September 27, 2018
I was meeting with a client who’s asked my team to sell their Medford home when the lady said, “I know this is a silly question, but . . . “
I chuckled, because not only was it not a “silly question,” it was one I’ve probably been asked 30 times this year—and every year. That led to our consideration of the following topic: What are the most-commonly-asked questions from our clients whom we are helping to buy or sell a home? Since we are a New Jersey real estate school, isn’t this information our students—and the general public—might want to know?
Here is the answer:
- When’s the best time to put my house up for sale?
Many people think the answer is “in the spring.” To a certain extent, that is correct, because the mid-March through May period, commonly known as the spring market, is when more homes are sold than any other 10-week time span. Yet it is also the time when everybody else puts their home up for sale, so you may face greater competition than if you launch your selling period in the off season. After selling homes for more decades than I want to admit, we have sold homes on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and even on the Fourth of July. The best time to put your home up for sale is determined by your desired outcome. If you want to be with your grandchildren in Florida in time for Christmas, put it on the market in September or October. If you need to downsize because the monthly costs are becoming a real burden, let’s solve your problem by putting it up for sale right now. Truthfully, after selling more than 400 homes, we realize there is no truly “bad” time to sell. We’ve had clients who waited until the spring market, during which time mortgage rates had jumped, making it unaffordable to many of the potential buyers they could have attracted back in October. A few months ago, mortgage rates were under 4 percent; today they are north of 5 ½ percent.
- Why is your estimate of value so different from the “Zestimate” I saw online?
Zillow (and some other websites) use what is generically called the Automated Valuation Method, or AVM. Simply put, the consumer enters the location, size, and bare details of their home, such as “4 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms,” etc. A computer searches the public records for other homes that have sold in that town that had roughly the same features, and then an algorithm comes up with a “value.” I have sometimes entered my own home on these sites and was astonished to receive emails saying the value that day went up $20,000 or down $18,000. No home has a change of that amount in a day or a week. And the computer algorithm cannot tell the difference between two identical homes in a neighborhood, one with the latest expensive upgrades, and the other which has not been updated since 1970. When a professional Realtor® provides an estimate of a home’s value, they first walk through the home, noting every feature—good and bad. They know the neighborhood personally; they know which has a high resale value because it is a prestigious community, and one which will sell for less because it is on a busy road next to high-tension wires. No computer sitting in Seattle can do that.
- What if I need to sell my home, but I owe more on my mortgage than its current value?
We frequently must resort to creative marketing techniques to get our clients the results they need. Situations like this are quite common. Such a sale may require bringing money to the settlement table, or we may have to sell it as a short sale. Again, picking a Realtor® with experience in solving problems like this can help you solve your very personal, individual needs.
- If my home is dated, is it better to spend money fixing it up and hopefully then selling it at full market value, or should I sell it for less money but in its current condition?
My best answer is, “It depends.” Our team—and all good Realtors®—will assess and advise each situation based on its merits, the costs involved, and the motivation of the client. We will walk through your home, then sit down to discuss your options, even providing you with our network of trusted professionals to get an estimate of doing the updates—with the then-likely selling price—or the probable sale price “as is.”
- Is it better to use a local mortgage company, or one which advertises on the Internet or TV?
This is an easy one! We beg our buyer clients not to use a lender whom they have found online or through a TV or radio ad. We have dozens of stories of people who thought they had the best deal ever, and then the company they had chosen hit them with thousands of dollars in hidden fees, or extra points, or, in many cases, told them a few days before closing that they could not approve the loan. By this time, the buyer had invested thousands of dollars in application fees, credit check fees, appraisal fees, and costs for home inspections. Your Realtor® can provide you with a list of very reputable local mortgage companies who have served their clients for decades. They know that company will deliver on their promises. Their rates are as competitive as any legitimate lender, and best of all, you will always have a real (local) human being to guide you through the process.
David C. Forward is a licensed real estate broker and instructor who first became a Realtor® 30 years ago. He is a popular public speaker on ethics and leadership, is author of 13 books, and is School Director of Garden State Real Estate Academy, which provides pre-licensing, broker licensing, and continuing education courses for real estate agents in Cherry Hill, Marlton, and Medford, New Jersey. For more details, or to contact David, go to www.GSREacademy.com or call 609.923.0590
If you are interested in becoming a New Jersey real estate agent—or in earning your NJ broker’s license—check out Garden State Real Estate Academy’s courses at https://gsreacademy.com/ or call us at 609.923.0590