Click here to download full PDF: Gardner Report Q4, 2019_Eastern Washington PDF
So your offer has been accepted, you have gone through the inspection, and the appraisal came in at-value. You’re just a signing away from homeownership. Oh, and something your real estate agent calls a “final walkthrough.” Let’s dive into what a final walk-through is, when it’s done and the most common issues that crop up during them.
First of all, the final walk-through takes place a few days before your signing. Think of it as your final chance to point out any issues before closing: because good luck getting a seller to do something after the fact.
Here are the most common issues and what to look for during your final walk:
Make sure the house is clean
This is typically a condition in offers. It says: seller shall clean the interiors of any structure and remove all trash, debris and rubbish. So if you’re selling, sweep and vacuum! If you’re buying, make sure you’re being realistic and don’t expect a spotless home. That’s usually your job once you move in. sometimes sellers will leave old paint cans to be helpful, but if you want them gone, now’s the time to say so.
Make sure agreed-upon repairs are made
Next, check to be sure any agreed-upon repairs were done. Sometimes the seller just forgot to do them…or hoped you would forget! As an agent I always ask for receipts for work that needed to be done by a professional about a week before closing. If it’s caught at the final walkthrough, it’s likely going to cause a delay in you getting house keys. If it’s a simple repair that the homeowner could do themselves—like replacing a faucet or adding carbon monoxide detectors- ask for a photo of the work to prevent any surprises.
Make sure items are still there
Make sure the seller hasn’t removed anything they agreed to leave…and that there aren’t any secret swaps for lesser quality items. If it happens, it’s typically with the washer, dryer, or refrigerator. Sellers: always read the contract or ask your agent before removing personal property. Buyers: check it all out at the walkthrough!
Make sure there’s no damage
The last issue is damage from moving, so check the walls for massive knicks from moving a huge dresser or 15 holes from where a mounted TV used to hang. Sellers, you can take the TV and mount if it wasn’t in the contract, but you have to patch the wall and paint. Don’t leave it looking like a shooting range target.
Most walk-throughs have no problems at all, and if they do, they’re easily fixed. If you do find a problem, typically closing will be delayed until the issues are fixed. The other option is for the seller to give the buyer a concession. For instance, if the seller agreed to remove a bunch of firewood from the yard and it wasn’t done, they could give the buyer $150 toward closing costs to get it done. Both parties would have to agree on the amount and that this is an acceptable remedy.
A final walkthrough isn’t an inspection and it isn’t the time to start asking for things. The purpose is to make sure the house is in the same condition as when you first saw it, that any repairs you agreed upon have been made and that it’s cleaned up.
So you’ve decided to sell your house. Well, now what? Today we’re going over how to get the ball rolling and what you need to do before all those potential buyers come traipsing through your door.
First you need to get ahold of an agent who knows what they’re doing! The first step is for them to come to your home and do an initial walkthrough. It will only take about 30 minutes. This allows the agent to get a feel/layout of the house and take some preliminary photos for their own recollection when they build the CMA (we’ll get to more about that in a second.) This is also the time where you and the agent can make sure you’re on the same page: chat about your goals, an ideal timeline and any expectations you have.
The agent will then put together an CMA, or a comparative market analysis. This is a compilation of nearby homes most similar to yours that have recently sold. The agent will take everything into account: from the square footage and numbers of bedrooms or bathrooms, to the age of the furnace and roof, to the condition and updatedness of the whole shebang. At the end, the agent will likely produce a range for what your home could likely sell for in the current market. It is so important that you listen to the agent’s expertise in regards to the price, because pricing a home too high has all sorts of negative impacts…but that’s a discussion for another day.
Next, you’ll meet again to go over the CMA, talk numbers and the agent can explain how he or she got to the number that they did. They’ll also go over their marketing strategies, revisit your timeline and chat about staging ideas. During this time, the agent may also make recommendations in terms of repairs to be made to the home. If you’re open to the constructive criticism, it can greatly help your end goal – whether that’s a price you net or a quick sale. The agent will put their “buyer hat” on and go through your house, pointing out small changes you could make that will really help elimiate any red flags for potential buyers. These changes can be deferred mainaence issues or minor repairs, such as changing light bulbs or a hole in the wall. Or other times it’s something unsightly, like a neon green bathroom they recommend you paint or something larger like worn carpeting that needs replacement. Sometimes it’s an unpleasant smell, where something as small as moving the cat’s litter box will help.
At this point, some sellers are ready to sign the paperwork immediately, while others want to think about the listing price or even chat with other agents about listing the home. Both options are completely fine. However, once you decide to move forward with getting your house on the market, I recommend signing the agent’s paperwork as soon as you are comfortable. This allows the agent to get it all inputted into the system and uploaded in the MLS. Then, once the photos are taken and you are ready to go “live,” it’s as simple as pressing submit.
During the time between signing the paperwork and going live, get to cleaning and making those repairs. You need to clean and scrub every single surface in your house to make sure a buyer’s thoughts are “wow, they really took great care of this home.” That will help you make the most you can on the sale AND sell it ASAP. Until next time, thanks for joining me on the welcome mat.
So you’re thinking of selling your house and going “for-sale-by-owner.” I know it sounds like a good idea: you know, saving on all those real estate agent fees. In theory, that may sound like a good idea, but here’s why most for-sale-by-owners regret the decision and why you might want to reconsider.
Pricing is huge. This is the key factor to selling in a reasonable amount of time, and it isn’t as easy as you might assume. Yes, you can go online and check out your Zillow Zestimate and look for what homes around you recently sold for: but are you comparing apples to apples? Just because your neighbor sold her 1500 square foot rancher two blocks away for $280k doesn’t mean that your 2000 square foot split-level house on a busy street is the same. A good Realtor can put together a market analysis that takes all kinds of features into consideration: from condition differences to improvements and desirability. Because do you know how to account for square footage differences or how much the pool affects price or that brand new carpet you just put in? You don’t want to leave money on the table, but you also need to price correctly to stay competitive and not stay on the market for so long that potential buyers skip over your home because they assume something is wrong with it.
Throwing up some yard signs and marking it “for sale” on Zillow isn’t going to cut it. Buyers are tech-savvy and for the most part they aren’t just aimlessly driving around looking for yard signs. The sign is really just a locator. And yes, it is important to be “live” on Zillow… but almost every single buyer uses an agent. And agents use the all-powerful MLS to check for their listings and send out emails for listing to their clients. In order to have your home seen by the most amount of buyers (and more eyeballs means potentially more offers!) you need to be on the MLS – aka the number one way buyers find homes.
Agents are good filters
And let an agent be the filter for you. A good majority of buyers don’t like contacting sellers directly. It’s weird and uncomfortable for them. An agent is a good, approachable “middle man” to them. Plus, let them be the filter for YOUR benefit, too. Craigslist can be creepy. There are a lot of scammers and criminals and dangerous people on there who are searching for your name, your phone number and other pertinent information. They might call you and set up a showing, when really they aren’t interested…they just want to look at what you have in your house. When you have an agent representing you and your home, any potential buyers only see the house in the company of an agent who is in good standing with their association – which includes frequent background checks, history, etc.
Don’t waste your time!
This leads into not wasting your time, too. If you’re your own agent, how do you decide who’s a serious buyer and who’s just wasting your time? Everything goes through your agent, so they can vet potential buyers BEFORE they see your home. They’ll ask about the buyer’s pre-approval letter, how long they’ve been looking, etc. to make sure they are serious about potentially putting in an offer and they aren’t just looking for the fun of it.
Legalities and paperwork
And finally, all that legal mumbo-jumbo and paperwork. Once you have verified a potential buyer and they put in an offer, you have to attend to all the details and make sure the sale goes through. But what happens if you forget a mandatory disclosure or form? It’s more than just the loss of the sale at that point…we’re talking the potential for serious legal repercussions, too. Agents are trained on the legality of this paperwork, can explain anything you are confused about and make sure everything is in order to protect you from any legal ramifications.
It all boils down to the hope of saving around 3%. It isn’t the normal ~6% because any buyer with an agent will likely require you to cover their agent’s ~3% fee or they have to pay it themselves. And yes, saving around 3% sounds really great! But when most people only sell a home a handful of times in their life, a professional guiding you along the way can take away SO MUCH HEADACHE. Let the pros pay for the photography and all the marketing, and let them deal with the hassle of negotiation and paperwork and vetting of buyers. I assure you, it is worth it in the end.
We are in full winter-mode: I’m talking hot chocolate, snow and Santa. It’s not typically a time most people consider putting their house on the market. Around this time of the year, lots of people say “we want to list our home, but we’re going to wait until spring.” So today we’re diving into the market and answering the question: “when is the best time to sell a house?”
First off, this isn’t a simple question. If I had to give a short answer, it’d be: it depends. A lot of sellers assume that spring and summer are the best times to list a house. The biggest benefit of listing in warm months? There are just more buyers vying homes. This brings up the likelihood that you may get yourself into a multiple-offer situation, driving up the listing price. Buyers are more active in spring because a) moving in the snow is not appealing to many people, b) moving when the kids are out on summer break is appealing and c) houses just have a lot more curb appeal when the sun’s out.
On the other end of the spectrum, a big benefit of selling in winter? There’s less competition and inventory. Since a lot of sellers do gravitate toward listing in the spring, your home will really stand out and might get more attention if you list in the winter because there’s less inventory. There are serious buyers looking for a home year-round. Which brings me to point number two: the buyers who are on the prowl in winter are likely more serious. Yes, there are less buyers looking overall, but the ones who are searching are the real-deal. Less “window-shoppers,” if you will.
One caveat I’d like to mention? “Spring” in Spokane started in February last year. Things started getting really going again in February and by March, we were seeing the amount of inventory turnover that we typically see around May. So if you are considering getting your house on the market right when things get “going,” reach out to your agent in early February so you can start discussions to get on the market by March.
Every market is different and every single seller has his or her own goals for selling a home: whether it’s getting the most money possible, selling ASAP or something else entirely. I recommend chatting with your real estate agent and they will help you decide if you should list now or wait a couple months to be in the best position possible.
You’ve heard the news: it’s a seller’s market and homes are flying off the shelves. You decided to list your house, but its been on the market for a few weeks now with no offers and only a handful of showings. Why is that? Here are some reasons your house might not be selling as quickly as you thought it would.
This is the number one reason a house sits on the market for longer that it should. Homes sell when they are priced correctly and a house is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it. It doesn’t matter what price tag you slap on it. When you list your house for $10,000 dollars above what it should be listed at, you’re not going to get any offers. Just because it’s a seller’s market, the sky is not the limit, and it can be a costly mistake to assume so. Say for example your agent says your house could sell for $225k-235k. So you decide to push the envelope to $250k. Well, you’re going to miss out on your key market: buyers looking to spend about $230,000, which is where your house really should be priced at. They won’t even look at a $250k house because it’s too expensive for them. Buyers who ARE looking for a home at $250k are going to compare your should-be-$230k house to other homes at $250k and dismiss your house because it isn’t up to par to the others. So it sits there. By the time you reduce your price to where you should be, buyers assume there’s a reason it’s been on the market for so long, and they won’t pursue it. I can’t stress the importance of pricing right enough. It is impossible to list too low right now in this market. There are so many buyers competing for each listing, meaning if it is low? It will get in a pricing war and get bid up to where it should be. However, it is VERY possible to list too high.
Your house could need a little (or a lot) of TLC. I know it’s hard to pay for home improvements that you may not enjoy for long, but if you want to sell for full price your house need to be in a condition that warrants it. If the bathtub is dripping or there’s a hole in a wall you’ve always been meaning to patch? Fix it. Buyers will see any repairs as time and money they don’t want to spend. You also need to clean your house from top to bottom. Every window sill, wall and cabinet needs to be wiped down. Dust the blinds and the fan. Touch up any paint chips. Scrub that tub. Don’t allow a buyer to turn up their nose and pass on your house just because it isn’t clean. Oh, last thing… if you have a perpetual smell in your house – you HAVE to address. Whether it’s smoke or pets or mold…you need to get rid of the smell before opening it up to buyers. That is one guaranteed way for a buyer to leave just as soon as they walked in.
When 95% of buyers start their search online and decide whether or not to come see your house based on a quick skim – your pictures need to be top notch. If there aren’t many of them or they weren’t taken by a professional, chances are most buyers will say “pass.” Make sure your house is listed on all the major website: realtor dot com, zillow, trulia, brokerage sites. Have your agent hold an open house. Each agent has their own marketing plan: ask yours what he/she is doing to actively market your home.
If you’re getting frustrated with the time you’ve been on the market, make sure to chat with your agent about it. Maybe your agent has an answer, or they can suggest a new way to market it or recommend a price adjustment. It’s something to have a serious conversation with them about and make sure your concerns are heard.
Life just seems to slow down during fall time in the Pacific Northwest. Here are a few local day trips that are fun for the whole family:
It’s all about harvest time up at Green Bluff right now. Green Bluff is a grower’s association of about three dozen family farms (plus many more vendors and shops), sitting on 12 square miles just north of Spokane. You can pick your own produce, enjoy food from some of the best food trucks around, and experience all sorts of activities for the kiddos.
The Apple Festival is a huge draw. It’s every weekend in September and October, featuring every kind of apple imaginable available for picking, freshly-pressed cider, and of course caramel apples. Another big draw during the fall? The many pumpkin patches. Pick your perfect pumpkin, enjoy a hay ride and wait in a ridiculously long line for pumpkin donuts: it’s worth it!
Next up, take a couple hour trek to Sandpoint for the day! Known for gorgeous views of Lake Pend Oreille and Schweitzer Mountain, this can be a wonderful weekend getaway. It’s not quite skiing or boarding time, but you can still get active on the mountain by going for a hike or a bike ride. Plus, shopping in Downtown Sandpoint or the Sandpoint Shopping District won’t disappoint! If some down time is more your style, enjoy a beer at one of Sandpoint’s craft breweries.
Scenic Pend Oreille River Train
And finally: head to Newport to hop on a train! The Newport and Priest River Rotary Club runs a family-friendly scenic train ride that runs most weekends until the end of October. The Scenic Pend Oreille River Train heads along the Pend Oreille River, while the crew tells the history of the area: from Native Americans to fur trappers, gold rushers and gamblers. The trip’s about an hour and a half roundtrip. Make sure to book in advance, though, as there are only a couple weekends left! Tickets are $15 for children and seniors and $20 for adults. Head to SPORTtrainrides.com to check out available dates and book your tickets.
Some neighborhoods have this little thing called a homeowners association. Some people believe HOAs are a helpful organization to keep everything in the neighborhood uniform and looking its best. Others see them as an annoying $200-ish bill you have to pay to have someone tell you what you can’t do to your own property. Today we’re exploring what an HOA actually is, where your money usually goes, and what could happen if you were to stop paying the bill.
If you make an offer on a home that has an HOA in place, you’ll eventully get these papers called “covenants, conditions, and restrictions” or CC&Rs. When you sign on your house, you’re also signing off on these CC&Rs – promising to abide by them. It’s the HOA’s job to monitor homes and make sure everyone’s following the rules. Those CC&Rs can cover everything from the color of your house, to the type of fencing you can put up, and even the breed of your dog. They can require you to have a tree in your front yard or a certain type of curtains on street-facing windows. The goal of an HOA isn’t to be annoying or micromanage people, but just to make sure the neighborhood keeps its “look” – if you will.
HOAs also maintain common areas. For instance, if there’s a community swimming pool and the heater breaks…someone has to pay for that, and that’s where the HOA comes into play. Sometimes they hire out to maintain parks or plow the neighborhood’s streets, they may cover city service’s like water, sewer and garbage, or manage the neighborhood’s security system and gate.
Typically HOAs are about $100-200 a month, but they can be as low as $200 a year. The price typically depends on the services the HOA offers. Members of an HOA are usually charged a bit more than the monthly expenses, so that a reserve can be built up, in case of an emergency or big-ticket items.
If you get fed up with the HOA and start breaking rules or stop paying dues, you could get hit with a big fine, sued, a lien may be put on the home or it may even be foreclosed on.
HOAs aren’t for everyone. So before you make an offer on a home that has an HOA in place, look over those CC&Rs and make sure you are okay with everything your HOA will do and monitor.
So you want a house that is 2,000 square feet – but does that include the garage? How about the unfinished basement? Or the attic? Today we’re diving in to what’s included in square footage and what isn’t.
How square footage is typically measured by an appraiser:
- Measure the shell of the house from the outside (just the first story)
- If the second or third stories are the same footprint as the first? Easy, double or triple it. If they aren’t? Then they measure the interior of those stories, adjust for the thickness of walls
- Then remove spaces that don’t count as living space
- And add that all up
What’s “livable space”?
Here are some examples of what doesn’t count:
- Below grade spaces (most basements, finished or not)
- Garages (even if it’s attached)
- Outside buildings (sheds, guest houses and pool houses)
- Porches or decks
There are usually two square footage components on a listing: assessed and approximate. Assessed is what the assessor or an appraiser deems as square footage. Approximate square footage is really anything that makes up the house, so a basement could count in this scenario.
If you are thinking about putting your house on the market and are not sure where your square footage stands, ask your agent. They should be able to help you figure out what counts and what doesn’t.
Before listing your house, there are always things to do: a little paint, get the carpets shampooed, clean every nook and cranny, etc. But there are additional things you can do to wow potential buyers and maybe even get some extra dough. Here are some small updates with major returns:
This is where people love to spend their time and gather. Kitchen renovations are always good and I’m not talking a complete overhaul/remodel. Updating the appliances, painting the cabinets and even updating the hardware on those cabinets will go a long way.
Bathroom updates are next on the high-returns list. Re-grouting the tile and updating the hardware will go a long way in making your home look top-notch.
Curb appeal is huge because first impressions are everything in the real estate world. Put down some fresh mulch. Repair or replace missing or cracked stepping stones. Give the front door a fresh coat of paint. Make buyers really excited to step into your house. Oh, and a good power wash goes a LONG way. The exterior of your house goes through a lot out in the elements. Make it sparkle and shine with a good spray down.
Buyers typically just want a home that is move-in-ready and doesn’t scream “fix me immediately”. Taking care of anything unsightly or that seems like you didn’t care about the place is a must. Before you do anything major, though, check with your agent to get their thoughts on what you’ll get back on resale.