Strategies for Selling a Vacant Home

As the real estate market continues to stabilize, sellers may find that their property remains on the market significantly longer than the days of “list today, sold tomorrow.” There is also more competition for buyers. So, it can be frustrating to put your home on the market, expecting a fast sale, only to find that after six months you’re still waiting for an offer. This is especially true if you need to move quickly and leave your unsold home vacant.
Besides creating a marketing challenge, a vacant home can also be a target for vandalism. Here are strategies you can use to hasten a sale and protect your property during the process.

Instead of producing a spacious appearance, an empty room tends to look smaller than a furnished room. So, leave behind a few select pieces of furniture and keep the window treatments in place. A chair or lamp on a small table will confer a sense of scale and help potential buyers gauge whether their furniture will fit the space.
If you decide to remove the furniture, have the house cleaned and painted. Furniture, rugs and decorations tend to hide or minimize imperfections. When furniture and artwork have been removed, every blemish and bruise becomes accentuated, faded paint and wallpaper become more noticeable and scratches and nicks stand out.
Repaint brightly and boldly colored rooms to a neutral tone. What was an eye-popping room when fully-furnished may appear stark and small when empty.
To thwart unwelcome visits, give the house a lived-in look. Set a couple of lamps on timers, and ask a neighbor or friend check on the house daily to collect mail, park a car in the driveway, and close and open drapes and windows. Continue using a gardening service or hire someone to cut the grass regularly. During the winter months, arrange to have snow shoveled from the walks and driveway.
If available, consider employing a home manager or house sitter. At little or no cost to homeowners, the house is furnished and decorated for show-to-sell condition. Most companies require home managers to mow the lawn, shovel snow, even pay pool maintenance and utilities. Having someone living on site discourages vandalism, protects against deterioration and weather hazards and may even reduce insurance costs. (Check with your insurance carrier.)
Leave the utilities connected. Depending on the season, make sure the thermostat in the house is set at a comfortable level. You don’t want a potential buyer to run through the home because it is too hot or cold.
Review your homeowner’s insurance policy with your insurance agent to find out what the stipulations and coverage pertain to your vacant home.
Find a real estate professional with experience selling vacant houses. Often, these sales professionals specialize in relocation. You want to make sure that you are comfortable with your lines of communication. If you will be residing in another town, come up with an agreement on how often your representative will check on the home and what should be done if a problem develops.

Although a vacant house presents certain challenges, it does not need to be difficult to sell.

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Mike Gambino and Mary Jones are part of Prudential Patterson Realtors® and can be reached at (800) 321-8586 or contacted by e-mail at WeCanSellHomes@sbcglobal.net . You may also visit us at http://www.wecansellhomes.com/

Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.ehologo.jpg

While the contents in this article will apply in most states, they may vary in your particular locale. Mike Gambino & Mary Jones are licensed salespersons in Missouri.

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So Much for the Experts Commentary

The following is a story reported on the web from The Christian Science Monitor.

I find it amazing that the Real Estate Professor, John Baen, with the University of North Texas, Denton, says “They’ve tasted success and big money, and now their standard of living has been rocked and reality has set in,” speaking of Realtors.

Just a few paragraphs later the article states, nationally, an average agent’s income dropped from $49,300 to $47,900 between 2004 and 2006.

I’d be interested to know what John’s salary is. I’m guessing he must be making the gargantuan money compared to us big money Realtors pulling in a whopping $48k on average. Being self employed, that means after all expenses and taxes, social security, health insurance and the likes, us, rich realtors are probably bringing home around $30k. I better contact my financial planner and find out why I’m not in Forbes. Thank you John for at least giving us credit at the end that we are hard workers. I don’t know that I’ll be leaving real estate any time soon though. You see, John, it’s not all about the money. If that is all a person is in real estate for, you should’nt be in the business. They, are the agents that give us a bad name and personally, I hope that this slump gets them out of the business and they never return. Those of us that are in the business as a career, are in it because we enjoy helping people accomplish their goals and watch out for them, protecting their interests. The money is pay for doing it right!

Here’s the article. Please leave your comments.

As Housing Slumps, Realtors Quit

By Patrik Jonsson Wed Jan 9, 3:00 AM ET

ATLANTA – After three years showing houses in Atlanta’s hilly suburbs, Dee McMahon is finished with real estate.

Yanking up her custom-made “For Sale” signs in her North Lake neighborhood rattled her ego, she admits. But when Ms. McMahon closed her final sale, a house in Snellville, Ga., in late November, the mother of two felt a swell of relief.
“Now I can finally get my own house back together,” she says. “I’m nervous about the future, but I feel happy.”

McMahon is one of thousands of real estate agents across the US wandering with mixed emotions and uncertain prospects through the debris of a real estate gold rush.

As many train for new careers, return to old ones, or wait tables until prices rebound, the plight of the real estate agent – average age, 51 – reveals the human dimension of how loose lending, raw opportunity, and self-determination produced a housing bust that has stunned the US economy.

“They’ve tasted success and big money, and now their standard of living has been rocked and reality has set in,” says John Baen, a real estate professor at the University of North Texas in Denton. “The whole [economy] has been built on real estate. When the music stops, what is left?”

Americans are still drawn to working in real estate, according to the National Association of Realtors, which says its membership rose this year to 1.35 million. That growth in the ranks may be attributed to unaffiliated agents scrambling for clout in a tough market rather than an indication that the total number of agents is rising, the NAR acknowledges.

Evidence is growing that agents, especially in hard-hit markets like Florida, California, and Georgia, are closing up shop in large numbers, experts say.

Here in Atlanta, the number of agents letting their licenses lapse is growing at a faster pace than the number of overall licenses held. Nationally, an average agent’s income dropped from $49,300 to $47,900 between 2004 and 2006. Not helping that trend is the cold fact that, according to Standard & Poor’s house price index, home prices dropped precipitously in 2007, breaking the record 6.1 percent annual decline in 1991.

In Cape Coral, Fla., where only 30 percent of agents sold even a single home last year, real estate agents are “dropping out” daily, says local realtor Ginette Young. The Oregon Association of Realtors reports an 11.5 percent decline statewide of licensed agents in the past year.

Many of those who leave quietly shelve their signs. Others go out big: In Gilbert, Ariz., the fastest-growing city in the fastest-growing state, RE/MAX 2000 closed 13 offices throughout the Valley of the Sun, laying off at least 20 employees and scores of contract agents right before Christmas. The company couldn’t meet its expenses.

Real estate is a line of work filled with mothers returning to the workforce, older workers squeezed out of lifetime careers, and young opportunists looking to trade sweat equity for potentially big cash-outs. Indeed, the industry norm is that only 4 percent of agents choose real estate sales as a first career.

In Georgia, realty ranks had swelled to 48,000 at the peak of the market. In the end, many say, there were too many inexperienced agents hawking houses.

“There’s a lot of money being spent [on real estate classes] teaching agents how to waste a year of their life,” says Atlanta agent Sandy Koza. “Then you get a downturn and a bunch of people get bumped. To [experienced agents like] us, it cleans out the business a little bit.”

Florida’s Cape Coral, a canal-sliced beach community, saw 800 building permits a month fall to 25 to 30 in the past year. The rapid slowdown left real estate agents, investors, and brokers holding the bag on big-money deals.

“It’s a gold-rush mentality,” says Michael Davis, an economist at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School of Business in Dallas. He has been struck by how many agents, brokers, and investors, acting against conventional wisdom of portfolio management, converted large percentages of cash holdings into only a single and somewhat risky investment: property. “I don’t know whether they’re ignorant or optimistic, perhaps a little of both,” says Dr. Davis.

Many others became the foot soldiers in the housing boom, second- or third-careerists drawn to the self-determination, relatively low entrance costs, and perhaps even the allure of the trade as embodied by novelist Richard Ford’s legendary character Frank Bascombe, an angst-driven realtor who wanders the Jersey Shore for deals and revelations.

A former computer developer, Thomas Banecke of Sandy Springs, Ga., spent most of the summer baby-sitting a new condo development – usually a plum assignment. But when the Atlanta condo market tanked, foot traffic dwindled to almost zero.

Mr. Banecke is now back in the computer business and is putting his real estate career on hold. In some ways, he says, the cold housing market forced real estate agents, especially rookies, to confront their own abilities, schemes, and dreams. Upfront costs, marketing, association fees, and the crucial contacts are either more costly or harder to procure than an aspiring real estate agent usually expects, Banecke says.

“This kind of thing will wipe up a whole bunch of people who thought they could do this to make a living,” he says.

As for McMahon, the Atlanta agent, she still had a nice listing book and plenty of leads when she called it quits. In the end, unreliable buyers, surly sellers, and a lack of office camaraderie contributed to a decision that solidified when home sales and prices dipped. “I was waiting for a time to kind of swing out,” she says. She’s planning to become a high school science teacher.

One problem for out-of-work agents is that their skills may not transfer easily to other careers. California is waiting to hear on a $9 million federal retraining grant after 6,000 people lost their jobs in the housing industry since September.

But Dr. Baen of the University of North Texas is optimistic about their futures. “These people are hustlers, hard workers. They’re used to getting on the phone,” he says. “They’ll end up in insurance, in mutual funds, in retirement planning, and commodities.”

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Mike Gambino and Mary Jones are part of Prudential Patterson Realtors® and can be reached at (800) 321-8586 or contacted by e-mail at WeCanSellHomes@sbcglobal.net . You may also visit us at: http://www.WeCanSellHomes.com

While the contents in this article will apply in most states, they may vary in your particular locale. Mike Gambino is a licensed salespersons in Missouri.

Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.ehologo.jpg

How to “POP” the Housing Bubble

In todays market the scary word is such a seemingly mild thing as a bubble. The good thing to know is that bubbles are susceptable to outside forces and in knowing that, gives us some control. The key factors in leading to the “Bubble” is an over appreciation of some market areas and a relaxing in the current buyers willingness or ability to keep up. However many of the markets are not affected by these factors, but a bubble was created from the media talking about areas that are affected. This media information has created a stigma of fear with buyers across the country that the sky was falling when in fact this is really not the case at all. The best way for the market bubble to disappear in these market is for people to go on with their lives and purchase the home that fits their needs. Interest rates are still fantastic. It wasn’t too long ago when 13, 14, 15% or more was the considered good interest rate. Now even those of us with less than outstanding credit scores are able to get rates well below those of days gone by. Banks are still willing to give loans, sellers are willing to negotiate, and Realtors are working harder than ever to get you the best home for your money.

So, if you want to beat the housing bubble, take control. You have the power. If not, keep buying into the hype an you may just get caught inside another bubble. The bubble of remorse, because you didn’t buy the home before the market turned back around and you now will pay top dollar for the same home that you could have purchased now for considerably less.

130×150-flip.JPGMike Gambino and Mary Jones are part of Prudential Patterson Realtors® and can be reached at (800) 321-8586 or contacted by e-mail at WeCanSellHomes@sbcglobal.net . You may also visit us at http://www.WeCanSellHomes.com

While the contents in this article will apply in most states, they may vary in your particular locale. Mike Gambino & Mary Jones are licensed salespersons in Missouri.

Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.
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Open House Safety

Make Safety an Open House Priority

By Mike Gambino & Mary Jones
Prudential Patterson Realtors

An open house can be a great marketing tool, but it also means exposing your home and family to countless strangers. Don’t assume that every person who visits your home is an earnest, potential homebuyer. It’s important to take security seriously. Here are some common security measures that can pull double-duty, keeping you and your family safe while enhancing your home’s marketability:

Remove personal items such as family photographs, your children’s artwork, calendars that include daily routines and other items that may reveal the names of your family members or everyday life. Removing or packing away these items will not only enhance your privacy, it will also help keep the potential homebuyer focused on your home and not your family. A house that’s been depersonalized shows better because it’s easier for the buyer to visualize living in the house.
Identity theft is a growing problem, so be sure to remove or lock up all credit cards, bills, health insurance information and anything else that contains personal information like social security numbers and bank account numbers. Of course, this step removes clutter from your counters, maintaining visual appeal.
Remove or lock up jewelry, cash and other valuables; firearms and other weapons; and all prescription medication.
Make sure the house is well-lit and keep all interior and exterior walkways clear of clutter and other debris.
After each showing, take a thorough walk-through of your house and make sure all of the doors and windows are shut and locked, and that no items or valuables are missing.

In addition to safeguarding your property and identity, there are precautions you should take to protect yourself if you are present during an open house. Ideally, your real estate professional will be representing you during the open house, so that potential home buyers feel comfortable snooping around, opening cupboards and speaking freely about the home. However, if you do find that you are in the home alone, or are selling your home on your own, consider a few tips from the pros:

Never turn your back on a potential buyer. Instead, let the buyer lead you through the house. This allows you to watch the buyer and avoid becoming cornered or trapped.
Employ the buddy system. If you must show the house yourself, enlist the help of family or friends. This rule is especially important if the home is located in an isolated area.
Have a visitor roster and make sure everyone who tours your home signs it and includes their phone number and address. This will help you keep track of who is viewing your home.
Know and have a plan for the fastest escape route for each part of your home.

The open house process is just one step toward selling your home. A real estate professional can provide you with a fresh set of eyes and will tour your home and point out safety measures you may have overlooked as well as answer other questions you may have about selling your home.

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Mike Gambino and Mary Jones are part of Prudential Patterson Realtors® and can be reached at (800) 321-8586 or contacted by e-mail at WeCanSellHomes@sbcglobal.net . You may also visit us at http://www.WeCanSellHomes.com

While the contents in this article will apply in most states, they may vary in your particular locale. Mike Gambino & Mary Jones are licensed salespersons in Missouri.

Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity. ehoc-blog-jpeg.JPG

Preparing Your Home for a Successful Open House

Preparing Your Home for a Successful Open House

By Mike Gambino & Mary Jones
Prudential Patterson Realtors

Buyers are drawn to homes that appeal to their senses. This is important to remember when preparing your home for an Open House. Through sight, sound and smell, buyers should leave your home with a lasting impression. Here are some tips to showcase your home in the best-possible light.

Exterior
Start outside by inspecting the front of your home from across the street. Does it have curb appeal? It should look inviting, with a trimmed lawn and flowerbed and a freshly painted front door. Polish door handles and knockers and replace worn items such as a rusty doorbell. Consider adding a new doormat and flowering plants at the entrance. Do the windows need cleaning? Be sure to remove oil stains from the driveway.

Next check the side and back yards. Add some flowering plants to the back as well. Rearrange the outdoor furniture to look inviting. Put away gardening tools. Tidy around the grill area.

Interior
Now focus on the inside of the home where cleanliness, space, smell and lighting are key. First, get your house in tip-top condition by cleaning and clearing away clutter. Steam clean and vacuum the carpet. Make sure your floors are waxed and shiny. Touch up nicks on walls and make sure the porcelain sinks and tubs and metallic fixtures shine. Your kitchen and bathrooms should pass the white glove test. Be conscious of any lingering odors such as smoke, pets or strong-smelling foods. You may need to air out your home prior to the Open House. Consider grinding fresh lemons in the garbage disposal or even baking chocolate chip cookies. And don’t forget to empty all trashcans.

Next, set the mood. You want buyers to be able to picture your home as their own. Consider rearranging the furniture so that rooms look more spacious. Add accessories from rooms with too many furnishings to those that appear bare. Look at your countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms and the tops of your bureaus. Do they seem cluttered? Clear away and store as much as possible. The idea is to make your home appear spacious.

Lighting is also an important factor in creating an inviting atmosphere. Bright lights provide a cheerful environment and make a small space appear larger. Pull back all the drapes and open the blinds. Turn on all the lights. Make sure all the light sockets have working bulbs and install the maximum-wattage bulb that is safe for that fixture. For rooms that you want to have a warm, cozy feeling, use softer lights.

Don’t forget little touches such as fresh flowers, lighted candles in the bathrooms, new logs in the fireplace, or a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter. You may even want to set your dining room table with color-coordinated table settings.

An Open House is a terrific way to show your property to many people in a short amount of time. However, keep in mind that buyers may see seven or eight homes in a single day. The most memorable home will be the one that seemed the brightest, the most spacious and the most cheerful. So, don’t rely on buyers to use their imagination.
Help them capture it. Work with your real estate professional to get more tips on creating an unforgettable home.

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Mike Gambino and Mary Jones are part of Prudential Patterson Realtors® and can be reached at (800) 321-8586 or contacted by e-mail at WeCanSellHomes@sbcglobal.net .

You may also visit us at http://www.WeCanSellHomes.com

While the contents in this article will apply in most states, they may vary in your particular locale. Mike Gambino & Mary Jones are licensed salespersons in Missouri.

Prudential Patterson Realtors is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.
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Why A Condo May Be Right For You

By Mike Gambino & Mary Jones

Prudential Patterson REALTORS

An option often overlooked by those desiring homeownership is purchasing a condominium or condo. But, the traditional detached single family home is not the ideal situation for everyone. For those just starting out, affordability may be an issue. An empty nester may want to downsize and not have the hassles of yard work and other maintenance. Or it can simply be that the traditional family home doesn’t suit your lifestyle.

When you own a condo, you own the title to the space within the walls of your living quarters. Common areas such as hallways, roofs, parking lots, green areas and pools are shared with the other owners in the complex. The more common type of condo is the apartment-style, in which you may have units on either side of you and above and/or below. However, there are other styles. There are units that are designed more like townhomes, with single or multiple levels and one or two common walls with neighbors. You may even find a condo in a building that was a multi-unit apartment converted to condo units.

Condos are attractive to many buyers because they offer them a chance to own their residence and build equity at what is usually a lower cost than a single-family detached home. Of course there are exceptions, such as the luxurious condominiums that many developers are building in downtown and affluent neighborhoods.

One factor to consider is that condominum owners generally must pay a condo association fee monthly. These fees defray the cost of maintenance, repairs and upgrades to the community’s common areas as well as the cost for the services of a property management company.

However, if you would rather spend your free time doing something besides mowing the lawn, painting the outside of your home, or waiting at home for the pool maintenance person, then a condo may be for you.

Other advantages of owning a condo are the amenities that may be part of your complex such as a pool, tennis courts, fitness center or clubhouse. These are some of the perks you might not be able to afford or even have room for if you were to purchase a single-family home.

Of course, as with all things, there are some disadvantages to owning a condominium, such as the lack of privacy that a single-family detached home affords. You are also confined to the rules and laws of the community association, which can run the gamut from how to display a satellite dish to the type of animals you can keep.

Is a condo the right living arrangement for you? Make an informed decision by weighing the pros and cons. Talk with a real estate professional who is familiar with condominiums and the laws that govern them. Preview the various condos in your area to get an idea of how the properties are run. If your real estate professional has sold condos in any of these complexes, find out the type of feedback he or she has received from clients. Condo living isn’t for everyone, but can be an attractive option for those who want to own instead of rent.

Mike Gambino and Mary Jones are part of Prudential Patterson Realtors® and can be reached at (800) 321-8586 or contacted by e-mail at WeCanSellHomes@sbcglobal.net . You may also visit us at http://www.WeCanSellHomes.com
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While the contents in this article will apply in most states, they may vary in your particular locale. Mike Gambino & Mary Jones are licensed salespersons in Missouri.

Tips for the Relocating Partner

By Mike Gambino & Mary Jones
Prudential Patterson REALTORS

A new career opportunity sometimes means that your family will need to relocate to another town. The decision to move is often arrived after careful consideration of various factors including the other partner’s career; the effect on the children’s educational and recreational activities; and financial issues. In addition, it often means leaving behind family and friends.

If you are the “trailing” partner, it may fall to you to get the new home up and running, the kids in schools, and possibly find a new position for yourself. This can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help relieve the stress of relocation and turn your move into a successful endeavor.

Take your time.

As with all moves, there are so many things you need to do before making a house your home. From dealing with utility companies, to unpacking and decorating the home, to finding a new doctor, your to-do list will seem endless and you can easily become overwhelmed. Don’t try to accomplish everything at once. Make a list and divide it into three categories: immediate, secondary and down the road. Set your own timetable. Remember, you are the boss of this project, so the only person you have to please is yourself.

Get out and meet people.

More than likely, you won’t know many people in your new community. Your partner will have an opportunity to build relationships with coworkers. You, however, will have to find other ways to meet people. Besides introducing yourself to neighbors, find a place of worship, volunteer in a community organization, join a social club or gym, or just say hello to people. Ask your real estate professional to recommend organizations.

Reevaluate your career goals.

If you had to leave a job behind, check to see if your partner’s company offers any employment assistance for relocating partners. Many companies have formal and informal programs, offering as little as resume support to as much as arranging job interviews.

Your real estate professional can also be a great resource. He or she usually has some insight on the area’s job market and may be able to give you names of career counselors or leads to firms that are hiring.

If you’ve desired making a career change, now is the perfect opportunity to do so. You may even want to consider an entrepreneurial career that you can take anywhere.

And, if you decide to stay at home, consider fulfilling some personal goals such as advancing your education, starting a new hobby or volunteering.

Most importantly, don’t push yourself by setting unrealistic goals. Moving is a process and it will take time for you to get acclimated to your new home and community. Make this move not only a golden opportunity for your partner, but for yourself as well.

35percent.jpgMike Gambino & Mary Jones can be reached at (800) 321-8586. Prudential Patterson REALTORS is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.ehologo.jpg