Stop Renting and Take Charge of Your Financial Life

One of the best ways to build wealth is through real estate. I feel like people who rent (unless they know they’ll be moving away from the area within a year or two) do not know how to begin to purchase a home. I think they may be scared of the process. Perhaps they were never taught them the value of homeownership or perhaps the people around them have said that they need 20% for a down payment. NOT TRUE.

Are you ready to stop renting and start building equity for your future? If you would like to buy a home but are unsure on the process, you are not alone. BUT, you have me! As a former teacher, I have taken my educational passion and applied it to my real estate career. What is even better is that my service as a buyers’ realtor is free to the buyer! Meaning…you do not pay me to help you purchase a home!

It is very important for buyers to realize that not all real estate agents are the same. Not all agents are realtors. Were all of your teachers the same? No! Think about the ones who worked hard and were passionate about learning. You want a realtor who works just as hard, 24/7.

So where to begin? Start with getting your finances in order.

After you look at your bank accounts, check your credit score, and look at your debt, you’ll be prepared to work with a lender. Reach out to me first and I can put you in touch with a mortgage lender who will work with you. DO NOT REACH OUT TO AN ANONYMOUS ONLINE LENDER. WORK WITH A LOCAL LENDER! No pressure…just a conversation to find out if you’re ready. If you’re not ready, that lender can help you make a plan for the future.

Understanding your personal situation and what you can afford is the first step. Contrary to what people may tell you, you DO NOT need to put down 20% to buy a home; depending on how much you make and the type of mortgage loan you get, you might be able to put down as little as 3%, 3.5%, or even 5% down. There is a clear benefit to buying a home and taking on a PMI payment, even if you can’t afford 20% down: the sooner you get into a home, the faster you can start building wealth. If you are renting, you could lose money if you wait to buy a home until you have a 20% down payment. The money that you pay in rent each month goes to your landlord’s wealth. If you were in a home and paying your own mortgage, you would be adding to your own wealth. The chance to build equity in a home now is the best reason why it can make financial sense to pay the monthly PMI. As well, PMI is also not for the life of the loan. Once you build up equity in your home of at least 22 percent, your lender is required to drop PMI automatically. BUT, you can also request that the lender remove PMI when you’ve built up 20 percent equity in your home. This is a good reason to build a relationship with a local realtor and lender you trust.

With all of that said, if this is a starter home and you plan to move in the next 3-5 years to a larger home, why put all of your money as a down payment? Be smart and put as little down as possible and save for the next home.

When you start working with the lender, he or she will ask for proof of employment, your income (W-2s, 1099s), copies of monthly bank statements, and your last two years of tax returns. Get those together so you’re ready to start the conversation.

Once you are pre-approved and have some money saved, we can start shopping. Working with a seasoned and busy realtor is incredibly important. Work with someone you feel comfortable texting or calling. If an agent is slow getting back to you every time you call or text, beware. Strong agents have pulses on the market. For instance, the market is not is insane as it was just a month ago. There’s more inventory and less buyer frenzy, but rates are still low. Work with someone who is creative. I can craft a good offer for you that will be appealing to a seller. Also, while we are touring homes, think about things you can’t change. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Location, Location, Location.” Don’t let outdated homes scare you. As a first-time homebuyer, it’s smart to look for a property that you add value to by painting, updating fixtures, flooring, cabinets, countertops, etc.. 

Buying your first home is an event worth celebrating. If you know you’re staying in the area for the next few years, it’s time to stop renting and start working on your financial stability through homeownership.

I’m still a teacher who loves education. Call me and ask questions. My husband and I knew nothing when we bought our first home, and I was so thankful for our realtor who helped us through the process. Let me be that person for you.

Kindness is a Superpower

Being kind and accessible is vital in the service industry. It is so important to build relationships with other agents so that they want to work with you. There are times when an offer comes in from an agent who is difficult, and you cringe because you know how the story might go. Reputation is important. With that said, it’s never too late to change. Start with kindness.

Some people don’t take that into consideration when hiring an agent to represent them. As much as we don’t want to talk about it, there are agents who are difficult to work with and that will affect the buyer or seller. Some agents do not return phone calls or emails. Some agents are just not friendly and they have personal agendas. What people need to understand is that your agent represents YOU. If your agent is difficult, the other party is going to assume you’re difficult. I’ve had buyers walk away from a sale because of the other agent making things too difficult.

It’s like how I want to be treated in a store. If I have the time to actually shop (which is rare), I just want the sales person to say hello to me and notice my presence, and then leave me alone until I talk to them. I will leave a store if the sales person will not leave me alone. I do not want to be told that something will look good on me. I don’t want them bringing me outfit ideas that I didn’t ask for. I don’t want to make small talk. I just want space. I don’t want someone to be cold to me or completely dismiss my presence, but just allow me to wander. This is what I think about each time I have potential buyers or sellers. They know I’m always there, but I’m not following them around and bugging them constantly. There’s warmth and power in quiet kindness. They may choose to hire someone else and that’s okay. But the people who appreciate that I’m here waiting are rewarded with someone who will work incredibly hard for them.

With that said, there is a fine line between kindness and being a pushover. Agents are hired to represent and negotiate. But negotiations do not have to be the War of the Roses. There should never be ego involved. I’ve been in tough negotiations. It is business. That’s it. Your client knows what he/she wants and it is your job to voice that and if necessary try to find common ground. Voices should not be raised. Names should not be called. Negotiations should be about discussion and reasoning. Kindness during negotiations does not make you a pushover. When you are a pushover, you have little-to-no confidence. However, kindness is a superpower. If you can remain calm and kind in tough situations, you win. You must always have your client’s best interest in mind. Getting nasty only causes problems that grow. It is not fun to be at a closing table when the people involved are not nice.

How does being kind give you power? People will respect you. As a teacher for 20 years, there were times that student or parent behavior almost broke me; but by exposing myself to conflict and challenging situations, I somehow got stronger. Outside of school, I surrounded myself with the people who love me and I soaked in their respect so that I could face that tough student, parent, or classroom again. The older I get, the stronger my emotional strength becomes. I learned a long time ago that listening and being quiet and kind was more powerful than being heard. I have to say that it helps that I’m an introvert. I love being around one or two people at a time. I can easily connect that way.

When you’re ready to talk, I’m here. I’m not going to hound you. As your agent, let’s have a conversation about your goals, not my goals. I will listen and ask questions. I will expect that you will have questions. I have resources available if I do not know the answers to your questions or concerns. I do not expect you to have the answers to a very complex transaction like buying or selling a home. Have the courage to say, “please explain to me how this works.” This is why you’re working with a professional. I am here to help.

The real estate industry is constantly evolving. Clients need agents who are constantly evolving and learning. They also need agents who busy with clients buying and selling homes. How someone purchased a home in yesterday’s market is not going to work in today’s market. And today’s market becomes yesterday’s market faster than you may realize. Not only does the market change, but so do contracts and terms. For instance, in October of this year the sales contract is changing. I’ve been quietly studying the new contract for some time so that I’m prepared for when you’re ready to purchase or sell. I’ll be here quietly waiting for when you’re ready.

What Do the Objects in Your Home Say About Your Identity?

Memories of childhood

Do you remember playing house as a child? I remember playing house when I was really little, but unless I had friends over, playing house as an only child was a bit lonely. Mostly, I remember playing that I was in charge at an office. I would tape down the switchhooks (I had to look that term up) on my phone and then I would collect the subscription postcards out of magazines and play for hours that I was answering very important phone calls. I would fill out the postcards with the very important information that I was gathering from these very important phone conversations. I also thought it was really cool that my office was in my home. I would make my “desk” fashionable with flowers, a few encyclopedias (they were pretty), an elegant ink pen, and pretty stationery. 

Fast forward many years and one of my favorite rooms in my home is my office. It is a reflection of who I am and what is important to me. The main feature is my desk made of walnut, handmade by my grandfather for his law office. On it sits a replica of a black rotary phone. Along the wall is another long table that was from my great-grandmother’s home. The rest of my office is filled with books, lanterns, plants, and of course an oversized wall clock. Because our homes play such an important role in creating a sense of meaning and comfort, it is not surprising that our home is tied to the sense of who we are, our identity. Our home is our identity reflected back to us through choices of paint colors, furniture, art, and other objects. As a child I was developing that business identity of who I am today.

There are many reasons why we decorate our homes. But the decor we choose tells people who we are without us having to say anything. As well, the objects we choose to put in our homes say something about who we are and what is important to us. When you walk into someone’s home, you get a sense of who they are. For instance, I have around 15 oversized clocks in my home. I might have more; I’ll never say. But, I do have one in almost every room. Being a psychology major, I could psychoanalyze that for days…but I don’t have issues with time. Truly, it’s just that I have an aesthetic appreciation for the look of clocks. Clock was also my oldest son’s first word. He was fascinated with them as well. I like clocks that are elegant, organized, functional, and interesting in a non-flashy way. Clocks have depth with their internal workings and features, and they also represent the known. If you listen closely, you can hear their unassuming presence. It’s comforting. I value the “known” and although I’m “somewhat” adventurous, the “unknown” is not something I seek out for a thrill. I can deal with it, but I don’t seek it. So, yes, I suppose clocks tell you a little about who I am.

Sometimes the objects that are important to us, are not always on display for everyone to see. We just finished another renovation on our house, so we had pretty much everything in storage. Yesterday, as I was putting back our china, I unwrapped the objects in the picture. They don’t seem like much, but to me, they are a reminder of my childhood.

I was lucky to have grandparents who loved me. And I have lots of adventure stories from both sets of grandparents. But I loved to go to my Mamaw and Aunt Cill’s houses. Their homes always welcomed me with open arms filled with love, warmth, and a lot of laughter. Mamaw had some interesting objects in her home that for some reason I was fascinated with. I would play or just look at them for hours. She had a cast iron toothpick dispenser with a woodpecker that had a beak that would pick up one toothpick at a time. She had a small, stuffed alligator from Florida that fascinated, yet also frightened me. But this little salt and pepper pop-up toaster set was my favorite. I just thought it was so neat that this little toaster functioned like a real toaster, with the white bread for salt and the rye bread for pepper. I was easily amused.

Additionally, my Aunt Cill owned a little restaurant in town and I would spend time with her there when I visited. She was the person in my life who helped to spark my creativity. I was occupied by every object in the diner, from the cash register to the hamburger press. At a very young age, I would create the menus and write them out by hand, arrange the gum and candy display, rearrange the tables and chairs, wait on tables, and she would also let me cook on the flattop grill. I created a grilled doughnut that I mashed flat with the hamburger press that she put on the menu. It became a big hit with the regulars. But my favorite activity was to fill up these tiny glass coffee creamers with milk from the big milk dispenser. When I look at these objects, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have such love in my life. I don’t look at them often, but when I open my china cabinet I smile and my heart is filled with gratitude.

What objects are in your home are a reflection of who you are?

The Places That Built You

Our literary-minded, talented marketing department with Sibcy Cline have been producing marketing materials with literary quotes–which I love! Yesterday, I saw this quote from T. S. Eliot which then took me back to his haunting poetry. I’ve always felt a pull to the writers of the Lost Generation. The era fascinates me. Perhaps it’s because my grandfather fought in WWI. We have his war helmet and I remember holding it many times, mesmerized by the weight and texture and what it may have witnessed.

As my former students will most likely remember, I am a fan of Hemingway’s writing and my dream would be to spend a year taking the pilgrimage from Paris to Santiago de Compostela…a road map of sacred places provided in The Sun Also Rises. Where others may see despair in the writings of the Lost Generation, I see the opposite: the HOPE that follows the despair. In particular, with The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway chose the title to reflect hope. The sun is not setting, it’s rising. The characters are not wandering aimlessly, they are on a pilgrimage for renewal and redemption, to heal the wounds of war. Hemingway took the title from Ecclesiastes 1:5-11:

The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

This idea of natural time is reflected in Eliot’s poetry as well. The quote is from the “East Coker” section of his longer poem, “Four Quartets”. In “East Coker” (Eliot’s ancestral home in Somerset, England), the premise is that the past and future are always involved in the present, and we are composed of the remnants of the past: “What has been will be again…The beginning is my end” is shown not only through the narrator’s return to the ancestral home, but by the earth’s continual change as it goes through the cycles, making “all things new.” Sound familiar?

This idea made me think of my ancestral homes. I was lucky enough to be able to spend long periods of time with my grandparents who provided a strong foundation of love and support in their homes. When I think back, smell is what takes me immediately to the memories. On one side, the smell of apple trees and horses which took me on adventures in the country. On the other side, the smell of biscuits, bacon, and wonderfully warm food which took me on adventures in a small town diner with filled with colorful characters and lots of stories. In my immediate family, we moved quite a bit; but the house I grew up in from junior high through college took me on adventures in a neighborhood full of kids my age…wandering in cornfields, through streams, bike-riding, backyard games of kickball and whiffle ball, basketball in the driveway, and summers in the neighborhood pool. All three of these ancestral homes built me; they are where I began: the past and future are in my present. These homes provided me the foundation upon which I built my own home.

This idea of developing a home filled with hope is so very important to the fabric of our being. Be purposeful. Take in each moment. Build memories. Savor the daily experiences, even the mundane. Provide and build that foundation and make it strong so that the future can say, “Home is where one starts from.”

Home as a Character in Your Life Novel

I woke up this morning thinking about literary homes and how the concept of place built the characters’ world views. Perhaps it was from watching the past episode of WandaVision as she travels back in time through each home of her past. Or perhaps it was from Wanda driving to Westview with the deed from Vision on the front seat. She drives to a plot of land and pulls up into a driveway of her future home: “To grow old in. V.” And then it all begins…

One of my favorite novels to teach was Wuthering Heights with the two opposing homes of Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. Each home raised a certain type of person based on the interior, landscape, and inhabitants. As a fan of Jane Austen, I often wondered what it would be like to live in Harfield, Emma’s home in the English countryside. I know there are certain homes I would definitely not want to live in, say Miss Havisham’s Satis House in Great Expectations (how scary) or Palazzo Roccanera in The Portrait of a Lady (how sinister), or even Gatsby’s mansion, (how lonely). Then you have the cozy homes filled with love like Little House in the Big Woods cabin of Laura Ingalls Wilder or as Harry Potter said of the Weasley home, “This is the best house I’ve ever been in.”

As a realtor who loves literature, I find myself connecting to homes on a psychological level, wondering about design and how the decor reflects the people. When I put a home on the market, I try to get my sellers to think about taking out the “personal” and showcasing space for the buyers. When I take buyers through homes, I love to watch their reactions. I almost always know when they “see” themselves living there. Space gives buyers the ability to create. But too much space and they freeze. Empty homes are usually difficult to sell because buyers cannot imagine how to live in it.

What are your favorite literary homes? Are they anything like your home, even if it’s just the feeling the home provides? Is your home a reflection of you and your family? Did you forge a new path from the home that you grew up in? Did you blend homes with your significant other? What do you do to create home?

Liminal Spaces and the Courage to Cross New Thresholds

Lately, I’ve been comparing our existence to the eras of Romanticism and Transcendentalism. So many of the characteristics of both movements are with us now, especially highlighted during this pandemic. I feel like many people exist in what is termed liminal space and could use a guide to help them to step over their desired thresholds. 

Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar describes this liminal space as a place:

where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy.

Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 1999), 155-156.
Edith Pretty and Basil Brown in The Dig

Most people are aware of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon where something you recently learned is suddenly seen everywhere. This has happened to me my entire life. Maybe it’s because I’m an only child and I learned at an early age to be perceptive and creative. My imagination is what drives and guides me. Maybe it’s because I’m naturally curious. When I become interested in an idea, I have to learn as much as I can about it, and because of that, my awareness of that idea is heightened. Maybe it is explained by Jung’s collective unconscious. Maybe Google, Amazon, and Facebook algorithms are controlling my thoughts…but regardless, it’s a cool experience when you start seeing everywhere what you have been thinking. 

Unearthing the Anglo Saxon ship in Sutton Hoo from The Dig

Presently, my thinking has been on this concept of liminality. Why? Reader beware…you’re headed toward a glimpse into the “Rabbit Hole” of my stream of consciousness thinking: Recently I wrote some articles on nature and minimalism in connection with this new era of Romanticism idea. During the time I was writing, my mind wandered to Wuthering Heights (one of my favorite novels). When I taught high school, this was the novel that my British Literature students read during the study of the Victorian era. But although it’s considered a Victorian novel, the setting (1770-1802) is during the Romantic era and Emily Bronte filled her story with the elements and characteristics of the Romantic movement juxtaposed with the Enlightenment. Duality was an important concept, so Bronte created two households to represent the conflict in society, and in people. The manor house and people of Thrushcross Grange represents the ideas of the Enlightenment and the gothic, wild, natural, wind-blown, people and stone estate of Wuthering Heights represents the ideas of Romanticism. In connection to thinking about Wuthering Heights, I just happened upon a new film on Netflix called The Dig. I didn’t know anything about the film when I started watching it, but I quickly realized it was about the dig at Sutton Hoo (which I also discussed with my students before teaching Beowulf). When I realized the main character was Ralph Fiennes, that brought me back to again to Wuthering Heights. Fiennes played Heathcliff in the film version I showed in class for years.

Heathcliff and Catherine on the moors in Wuthering Heights

Thinking about Heathcliff and comparing him to Basil Brown, I began noticing characteristics of Romanticism in this film, especially the idea of liminal spaces. My goodness, so many ideas intertwined about life and death and the space between and the space beyond and the space left behind. There are beautiful philosophical ideas played out with just the setting, no words, just space. I’ve always been in tune with that liminal space in literature, but to see it so beautifully defined in a film without the usual tropes…wow. Then a day after watching The Dig, I happened upon a former student’s (James Dollard) post on Instagram discussing his new album called (NO JOKE) “Liminal Spaces” check it out on Spotify https://soundcloud.com/jdprodd (for Mature Audiences) … there we go with the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon… and now we can crawl out of the rabbit hole for a bit. Sorry for the wild ride, Mr. Toad.

My husband says that he never wants to go inside my mind. But if he has to get in there for something, he jumps in and jumps back out quickly. His mind (in my imagination) is straight lines with portals to very neat cubicles of precise information labeled in folders and filed in rows of color-coordinated cabinets. My mind is not that; it’s more like a colorful, complex pinball machine with flashing lights, bells, shiny balls bouncing off of ideas, trap doors, and dark holes that lead to “aha moments” that ping into new ideas for further playtime.

But back to the idea of liminal spaces, especially now when there is no certainty, no clarity, and no movement during this pandemic. The word liminal is Latin from the root limen, meaning threshold. The liminal space is the crossing-over space, the leaving of the “known” and entering into the “unknown”– it’s the space between. Many of us have been stuck at home in the unknown and are ready to leap over just about any threshold at this point. I think that is why the real estate market is so hot.

I have always loved the idea of thresholds. Joseph Campbell’s heroic cycle emphasizes that the hero must cross a threshold into the unknown in order to grow. As a realtor, I also emphasize the importance of homeownership and crossing new thresholds so individuals and families can grow. 

There are liminal spaces that we cross even without realizing it. Thousands of tiny thresholds that we cross over a lifetime that change us, even ever so slightly. Each morning, we leave the world of dreams and sleep and cross over into the awakened world. That time between sleep and awareness is the liminal space. In a sense, any time we find ourselves in a liminal space, it is an invitation. Do we put aside our fear and take that step (like Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings)? Being aware of our liminal spaces challenges us to grow, to transform. The crossing over can be as small as a shift of awareness or as large as a rite of passage. 

Sam and Frodo in Lord of the Rings

People who get comfortable in this liminal state just exist, ghost-like, almost inactive. Are they T.S. Eliot’s, “Hollow Men” or trapped in his “Wasteland”?

I witness this drifting-state a lot in real estate. Renters want to purchase a home, and the rental world is their liminal space; it seems safe. Potential sellers want a new home, but that liminal space between selling and buying holds them back with fear of the unknown.

For those people who may be reading this. Thank you staying with me. I would love to be your real estate guide. Are you ready to be like Samwise, “one more step, I’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been”? There’s power in change. There’s growth in change. If you feel like you’re in a transitional state, is it time to leave that liminal space? The keys are and can be in your hands. 

How Is A Realtor® Paid When a Home is Listed For Sale?

With scams and fraud on the rise, I cannot imagine why someone would not hire a real estate professional. We are required to keep your information confidential. With your bank account and mortgage at stake, hiring an agent is critical. We are responsible for knowing the laws. Even the smoothest transactions can have issues, so having an educated professional should be your top priority. Missing even a single step in the legal process of selling your house can come back to haunt you. Relax with the peace that comes with placing your property in safe hands.

I have found over the years that most people really do not know how Realtors® earn their money, so the teacher in me decided to help my clients understand what goes on behind the scenes when I LIST a home. When you list your home, it is understand that the commission is built into the price of any home. The comparable homes in your area were sold with that price built in as well.

Buying and selling a house is a lifetime investment, and one of your largest investments. While these are only a few reasons for the importance of a real estate professional, hiring me will save you from the trouble of a lot of legal paperwork, any complications that arise, and any fraudulent schemes.

It is most important to me that all of my clients are happy with the services that I provide to them in a real estate transaction, so I put together this list to show how I earn my living on the listing side. Most people value entrepreneurship, and Realtors® really are entrepreneurs. We develop, organize, and manage our businesses to (hopefully) make a profit. But note, we are not paid anything at all until we successfully close a sale. Realtors® pay a lot of money in fees, dues, and professional development so that we can be called Realtor®; as not all agents are Realtors®. A Realtor® must subscribe to the Realtor® Code of Ethics for membership, which includes 17 articles. The 17 Articles of the Code of Ethics contain various underlying Standards of Practice.

The hours that we put in with clients are free until the keys are exchanged at closing. There have been many times that we have spent hours upon hours with clients only to be told that they have changed their minds on purchasing or selling. We are not paid anything for that time; but my hope is in the future they will buy or sell or recommend me to their family and friends.

Because I try to do my job well, most sellers do not realize everything that is involved in putting a home on the market, including pre-advertising and marketing, placing advertising, photography, holding open houses, arranging tours, getting the word out about the listing through the MLS and my own network. I also coordinate a myriad of tasks associated with the closing, including inspections, title, and insurance. Remember, I am not paid until the keys are exchanged at closing, so I will work tirelessly to get the home sold for you quickly and for a great price. I also do my absolute best to make the selling process as easy as possible for my clients. 

Below are some of the services that I will provide for you:

Pre-Listing Activities

1. Make appointment with you for listing presentation.

2. Send a written or e-mail confirmation of appointment and call to confirm.

3. Review appointment questions.

4. Provides advice on how to get your home ready for the market.

5. Research sales activity for past 6 to 18 months and all comparable currently listed properties from MLS and public databases.

6. Research “average days on market” for properties similar in type, price and location.

7. Download and review property tax information.

8. Prepare “comparable market analysis” (CMA) to establish market value.

9. Research property’s ownership and deed type.

10. Research property’s public record information for lot size and dimensions.

11. Verify legal description.

12. Verify legal names of owner(s) in county’s public property records.

13. Prepare listing presentation package with above materials.

14. Compile and assemble formal file on property.

15. Review listing appointment checklist to ensure completion of all tasks.

Listing Appointment Presentation

16. Provide you an overview of current market conditions and projections.

17. Review my credentials and accomplishments.

18. Present Sibcy Cline’s profile and position or “niche” in the marketplace.

19. Present CMA results, including comparables, solds, current listings, and expireds.

20. Offer professional pricing strategy based and interpretation of current market conditions.

21. Discuss goals to market effectively, including suggestions for staging.

22. Explain market power and benefits of multiple listing service.

23. Explain market power of Web and Social Media marketing.

24. Explain the work the broker and agent do “behind the scenes” and agent’s availability on weekends.

25. Present and discuss strategic marketing plan.

26. Review listing contract and obtain your signatures.

After Listing Agreement is Signed

27. Review current title information.

28. Confirm lot size.

29. Research for any and all unrecorded property lines, agreements, easements.

30. Prepare showing instructions for buyers’ agents and agree on showing time with seller.

31. Ask for average utility usage from last 12 months of bills.

32. Ascertain need for lead-based paint disclosure.

33. Prepare detailed list of property amenities and assess market impact.

34. Prepare detailed list of property’s “Inclusions & Conveyances with Sale.”

35. Explain benefits of Home Warranty.

36. Place Home Warranty in property file for conveyance at time of sale.

37. Provide lockbox.

38. Yard sign installation.

39. Complete “new listing checklist.”

40. Load listing into transaction management software.

Entering Property in MLS Database

41. Prepare MLS Profile Sheet–I am responsible for “quality control” and accuracy of listing data.

42. Enter property data from Profile Sheet into MLS listing database.

43. Proofread MLS database listing for accuracy, including property placement in mapping function.

44. Add property to company’s Active Listings.

45. Provide signed copies of Listing Agreement and MLS Profile Data Form.

46. Take temporary photos for upload into MLS and use in flyers. 

47. Order professional photography

Marketing the Listing

48. Create Internet ads that are seen on several websites.

49. Create marketing plan for a buzz on social media, including Facebook ads.

50. Coordinate showings with owners and other agents. Promptly return all calls–weekends included.

51. Prepare mailing and contact list.

52. Generate mail-merge postcards to contact list.

53. Order “Just Listed” postcards.

54. Prepare flyers and feedback forms.

55. Review comparable MLS listings regularly to ensure property remains competitive in price, terms, conditions and availability.

56. Prepare property marketing brochure.

57. Arrange for printing or copying of supply of marketing brochures or flyers.

58. Place marketing brochures in company agent mailboxes.

59. Upload listing to company and agent Internet sites.

60. Mail “Just Listed” notice to neighborhood residents.

61. Advise Network Referral Program of listing.

62. Provide marketing data to buyers 

63. Send feedback after showings.

64. Review weekly Market Study.

65. Discuss feedback from showing agents 

66. Show the home to potential buyers.

67. Market for an open house.

68. Hire agents to host an open house or show the house if I cannot.

The Offer and the Contract

69. Promptly answer all calls and questions to agents who had buyers 

70. Receive and review Offer to Purchase contract submitted by buyers’ agents.

71. Evaluate offer and prepare “net estimate”.

72. Prepare and convey counteroffers and acceptance.

73. Contact buyers’ agents to review buyers’ qualifications and to discuss offer.

74. Confirm buyers are pre-qualified by calling loan officer.

75. Obtain pre-qualification letter on buyers.

76. Negotiate all offers on your behalf.

77. Will send copies of contract and all addendums to closing title company.

78. Record and/or deposit buyers’ earnest money into escrow account.

79. Change MLS to “Sale Pending” and “Under-Contract Showing Restrictions”.

80. Email copies of fully signed Offer to Purchase.

81. Email copies of Offer to Purchase contract to buyers’ agent.

82. Provide copies of signed Offer to Purchase contract for office file.

83. Advise in handling additional offers to purchase submitted between contract and closing (if that happens).

84. Update social media to show “Sale Pending.”

85. Provide research for moving pods, temporary housing, and AirBnB if necessary.

Tracking the Loan Process

86. I will follow the loan processing through to the underwriter.

87. I will contact the lender weekly to ensure processing is on track.

88. I will relay final approval of buyer’s loan application to you.

Home Inspection

89. I will coordinate buyers’ professional home inspection with you.

90.  We will review home inspector’s report together with the buyers’ requests.

91. I will assist you with identifying and negotiating with trustworthy contractors for required repairs.

The Appraisal

92. I will coordinate the appraisal with your schedule.

93. I will provide a list of your capital improvements to the appraiser.

94. I will follow up on appraisal.

95. I will assist and advise if the appraisal report comes back too low.

Closing Preparations and Duties

96. I will coordinate closing process with buyers’ agent and lender.

97. I will update closing forms and files.

98. I will ensure all parties have all forms and information needed to close the sale.

99. Buyers usually select location and time for closing, and I will convey that information to you.

100. As closing nears, I will confirm closing date and time and notify all parties.

101.  I will work with buyers’ agent in scheduling and conducting buyers’ final walkthrough prior to closing.

102.  I will request final closing figures from lender and title company.

103.  We will review closing figures to ensure accuracy.

104.  I will forward verified closing figures to buyers’ agent.

105.  I will provide Home Warranty information for availability at closing.

106.  I will be there to represent you at closing.

107.  Purchase and present closing gift.

108.  I will change MLS status to Sold. Enter sale date, price, selling broker, and agent’s ID numbers, etc.

109.  I will lose out listing in transaction management program.

Follow Up After Closing

110.  I will answer questions about filing claims with Home Warranty company, if requested.

111.  I will attempt to clarify and resolve any repair conflicts if buyer is dissatisfied.

112.  I will respond to any follow-up calls and provide any additional information you need!

It is after the closing when I personally will be paid for all of these services that I have and will provide. Payment is provided from my broker. I am responsible for saving around 1/3 of my salary for taxes, as they are not taken out of commission. Any gifts or added incentives are provided out of my own pocket, not the brokerage. If the closing does not happen, I do not get paid one cent. This is why I do my very best to provide the best service possible to all of my clients. Your happiness and comfort mean everything to me.

This is not just business for me…it is a passion of mine to help people through the process of selling and buying homes. Also, I consider and treat my clients as friends and I am working for you, not for me. I hope this list provides a light on the services for which sellers pay when listing their homes with me. I am sure I’ve missed some of the things I do, but at least you have an inside glimpse on what I do behind the scenes. If you have any questions, always feel free to ask. 

How Are Agents Paid When They Represent the Buyer?

Photo Credit from U.S. News and World Report: Real Estate

I’ve always found commission a difficult and awkward topic to talk about because it deals with money; however, many people do not fully understand how agents get paid. We are under the supervision of our brokerage, but not paid a salary from our brokerage. We are independent contractors, in business for ourselves, who work for free until closing. Closing a real estate deal can be a long process from the time a property is first listed for sale until everyone gathers at the closing table to sign on the dotted lines. With all of the work that goes into that one transaction, it is certainly a time to celebrate for all. The seller and listing agent celebrate for selling the home and the buyer and selling agent celebrate for the buyer’s new home.

Agents Work for Brokers

Real estate commissions are paid like this:

  • The seller pays the listing brokerage.
  • The listing brokerage pays the listing agent.
  • The listing brokerage pays the buyer’s brokerage.
  • The buyer’s brokerage pays the buyer’s agent.

Buyers don’t have any say in how much commission is paid by the seller, and they don’t have to worry about personally paying their agents. The commission comes out of the seller’s net proceeds and the commission is agreed upon on the front end between the listing agent’s broker and the seller. Some buyers think that if they don’t hire representation that they’re saving themselves 3%, but that is entirely untrue. That commission is set on the front end and that listing agent will be paid the entire commission. A buyer has no ability to come in and influence a listing contract. It is a HUGE misconception that buyers think, “If I come in without an agent, I’ll get a 3% reduction off of the sale’s price automatically.”

How Agency is Like Going Out to Dinner

I never really understood how real estate agents were paid until I became a Realtor®. A teacher in one of the licensure classes I took compared it to going to out dinner and implied contracts. When you go out to eat, you don’t sign a written contract when you arrive stating that you will pay for the food and services; however, it is implied that you will pay before you leave. On a further note…let’s say you’re a server at the restaurant and your table has been seated for hours, requiring your full attention (needing this or needing that) and you have to leave after serving them for many hours and another server spends 10 minutes closing out the table and that server keeps the entire tip for the work that you did. That’s how agents feel when a client decides to write a contract with another agent.

It is similar in real estate. When you ask a buyer’s agent to show you properties, you are implying that you’ll eventually write an offer through that agent. If you are emailing an agent about real estate, you are implying that you will employ that agent to help you buy or sell a home.

It is the agent who actually writes the offer and sees everything through to closing who gets paid. You might ask an agent to spend days and weekends driving around to show you homes, share knowledge with you, and help you to select a home. But if you switch to another agent who shows you the home of your dreams (let’s say during an open house), and you don’t tell this agent that you have been working with someone else, and this new agent writes the offer for you, and you close on this home…that agent who wrote the contract is the one who gets paid. The other agent who provided advice, spent time, energy, and gas money gets absolutely no compensation.

This happens more than people realize. It has happened to me as well. I have spent hours showing homes to people and then they just disappear; or after working with me for months, they decide to write an offer through a relative (they forgot their aunt was an agent); or a friend who just got into real estate; or they decide to build and start working with a builder rep not realizing that I could help them negotiate that process. They didn’t realize the builder rep works for the builder. As agents, we represent the buyer. Remember when you’re working with agents that we work for free through an implied contract until the keys are passed at closing. I completely understand that things happen, but the key is communication. Keep that server idea in mind.

How Much Is the Buyer’s Agent’s Commission?

The commission is determined by the listing agent and stated in the listing agreement before the home goes on the market.

The industry average for buyer’s agents is somewhere between 2.5% and 3% of the sales price. But the exact amount the buyer’s agent receives depends on how the broker compensates. Most agents work on a commission split with their brokerage houses. The split can vary from 50% of the buyer’s agent’s commission and up.

What Does a Buyer’s Agent Do For That Commission?

  • They are on your side to advise and advocate during the entire home buying process.
  • They are there to show you homes when you find one you want to see.
  • They take time to uncover the your needs and wants as well as what’s motivating your purchase.
  • They educate buyers on current market conditions.
  • They find a way for buyers to attain as many of their needs as possible when dealing with the realities of the marketplace and/or specific financial constraints.
  • They research homes in the area and sort through active listings to make suggestions after cross-referencing buyer’s needs.
  • They help buyers achieve their lifestyle needs.
  • They aid buyers in narrowing their search until they have identified their top choices.
  • They handle the negotiation process including the preparation of all necessary forms when making an offer and/or counteroffer.
  • They provide insight and follow up for any inspections deemed necessary.
  • They provide resources on how to handle any repairs needed on the property.
  • They are present at closing to ensure that all the buyer’s interests are protected.
  • They can make recommendations for lenders.
  • They can advise on types of loans.
  • They work with your lender to get the pre-approval letter.
  • They advise and write the offer to purchase.
  • They read, advise, and help to negotiate on the inspection report.
  • They work with the lender on when to order the appraisal.
  • They will help you renegotiate if appraisal comes back lower.
  • The work with the title company on paperwork and closing schedules.
  • They are in constant contact with your lender, making sure everything stays on track for closing.
  • They make certain that important documents are not overlooked and to also help you with understanding what each document means.
  • They are on your side. It is sometimes tempting to contact the listing agent when you find a perfect house online; but it’s important to remember that the listing agent is acting in the best interest of the seller, not you. A buyer’s agent will be there to represent your best interests, ensuring that you make a competitive offer on the right house for you and your family.
  • They are there to advise you even after you purchase. We have access to many services as you navigate homeownership.

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Buyer’s Agent?

Here’s the awesome news: As the home buyer, it does not cost you any money to have representation.

Keep in mind that we are not paid to show homes. We work for free until a closing. It is after the closing when agents will be paid for all services. As stated before, payment is provided from the brokers. Furthermore, as independent contractors, we are responsible for saving around 1/3 of our salary for taxes, as they are not taken out of commission. Some agents also have to pay for insurance unless they can get it through their spouse’s work. Any gifts or added incentives are provided out of our own pockets. If the closing does not happen, we do not get paid one cent. This is why I do my very best to provide the best service possible to all of my clients. Your happiness and comfort mean everything to me.

This is not just business for me…it is a passion of mine to help people through the process of selling and buying homes. Also, I consider and treat my clients as friends and I am working for you, not for me. I hope this provides a light on the services provided from me as a buyers’ agent. I am sure I’ve missed some of the things I do, but at least you have an inside glimpse on what I do behind the scenes. If you have any questions, always feel free to ask. 

Buyers are Waiting for YOU to List Your Home

Monday is February 1st! If you’ve been on this journey with me, we are now at the countdown phase. At this point, you should be almost ready to list your home. What I would recommend now is to write out a plan of action. Most people who put their homes on the market are pretty clean people. They make the beds, wash the dishes, keep the place tidy . . . but there is a difference between a “clean house” and a “show-ready” house.

Before you list, prepare a plan of action. This means that each morning before you leave for work, your home must be “show-ready” because a showing can happen anytime. Of course, you can ask me to set specific times for showings, like anytime between 9AM and 7PM. Most often, you will be given ample notice so you can have time to prepare if you’re home. Assign every member in your family a daily chore to do before they leave the home.

Manage the Clutter: If you’ve been following my guidance, you’re there. If not, think about buying bins to pack away everything that is not a daily necessity. If you sell your home, you are going to have to pack eventually…so get started!

Manage the Freshness: Air your home out regularly. I have written a lot about how to make your home more visually appealing to buyers, but it’s equally as important to make sure your home smells good while it’s on the market. Every home takes on a unique scent that homeowners don’t notice, but that strangers instantly pick up on. Think about the homes you frequent. If you were to close your eyes and step in the door, you would probably recognize it by smell. This is easy to remedy by airing the house out often while you’re there, even if it’s just once a day. Doing this regularly will keep it smelling clean and fresh. PLEASE do not use fake scents. I’m not sure if there is anything worse than the plug-in air fresheners. If anything, bake cookies or a cupcakes.

Manage Your Daily Stuff: One key is to use bins or empty suitcases for last-minute cleanups. They should be reserved for hard-to-stow-away toys, shoes and book bags that are tossed in the mudroom, blankets on the sofas, piles of bills, and whatever else commonly lingers around the house. Have bins or suitcases ready to toss things in, put them in a closet or in your car to take with you.

Manage Your Valuables: Something else that you need to consider when listing your home: valuables, weapons, expensive alcohol, and any medications. As much as we want to trust people, you just never know. While your home is on the market, hide or take with you anything that would be easy to put in a pocket or handbag.

Manage Your Trash: It is off-putting to see a home that has the owner’s dirty tissues or hairbrushes filled with hair on the dresser. Adopt an eagle’s eye when listing your home. In a mad dash to get out of the house before a showing, it can be easy to forget about the little bins throughout the house. To avoid this oversight, stop using those little cans all together. Instead, take advantage of plastic grocery store bags. Hang a bag on the doors of heavily trafficked rooms—kitchens, bedrooms, and baths—so you can grab, toss, and go before a showing. Make sure your kitchen bin is empty as well. Even just a few items in a bin can smell. It is important that your garage doesn’t smell of garbage. Clean the bins really well and put some baking soda in the bottom. It is a temporary nuisance, but your ultimate goal is to sell…so if you’re good about these little things, your home will get an offer quickly and you can go back to using your garbage bins.

Manage Your Kitchen: What do they say sells a home? Right…kitchens and baths. People will open your cabinets, refrigerator, freezer, pantry, etc. Think about that before you list. People actually do stage their refrigerators. Make sure it’s clean and doesn’t smell when you open it. Cooking can create a mess – as well as create odors in your home. While showing your home you will probably eat out more than usual. This will lessen your stress – and the kitchen clean and odor-free. Make your kitchen looks like a show kitchen while it’s on the market. Put away clutter on the counters, and put out a few small plants and perhaps some cookies or cupcakes for your buyers.

Manage Your Bathrooms: To make things easier on you while the home is show-ready, designate one bathroom to use and keep the others spotless. Have a morning plan for keeping your bathrooms clean. It is a turn-off to see toiletries left out in the bathrooms and bedrooms. Things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, and other personal items are that…personal, which is awkward and distracting and creates the general look of clutter. Keep them in a pretty box hidden away in a cabinet when you aren’t using them. Wipe down the counters and the toilet. On the topic of toilets, don’t forget to clean the toilet completely. Many people don’t clean the back part or around the bolts. Yuck. And ALWAYS SHUT THE LID. It looks cleaner that way and it’s better feng shui to keep the lid shut. To add a little touch of “we take care of our home” fold your toilet paper in a V before you leave for work.

Manage Your Laundry: It is easy for piles of laundry to accumulate if several people live in your household. It is even tougher if you have kids in sports. To prevent overflowing hampers, do loads of laundry every day. This will help you avoid having to hide piles of clothes and linens for every scheduled showing. But if you do have laundry, put them in a clothes’ basket and put it in your car.

Manage Your Pets: Ideally while your home is on the market, your pets could go live with relatives during the day. But I know that is not a possibility for some. Pets are difficult when your home is on the market. You may not notice it, but they do leave odors. Also, touring a home with pets, especially cats is a turn off to many buyers. The topic of allergies comes up. People with cat allergies will not purchase a home that has cats. If they must stay in the home, keep their areas clean. Do a last-minute inspection of all areas to make sure they haven’t left any unpleasant surprises. Also, sweep floors with a rubber broom and vacuum carpets daily to clean up pet hair. If you have time before a showing, clean out the water and food bowls that also have unpleasant smells.

Manage Your Light: There’s a reason phrases such as “lots of light,” “sun-drenched,” and “huge windows” are important words in listings: Dimly lit homes feel small, dirty, and depressing. So before you leave for work, open blinds wide in every room, which lets in the sunshine (when we are lucky enough to have it here in southwestern Ohio). If you don’t get home from work until it’s dark, think about leaving a few lights on in the home. When I’m showing a home, I’ll turn on all of the lights, but not every realtor does that. Having a few lights on when the showing occurs helps tremendously!

Curb Appeal

We have spent most of January getting the inside ready for market, but it is now time to plan to get the outside ready. 

We all know how important a first impression is. After potential buyers see the home online, they hop in the car to see it in person. That’s why it’s a good idea to walk out onto your street and look at your house. Put yourself in the shoes of buyers. Remove your attachment and your rose-colored glasses. How does your home look? 

This time of year is depressing with the leaves off of the trees. It is gray most days. Everything looks a little sad. Think about what you can do to make your home look alive. What would buyers think as they arrive at your home?

Also make sure your landscaping is well-groomed (as it can be in late winter). Hire someone to wash your windows, inside and out. Make sure all of your windows work and replace any broken screens. Consider removing the screens from the front of your home. Label and put them in storage. Having the screens off makes the home look cleaner and brings in more light. Keep the screens on in places where you open windows the most. That fresh air is so important in selling a home.

Also hire someone to power wash your exterior walls, sidewalks, patios, deck, roof, and driveway. Clean out the gutters. Fix anything outside that is broken. This will encourage potential buyers to tour the inside of your house. Making sure your roof has the mildew stains removed will make the buyer not immediately question the age of the roof. If there are stains on the roof, that is the first thing they ask. You can buy a product to remove those stains from the roof.

Your front door should be sparkling. Paint it if it needs it. Make sure the lock works properly. Honestly, one of the most frustrating parts of my job is opening locks. Most people never use keys, so if your locks are old, update them. Try your keys and see how easy it is to lock and unlock the door.

Do you have some room on the front porch for a little flair? How about staging it with some lanterns with battery-operated lights? It’s too early to have flowers in pots, so place a tasteful doormat that welcomes buyers. Hang a welcome sign on the front door. And, I would also mulch with fine, BLACK mulch. Your mulch right now is dull and gray. Black mulch enhances the contrast of the surrounding plants and makes everything pop. Please, please, please do not mulch with red mulch. Also, make sure to get all of the weeds out of your flower beds before you mulch.

Buyers give you about ten seconds—five seconds from the curb and five seconds when they walk in the front door. Remember, while realtors are opening the front door, buyers are really looking at the outside of the home. They will see every flaw while they’re standing there waiting. 

There are certain areas of the lawn that may need work, some weeds and trees that need trimming. Trim the bottom suckers off the trees. Those suckers are killing your trees, cut them off. Mulch around the trees.

Power wash the garage floor. The garage shelves need to be as organized and clutter free as the interior of the house. Remove any evidence of critters. Hide any mousetraps. Put away the bottles of ant and wasp spray and weed killer. Give the appearance your house is perfect inside and out.

Don’t forget your mailbox. Is it looking a bit sad? By painting or replacing it, you’ll show buyers how much you care for the home.

Appearances are everything when selling a house, and the outside is the first thing people see, so spruce it up.  Keep everything neat and tidy, and your house will sell fast!