Posted in bay city, Finding a great Realtor, Midland Saginaw Real Estate

What Makes a Great Real Estate Agent?

More than 60% of home sellers choose the first agent that visits their home. Wow! Does that mean the majority of real estate agents are great? People are so blown away with the sales presentations and marketing plans they need look no further? I would say, NO. As much as that statistic would make my day if I could somehow find the way to be the first one to home sellers’ doors; I don’t believe the majority of agents are “great” or “outstanding” . I would suggest that more than likely, the public is not aware of what makes the difference between a good agent and a great agent until they are well into the sales process and they’re already under contract.  Because buying or selling a home isn’t usually something done with frequency, how would one know what they SHOULD expect? Well, I think as a Realtor, I’m in a unique position to give an idea of what separates bad, good, and great agents. Why? Because I’ve heard a lot of complaints and even nightmare stories over the years. I have heard the shortcomings of agents as well as some spectacular acts of service. Let me share with you a little bit about what I believe home sellers & buyers should expect from an agent.

1. Do they make you feel comfortable in their presence? That may seem like an odd requirement but buying or selling is a big transaction. Don’t work with someone that you don’t feel comfortable with. You should feel like they are trustworthy, that they have your interest in mind. They should be listening to you and asking you questions to find out your needs. Trust your instincts.

2. Do they have a plan? There’s a little differentiation here between buyers and sellers. For buyers – the agent should be asking what your “dream list” is and be taking notes. They should be getting to know you and what is important to you and offer to put together an automatic search for you. They should be flexible with times that work for you – that is not saying they’re going to clear their schedule the next day and make you their only priority. They should offer you information on the community; events, schools, etc.                                                                                                                                     Sellers should find that an agent comes to their first appointment well prepared and professional.  They should already have done background work on your home’s information. They should have printed or online material about themselves, and the company they represent, ready for you.  A great agent should be able to walk through your home and point out the pluses and also those little things you may want to change to make your home more sale-able. They should be able to sit down and specifically give you a marketing plan for your home – don’t settle for someone who just says they have a great marketing plan. You should be able to see it in black and white right there. It should involve a multi-faceted approach – online (websites, FB, MLive), print, etc. Find out if they’re a member of your local board of Realtors. If you live near a county border, be sure they’re a member of the neighboring board too, or at least have guest listing privileges there. You need to make sure it will be listed in both places.

3. What is their route of communication? One of the biggest complaints from sellers that I hear is, “They stuck a sign in my yard and I never heard from them again”. That should never happen. You should have some type of weekly interaction. Even if there hasn’t really been an event for them to report, they should be calling or emailing (your preference) about what stage they’re at in their marketing plan and what they plan to do differently the next week. A buyer’s agent should be auto sending new and reduced listings any day they appear and also keep in touch with your situation to be sure nothing has changed.

4. Are they full service? This is a time where not every brokerage out there is full service.  You will find discount agencies. Note: THERE’S A REASON they’re called a discount agency.  They will not be handling all the details for you – before a contract, nor during, nor after.  I had my first encounter with working with a discount broker last year. I had a buyer who was interested in a home that was listed with a discount broker. It was a flat fee company that put a sign in the yard and listed it on the MLS and that was about it.  We went to make an offer and were told to work directly with the seller. The seller was absolutely confused, they were also not prepared to negotiate with an expert negotiator (me). They ended up walking away – their agent was not even aware.  Three weeks later their agent called to find out the status of the deal only to find we’d purchased another home. Be sure your agent is full service! Be sure you sign a contract so they are legally representing YOUR best interests; whether you are a buyer or seller.

To wrap it up; a bad agents tend to be pushy and hard-sell, most likely impatient, and want you to decide everything at that moment; a good agent will say they know your area, be professional, list your home on the MLS and some websites. A great agent will prove they know your area, show you their plan, come prepared, take time to listen and answer all your questions regardless of the lengthy number, list your home with a multi-faceted marketing approach, stay in communication, and make you feel like you are in the hands of an expert – because you are.

Monique Gilbert_Logo

Posted in For Sale by Owner, real estate, Realtor

Won’t I net more as a For Sale by Owner versus using a Realtor?

When you see a Realtor pose a question about a For Sale by Owner (FSBO) versus Realtor you may naturally assume I’d side with using a Realtor. But you may not know that I am one of the few crazy people who can say, “I love to do research!”. After beginning to design a marketing campaign geared toward assisting FSBO’s; with the hope that they may end up listing with me down the road – I decided to find out the real answer to the above question, “Won’t I net more as a FSBO versus using a Realtor?”. It sounds logical, right? What does the research say? Also as importantly to me, what are the motivating factors that cause people to try selling their own home, aside from believing they will make more profit? And so began my search…..

Statistics showed a resounding “NO” to the title question. You will not make more money selling your home by yourself. Not only that, but FSBO’s take an average of 19 more days to sell. Also when you consider that about 20% of FSBO’s end up listing with an agent, that average lengthens to an extra 68 days. The average difference between what homes sell for with a Realtor and FSBO more than compensates for the brokerage fee. The national average broker fee is $15,000 but the average amount Realtors garner versus FSBO in home price is $40,000. So, statistically speaking, you should be ahead of the game both financially and time-wise by listing with a Real Estate Professional.

While reading through dozens of articles online, I tried first to focus on institutions for the research facts, like the National Association for Realtors and independent entities like Quicken Loans. After that I switched gears and read some blogs and personal testimonials of people who sold or unsuccessfully attempted to sell For Sale By Owner. I wanted to know what their biggest hurdles were in the process and as stated earlier, why they went that route in the first place. Let’s take a look at those hurdles first.

Ever hear of or been a parent who was confused by their 6th grade child’s math homework? I remember being confused when my 2nd grader came home with math and it asked for her to rename the equations. I had no idea what that meant. After being stumped for half an hour I finally called the teacher, feeling like an idiot – only to be told that renaming was what we had called borrowing back in my day. Oh – pretty simple subtraction. So here I am a college graduate twice over, stumped by 2nd grade math. Why? The language. It appears that FSBO sellers biggest hurdle is the paperwork, the language. It’s not because they’re not smart, but unfamiliar. Did you know you can lose out on thousands of dollars just by having your taxes prorated in arrears if you’re in an area that customarily does them in advance? By not being familiar with language in the Purchase Agreement or title work – it could literally cost you big bucks.

How about pricing? As a home-owner it’s not easy to pull up what all the neighborhood homes have sold for. Sold prices are what appraisers and Realtors use to assess your home’s value.  Current list prices don’t necessarily reflect value. If someone isn’t willing to pay it; it isn’t worth it.  Combine the difficulty of finding sold comps and accurately pricing with the fact that only 2% of interested buyers will look at your home if they believe it to be even 10% above Fair Market Value – you could be in trouble. The first three weeks are crucial when selling a home. It is by far the greatest period of activity. If your price isn’t right from the get-go, you are eliminating a huge number of prospects.

I would state that especially in a market like Mid-Michigan; the inability to effectively market a home is the greatest trial of a FSBO. It is true there are more options for marketing now than in the past, but it just isn’t possible to get down all the avenues without having it listed by a Realtor.  When I list a home it goes to more than 1000 websites. Considering that 43% of people first find their home online; that is an important factor. The second biggest way people find homes is directly through a Realtor, 33%. The largest piece of that 43% of people who find homes online first; is marketing done by Realtors.

I’m surely not saying that selling your home yourself is impossible. In some markets, you may have the perfect home in the perfect location and it will fly right out the door. Looking at the cold hard facts though, your Realtor could be worth their weight in gold – – ok, maybe not quite but an average $40K higher is pretty good, plus you don’t have all the headaches. I do want to note that aside from “saving” money, the other biggest reason people list their own homes is because of previous experiences with a bad agent. Yup! They’re out there. I’d like to write a little bit more on that – what’s bad, what’s good, what should you expect? Since I can’t wrap that all up in a two sentence nutshell; I’ll put it in my next post.

If you are currently listing your home FSBO  and are having a hard time, please feel free to message me. I’d be more than happy to help you out, no matter where you are – no pressure, just good advice from years of experience. Have a super awesome day!

Here are a few of the first articles I read. The Public Relations Princess testimonial by Claire was a great insight from a FSBO experience.

http://www.realtor.org/         http://www.quickenloans.com/blog/sale-owner-pros-cons-seller

http://visual.ly/realtors-vs-sale-owners        http://www.realtor.com/advice/why-fsbo-sales-fail/

http://www.publicrelationsprincess.com/2012/07/for-sale-by-owner-vs-hiring-a-realtor-a-true-story.html

Posted in Home Selling Tips, real estate, Selling Your Home

Easy Tips to Sell Your Home Faster

Is there some kind of magic potion to make your home sell instantly? How about even in the first 30 days? Well, just like the fountain of youth; it hasn’t really been discovered yet, but there are certainly some proven factors that can help you out.  There are two basic issues that sellers may have: 1) They aren’t getting any showings or 2) they’re having showings but no one is making an offer. I’ll address them in this order, because quite frankly each issue has it’s own reason or two.

First of all, if you aren’t getting any showings you need to rule out whether or not you’re overpriced and verify your agent has an excellent marketing plan.  Setting those issues aside for this particular topic, you next need to take a moment and glance at the photos your agent is using. Are they from a cellphone? If so, I’d say have them come out and re-do them. Very rarely are those high quality, they just don’t compare to a real honest to goodness Canon, Nikon or the like. When you’re looking at the photos, what do you notice? I know it is your home, and we tend not to see a lot of our own “things”. That’s why looking at a photo is better than just glancing around your house. At first look, do you notice things or the house? Do you see so much yard on the exterior shot that you can’t really see the home? Have your agent use a wide-angled lens. This makes for a much nicer profile shot.  For the interior, are there items lined up on your kitchen counter? Lots of picture frames on the entertainment center?  A good rule of thumb is to get rid of knick-knack items while your home is on the market – and do it before the photo shoot. An excellent interior photo of your home should showcase the house, not your stuff. Things that we often think make our house a home are also things that make photos look busy and unappealing. Also, if you have rooms that aren’t updated, why put them in the listing? I shake my head every time I look at a listing and see a random shot of a toilet stool…… Better to showcase the finer points and get people in the door. Can’t sell a house that no one looks at!

If you’re getting some decent showings but just not getting any offers or 2nd showings you also need to consider your price because you may just be a bit high. But, there are lots of reasons people don’t buy houses that really shouldn’t prohibit them.  Let’s start with the exterior, because that’s where the buyers’ first impression comes from. Be sure your yard is freshly mowed, trees trimmed, and make your entrance welcoming. Not much more disheartening than getting to a house with an unkempt lawn and then having issues with the door. Be sure your door opens and closes properly. Be sure it latches and the handles are shiny and there’s no peeling paint. The front porch should be spotless and uncluttered. There’s always an agent/buyer conversation at the door, let it be positive, not about a squeaky door or ripped screen.

Here it goes – the key is in the lock and the door swings open……. Whew! What is that smell? Whether it is from a cat or potpourri; it needs to go.  There’s no taking back this first 5 second impression. Smell is a huge deterrent. It puts a stigma on a home the second someone smells it.  It is well worth your money to have the carpets & upholstery cleaned prior to listing. And don’t use crazy candles or potpourri. A clean smelling candle or air freshener is fine, but I always say the best smell upon walking into a house is NO smell.  People associate smells with “they must be trying to cover something up”! Or it is a smell they hate, or in regard to pet odors, people think the house hasn’t been well maintained and that plants seeds of doubt.

One of the best ways to make your home smell fresh leads into what I say is the best investment in selling your home – paint! Paint is not expensive and it covers a multitude of issues.  I always suggest that my homeowners go around and look at their home as if it belonged to someone else. First this eliminates the clutter like I mentioned earlier but go farther. Do you see dingy walls? Finger marks near light switches? scratches on the walls? Scuff marks by the doors and down the stairways? Paint makes a home smell fresh and look fresh. How about wallpaper? Get rid of it. You may like the pattern but chances are someone else will not.  Strip the paper and paint.  Just be sure to use a light neutral color, but not stark white. Go with a light beige or grey tone, depending on your decor. A fresh coat of paint, combined with the staging of your home – putting away those knick-knacks you don’t need, will make a huge difference. Have room to put the toaster in a cupboard instead of on the counter? Do it!

Be sure you clean your house before a showing. If it is between no showing or no cleaning, I always advise to go ahead and have it shown but if you know in advance – prepare your home like you’re expecting royalty. I know you’re busy, but better to do it a few times and sell your house than to have to endure showings continuously without a sale. Vacuum, dust, stuff the laundry into the machines, (not the closets cuz they’re going to open those!) You may even want to prepare a batch of cookies. People associate that with friendliness and they like that. People want to buy from nice people.

All in all, first impressions are critical. If your yard is spiffy, the house is neat, clean, not smelly, not cluttered, not crazy colors of paint or wallpaper – it will sell. You wouldn’t believe some of the things that go on the market. You can make your home stand out in a positive way just by doing the things that are inexpensive and not time consuming. Good luck!! and remember, as always – feel free to contact me for advice about selling your home or for a market analysis.

Posted in Bay City Michigan, Midland Michigan, Real Estate Market Statistics

1st Quarter Stats Come In! Saginaw Update, Midland & Bay Quarterly Report

MARKET STATS – SAGINAW UPDATE – MIDLAND 1ST QUARTER REPORT – BAY 1ST QUARTER REPORT

As insanely busy as the 1st quarter was for me, and the positive statistics I wrote about in my last edition; it appears Saginaw County in general showed a decline when compared to the last four years. My report a few weeks ago for Saginaw spoke of lesser amount of transactions, but the positivity of the steadily increasing average sales price. It appears, at least for the 1st quarter, when all is said and done that the increase of prices seems to have hit a standstill, and the number of transactions is still down. However (you’ll always hear the bright side from me, and I know there always IS a bright side) the fact remains that there are still high demand areas, and if your home is priced accurately and is clean – there’s a market for it! I’m consistently hearing agents say we need more inventory, that they’re crazy busy, and there’s a low supply of “nice” homes.  I’ll touch base in another session about the best ways to make your home worth more without spending a fortune.

MIDLAND STATS

Anyone from Mid-Michigan can tell you that though our Tri-County borders bring us together, the housing markets are very different. Midland tends to have the highest average home sale price of the three counties. They are also the only county of the three who didn’t see the 40% drop in home values back in 2008-2009. In fact, they are already showing prices a bit higher than 2005 and just a hair below the highest in a decade that occurred in 2007.  The average home sale in Midland is currently around $156,000. Though the number of transactions here was also down somewhat, the rebound in price seems to be enough to make up for the total volume in sales.  There are however, areas of Midland County as a whole that have suffered more than others. Again, like Saginaw and Bay – it is the out-area townships that are having a Days-On-Market (DOM) issue. For instance a home in Lee Township in the $150,000-200,000 price point shows an average DOM of 36 months and over in Edenville Township if your home is over the $300,000 price you may expect a whopping 48 month average DOM! As a whole, I am seeing a lot of “green” on my Midland Stats sheet though – which means an average DOM under 3 months, and that’s great! These DOM’s are an average and don’t take into account if you’re listing with a great agent or just an agent, and trust me it makes a difference! (That’s another blog topic to come – What makes a great agent) All-in-all Midland County, you’re doing pretty well.

BAY COUNTY STATS

I mentioned in my previous entry that covered Saginaw, that looking at Bay County’s long term stats really surprised me.  I think most people believe Bay County to be doing pretty well but looking at the average prices over the last decade shows Bay County to have suffered greatly, and has the slowest rebound in terms of recovering prices.  In 2005 the average home was $140,000. It dropped to just $70,000 in 2009 (yes, 50%!) and has only rebounded to about $92,000 so it has quite a ways to go before getting back to “before the crash” prices. The total volume for Bay County did pick up quite a bit from 2012-2014. 2014 landed right around $95 million in sales volume which is a positive 28% compared to 2008. I’m seeing mostly green in the Bay County Stats as well, which is great! There are only a handful of red areas here, which are all in the higher price points. If you don’t have a home worth more than $300,000 in Pinconning, or more than half a million in the City, you should be just fine.

SUMMARY – All in all, as I will always continue to say, the market can be quite a hilly road on a graph but whether it’s on the downhill or upward trek of the thing – homes are selling. The key is to get the right agent, who will work hard to sell your home and for you to listen to your agent when it comes to their suggestions. A good agent will not advise you to spend a lot of money, but they will have a small list of invaluable items you can do to be sure your home is the one that sells! They’ll also market your home, not just place it on the MLS with a sign in your yard. But here I go on a whole other topic… so til next time – —–

And remember, if you would like a full marketing report or market analysis on your home, please send me a message at moniquegilbert@bhhsmi.com or sign up for Market Watch at http://www.homesofmidmichigan.com

Posted in bay city, midland, real estate, saginaw

Answering My Biggest Question: How’s the market??

It never fails when I meet someone new, the word Realtor pops up, the same question pops out! “How’s the market?” Everyone seems to want to know – whether they’re 25 or 75 the real estate market has an impact on their lives. Maybe they’re thinking of buying, or most likely they want to know if they have positive equity in their home and what it might be. I remember reading an article a few years back that stated some staggering statistic that 85% of people between the ages of 30-55 who’d bought a home in the last ten years were upside down in their mortgage. That’s pretty crazy! So I guess the How’s the Market question is pretty important. Let’s see what my experience and statistics are saying about the Mid-Michigan Area.

Mid-Michigan is made up of three counties, and they vary pretty drastically so I’ll address them separately. Saginaw County is where I reside, but I’m a member of all three area boards.  Of Bay, Midland, and Saginaw, we definitely hold the reputation for the lowest priced homes here in Saginaw. You can find all kinds of properties in the City limits for under $20,000; 127 to be exact. But what did surprise me is that statistically, Saginaw’s mean average has recovered a lot more than Bay County since the crash in home values back in 2008-2009. The average Saginaw County home back in 2005 was $107,073 and it fell to an average low in 2008 of just $64,143- a 40% drop. Keep in mind, that is an average for the county, which holds some “shining stars” as far as real estate prices are concerned, like Frankenmuth and Freeland. The average in the city of Saginaw at that time was around $13,000! The good news is that after the initial two years of prices in the depths of despair, we are crawling up and out! We rounded out 2014 with an average sales price of $91,985. That’s some good progress. The question is not just about sales price however, but about number of transactions. The last two years, 2013-2014 showed less homes sold than did 2012. So, we are finding that transaction #’s are down slightly, but sales volume is up. This is great news for people who are waiting to sell their home. Just in case you’re wondering the best months to sell in Saginaw are April-August, with August actually being number one in transactions – which busts the bubble of believers who think spring is the only good time in real estate. That means it is time to get your home on the market.

Statistics aside, I can tell you this: I have sold more real estate in the 1st quarter 2015 than I did annually 2009-2012! Granted I’ve been really working to grow my business, but I’m hearing it from lots of agents; “I’m crazy busy! The phones are ringing!”. I am excited to see what our stats show for 1st quarter when they come out next week.  Reality is, things are selling and prices are slowly rising, and our inventory is low. Good, nice, clean homes of all price ranges are in short supply. It’s a great time to sell and it’s a great time to buy. Interest rates are low, there are a lot of lending options, and I know of a really great agent who’s looking for both buyers and sellers!

I’ll share soon about Midland and Bay Counties. If you would like more specific market information for your location, please don’t hesitate to let me know. I have breakdowns for every township – some rebounding swiftly, others a bit more slowly. Regardless of where you’re at though, if you’ve a home to sell; it can be sold using great marketing and implementing tips about what’s most important to buyers.

Have a great day! (Despite the crazy snow we can’t seem to shake even toward the end of April!)

Posted in bay city, community, midland, real estate, saginaw

It’s a bloggin’ kinda day!

One thing I love about my new house is the skylight above my bed in the master suite. Nothing like watching puffy white clouds roll by and birds soaring as I awake, or at night, the twinkling of the stars set behind the swaying silhouette of a few monstrous tree limbs. This morning however, I was greeted with both the sight and sound of hail. Come on Michigan! It’s April already and I need a good day. I’m ready for some sun to stream through those windows. I’m ready to be invigorated with the forecast that announces itself not just through my window every morning; but aloud on my cellphone as my alarm speaks out the day’s weather, news, and my daily agenda. Today I had to settle for the fact that the freezing rain pelting my window was better than the picture of a frozen forest with snow flurries swirling on the face of my phone! My sunshine would have to come from within. Sound corny? Well, maybe so, but sometimes making other people’s dreams come true is just as good as sittin’ in the sunshine. 🙂 This is where real estate comes into play here on my blog Moniqueknowsrealestate.com  My intent here on my blog is not just to give you mundane facts about how the real estate market is doing. It’s to provide you with interesting articles, helpful tips, and community information, as well as allowing you to see a little bit of who I am as a person. Let’s face it – buying or selling your home is usually the biggest chunk of change you deal with at any given time and you want someone personable, trustworthy, knowledgeable, and experienced to take you through the process. I am that person. My hope is that by following my blog, not only will you enjoy the content but you will gain my respect as an individual who absolutely LOVES what she does and prides herself on providing excellent customer service from beginning to end. I love waking up in the morning with the prospect of seeing the smile on a 1st time home-buyers face at closing, at the relief that comes when I present a great offer to a seller who is just waiting to upsize or relocate, and even hearing about my seller’s favorite shopping trips with their daughter.  And let me tell you in the midst of it all; I’m always discovering something new and different along the way – funny things too. I hope to share that with you. So, stick with me – we’ll discover some great real estate adventures together!