Top 10 Tips for Selling Your Home by a Real Estate Expert
Yesterday another agent called me wondering why his 3 listings in Lehigh Acres weren’t selling. After offering some tips to help out, I thought an article on the subject might help others as well.

  1. Curb Appeal– Buyers judge the quality of the home by what they can see.  You will never get to the home inspection stage if the buyer never offers.  Look at your yard, landscaping, outside paint, roof, gutters, etc.  If the outside looks bad, buyers judge the inside probably looks just as bad and they don’t schedule appointments to view.
  2. De-Clutter Inside– If a room has too many things in it, it make the room look smaller.  Additionally, buyers have a harder time envisioning their personals in your home when all they see is stuff.  Take out as much as you can.
  3. Be sure to remove Personal Photos– Buyers always stop and look at the pictures on the wall, and if there are too many the home feels like it’s someone else’s and they have a hard time picturing themselves in your home.  Knick knacks and photos subconsciously turn off buyers.  A few are OK, but too many can be a turn-off.
  4. If a Buyer Can Smell It, We Can’t Sell It– Cigarette odor and pet odors are the #1 turn offs for buyers today. We would suggest smoking outside and removing pets as best you can during the sales process, and hiring someone to remove any smells.  Some breeds emit more odor than others.
  5. Remove Pets For Showings– Buyers love pets, and the problem is many times they walk away remembering how cute your pet was, but they remember next to nothing about your home. Your home is in competition with other homes, and you want your home to be remembered and stand out against all others.  You don’t want your buyer’s time distracted by your pet.  Buyers will not buy your home because you have an adorable pet, but they may buy another if they don’t remember your home.
  6. Be Gone For Showings-We have a saying that every word a seller says to a buyer costs the seller $1,000.  Sellers think they know they’re home better than anybody and therefore they’re the most qualified to sell it.  Buyers typically feel uncomfortable talking with the seller, and usually give feedback the seller wants to hear.  The best and true feedback is a good offer, not meaningless words to appease the seller.  Some buyers like talking to sellers because they glean information they’ll use against the seller in negotiations.  Best advice is to be gone for showings.
  7. Price-Overpricing a home is a sure fire way to make it sit.  After your home is on the market awhile, buyers begin to wonder what’s wrong with it.  After awhile fear kicks in and buyers don’t want to offer too much on a home nobody else wants to buy either.  While the market is Hot today, it is a price sensitive market.  Overpricing is a good way to ward off potential offers.  Many buyers don’t want to insult the seller, so they just offer on another home that is priced where it should be.  Sellers usually think the buyer can always make an offer, and of course nobody ever offers full price anyway so we’ll build in some negotiating room.  This is a myth and statistically it’s proven that seller’s that overprice end up taking less later than sellers who price correctly upfront.  Many homes in the market today sell at or near full price, and some sell for over asking price.
  8. Marketing– Times have changed.  Some agents employ the 3 P’s.  Put a sign up in front yard, place it in MLS, and pray someone else sells it. Successful agents today rely on newspaper advertising, radio, TV, social media like Twitter, Linked In, Facebook Fan pages, YouTube, virtual tours, as well as mobile technology and much more.  Ask to see how your home will be marketed and which national sites it will be syndicated to when interviewing agents.
  9. If You Owe More Than Home is Worth, Select a CDPE-44% of homeowners in Florida are underwater on their mortgages.  It takes a certain expertise to work with the banks on short sales.  Buyers and sellers need lots of education attempting to close a short sale. A Certified Distressed Property Expert can help.
  10. Select the Right Offer-Don’t just take any offer. Many times it pays to wait for the right one.  Why waste time with a buyer that doesn’t qualify, or the loan program they’re pre-qualified for will present issues for your home or association.  Knowledge is power and can save you from many bad transactions.  If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when in the world will you find the time to do it over?

 

Be sure to check out our 2012 State of the Market Report

 

Banks Revving Up For More Short Sales

Because Bank of America is the largest servicer of residential loans in the United States, it seems quite reasonable they would have the largest number of foreclosures and for a few years that was true. A few years ago Bank of America announced it was stepping up its efforts to assist homeowners with short sales in hopes of decreasing the amount of foreclosures. It takes time to ramp up, hire, and train enough people to lighten that load, and it used to be said that Bank of America was the worst at processing short sales. That can’t be said any longer as they actually closed more short sales in 2010 than foreclosure sales, and since they automated and moved their short sale process to Equator, an online sales management software tool, the process has become streamlined and much quicker.

No, we didn’t say Ecuador, a country in South America. We said Equator, an online tool qualified agents can become certified in to assist homeowners complete sales transactions. Not every agent will handle a short sale, nor should they. A short sale is a very complex transaction where the bank, or banks, asks for specific documents to help them make a decision on whether to accept less than the full mortgage payoff.

Banks Revving Up For More Short Sales
SW Florida Listing Inventory

This is a very complicated process because there are tax implications for some homeowners and investors, and the banks may sometimes ask for deficiency judgments in others. It gets really complicated when 3rd party liens are placed on the property, like HOA liens or judgments against the creditor. These must all be identified and negotiated as part of the process.

Listing agents are reticent to list these properties as they are more time intensive, and there is no guarantee the bank will agree to a short sale. Further complicating the process, the bank surely won’t agree unless every I is dotted and T crossed to satisfy their guidelines. This generally requires a hardship letter explaining why a short sale should be considered, a letter of authorization authorizing the agent to deal with all the various debtors and lien holders, bank statements, etc. Short sales also take time, as you may be dealing with a primary lender, the investor behind that loan, FNMA, a PMI company, and perhaps a 2nd loan and investor or a home equity line of credit.

Buyer agents are also reticent to show short sales as they’ve discovered some sellers are not a candidate to sell short, or the listing agent isn’t qualified to take the sale to closing. The short sale isn’t a sale to practice on, it must be done by skilled, tireless agents with experience and extensive training with the banks. If you’re a short sale seller, be sure to interview your agent and make sure they are a CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert) or similar designation and have lots of experience working with different banks. Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Nationstar, BSI Financial Services, ASC, and others use Equator and expect the agent to be qualified on that system. Others, like Aurora, SunTrust, Ocwen, etc. use their own proprietary system to consider a short sale and the agent must know how to reach each and identify what each lender requires. Ideally this information should be obtained at the time of listing, not when a contract is accepted as this will further delay the process. Learning on the job isn’t a great option for buyer or seller, so working with a listing agent who has experience closing these sales helps all.

Banks today are even reaching out to agents asking to help with our short sales. Two of the largest banks are sending their customers letters on how they may be able to short sale rather than lose their property to foreclosure and they’re even recommending qualified agents to assist. A short sale is not something a For Sale By Owner can do, nor is the bank looking for that.

As you can see by the graph, approximately 31% of all single family home listings today in Lee County are listed as short sale. Listing inventory is going down, and so is short sale inventory because successful short sale closings are going up.

If you’re on the brink of affording your home or property, talk to a short sale expert. It’s amazing that of the foreclosures, 71% of the homeowners never reached out to anyone for help. Help is available, and a short sale is much better on your credit. With banks today getting better at the short sale process, it pays to ask for help. Call your agent today and ask if they can help. If not, don’t hesitate to call us and we’ll see if we can get you help now so it’s not a crisis tomorrow.

The Ellis Team currently has 3 CDPE’s on staff. A CDPE is a Certified Distressed Property Expert, which requires intensive training and extensive short sale experience to attain. To help gear up for the increased short sale demand, the Ellis Team at RE/MAX recently hired Marisa Morgan who worked many years as a long time banker with Bank of America and also in the title business. For years Realtor clients came to her asking advice on how to properly package short sales so the bank would accept them. She sat down and met with several sellers so they understood the process, so it makes sense to add Marisa’s experience to SW Florida’s premiere team to help sellers sell their short sale properties.

Brett discusses short sale issues with Marisa on this week’s Future of Real Estate show entitled “Banks Gearing Up for More Short Sales in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, SW Florida” Video.

We’ve been talking quite a bit the past several weeks about HAFA (Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives) program and other programs designed to make selling a short sale easier.  Going forward, these programs should provide some much needed relief for many sellers, and open up the market for more buyers.

We’ve noticed a trend this past year developing in the Lee County SW Florida real estate market.  As we’ve reported, sales numbers hit record levels in 2009, and prices look like they may have stabilized.  We’ve noticed that total distressed sales are down significantly since last May.  Our definition of a distressed sale in either a bank foreclosure where the banks sells the property on the open market after they’ve foreclosed, or a short sale by a seller hoping to avoid foreclosure and protect their credit.

Short Sales and Foreclosure Sales in SW Florida
Distressed Sales in SW Florida

Fort Myers is showing the most strength with only 47.83% of sales being distressed in March 2010.  Compare that to Cape Coral at 62.0% and Lehigh Acres at 74.19% Lehigh Acres is down from the whopping 88.5% set last June, even though they have leveled off about 75% the past 4 months.

Cape Coral has also declined, down from 78% last May to 62% now.  This chart explains why prices have stabilized in Fort Myers and Cape Coral, and why Lehigh Acres is a little shakier at the moment.

Inventory levels are down in all three segments, and sales are up significantly over February in Fort Myers and Cape Coral, and up moderately in Lehigh Acres.  Officially sales numbers have not been released at the time this article was written, and we believe going forward we’ll see some median price increases in Lee County, and especially in Fort Myers and Cape Coral.

We’re studying preliminary numbers, and we’re seeing an approximate 28% jump in sales over February numbers for single family homes.  There was an increase in distressed sales, but the majority of the increase was regular non-distressed sales, and this is encouraging going forward in 2010.

We’ll be keeping our eye on the market after the home buyer tax credits expire on sales after April 30, and on interest rates which are creeping higher.  Nationally consumer confidence is rising, and eventually that should trickle into job growth.  SW Florida has been hit hard with high unemployment, and we really want to study these numbers as ultimately employment will be the engine that fuels SW Florida real estate prices in the future.

Always consult a CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert).

We’ve been researching and studying the SW Florida real estate market ahead of official releases due out next week, and our preliminary research tells us we expect sales numbers to increase approximately 100% or more over last August sales numbers.  The third quarter of 2009 is setting up to be another record quarter, and keep in mind 2008 numbers were near record numbers to begin with. 

Lee County single family inventory levels are on the decline again and pending sales are remaining strong.  The chart attached shows single family home inventory for Fort Myers and Cape Coral Florida. Listings in Fort Myers and Cape Coral fell by over 100 units as home buyers snapped up more property last month than came to the market. Separately, Lee County levels fell almost 200 units, suggesting buyers are buying faster than sellers and banks are bringing property to the market.

 

Fort Myers Cape Coral Listing Inventory Chart
Fort Myers Cape Coral Listing Inventory Chart

In the last several weeks we’ve addressed who is buying these properties, predominantly first time home buyers and long-term investors seeking to rent them out until the market improves.  At today’s low prices, properties actually cash flow, and we have lots of renters who have been displaced from properties. 

Now for some interesting observations we’re noticing that you won’t see in this chart.  We think home sales will be down about 11% from the previous month, which is normal due to seasonality.  Again, sales should be up about 100% over last year’s August, and last year’s August was down from July as well due to seasonality of the market, so no big surprises here. 

Foreclosure inventory increased 4.14% in the past month and foreclosure sales fell 13.82%  We’ve been saying for the past month or so banks are ramping up foreclosures for the next year and we expect double the write-downs banks will take, although because many of these properties will be in the higher price ranges it doesn’t mean we’ll see a doubling of foreclosure inventory.  Foreclosure inventory and sales will definitely be something we want to keep an eye on going forward and may tell the story of how our market is doing. 

Another trend we’re tracking is short sales to see if banks are cooperating more and agreeing to see short instead of taking back in foreclosure.  Even though total sales are down about 11%, and foreclosure sales are down about 13%, short sales are up about 3.76%.  This would suggest banks are cooperating more and our experience has been this is true; however it is still a very daunting process and not one a homeowner can reasonably attempt on their own.  In fact, it is so daunting that many agents won’t deal with short sales either.  If you’re going to attempt to buy or sell a short sale, make sure you’re dealing with an agent with lots of experience, preferably a CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert.)   

Distressed sales accounted for 70.04% of Lee County home sales in August, up slightly from 68.6% in July.  Distressed sales are here to stay for awhile.  In Fort Myers, 66.45% of the sales were distressed, while in Cape Coral the number is 68.87%  Lehigh Acres has far more distressed sales at 84.27%  County wide, distressed sales percentage remained stable over the previous month. 

Inventory levels fell in Fort Myers, remained fairly constant in Cape Coral, and increased about 2.35% in Lehigh Acres. So what’s the bottom line?  We believe median prices may increase some over time as banks bring higher priced foreclosures to the market.  Banks allowing more short sales may also increase the median sales price, but that doesn’t mean all homes are going up in value.  If this occurs like we think, it simply would mean the bottom has formed in the lower price range, and we’re still seeing erosion in prices in the mid to upper price ranges, and as they become more affordable buyers switch “on” and buy them.  

All real estate is local, and you can’t judge the entire market by a single statistic like median sales price.  This is why we take so much time to really study the market and explain what is really happening with hard facts.  We’ll keep an eye on the distressed end of the market, as these latest trends will offer us signs as to where the market actually is and where it’s headed. 

Until we flush out the distressed properties, normal market assumptions do not apply.  Supply and demand still rules, it’s just that it’s hard to get a grasp on supply without having a thorough understanding of what the banks are doing with foreclosures and short sales.  Until then we’ll keep tracking it for you and reporting the trends.

Industry experts Brett Ellis of the Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers Florida and Adrian Jacobs from Countrywide Home Loans in Fort Myers Florida outlines successful strategies in identifying short sale candidates, structuring your offer so the bank can accept it, and compiling the short sale package the way the banks want to see it.  We also go into qualifying the seller, getting pre-qualified, and talk about lien searches and why they’re important.

Brett is a CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert) and has helped dozens of homeowners sale their properties in SW Florida.  Working with a CDPE is a good idea and Brett encourages agents to obtain the accredidation.  The more agents with this knowledge the more it helps the entire market.  Both the listing and selling agent must have detailed knowledge about the process to make a short sale work.  Making mistakes can cost the buyer several months, kill the deal, and the buyer has lost out on many other properties they could have purchased during the time they waited for the failed short sale.  The seller faces likely foreclosure in a failed short sale, so the results are tragic on both buyers and sellers.  Working with a CDPE helps improve the success rate by only focusing on qualified short sale opportunities and putting together a package that works for the banks.

Watch Tips on Short Sales.  We also talk about buying bank foreclosures in SW Florida, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral as well.

The Ellis Team at RE/MAX Realty Group in Fort Myers released the Annual SW Florida State of the Market Report in February.  Local TV stations covered the release and here are some of the stories.

WINK News 6PM Coverage of State of the Market Report 

WINK News 10 PM Coverage-Home Prices Back to 1999 Prices

WINK News 11 PM-Housing Prices and New Construction

FOX 4 News Coverage of State of market Report Release

Download the State of the Market Report  In this report we detail the Fort Myers real estate market, along with updates on the Cape Coral real estate market, Lehigh Acres home sales, Bonita Springs and Estero real estate updates, Sanibel and Captiva, Fort Myers Beach, Pine Island, and all of Lee County Florida.

We also detailed bank foreclosure information, and short sales statistics, distressed property information, and we talked about the CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert) designation to help owners keep their homes or sell their homes to protect their credit

We’ll be uploading more video in the coming days, so stay tuned.