Selling Your Home FSBO

fsbobuttonThere are many reasons why people decide to sell their home on their own:

  1. I don’t want to pay a commission.
  2. I want to pay a lower commission so I’ll cooperate with agents.
  3. Buyers are online and I can advertise online. Who needs an agent?
  4. My last agent(s) didn’t sell the place and I know I can do it better myself.
  5. I know what my home’s really worth and want to sell it for that amount.

Or maybe it’s a combination of two or more of the above reasons. Whatever the motivation, here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you’re selling a home yourself.

1) Privacy in Online Marketing

If you’re going to list your home for sale on Zillow or craigslist, be smart and don’t include your phone number on the listing. Craigslist is a scammer’s paradise and, when it comes to real estate, the scammers often rely on the for sale listings they see on Zillow to create their rental scams on craigslist.

Keep as much of your personal information as possible personal.

2) Know Your Audience

Years ago, I listened to a flat-rate broker explain to an audience the myth of “maximum exposure.” It took another year or two to understand what he meant … and know I’ll share that with you:

The key to selling your home isn’t maximum exposure – it’s targeted exposure to buyers and those working on their behalf looking specifically for a home like yours.

The millions of visitors that use Zillow every month are meaningless to you as a seller unless they’re looking at your home. Keep an eye on the number of times your home listing has been viewed and adjust your marketing material (and perhaps price) as needed until your home sells.

As for some ideas on the marketing …

3) Professional Photographs

Rather than trying to explain the difference, take a look for yourself ..


4) Sell the Sizzle, Not the Steak

Don’t make the mistake of repeating all of the information contained in the bullet points in a home – you’re selling the steak. What you need is someone who’s going to sell the sizzle, who can describe not what the house looks like but how it feels to live there … the experience of it all. Want an example?

Great floor plan with 2 bedrooms + den, huge great room, kitchen with breakfast bar and dining are, spacious master suite with double sinks, separate tub/shower and walk-in closet. The home features cherry cabinets with crown molding, stainless steel kitchen appliances, 20” tile flooring, slab granite kitchen countertops, inside laundry, two-tone paint, raised bath vanities with cultured marble tops and so much more!

Or this …

Relax. You’re home. Stretch out on the back patio with your morning cup of coffee and soak in the quiet of the desert. You spent no time searching for window coverings and ceiling fans, had no effort wasted setting appointments with landscapers to create a backyard because you skipped the new builds and purchased a lightly lived in, move-in ready home at the Retreat at Arizona Traditions.

Which home do you think will attract more buyers and sell more quickly?

5) For Sale Signs

At the end of the day, all you want is for someone to either drive by your house or pick up the phone and call you. So don’t write a whole bunch of information on a For Sale sign and stick it on the side of a major road where no one can possibly read the small lettering you’ve used in your excitement to share everything.

Stick to the bare basics and get someone to pick up the phone to make an appointment. No one’s going to buy a home based on what the sign says.

6) About Broker Cooperation

It’s a nice concept and a way to conceivably save half the commission (roughly) if the house sells. At the same time, virtually no broker or agent spends their time looking at unreliable sources such as Zillow and craigslist to find properties for their clients, not when so many homes are advertised in the MLS. So keep in mind, you’re offering something to a group of people who aren’t going to see what you’re offering. Or your home, for that matter.

Now, if you’ve been doing it yourself …

And are tired of waiting for the right buyer to happen across your property, there’s one step you can take today to move you closer to getting your home sold. And that’s calling me. Through good times and bad, my listings have sold in an average of 56 days at 98 percent of sales price. It’s not coincidence.

To schedule your appointment to get your home not just listed and marketed but sold in the shortest amount of time for the highest dollar amount, call me at 602-502-9693 or e-mail me at info at and I’ll get to work for you!

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Real Estate Marketing Flim Flam and Selling Your House

charlatanIf you’ve never taken a moment to read the book Charlatan, I highly recommend it. It’s set in the late 19th Century, a time when assorted quacks, shysters and hucksters in America made a considerable living from the gullibility of their fellow man.

In many ways, the same can be said about many real estate agents and the needlessly complex marketing plans they will present, all in an effort to obscure the simple reality of real estate marketing – it’s not the bright, shiny concepts such as “maximum exposure” that sell homes but the routine, possibly even mundane, use of a handful of proven marketing techniques that will lead to a sale.

While many agents want you looking at their right hand where they talk about the millions of theoretical eyeballs looking at online listings, they simultaneously hope you’re not looking at the left where there almost certainly are cracks in their marketing bedrock. (Take it from one who had been there early in his career, confidence crushed by the dead market of 2007).

What are these bedrock concepts?

  • Competitive, market-aligned price (which can be above or below market depending on demand)
  • Professional photography that entices the eye of not just buyers but their agents who want to look discerning to their clients
  • Staging – not necessarily professional, but basic efforts to remove clutter and/or improve a given room’s appeal
  • MLS marketing – not just the simple entry of a listing, but the effort through marketing copy (and the lead photograph) to sell a lifestyle and not just a house.

Skip the make-work and shiny objects – open houses, broker tours, syndication to Zillow and Trulia – and the odds of a given home selling remain virtually untouched. Make a mistake with any of the big four, however, and the chances of a sale are exponentially lower than they should be.

This week, I sold a house in Mesa’s Dobson Ranch in three days. Meanwhile, a house down the block languishes. Granted, it doesn’t have a garage instead of a carport or a backyard diving pool, but those are the items where price can compensate.

But it’s not just about price …


Above is the photo of the backyard of this other house, or at least a portion of it. Note the time stamp which, presumably, does not convey with the house.

1555 W Naranja Ave

And there’s the picture for my listing.

If you’re guessing the second home has the bigger lot, you’d be correct. But … it’s only a difference of 500 square feet, an extra seven to eight feet on one side of the house.

Professional photography means a lot.

Then there’s the description …

3 Bedroom, 1.75 bath home – Dobson Ranch, Mesa, AZ Traditional Sale. This Dobson Ranch home has 3 bedrooms and 1.75 baths. Floors: Wood, tile and carpet. Sunny 7’ x 15’ Arizona room addition with lots of windows and its own a/c. Ceiling fans throughout and lots of closet and storage space. All appliances including washer & dryer in detached laundry room. Exterior storage shed and additional metal shed. Large grassy backyard. Walk to Dobson High School.

… compared to …

Step outside and enjoy those last weeks of ”winter” and beginning of spring in this wonderfully updated home in Mesa’s Dobson Ranch. Sit on the extended patio overlooking the grass with your coffee or look to the pool and count the days until summer swimming season begins. And if the night gets too cold, light a fire in the wood-burning fireplace as you stretch out in the spacious family and living rooms. Maybe cook a meal for family or guests in the upgraded kitchen including newer counters, glass-panel cabinets and a smooth-top stove. In the mood for private time? The master bedroom has its own exit to the pool area. Community includes clubhouse, pool, tennis courts and fishing in the community lakes. Built to last by Continental and with the updates you would want in a classic home.

Slight difference, eh?

As I said before, these are the basics. Before falling for the listing presentation flim flam and old soft shoe, take a quick look at what the agent in your kitchen may not be mentioning – the boring basics that, nine times out of ten, are going to make the difference between listing a home and selling one.

And when you’re ready to sell, call me at 602-502-9693.

Short Sales and Bankruptcies from B of A

Short Sales and BankruptcyI could write a post about what happens when short sales and bankruptcy filings collide but, frankly, the folks at Bank of America already did so for me.

Quick disclaimer: all of this comes straight for Bank of America. Always, always, always check with a tax and/or bankruptcy advisor before going down either the short sale of the bankruptcy road (or both).

Bank of America can review a short sale offer while the loan is in an active bankruptcy. To complete a short sale and issue the approval letter, the bankruptcy documents must be filed and approved by the court. Any final agreement will require bankruptcy court approval.

Homeowner(s) should consult with their Bankruptcy Counsel about how these programs could affect their mortgage and their bankruptcy case.

When a loan is in bankruptcy, there is an Automatic Stay, also known as a “hold,” of any collection activity placed on any and/or all debts to which the debtor is a party. Before the short sale specialist can discuss the short sale, Bank of America must have written authorization from the Homeowner(s’) Bankruptcy attorney on the law firm’s letterhead to discuss loss mitigation options with the borrowerThis is in addition to the Bank of America Third-Party Authorization Form needed from the borrower to speak to the bankruptcy attorney and the listing agent.

If Homeowner(s) is/are currently in a bankruptcy proceeding, or have previously obtained a discharge of this debt under applicable bankruptcy law, all communication and notices are for information purposes only and is not an attempt to collect the debt, a demand for payment, or an attempt to impose personal liability for that debt. The Homeowner(s) is/are not obligated to discuss their home loan with Bank of America or enter into a short sale agreement or other loan-assistance program. Customers should consult with their bankruptcy attorney or other advisor about their legal rights and options.

For a short sale to be processed to completion for a loan in bankruptcy, Bank of America must receive one of the following releases issued by the bankruptcy court:

  • Granted Motion to Sell*
  • Granted Motion for  Relief from Automatic Stay with noted short sale negotiation*
  • Dismissal
  • Discharge with Abandonment, Closing Order, Final Decree, Trustee No Asset Review

*A granted Motion differs from a requested Motion.

  If Homeowner(s) receive(s) a discharge under a Chapter 7 a bankruptcy proceeding: discharge releases the Homeowner(s) from personal liability for certain specified types of debts. The Homeowner(s) is/are no longer legally required to pay any debts that are discharged. The discharge is a permanent order prohibiting the creditors of the Homeowner(s) from taking any form of collection action on discharged debts, including legal action and communications with the Homeowner(s), such as telephone calls, letters, and personal contacts.

Although a Homeowner is not personally liable for discharged debts, a valid lien (i.e., a charge upon specific property to secure payment of a debt) that has not been avoided (i.e., made unenforceable) in the bankruptcy case will remain after the bankruptcy case. Therefore, a secured creditor may enforce the lien to recover the property secured by the lien.

Bankruptcy Frequently Asked Questions

1.   What additional documents will be needed to complete this short sale?

Bank of America must have written authorization from the Homeowner’s bankruptcy attorney (on the law firm’s letterhead) to discuss loss mitigation options with the Homeowner.  The customer and the attorney may determine that they do not want to give this authorization and the short sale can be negotiated through the attorney.  This attorney authorization permitting Bank of America to speak to the Homeowner(s) is in addition to the Bank of America Third-Party Authorization Form needed from the Homeowner(s) to speak to the bankruptcy attorney and agent. Communication cannot occur with the real estate agent/Homeowner(s) until the bankruptcy attorney’s written authorization on the firm’s letterhead and the Bank of America Third-Party Authorization form are received.

2.   When will I receive the approval letter?
An approval letter cannot be issued until the releases, identified above from the bankruptcy court has been received. Once the release is received, the file can be submitted for approval to the appropriate investor(s) and/or mortgage insurance company. The file will then follow the normal approval process to ensure it meets investor requirements.

3.   Why can’t you approve a short sale file while waiting for the bankruptcy to be released?
An approval must follow the direction provided in the release by the bankruptcy court. That is why a short sale will not be approved unless a court order permitting the sale is first received.

4.   What fees can be paid related to the bankruptcy proceeding?
Any fees that are directly associated with the bankruptcy would be subject to further review and approval. For example, if Bank of America incurs fees to file a pleading to approve the short sale in the bankruptcy court, Bank of America may seek permission from the bankruptcy court to allow such attorney and filing fees.

5.   Can a homeowner qualify for a Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternative (HAFA) incentive while in bankruptcy?
Yes. However, any funds going to the Homeowner(s) through state incentives or other incentive programs must be properly disclosed and handled in accordance with bankruptcy legislation and local rules.

6.   Are additional documents required for a short sale when the homeowner is in active bankruptcy?
Yes. Two additional documents are needed for a short sale that is in active bankruptcy:

  • An attorney authorization letter from the bankruptcy attorney providing permission to speak with the Homeowner(s) is required. This is separate and in addition to the required Bank of America Third-Party Authorization Form signed by the Homeowner(s) permitting Bank of America to speak with the bankruptcy attorney and the real estate agent.
  • Bank of America must receive a release issued by the bankruptcy court (listed above).


Schwab Bank Gives Bad News for Potential Short Sales

Heard from a rep at Quicken Loans, the loan servicer for Schwab Bank/PHH mortgage, that Schwab Bank Moretgage only will consider near-full payoffs on short sales of homes that it had financed. Which, naturally, entirely defeats the purpose of a short sale for 95 percent of the population who may be considering such a move here in the Phoenix area.

This is one of those areas where logic has taken a holiday. All statistics show lenders receive a better payoff on a short sale than on a foreclosure. And yet, Schwab Bank will not go that route, preferring instead to believe saying no will cause the homeowner to start paying their mortgage once again in spite of whatever hardship may have befallen them over time.

But at least Schwab still has the homeowner go through the considerable effort of requesting an Application for Success from Quicken, soliciting offers and submitting a full short sale package just to find out the answer’s been no all along.

Should this change, I’ll provide an update.

Preparing for a Quicken Loans Short Sale

So you’ve decided to short sell your home and you’ve got the basic paperwork in order:

  • Last 2 bank statements
  • Last 2 tax returns
  • Hardship letter
  • Form 4506-T
  • Uniform Borrower Financial Worksheet (aka Form 710)
  • MLS listing

In many cases, you’re good to go. But if your loan happens to be held by Quicken, or if you just had your loan purchased by Quicken Loans (as just happened to many Schwab Bank Mortgage loan holders), you’ve got an important extra step to take care of.

Before you do anything else, Quicken Loans requires you to call in to discuss your options. Once the rep on the phone is satisfied there’s a legitimate hardship, then Quicken Loans will send you their “Application for Success.” Yeah, I know. The name’s pretty goofy. But it is what it is. Send that form in and Quicken will see what home retention options you might qualify for and then, once all avenues are exhausted, Quicken will consider the short sale.

Still unknown is what Quicken might do should you have no interest in a loan modification or whatever other options happen to be “available.” As we’ve seen from Bank of America in the past, “available” and “useful” are two different things. (And, for that matter, available doesn’t really mean available much of the time there.)

Should you be considering a short sale, whether it’s on a Quicken Loans, Bank of America or another lender’s mortgage, call me at 602-502-9693 or e-mail me at info at and we can talk more about what might work for you.

Do You REALLY Know Your Home’s Value

This weekend I spoke to a friend of mine who is debating moving to a larger home.

In her estimation, her house was worth about $85,000. On Zillow, God bless it’s thoroughly delusional little heart, the home is worth $88,500.

As for the reality of the Phoenix real estate market? This home should sell for $115,000 to $125,000 without too much difficulty thanks to escalating prices, a dearth of competition and a surplus of buyers looking for a home with a pool in 112-degree weather.

Because of the severe change in the Phoenix market over the past few months, most homeowners have no idea what their home is worth. Those who have longed to move onto something newer, bigger, with a pool, without a pool, one level, two levels, whatever … many can do so, if only they knew both what their home was worth and what is available on the market at the moment.

Don’t be one of those folks missing the opportunity the market’s currently offering. Call today and I can send you a free, no-obligation home valuation.

Even if you take no action now, it helps to know what your property really is worth.

Is My Mortgage Backed by Freddie Mac?

President Obama’s Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives initiative still is out there and continues to offer $3,000 to qualifying homeowners who short sell their homes – an exception to the general rule that sellers come away empty-handed on a short sale.

One of the requirements is the homeowners’ mortgage be “owned, guaranteed or securitized” by Freddie Mac … but how does a homeowner know if their mortgage is in that category?

Fortunately, Freddie Mac offers a website that tells owners whether Freddie has a hand in their mortgage. Simply enter your name, address and the last four digits of your social security number and you’ll find out if you’re eligible for the HAFA program.

Facing foreclosure is difficult. HAFA is one program to make it a little less painful.

Have specific questions? Call me today at 602-502-9693 and I’ll be happy to talk with you about your options.

Should I Remodel Before I Sell?

To some degree, the answer to this one’s going to depend on the current condition of the home.

If it’s habitable – no holes in the wall, no broken appliances, no peeling or seriously stained paint or carpet beyond repair – then the answer likely would be no as a seller never will see a dollar for dollar adjustment in price because of upgrades. Depending on the market, the price change due to upgrading the house cosmetically would be anywhere from 50 to 75 cents on the dollar all the way down to pennies on the dollar.

If major work needs to be done just to get a potential buyer in the front door, that’s an entirely different story – by all means, you want your home to show as livable in its current condition if you want anyone other than an investor looking for a fix-and-flip to purchase the property.

One thing to keep in mind – be very aware of the age of your property and the age of your neighborhood. If you have a house built in the 1970s, complete with the utilitarian bathrooms that were built at the time – marble or granite counters likely are a waste of time because, at the end of the day, it’s still a utilitarian bathroom. (A pedestal sink, however, could work to make the bathroom look less full.)

Much as Michelangelo looked for the sculpture within the piece of marble with which he was working, you need to work within the bones of the house you have to make the home more attractive without forcing a particular design into an unsuitable property or neighborhood.

Can a Seller Back Out of a Contract?

So many words have been spent over the years on the concept of buyers’ remorse and yet sellers’ remorse does exist.

The problem is the Arizona Association of REALTORS Residential Real Estate Resale Purchase Contract doesn’t allow for it.

Once a seller signs of on a contract to make it executed, there are no outs. Buyers have several points in which they can change their mind, the seller has zero.

This isn’t to say that a seller who accepted a contract absolutely must sell – no one can force you at gunpoint to do so. But changing one’s mind turns a simple sale into a legal minefield where the best ally a seller can have is a real estate attorney as there may be damages due the buyer.

Which all makes the best advice this – if you’re putting your home on the market, and if you’re about to sign a contract to sell the place, make sure you’re ready. Because you really do need to be.

Photo credit: SrLegYnnek via Flickr Creative Commons

Can A Seller Back Out of a Purchase Contract

Another common question from sellers is whether the seller can change their mind once they’ve signed and executed a purchase contract.

There’s a two-part answer for this one. Yes, the seller can change their mind and refuse to sell. No one can force a seller to sign the deed, no one can force the seller to honor the contract – well, theoretically a judge or mediator can but I’ve not heard of it happening.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be ramifications if a seller simply changes his mind. Think of the expenses borne by the buyer – an appraisal, home inspections, possibly moving costs. It’s conceivable a seller could be responsible for all of these if they are in breach of the contract, if not more once damages are considered.

Bottom line is before a seller decides not to sell after an executed purchase contract is in place, that seller needs to talk to a real estate attorney post haste to find out what the ramifications of such an action might be.

Talking to your agent isn’t going to be sufficient – we’re expert in bringing buyers and sellers together and getting the contract executed; the best way to break that contract is in the purview of the attorneys.

Photo credit: giumaiolini via Flickr Creative Commons