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The 5 Top Home Buyer Turn-Offs of 2017

By Ron Coluzzi

8 min read

Selling a home in today's market can be a bit frustrating. There's all sorts of home staging and property preparation advice out there, and some of it seems daunting or impossible to follow unless you already live in a haute home or have a serious bankroll set aside to whip your place into shape.

You can't turn a rancher into a Victorian – so don't bother trying. But you do have more control than you may realize over how desirable your listing looks to potential buyers. In order to know what turns a buyer on you need to know what turns a buyer off.

Here are 6 big-time turn-offs that make buyers cringe at the thought of purchasing your home.

1. Cluttered, dirty and/or "fragrant" houses. You already know this one. Every seller does. Yet, even in 2017, the era of Houzz and HGTV, buyers across America walk into homes that would make your mother cringe every single day. The people who come to see your home are making one of the biggest decisions they'll ever make. Cluttered countertops, neglected toilet seats and unattended litter boxes not only invite the viewer to turn up their nose, they practically compel a buyer to walk away.

Luckily, you have all the control in the world over how your house looks to your would be buyer. Some sellers find it helpful to think not about de-cluttering, but about pre-packing. Everything that is not part of the home's decor or furnishing and that is not a must for your daily functioning should be boxed up, and neatly packed away in the garage or a storage unit. You'll have to pack it all up anyway when your home sells, and doing it in advance just makes it more likely the place will sell, stat!

Also, no matter how long it takes for your home to get an offer, do not show it without it being completely and totally tidied up: no laundry or dishes piled up, countertops freshly wiped down, mail and paperwork put away and smelly dogs or litter boxes cleaned and/or out of the house. Get every family member on board, kids/cats/canines included, and create a morning or evening cleaning ritual to minimize mad, pre-showing dashes.

2. Overpricing. Buying a house in today's market is hard work! On top of all the research and analysis about the market, buyers have to work overtime to separate the real estate wheat from the chaff, get educated about short sales and foreclosures and often put in many, many offers before they get even a single one accepted. The last thing they want to add to their task list is trying to argue a seller out of unreasonable expectations or pricing.

When buyers see a home whose seller is clearly clueless about their home's value and has priced it sky-high, many won't even bother looking at it. If they do love it, they'll wait for it to sit on the market for a while, hoping the market will "educate you" into desperation, priming the pump for a later, lowball offer.

Ultimately, you decide what to ask for your home. But you deprive yourself of the professional counsel and expertise you're paying for if you fail to listen to your agent's advice and insights on the subject of listing price. They will point you to other properties that have sold in your area with similar features and use that data to help you understand the right price range for your home. Worried about setting the price too low? Get buyer's brokers' feedback with an advance broker's open house, and work with your agent on an advance plan for bringing the price down if you get no showings or buyer interest.

3. Deceptive listing descriptions or pictures. Here's the deal: you will never trick someone into buying your home. If listing pics are photo-edited within an inch of their lives, buyers will learn this information at some point. If your neighborhood is described as funky and vibrant, because the house is under the train tracks and you live in between a wrecking yard and a biker bar, buyers will inevitably figure this out.

And misrepresentation alone is enough to turn otherwise interested buyers off. In cases where the buyer feels misled, whether or not that was your intention, they can't help but wonder: If they can't trust you to be honest about this, how can they trust you to be honest about everything else?

Buyers rely on sellers to be upfront and honest – so be both. If your home has features or aspects that most buyers will see as negative, your home's listing probably shouldn't lead with them. But neither should you go out of your way to slant or skew or spin the facts which will become instantly obvious to anyone who visits your home. And in any event, your pricing should account for all of your home's features, pros and cons.

4. New, bad, home improvements. Many a buyer has walked into a house that has clearly been remodeled and upgraded in anticipation of the sale, only to have their heart sink with the further realization that the brand-spanking-new kitchen features a countertop made, not of Carerra marble, but brand-new, pink tiles with a kitty cat in the middle of each one. Or the pristine, just-installed floors feature carpet in a creamy shade of blue – the buyer's least favorite color.

New home improvements that run counter to a buyer's aesthetics are a big turn-off. In today's era of frugality, buyers just can't cotton to ripping out expensive, brand new, perfectly functioning things just on the basis of style – especially since they'll feel like they paid for these things in the price of the home.

Check in with a local broker or agent before you make a big investment in a pre-sale remodel. They can give you a reality check about the likely return on your investment, and help you prioritize about which projects to do (or not). Instead of spending $40,000 on a new, less-than-attractive kitchen, they might encourage you to update appliances, have the cabinets painted and spend a few grand on your curb appeal. Many times, they will also help you do the work of selecting neutral finishes that will work for the largest possible range of buyer tastes.

5. Bad photos or no photos at all. Some of the listing photos that make it online are shockingly bad. They have dumpsters parked in front of the house, piles of laundry all over the "hardwood" floors touted in the listing description, and once, even the family dog doing his or her business in the lovely green front yard. Listing pictures that have put your home in anything but its best, accurate light are a very quick way to ensure that you turn off a huge number of buyers from even coming to see your house!

The only bigger buyer turn-off than these bizarre listing pics are listings that have no photos at all; most buyers on today's market see a listing with no pictures and click right on past it, without giving the place a second glance.

 Before your home is on the market, ask your listing agent-to-be to see the online marketing for their current listings, to get a feel for how they operate. After your home is on the market, don't neglect to check top listing sites to be sure that the pics for your home's listing represent your home well. If not, ask your agent to grab some new shots and get them online (and say pretty please, pretty please!).

Sellers Guide To A Successful Sale

By Ron Coluzzi

4 min read

After 28 years as a full time real estate professional, I have broken down the selling process into three steps. The first step is Detachment and we will cover the emotional side of selling your home. The second step is Property Presentation and I will explain the importance of all the physical aspects to selling your home like staging a home, photo presentation, etc. The third step is Negotiations and this is where I lend my knowledge and expertise to help all sellers obtain the highest market price for their property. All of these steps are interlinked with one another and are essential for a successful sale.

Part 1: Detachment 

Once the decision is made to sell a property, the most difficult part of the selling process is realizing that you will soon be leaving/letting go of your home. For a majority of sellers their home represents family, hard work, love, growth, or what I like to call intrinsic value. This is the emotional side of the selling process and often the hardest to get over. Understanding this phenomenon, I coach my seller clients to “let go”. Of course, this is much easier said than done. The thought process for sellers should be on where they’re going after sale and not on where they have been. This is my definition of detachment in the selling process and with my help/guidance I can make it a painless process.   

Part 2: Property Presentation 

Once a seller decides to “let go” in the selling process, good property presentation becomes easier to achieve. For instance, removing wall paper is never something any seller is excited about but time has shown me the more neutral colors in a home the better it is received in the market place. Fresh paint not only achieves a better look but it’s scent bring forth the feeling of “New” in perspective buyers. New carpet achieves the same thing. Once the property is photo ready I hire my professional photographer and together we stage and shoot each room individually. I cannot stress enough how important high-quality photos are to increasing buyer traffic, thus offer(s). Today’s technology allows real estate to be accessed immediately online. Therefore, to make the very best first impression begins with professional high-quality photos. I firmly believe the photographer I employ produces the finest quality photos in our market place.

Part 3: Negotiations

The final step to a successful sale is the negotiation of the offer or offers that are placed on the property I am representing. This is where the hard work of detachment and property presentation come together to produce market value offers. I always tell my sellers, “I don’t concern myself where a buyer starts with an offer, I am more concerned about where they finish”. I am of the opinion an offer states one thing; a buyer is interested in the property. In most cases the seller will counter the first offer from a buyer. With that said, the buyers second offer will give us insight into the buyer’s intensions to buy the property. Quite frankly, the negotiating process is where the seller will see the best results of my 28 years in the real estate profession.

In sum, tackling these three steps will not only increase the odds dramatically in selling your home but you will have good market offers that will close. You are going to like the way I sell your home, I guarantee it.

5 Steps Smart Sellers Take to Generate Multiple Offers

By Ron Coluzzi

7 min read

Home sales (and values) have been on a strong uptick nationwide thanks to low interest rates, freer lending standards and a drop in the foreclosure rate. Sellers everywhere are breathing a giant, collective sigh of relief! But for all of the buyer activity, it seems like most houses sit on one end of two extremes: they either get snatched up the moment they hit the market (with multiple offers and an above-asking sale price) or seem to languish on the market without an offer in sight.

All sellers aspire to be on the multiple-offer end of the spectrum. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make that happen. Here are five tips to move your listing in to the multiple offers zone.

1. Price it aggressively. Homes that get multiple offers are often sold in an "auction" atmosphere. If you think back to the last auction you saw on TV or participated in online, you'll remember this basic element of Auctions 101: the starting price is lower – sometimes quite a bit lower – than the final sale price.

In fact, it's the low list or starting price that gets people excited about the possibility of scoring a great value, whether they're bidding on an antique Chinese pug figurine on eBay or on your home. And when it comes to your home, it's that same, low-price-seeking excitement that will cause many more buyers to show up and view your home than would have come at a higher price point.

In real estate, more showings are an inescapable prerequisite to more offers.

This doesn't mean you have to give away the farm, just that sellers who get multiple offers price their properties from a retailer's or auctioneer's perspective. Work with your agent through the comparable sales data – as recent and as comparable as possible – and then do your best to list your home as a slight discount, not at a slight premium, compared to the recent neighborhood sales. That will get buyers' attention.

2. Give buyers and brokers ample access. Put yourself in your target buyer's shoes. Say there are 40 homes on the market which meet their specifications, in terms of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, price range and location. And 25 of those top the list. But they only have time to see 8 today. If the buyer's broker can't get into your house today, because you have so many restrictions around showing it, your home could very well miss out on a showing with this qualified, motivated buyer.

It might seem overly simple, but if you want multiple offers, it behooves you to make sure your home is available to be shown today. Every day that it is on the market. Inconvenient? Yes. Frustrating? Sometimes. A challenge to keep the place clean at all times? Assuredly. But consider your priorities and what is at stake. If getting top dollar for your home is at the top of your priority list, then you have to be ready and willing to deal with the inconvenience involved in churning up multiple offers and getting your home sold.

3. Make it beautiful. Really, really beautiful. The homes that get multiple offers are those with look, feel and function that can be described in one word: covetable. You're not trying to create a situation in which your home barely edges out the listing down the street in the hearts and minds of your target buyer. If you want multiple offers, you need multiple buyers to fall deeply in love with your home – enough to bid above the listing price, and enough to compete with others for it.

To generate multiple offers, prepare your home by ensuring it is: immaculately cleaned from the inside out – closets, basements, garages and crawl spaces included, de-cluttered and staged to the nines – this includes fresh paint, carpet and other things that need replacing in perfect working order – make sure things like doors, windows and systems buyers test (e.g., stoves, faucets, heating and air conditioning) are not creaky, wonky, leaky or otherwise dysfunctional.

If you've done any major home improvements or replaced any appliances or systems lately, market that! Show off how immaculate, adorable and move-in ready your home is now – and tout its great working condition for the long run.

4. Expose it to the market. An offer the very first day your home goes on the market may sound like a dream come true. But it might also incur opportunity costs. See, many buyers can't get out to see homes that quickly – some are unable to house hunt except on the weekends. Listing agents who get multiple offers often plan from the start to expose the home to the market long enough for target buyers to see it and get their offers on the table.

Some agents expressly include open house and offer review dates in the timeline of the listing. It's not uncommon to see a listing come on the market with a calendar of 1-2 Open Houses and an offer date sometime early in the week following the second one. Ask your agent to brief you on the standard practices for market exposure in your local area.

Setting – and publishing – a timeline for market exposure and offers lets buyers know that they will be able to get to the property and get their offers considered, while still creating a sense of urgency.

5. Be ready to course correct. Is your home one of the houses that has been sitting on the market for months without any action? Do not fret – there might still be hope. In real estate, there's something insiders call the Sweet Spot Phenomenon, where an overpriced home sits on the market for months with no bites, sometimes even through multiple price reductions. Finally, the seller lowers the price to the 'sweet spot,' and it generates multiple offers and sells for more than the final list price.

Yes – there are listings whose sellers net more than they expected because they were willing to revise the list price downward in response to market feedback (i.e., no showings, no offers or lowball offers).

If your home has been lagging on the market, talk with your listing agent about what sort of price reduction strategy is likely to maximize your net sale price. Hint: many more buyers are attracted by chunky reductions or reductions below a common online search price point limit than by tiny, incremental reductions.

For example, you might draw more buyers, and ultimately more money, with a price reduction from $499,000 to $474,000 than with a series of small reductions from $499,000 to $479,000, because there is a set of buyers who may be cutting their search off at $475,000 – so a price cut below that point will expose your home to a whole new group of prospects.

5 Secret Sources of Down Payment Money

By Ron Coluzzi

7 min read

Whether you are planning to put down a full 20 percent or pulling together the cash for a 3.5 percent down payment for an FHA loan, your down payment might be the biggest single cash expenditure you ever make. Some scrimp and save for years, while others can ready the cash with less difficulty, but no buyer in the history of home buying has ever said they have too much down payment money.

Here's an insider secret: many buyers have a treasure trove of down payment resources at their disposal, hidden in plain sight. Here's a map to this hidden treasure – a handful of frequently-overlooked sources of down payment funds.

1. Your budget's biggest line items. Home buying is one of those push-meet-shove-type situations. If you're serious about coming up with your down payment funds, sit down and backtrack over your monthly budget or your last month's checking account statements. Isolate your top 10 budgetary line items and do an internal gut check on whether there is anything on this list that you can slash or eliminate.

If you spend $5 a workday on a bagel and coffee at breakfast and another $15 on your takeout lunch, that's $400 per month – almost $5000 a year! – you can save by simply bringing these things from home (not to mention the health and other benefits you'll gain). And those numbers are not inflated, if you work in a big city. Nor is the $100/month cable bill, the $20 yoga class, the $2,000 vacation or the premium pricing you might paying for cell service.

Redirecting the dollars you would normally spend for some of these big-ticket items back into your down payment savings account is like pressing fast forward on your home buying timeline.

2. Your stuff. When you need to save money, there are really only two levers you can pull: you can spend less, or you can make more. Selling stuff you already own and don't actually use is a relatively painless way to make more money to go toward your down payment. If you're really serious about home buying, put everything on the table.

Things buyers-to-be often sell (usually online) include:

•          RVs, cars and motorcycles

•          designer clothes, costumes, shoes and handbags

•          underutilized hobby-related gear (bikes, boats and snowboards)

•          furniture and antiques

•          electronics, books and CDs (think: TVs, computers, old smart phones, etc.).

Don't underestimate the amount of cash you can bring in from the things you already own.

3. Your skills and time. One way to make more money is to sell off the stuff you have lying around the other is to get to work! Spend your off-time, your evenings and weekends leveraging your professional skills or personal hobbies to bring in some extra cash.

Once you get serious about coming up with your down payment cash and decide to be creative about where to find that money, using your skills and your time creatively is a power-packed way to open the financial floodgates.

Consider starting out with a simple email to your circle of acquaintances outlining your skills and what kind of work you'd like to pick up. You can also list your potential services on a site like TaskRabbit. If you are crafty you might let your new felting hobby stock the virtual shelves of your shop on Etsy. Even if you aren't "creative" think creatively about what you might do to earn a little extra cash. One acquaintance of mine has earned thousands of dollars dog sitting while she works at home. You'll be surprised by how much you can earn hawking wares on the side or with small business projects, like research, bookkeeping or office organizing projects.

4. Your Parents, Family and Friends. Many home buyers get by with a little help from their friends (and relatives). Most mortgage programs will allow for some portion of your down payment to come in the form of 'gift money,' which is exactly what it sounds like: money someone gives you to help you buy a home.

The best case scenario is to have some idea of what sort of gift money you can count on as far in advance as possible, as it will impact your own savings targets and your lender's documentation requirements. If you have a parent, sibling or auntie who has mentioned their interest in giving you this sort of gift it is important to bring the subject up, express your gratitude and let them know that you're planning to buy soon. You'll want to have a detailed conversation about logistics and go over everything from timelines to tax obligations.

Check in with your mortgage pro about how much of your down payment needs you can satisfy with gift money – guidelines vary widely based on how much of your own cash you have to put down and what loan programs you're applying for. Lenders almost always require that gift money be contributed along with a gift letter that states that the giver is a relative and that the money is a gift, not a loan. The lender may also require to see a bank account statement from the giver showing that the money was theirs to give – just to be sure they didn't go out and get some sort of loan that they expect you to help them repay.

5. Your Assets. Some retirement accounts allow you to borrow against or pull out funds, penalty-free, to apply them toward your down payment on a home. Obviously your specific circumstances will determine if it is advisable for you to tap into your 401K or IRA and plug that cash into a house. For some buyers, it may make sense to get your down payment up to 20% by borrowing a few thousand dollars from yourself!

If getting your down payment to the 20 percent mark by borrowing from your 401K gets your mortgage interest rate down and allows you to repay that cash to your own retirement account (vs. to your mortgage lender) with interest, you and your financial advisor might agree that this move is the right move for you. Or not – this is a highly personal decision that must be made strategically, but some homebuyers should at least explore whether their retirement accounts are a sensible source of some portion of their down payment funds.

6 Signs A Home Might Be “The One”

By Ron Coluzzi

6 min read

You might have heard that saying about the number of fish there are in the sea – the sea of prospective dates and mates. The same goes for homes on the market. Even when the market heats up as it's doing now, it's not uncommon for a buyer to visit 10, 20 or even more homes before finding the property they want to make their home.

These numbers can be daunting, but even the most particular buyers, even buyers who are frustrated by how many homes don't seem like the right fit, can take heart in this one truth of dating that also applies to house hunting:

You only need to find ONE.

So the next question is this: how do you know which fish is the one you should take home – I mean, make your home? To help, here are six signs that a given home you're viewing might in fact be "The One":

1. You instantly feel possessive about the property. When you walk into 'The One' no matter how long you've been house hunting, you'll get an involuntary surge of energy to do whatever it takes to make that home yours. If you're at an Open House and other buyers are viewing the place, you'll start to feel competitive. If you're at a private viewing, you'll start to talk numbers and offer logistics. For that matter, some buyers start making calls to their financial planners, generous parents, and contractors from the front porch steps of their "One" – during the first viewing!

If you walk through a place and leave with your heart or mind set on making it yours, it might be "The One."

2. You start to see its flaws as adorable quirks. Train tracks 10 feet from the bedroom window? Next door neighbor that runs a pigeon-sitting service? Okay – I exaggerate! But if you find yourself viewing a home with traits that you would normally deem undesirable or as deal-killers, yet you like the place so much that you instinctively compile a mental list of reasons those traits just don't matter, you might have found "The One."

Smart buyers should be aware of a syndrome some call "Pottery Barn Psychosis," whereby the aesthetics of a wonderfully staged home with amazing curb appeal can hypnotize a buyer. This syndrome renders buyers blind to the negative property features, which would be glaring or grave concerns if the place weren't so stinking cute. It's fine to make a conscious decision that the pros of a place outweigh its cons, and even to consciously re-rank your priorities in light of a particular property's advantages.

But throwing reasonable guidelines for your home out of the window because it's just so stinking cute is about as savvy as doing the same with your dating prospects – not a setup for success.

Buyers can avoid falling victim to Pottery Barn Psychosis (and the Buyer's Remorse that often follows suit) by writing down your absolute musts and deal-breakers before you ever step foot in a single property – and by revisiting this document before you write an offer and again before you remove your contingencies.

If you find yourself viewing a home with traits that you would normally deem undesirable, yet you like the place so much that you instinctively compile a mental list of reasons those traits just don't matter, you might have found "The One."

3. You immediately envision your own family, furniture, decor, daily activities or remodeling choices in/to the home. If you find yourself, during a property viewing, measuring the dining room with your footsteps to be sure your Grandma's table will fit, discussing whether the wall between kitchen and dining room can be removed or your mind's eye photoshopping a given property to insert your bedroom set, your dining table and favorite wall hangings into place it's entirely possible that the home you're viewing could be "The One" for you.

4. You lose interest in seeing other homes. When you find "The One," your interest in seeing other homes dissipates, instantly – no matter how many homes you've seen or how long you've been house hunting.

5. The bathroom and kitchen don't disgust you. We humans are born with only two fears in life: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. By about eight months old, we start to acquire new fears. Chief among them: the fear of other people's kitchens and bathrooms.

Other people's kitchens and bathrooms hold definite gross-out potential. There's just something about what goes on in those rooms that seems exceptionally intimate and even unsanitary. So, if you happen to find yourself falling in love with a home's river rock shower floor or drooling over the pot-filler, countertop or farmhouse sink, that's a sign that you're falling head over heels with a home that might just be "The One."

6. The money, time and energy spent feels worth it. Home buying is an expensive, time consuming proposition. And your years of budgeting of earned you a nice nest egg, but it didn't come easy, there might be many a Saturday night at home and a brown bagged lunch reflected in your down payment savings. If you view a home that make all of those sacrifices suddenly feel like the best, most worthwhile decision ever? You, my friend, might have found "The One."