Information Resources for Home Sellers:
Questions Commonly Asked By Our Sellers
Q. Is it okay to call you at home or late in the evening?
A. Yes. You may call our mobile phones at your convenience. We will usually answer. If we don’t answer it’s because we can’t for some reason (we do like the movies). Please leave a message and we will return your call ASAP.
Q. Should we be home when the property is being shown?
A. It is best if you are not there. This way, buyers will not feel like they are intruding or rushed. They will be able to speak freely in front of their agent about how the property works or does not work for them. A good agent can help to resolve certain shortcomings but only if they hear about them. Interested buyers will take their time and will go through your home twice and even sit down or linger in certain rooms. They are trying to visualize or experience living there with their family. They will not be comfortable staying longer and doing this if you are there. While we say this we realize, however, that it may not always be possible to leave your home during a showing.
Q. What should I do if agents or buyers viewing the house start asking me questions about the property?
A. Agents should not do this and usually know better. Buyers do not know that this is not really proper and will ask a lot of different types of questions such as: are their many kids in the neighborhood and their ages, what are the neighbors like, how do you like living here, why are you moving, or where are you moving to. Some of these questions are innocent but some are improper and none of their business. Again, it is better if you are not there. If they are interested enough to make an offer these buyers should have their agent ask these questions to us, your agents.
Q. Do fresh flowers and music make a difference when a house is being shown?
A. Music is important – we suggest 94.7 The Wave. In our opinion an attractive scent is much more important then fresh flowers. Fresh flowers are a very nice classy touch if it’s convenient for you. If there are smokers, pets, or strong cooking odors in your home we advise our sellers to light some fragrance candles or use products such as Glade Plug-ins to create a clean and pleasant impression of your home. We often supply these fragrance devices for vacant properties and even bake brownies or cookies to create a homey pleasant scent.
Q. Must I have open houses?
A. No, this is not a must. In our opinion, however, it is a very good idea to hold one or two open houses during the first few weeks of your listing. We do feel that doing a Broker’s Preview for three hours on a Friday (10:00 AM to 1:00PM in HB) is a must. The more access and the easier the access to your home the better. It is a big mistake to make your home difficult or inconvenient to show.
Q. What are the most important things a buyer looks for?
A. Buyers are looking for the best value at their price point or affordability point in a property that “works” for them. Price, floor plan, and location must be right for the specific buyer or the property will simply not work for that specific buyer. Beyond this there are several other things that are also very important to satisfy the buyer’s needs. Lot size is usually the next most important factor. Privacy, quietness, and condition of the property is also high on the list followed by amenities and upgrades.
Q. What are the most important things I must do to make sure my property sells?
A. Three major factors must be done together to sell a property. 1.) Price must be set so that your property is a good value relative to competing homes available in your neighborhood and the comparable areas surrounding your neighborhood. 2.) Showings! Thorough marketing and maximum exposure to buyers is critical. If the list price is considered too high relative to the competing properties you will get a low number of showings. 3.) Your agent must be very knowledgeable about your property and community and be a skilled negotiator and a professional – the kind of professional other realtors want to work with and be in escrow with.
Getting Your Property Ready to Put on the Market
and Ready to Show – Some Tips
There is a big difference between getting your property ready to put on the market and getting your home ready to show. We will discuss both briefly.
This is one of those decisions where you can do just the basic minimum yourself in a few days or go all out, hire contractors, and take weeks or months to do some major preparatory work.
The basic minimum:
1. Deep Cleaning – detail your home including light switches, base boards, windows, screens, floors, sliding door tracks, floors, carpet, etc. Detail the front porch – no dust, webs, etc. Detail all bathrooms - remove all soap scum, lime, rust, etc. Clean, trim, and manicure the yards front and back. Add color to your yards.
2. De-clutter – to much “stuff” makes your home feel crowded and smaller. Many people can’t visualize your rooms devoid of clutter. If need be rent storage space or use a section in your garage to box up and empty any overcrowded rooms or closets. If you use the garage for storage drape a couple of sheets over it. Remove clutter from your yards and side yards as well. Hide stacks of newspapers, magazines, mail, etc. If you work from home and need to leave your work spread out put a sheet over your desk if it’s really unsightly or if you do not want to disturb your desk and need privacy.
3. Pleasant Fragrance – even if you don’t have pets, smokers in your home, or have strong cooking odors present use fragrance candles, or plug-in devices to create a nice smelling home. Vanilla is a nice clean smell that most people will enjoy. “Linen” is a nice fragrance for baths and laundry rooms from Bed, Bath, & Beyond. We have even baked a batch of cookies or brownies to create that homey smell during Open Houses or Broker’s Previews.
4. Music – put on some smooth jazz such as 94.7, “The Wave”, upstairs and down.
5. Make it Bright – turn on lots of lights, open shutters, drapes, blinds, etc. If you have overgrown shrubbery blocking light trim it back. If you have a lot of low wattage and/or fluorescent bulbs think about swapping them with brighter stronger bulbs while you are showing your property. A well lit home is more inviting and cheerful feeling. A dark or dimly lit home is gloomy and dreary to home shoppers. Some showings may be on grey days or in the evenings. Brighten things up if you can it will pay off.
6. Little Touches – Put away personal items such as hair dryers, curling irons, tooth brushes, and wet bath towels. Dirty clothes should not be visible - even in the laundry room if possible. Close toilet lids, replace or remove soiled rugs, etc.
7. Pets – Be aware that some people are afraid of all dogs and cats. I have had people refuse to come into a home where a dog or cat was loose. Think about crating them, putting them in the garage, or taking them with you during showings. Most agents work well with pets so talk to us about the appropriate approach to showing your property with pets. I actually asked my sellers to “introduce” me to his two vicious sounding Rotweilers so I could put them in the garage for showings and then let them back out in the yard afterwards.
Taking it to the Next Level
Depending on your time and budget here are some things to consider that will enhance the appearance of your property and should bring you more and better offers.
When you look at little things every day you begin to stop seeing these little things at all. So the first step is to try to put on a buyer’s hat and really look at your whole property with a new critical eye. The goal to keep in mind is that you want to create several good first impressions: when they first drive up, when they first walk up, when they walk in, when they view your “presentation rooms” for the first time, and when they first view your backyard. You can literally lose some buyers before they enter your home with poor first impressions. If the buyer’s first impressions are bad many buyers will then likely be looking for more reasons to eliminate your property from further consideration. Conversely, if the buyer’s first impressions are good then many buyers will more readily overlook faults and find ways to “make it work” once they have a good feeling about your property.
If your property is not exactly in the condition you would prefer all is not lost. Some buyers are looking for the “diamond in the rough” or “fixer” property that they can improve to their taste. As you can imagine, these are usually not the buyers that will pay top dollar. Therefore, the best approach is to spend the time, effort, and money to get your property as ready as you can. I will try to list this in what, in my opinion, will give you the biggest “bang for your buck”.
1. Curb Appeal – Green up your lawn, plant some color, trim any overgrown or over-crowded softscape, especially if it blocks any nice features of your home. Repair any deferred maintenance issues such as cracked/peeling paint on the front of your home. Your front door and hardware should not look shabby and aged. Ask Joanne or I for handyman referrals if necessary. The buyers should be thinking “this is a clean and well kept home” before they even cross your threshold.
2. Presentation Rooms – These are your Entry Foyer, Living Room, Dining Room, Family Room, Kitchen, Guest Bath, and Master Suite and Master Bath. These are the 8 areas inside your home that matter the most to most buyers. Some buyers have the Guest Bedroom and Laundry Room high on the list as well.
3. Painting – Without a doubt, painting gives you a great “bang for the buck” if your walls are currently white or of too many different colors or the “wrong” colors for the majority of buyers. Ask your agent for their candid opinion on the “right” colors for selling. Depending on the size of your property this will typically cost $3,000 to $6,000 for the walls and ceilings.
4. Moldings – This follows paint on the “bang for the buck scale”. A nice 6.5” crown will cost about $6.00 to $7.00 per linear foot including paint. We always recommend white for selling. This really dresses up your property especially if you are painting in contrasting tans or browns. Your crown, door, window, and base moldings will now really “pop” giving your property a whole different feel.
5. Hard Flooring – Your floors are the first thing the buyers looks at when they enter your home. Flooring is very important and expensive to replace. If you currently have nice flooring make sure it is very clean. If your flooring is dated speak with us to get an opinion on the best approach. Some people like hardwood and some like stone such as travertine. Offering a credit may be the best solution. Stone typically nets about $8.00/SF installed and hardwood $8.00 to 20.00/SF installed. Don’t have too many different types of flooring going on in your home.
6. Carpeting – If your carpet really detracts from you home replace it. Please speak with us about a good "resale" color.
7. New Countertops – The Kitchen, Guest Bath, and Master Bath are the usual suspects and usually in this order of importance. Granite countertop work has become extremely competitive. You would be very surprised to find out how economically feasible this type of remodel has become. Ask us for our recommended contractor.
8. New or Refinished Cabinets - This is rarely considered for readying a property for resale. A very good cabinet cleaning with an oil-soap and/or just changing the hardware will often brighten things up a lot. If it is really needed consider new cabinet doors with modern hidden hinges. This will make a big improvement while avoiding a major cabinet job. We have done this before with great results for a reasonable expenditure.
Getting Your Home Ready for a Showing – Some Tips
After you have done the really time consuming jobs such as deep cleaning and de-cluttering you are now ready for the showing drill. We are appealing to the basic senses of sight, smell, and sound, and perhaps touch when they grab your door handle or knob. Think of this as you would about getting ready for a party in which your guests will be going through every room of your home. We know this does not sound pleasant but this is the drill. Get things picked up, the lights, music, and fountains on, and the fragrance going. Open the blinds, shutters, and curtains. You want Light & Bright.
Taking Your Property Tax Basis With You
When You Downsize at Age 55 and Older
(About Proposition 60, 90, & 110
Transfer of Base Year PropertyTax)
The info below answers some typical questions regarding how homeowners can transfer the benefits of Prop 13 to a replacement property. We have done some research regarding this and have summarized some information and qualifications regarding Propositions 60, 90, & 110 as follows:
1. What are Propositions 60, 90, & 110?
Ordinarily, when the ownership of California real property changes, the property is reassessed at its purchase price and the new owner pays property tax based on the reassessment. Props 60/90/110 can change that and benefit individuals meeting certain criteria. These propositions are constitutional amendments approved by the voters of California. They provide the transfer of a property’s base year value from an existing residence to a replacement residence, under certain conditions, for qualified persons over the age of 55 or persons of any age who are severely and permanently disabled.
2. What are the conditions that need to be met in order to qualify for Propositions 60/90/110 exclusions?
a. Both properties must be located in the same county under Prop. 60. Prop. 90 allows inter-county base year value transfers if the county in which the replacement residence is located has an ordinance to participate with Prop. 90. California Counties participating with Prop 90 can change year-to-year so do your research at the phone number below.
b. As of the date of transfer of the original property, the transferor (seller) or a spouse residing with the transferor must be at least 55 years of age or (under Prop. 110) be severely or permanently disabled.
c. At the time of sale, the original property must have been eligible for the Homeowners’ Exemption or entitled to the Disabled Veterans’ Exemption.
d. Generally, the replacement dwelling must be of equal or lesser value than the original property. Some small deviation (5 to 10%) from this may be allowed. Consult with your CPA or Tax Attorney.
e. The replacement dwelling must have been acquired or newly constructed within two years of (before or after) the sale of the original property.
f. The owner must file an application within three years following the purchase date or new construction completion date of the replacement property.
g. The original property must be subject to reappraisal at its current fair market value; therefore transfers of the original property that are excluded from reappraisal (e.g., most transfers between parents and children) will not qualify.
3. I think that the sale of my residence may qualify for this benefit. How do I apply?
You must file a claim with the assessor, who will determine if the transaction qualifies. Claim forms should be obtained from the assessor’s office in the county where the replacement property is located.
Only certain counties have adopted Prop 90. In many of these counties, Prop 90 is coming up for renewal. Governor Pete Wilson extended the Prop 90 bill indefinitely, subject to the annual approval by each county in the program. It is imperative that you verify the individual county that they are still accepting Prop 90 transfers as the participation in this program changes year to year.
Summary of Qualifications For Prop 60 & 90
- The principal claimant must at least 55 years of age as of the date of sale of the original and the replacement residence.
- The property may be a single family residence, a unit within a cooperative housing project, condominium project, planned unit or a mobile home.
- The replacement residence value must, in general, be “equal to or lesser than” the value of the original residence. Equal to or lesser than is further defined on the reverse side of the application.
- The replacement residence must be purchased or newly constructed within 2 years, before or after, the sale of the former residence.
- The base year value of the original property cannot be transferred to the replacement dwelling until the original property is sold.
- A taxpayer is not eligible for the tax relief until they actually own AND occupy the replacement dwelling as their principal residence.
- The principal claimant must have been receiving or have been eligible for either the Homeowner’s Exemption or the Disabled Exemption on the original residence.
- An application/claim must be filed within 3 years of the date the replacement property is purchased or newly constructed.
- The Transfer of property tax is valid only 1 time unless you become disabled after using the age 55 exemption.
Applying For Prop 60/90:
To help expedite your Prop 60/90 Application the County Assessors will require:
- A copy of the tax bill from the other county
- A copy of the applicant’s birth certificate
- A copy of the Grant Deed for the new purchase, and
- A copy of the closing statements for both the sale and the purchase.
If you have any questions, the property tax office in Sacramento for all counties in California may be reached by calling: (916) 445 4982.
For more detailed information and/or the latest words on the propositions please go to the following online resource: www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/faqs/propositions60_90.htm.
How Appraisers Figure Your Property’s Value
Source: The Orange County Register - Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Q. How do appraisers determine the value of a Property?
A. The most commonly used and relied upon approach to valuing residential properties in Southern California is known as the "sales comparison approach."
In the sales comparison approach, the appraiser finds recent sales, pending sales and active listings of comparable properties ("comps") similar to the property being appraised within its neighborhood. Ideally the comps are similar in location, lot size, home square footage, age, view and other significant amenities.
At least three closed sales are required (as comps to complete an appraisal). Pending sales and active listings are often included as they represent the most recent market activity, which can indicate appreciating or depreciating prices.
Information on the comps is found through various data sources such as the MLS; from parties involved in those transactions such as the Realtors, as well as at least an exterior visual inspection by the appraiser.
When the property (being appraised) is found to be superior (in value) to a comp, a positive dollar adjustment is made to the comp's sales or listing price.
A negative adjustment is made when the (property being appraised) is found to be inferior to a comparable property.
For example, if the property (being appraised) has a view and a comparable property does not - and similar properties with views generally sell for $100,000 more than non-view comps - a $100,000 adjustment is made to that comp.
Positive adjustments are made for attributes such as larger lots, views, cul-de-sac locations, proximity to water (ocean, lakes, marinas, etc.), located on golf course, recent re-modeling (especially kitchens and bathrooms), pools, home theaters, privacy, in prestigious neighborhood, etc.
Negative adjustments are made for attributes such as noisy locations, deferred maintenance, unsightly views, shared driveways, on busy street, neighborhood in decline, general market values in decline, etc.
But it is important to note that the market value of property amenities is not uniform from one neighborhood to the next.
For example, in one neighborhood a good quality pool/spa may add over $50,000 to a property's value. In another neighborhood, it adds little to no value. Typical homebuyers in some neighborhoods, where perhaps the lots and houses are larger, demand swimming pools. That is not (necessarily) the case in another neighborhood.
Certain property amenities may not add to a property's value despite costing the homeowner a significant investment.
It does not matter how much money was invested in a home. What matters is what a typical buyer would be willing to pay for it. Unusual or atypical amenities may recapture only a small percentage of their cost or even subtract from the value if they are highly unusual (likely not wanted by most buyers).
A property is not necessarily worth a price just because a buyer is willing to pay that price. Otherwise, appraisers would not be needed.
If a buyer is contracted to purchase a condominium for $400,000 and a like unit is on the market for $395,000, all things being equal, the former property is overpriced.
Because each appraisal study is unique, it may require a different method and more work than described in this article.
Copyright 2006 The Orange County Register
Editor’s Note: There may be a large difference between an appraiser’s value, market value, and the “ultimate” value of a property. At any point in time for any set of circumstances a willing and motivated seller may choose to sell a property at a certain price while a willing and motivated buyer may choose to pay that certain price for that property. This ultimate price could be well above or well below an appraised value or market value for that property. Remember also that this mutually agreed to “ultimate price” now becomes one of the new comps for the neighborhood. This is precisely how prices appreciate or depreciate over time as market conditions and neighborhood conditions change.
- Arrange for the utilities (gas electric, water, garbage and others) to be turned on in the new house. Do this as early as possible to ensure all the needed services are available as of the day you move in. Request that the water and electric utilities be turned on concurrent with the termination of services by the seller. This way, devices such as sprinkler timers and your irrigation will continue uninterrupted and may avoid the need to “reprogram” such systems.
- Order phone service as early as feasible. (In some areas it can take several weeks for a request for new service to be processed.)
- Get copies of your children's school records from their present schools and deliver them to the new school(s).
- Get a change of address kit from your post office and notify all companies you deal with by mail (insurance companies, credit cards, magazines) of your address change.
- Request the post office for your new residence to hold mail for your arrival.
- If you are moving to a new state, make sure your auto insurance coverage can move with you.
- Notify the Internal Revenue Service of your new address at the time of your move and again when you file your income tax.
- If moving within the state, notify the DMV of your change of address. If you are moving into California, register your car and apply for a new driver's license.
- Have medical records forwarded and be sure to have a supply of current prescriptions to last until you are settled in.
- Register to vote.
- Ask the previous resident and/or the real estate listing agent (or the buyer’s agent if they are from the area) for a list of reliable local service people (electricians, plumbers, carpenters and other who are familiar with the property) and where convenient shopping centers are located.
- If you moving into a guard gated community pick up the paperwork from the guard allowing them to change their owner roster at the gate and HOA’s property management company.
What Is A Lis Pendens?
Lis Pendens is the Latin phrase for pending litigation. More commonly, a lis pendens is referred to as a “notice of pending action”. Persons who buy or lend on real estate after a lis pendens has been recorded take the property subject to the claimant’s right, if any, to the real estate. The lis pendens, when recorded, is a notice warning all prospective buyers or encumbrances that title to or possession of the real estate is in dispute.
Preservation of Title – The purpose of a recorded lis pendens is to preserve rights to the real estate until the dispute with the owner is resolved. Without the recording of a lis pendens, the person claiming an interest in title or possession to the real estate runs the risk that the owner will encumber or convey (sell or transfer title) the property to an individual who is unaware of the dispute.
When another buyer or lender obtains an interest in real estate before they become aware of a dispute over title, the claimant in the dispute loses their right to title or possession of the real estate.
Proper Use of Lis Pendens – A lis pendens affecting title is recorded with the County Recorder office only if the lawsuit it references involves a claim to a right in title or possession of the real estate, or the use of an easement other than one obtained by statute from a regulated public utility.
Title companies usually refuse to insure title free of a lis pendens recorded against the title. Thus, buyers may not want to buy and lenders may not want to lend on the property. As a result, the property is often rendered unmarketable while the lis pendens is in effect – especially on specific performance actions by buyers. The tremendous value of the lis pendens to litigating buyers is in its ability to preserve the buyer’s right to purchase and to persuade a hedging seller to perform. Accordingly the potential for misuse or abuse of the lis pendens procedure is readily apparent and has been a problem for the courts. Therefore, be aware that only specific types of lawsuits are proper subjects for recording a lis pendens. Primarily the lawsuit must affect title or right of possession of the real estate or the use of specified easements.
Correct Claims – If the owner contests a lis pendens which clouds title to his/her property, the claimant filing the lis pendens must prove that both:
- This action affects title to or the use of an easement or the right of possession of the property described in the notice.
- This action was filed for a proper purpose and in good faith and is likely to be successful at trail. In other words, the claimant must establish the probable validity of the claim.
The party recording the lis pendens has the burden of showing these two elements exist. If these two requirements are not established, the lis pendens will be ordered expunged and will no longer effect title of the referenced property.
A typical misuse or abuse is when a buyer uses a lis pendens attempting to “tie-up” the property over a contract terms dispute trying to put pressure on a seller to sell at a reduced price or give in to a certain term(s) issue. A contract terms dispute is not a proper purpose for using a lis pendens.
The courts have been known to issue stiff fines payable to the court system to parties who have abused the lis pendens procedure. In addition the owner may also have a basis for a counter suit against the party recording the lis pendens if damages to the owner have been caused by the abuse of the lis pendens procedure.
Editor's Note: Don't let this Lis Pendens stuff scare you. In the combined 30 something years of our Team's experience with hundreds and hundreds of escrows and closings we have never had even one court action of any kind.
Note from Curt & Joanne:
If you would like us research and post answers to specific real estate related questions please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (714) 713 3030.