Fales, Associate Broker

I was recently asked by a "non real estate" business colleague what the real scoop is on Open Houses – she wanted both sides of the Open House coin.   She was curious about whether or not they were just promotional events for the listing agent or if they really work.  Since I have done hundreds of them over the years,  I was only too happy to elaborate on the subject.  I shared the following with her.

Many years ago, one of the very seasoned agents in our office did a survey.  She asked 24 full time agents how long they had been in the business (287 total years), how many open houses they each held open in a year (12.5), how many of the listings sold as a direct result of holding that house open (31), and the number of listings which sold as a direct result of someone else holding a competing house open (5).  After gathering and averaging the results, this is what she discovered: 

Out of 287 years collective experience between the 24 agents x 12.5 annual open houses average per agent resulted in 3,587.5 Open Houses held to sell 31 properties.  It took an average of 115 Open Houses for each home that sold as a result of this type of marketing.

One might look at the results of that informal survey and deduce that Open Houses are a waste of time; surely there are better ways to expose a home that is on the market for sale.  However, even in light of that very "scientific" study back then, I still am one of those old fashioned agents who really do like to do them!

I happen to enjoy meeting the neighbors and all the folks that visit Open Houses to get decorating ideas, check out the floor plan and are just plain nosey.  It is a great way to network and stay abreast of all the community rumors.  I am one who is energized by other people so having an Open House can prove to be quite stimulating and fun.  I go into the afternoon with no expectation that I will sell the home – even though that is the goal and I work diligently toward that end by showcasing the property in its most favorable light and following up after the fact with those that have stopped by.  Without grandiose expectations one cannot be drastically disappointed but may be wildly excited about linking up with an incredibly interesting person.

Many sellers want and expect agents to hold their home open to the public because it will often bring traffic and feedback that may have been lacking during the time on the market. Sellers are eager to have their homes admired and an Open House on a Sunday afternoon is just the ticket.  By cleaning up one time and getting out of the house for a few hours, there is a potential to have many showings with only one major inconvenience.  Sellers like this particular aspect of Open Houses.  My sellers will realize that the likelihood of a sale as a result of the Open House is quite small but are ever hopeful that they will be the exception to the rule.

The truth is that Open Houses can benefit all.  Sellers benefit by having exposure to people who might not see the home otherwise and who can share the benefits of the property with others who are in the market for a home.  Prospective buyers benefit from the opportunity to visit a property unencumbered by an agent with time constraints.  It also allows for comparison shopping throughout the market that will ultimately enable the buyers to make a faster or smarter home buying decision.  The neighbors benefit by being able to stay on top of the market trends in their community.  And, last but not least, Agents benefit by the contacts that are made with the visitors; they are wonderful networking opportunities and, if handled correctly, can lead to future business long after the open house has ended. 

In summary, if an agent believes an Open House will be a waste of time, it probably will be.  But, if the positive approach is employed in preparation and execution of the event, the end result can be surprisingly fruitful!

 

Ten Tips for Staying Organized in 2010

by Pat Fales, Associate Broker

Top 5: Ten Tips for Staying Organized in 2010

10 Tips for Staying Organized in 2010

If you’re like most people, one thing that always makes your New Year’s resolution list is, “Get more organized.” In today’s hectic and often challenging lifestyle pace, staying organized provides an important sense of control and ensures you stay on track toward important goals.

As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I know that organization is the key to success, both at home and on the job. So as 2009 draws to a close, here are 10 tips for kicking off a well-organized year:

• Box it up right – Begin by stowing away the holiday décor in well-marked and sorted boxes. Try using empty wine cartons (you can probably get them free from your local liquor store) for fragile ornaments, and buy a few plastic storage cases that can be stacked and stored out of the way.
• Make some lists – Add any new names to your card and gift list, so that you are ready for next year.
• Get a new calendar – first, transfer in all birthdays and other important dates you want to be sure to remember.
• Schedule it – then begin scheduling annual medical, dental and veterinarian appointments for the family and pets, and note any other dates you want to remember, such as car maintenance, registration times, etc.
• Get it on sale – Get a head start on next year by taking advantage of after-holiday sales on wrapping paper, cards and gifts.
• Budget for next year – Take a look at your receipts to see how much you spent this year; then divide by twelve and begin a savings plan to help you get there stress-free.
• Hidden agenda – Designate a private spot for storing gifts you buy when they are on sale during the year. Keep a note in your wallet listing what you buy and for whom.
• Be tax ready – Create a folder or storage box for all receipts, check stubs, and other materials you will need when tax season rolls around. Make this the year you throw everything into the designated file or box.
• Be car ready – Keep a box in your trunk to hold blankets, umbrellas, diapers, flashlight and anything else you may want to have handy in an emergency.
• Check on your resolutions – Keep a written list of what you want to accomplish this year: losing weight, eating better, exercising, or even being more organized. Check the list each month to see how well you are doing.

While it seems impossible at times, staying organized is simpler than you think—and the rewards are tremendous—so forward these great tips to your family and friends. Wishing you a happy and healthy 2010 and be sure to e-mail me for any real estate-related assistance you may need in the New Year.

Ten Financial Resolutions for 2010

by Pat Fales, Associate Broker

Top 5: Ten Financial Resolutions for 2010

10 Financial Resolutions for 2010

As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, home buying clients often ask for advice on the best ways to manage and save money. As the credit card bills from holiday spending start to roll in, here are 10 New Year’s resolutions from bills.com for the year ahead…and beyond:

1. Make a plan. Create a straightforward budget for the year and monitor it monthly or weekly. Each month, review your progress and revise where necessary.

2. Use cash. Move away from credit cards and avoid going into debt, especially for daily, routine and ongoing purchases. Write checks or use automatic bill payments for bills, and withdraw enough cash or use a debit card for other expenses. Track withdrawals diligently to avoid going into overdraft.

3. Pay bills on time. The most important element of good credit is paying bills on time. Keep bills in one location and check that spot weekly. Set up online payments or write due dates on a calendar to stay on track.

4. Save. Your goal should be to save 10% or more of your income, but starting with even a few dollars a week is a great way to develop the habit of saving. You can always add more to your savings at any time. For example, after you pay off a bill, add the amount you would normally pay toward the bill to your savings instead. If you get a raise, bonus, cash gift or other one-time monetary receipt, save it—or at least a portion of it.

5. Practice preventative health. Money cannot buy good health, but in today’s world of skyrocketing medical and insurance costs, getting sick can cost you. Exercise and eat well, get enough sleep and, in these stressful times, take time to pursue relaxation practices, whether that means spiritual practices, meditation, a workout or coffee with a friend.

6. Think twice before spending. Find creative ways to cut back on expenses—take care of household maintenance, barter services or goods with friends or neighbors, and fix up old belongings rather than rushing to buy new ones. Some statistics say that people buy 30% more when shopping with a larger cart, so even a small change like avoiding the store cart when possible could save you money.

7. Participate in a retirement plan.
Many believe now is a great time to invest for the long term. Especially if your employer matches contributions, contribute to a business retirement plan. If you are on your own for retirement savings, invest in an Individual IRA, Roth IRA and/or plan for self-employed persons.

8. Have the right insurance. Insurance protects against expenses you cannot cover yourself. Be sure you have life insurance to protect your family, auto insurance to cover your car, health insurance to provide for at least major medical incidents, and home or renter's insurance to protect possessions from theft or disaster.

9. Pay taxes on time. File your income tax return on or before April 15, with any tax due, to avoid penalties. At the same time, adjust withholding if needed to account for changes in income. That step might be especially important this year for those with lost or reduced work. If your refund was large, have fewer taxes withheld so you are not giving an interest-free loan to the government.

10. Get help if you need it. If you lose your job, file for unemployment quickly. If you are worried that you will be unable to pay rent, mortgage or other obligations, talk to your bank or a reputable debt resolution company to learn about your options.

Remember that today’s attractive housing prices, combined with the government’s expanded and extended home buyer tax credit, make investing in a home one of the best ways to secure your financial well being. If you would like more information, e-mail me, and please forward these sound financial tips to your family and friends.

Refinancing? Appraisal tips to save you money!

by Pat Fales, Associate Broker

Refinancing? 10 Appraisal Tips That Will Save You Time and Money

While the housing market is showing many positive signs of stabilization, foreclosures and short sales are still affecting home values and leading to lower appraisals in many neighborhoods. As a Member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I am often asked for advice on refinancing. If you are considering refinancing your home, there are several steps you should take to help ensure a better appraisal. Heeding these important tips can improve your refinancing options and save you time and money.

1. Continuously research the value of your home and the other homes in your neighborhood. Pay attention to foreclosures in your area as they may drive down the value of your home.

2. Since appraisers use “comps” (comparable market sales) of local properties sold within the last six months to value your home, make sure to work with a great loan officer who will research comps in your area before ordering the appraisal.

3. If you use your own appraiser, research them first and ask your lender to cross check them for any potential issues that may delay the process. Great loan officers will always confirm your appraiser’s credentials.

4. Direct your loan officer to work with local, experienced appraisal companies. Many homes are being inaccurately appraised these days thanks to the use of out-of-region appraisers. Local appraisers have a deeper knowledge of the surrounding neighborhood and should also be more easily available, which will help speed up your appraisal process.

5. The appraisal report is yours to keep. Find out in advance who pays for the appraisal—many times appraisal fees are the homeowner’s responsibility.

6. Many new lending regulations require two appraisals—ask up-front whether you’ll need one or two.

7. Consider choosing your lender before committing to an appraisal. Being comfortable working with your loan officer is imperative. They will often serve as the liaison between you and the appraisal company.

8. Make sure any major repairs are completed before moving forward with your refinance. Structural damages drive your home value down and jeopardize the approval process for today’s popular government-backed FHA loans.

9. Don’t overestimate the value of making cosmetic home improvements. In the appraisal world, only improvements that add square footage will significantly increase home value.

10. Rely on market value rather than tax assessments for a realistic appraisal value—in today’s market, tax value and current market value may differ widely, but your lender can only go by appraisal value.

Your lender or real estate agent should explain the steps for the appraisal process up front. Be sure to ask questions so that you are as informed as possible. Please feel free to e-mail me for more information or for referrals on great appraisers in our area. I encourage you to pass this article on to any family and friends who might be considering a refinance.

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