Monthly Archives: April 2019

How to Get Your Home’s Real Estate Listing Removed From the Internet

How to get a real estate listing removed


Wondering how to get a real estate listing removed from the internet? Whether you’re a seller who’s withdrawn your house from the market, or a buyer who’s just closed on a new place, fielding inquiries from buyers who still see your house listed online is a drag when it’s no longer for sale.

So what can you do to unlist a house? And how long does it truly take? Allow us to shed light on how real estate listings go up and come down.

Who can remove a real estate listing?

For starters, how do real estate listings get up online for all to see, anyway? When a seller decides to list her home through a real estate agent, that agent gathers the necessary info and photos and loads them onto a vast, interconnected database called the multiple listing service, or MLS. From there, the listing is used to populate online platforms like

Only licensed agents and brokers who pay for membership to the MLS have access to the full feed. As such, they’re the only people who can post real estate there—or remove those listings.

What this means for home buyers and sellers is you can’t just call up the MLS and ask the service to take a house off the site.

In addition, “home sellers are not allowed to make changes, because technically the info and photos become the property of the MLS in which it’s originally listed,” says Lynne Freda, a real estate agent with Freda Realty, in Callicoon, NY.

How to withdraw a real estate listing temporarily

Sellers withdraw their homes from the market all the time, says Beth Bernitt, an agent with Century 21 Real Estate in Bethel, NY.

Sometimes it’s because they’ve changed their mind and no longer want to sell their home. But just as often, something personal comes up that makes a seller decide to delay selling for a few weeks. For instance, you might decide to make some repairs or upgrades to fetch a higher price.

This is what agents call a “temporary off market,” Bernitt says. If you’re thinking you want to pull your listing for a little while, just let your listing agent know.

“Unlisting it is just a click of a button,” Bernitt says. And if you want to relist, it’s just another button click.

However, once your house is unlisted on the MLS, it doesn’t mean it will be instantly reflected far and wide. Various websites may have lag times before this change takes effect. For some sites, it may take as little as 15 minutes (which is what happens at, whereas other sites may take days or even weeks.

Withdrawn listing vs. expired listing: What’s the difference?

While a listing agent can deliberately withdraw a listing from the MLS, another way real estate listings disappear from websites is when they expire. That’s when your commitment to work with a certain agent ends and you go your separate ways (that is, unless you renew your real estate contract).

When you sign a contract with an agent to sell your home, there’s an expiration date—typically in three to six months. Listing agents often enter the expiration date of their contract right in the database listing. After all, they pay MLS dues for that listing to go up online, so they won’t want it to stay unless they’re still working with you! So when that date passes, your listing should automatically disappear from the internet.

If you decide you no longer want to work with an agent before your contract is up, you can inform the agent, who will withdraw your listing before it expires.

House just sold? How to remove it from the MLS

Once you close on a home and you’ve walked off with a new set of keys in your palm, your home is off the market. But that doesn’t mean it’s off the internet! Listings (and all those gorgeous photos of your home) don’t get pulled offline until the listing is closed out by the listing agent, says Freda.

“Most MLS systems require seller’s agent to close out sold homes within 24 hours of sale, or the agent will be fined,” she says.

But even then, lag times can still happen, Bernitt says, and it’s frustrating for buyers, sellers, and the agents themselves.

“It’s a lot of wasted time and energy for everyone,” she says. It can be particularly problematic if you’re a seller who’s temporarily withdrawn the home. Prospective buyers who spot the listing and call, only to learn the house is off the market, are likely to be turned off.

“When you put it back on the market, they won’t look at it because you’ve upset them,” she says.

Typically, an agent will realize the listing is still active pretty soon—especially if they’re getting calls or emails from interested buyers. But if they don’t, give them a call. They should be able to make some phone calls to get the photos pulled offline.

If you’re not getting any help from your listing agent, try the agent’s broker. That’s the person who owns the agency where the agent works, aka an agent’s boss. With word of mouth being so important in the real estate biz, chances are the broker’s going to jump at the chance to make things right.

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The Weirdest Open House Stories—From Agents Who Have Seen It All


An open house is a great way for sellers to put their property on display. While the goal is to attract serious home shoppers, you can’t really predict who will show up—or what they’ll do once they walk through the door. You may get the harmless nosy neighbor who stops by to check out your remodeled kitchen (and scarf down a free cookie), or you may encounter someone a bit odder.

Since hosting falls on the shoulders of real estate professionals, we turned to them to whet our appetite for the wackiest, most puzzling open house stories out there, and they didn’t disappoint. The following tales can only be described as straight-up bizarre.

Did somebody order a pizza?

Brian Ma, a broker at New York’s Flushing Real Estate Group, has seen some strange things at open houses.

“I will never forget the family who lingered around forever at the open house where they seemed wholly disinterested in the property for over an hour—and then had a pizza delivered,” he says.

The family then went into the backyard and casually ate their pie on the patio furniture.

“After finishing, they abruptly left as if they had been waiting for the pizza the whole time,” says Ma. No word on what toppings they ordered.

The wine bandit

Any evening open house in a multimillion-dollar mansion is bound to have crowd pleasers like wine and hors d’oeuvres. When Renee Delgado of California’s Aviara Real Estate hosted an open house in a swanky San Fransisco neighborhood, she expected guests would be on their best behavior. But she thought wrong.

“The bartender asked to take a short break, and within those few minutes, I caught a neighbor putting bottles of wine in his jacket,” says Delgado.

When Delgado approached him, he said he and his wife were hosting a dinner party a couple of doors down.

“They forgot to buy the wine and didn’t feel like going back to the store,” she says. And believe it or not, she didn’t get the wine back!

“He begged me and gave me a 20,” says Delgado.

Voyeuristic visitor

“I represented a seller who had some interesting black-and-white nude photography in the home,” says agent Deborah Ribner of New York’s Warburg Realty. One open house guest seemed very interested in a particular photograph located in the master bathroom.

“He showed up at two different open houses and stood in front of one of the photographs for at least 10 minutes each time.”

Needless to say, he didn’t buy the home or the photo.

Smells like a winner

“I once had a buyer that would smell every air-conditioning unit in each open house we visited,” says broker Jason Haber of Warburg Realty. “She would enter each apartment, walk up to the AC and sniff. If she didn’t like the scent, nothing else mattered and she would leave the apartment.”

We weren’t exactly surprised to hear that the buyer looked for two and a half years before finding an apartment to her liking.

Call in the dogs

Dogs are part of the family, but that doesn’t mean they need to be part of the decision-making process.

“One couple brought their two 30-pound dogs to an open house I hosted,” says Stacy Mafera, a real estate professional at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in the Boston area. They insisted on carrying the dogs through the home and spending a lot of time in each room—all while the dogs barked nonstop.

The couple did end up buying the home, though, so the dogs clearly approved of the layout.

Pool party

At one of Delgado’s other open houses in a sunny California suburb, a particularly presumptuous family walked in and decided to take advantage of the amenities.

“I was speaking to other visitors when I saw all five kids take off their clothes, revealing bathing suits underneath,” says Delgado. Then the kids jumped into the pool.

“Luckily one of the guests at the open house was a police officer and told them if they didn’t leave immediately they would face repercussions,” she says.

Woo-woo looky-loo

“I had several open houses at a stunning property,” says Bruce Ailion, real estate agent and attorney at Atlanta’s Re/Max Town and Country. “One woman came in every week and spent two to three hours there claiming she was feeling the home’s spirit and soul.”

Keep in mind that she wasn’t shopping for a home and was seen visiting a number of open houses a weekend and doing the same thing.

The post The Weirdest Open House Stories—From Agents Who Have Seen It All appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

‘The Best Home-Selling Advice I’ve Heard, Ever’


Selling a house can be a big job, and stressful too! There’s so much to think about regarding the market, home staging, repairs, and more—it’s no surprise sellers find it so overwhelming.

So in the interests of winnowing it all down to the true essentials—the tasks that can make a real difference—we asked home sellers to reveal only the very best home-selling advice they have heard. From when to put your house on the market to how to price and present your place just right, here are some top home-selling tips for the bandwidth-challenged that are truly worth the trouble.

Pony up money on repairs

“When it came to selling my house, the best advice I ever got was to get repairs done before buyers start poking around. Every house is going to have at least a few things wrong with it, and since you’ll probably have to do them anyway before you close, you might as well do those little fixes upfront so that buyers can see your house at its best.

“My last house was a pretty new build and I hadn’t had many problems with it, so I didn’t think there would be much to fix up when it came time to sell. Still, I knew that if buyers saw a bunch of small problems, they wouldn’t be wowed by the house, or pay my full asking price. So, I ended up walking around my place and sticking Post-it notes to things I thought I might need to fix. I looked for loose door handles, leaky sinks, hard-to-open windows, and things like that.

“I ended up making a bunch of little improvements, and while it took a bit of time and cost a few hundred bucks to fix everything up, my work paid off and I sold the house at asking.” – Dustin McCaffree, Salt Lake City, UT

Spend your reno dollars wisely

“In my last house, we wanted to change the color of the fence in the backyard, but we knew we were moving soon and backyard fences don’t sell houses. We knew that money would be better spent on something buyers really care about, like the kitchen.

“So, before putting my house on the market, I took the money I would have used on the back fence and painted my kitchen cabinets. Installed in the 1960s, my old, shiny oak cabinets dated the house, so I painted them gray because it was trendy to have gray cabinets at the time. It cost me under a thousand bucks to do it, but the people who ended up buying the house told us they chose it in part because they loved the color of the cabinets and how modern they made the kitchen look. They didn’t even mention the backyard or the fence. I’m glad I put my money where it would count!” – Liz Mullens, Brea, CA

Don’t price your house too high

“While certain listing agents might claim they can list and sell your house for a higher-than-market value price, they’re usually just trying to get your business, so don’t be fooled. In fact, you might be better off listing your house just under what you might expect.

“Our real estate agent in Las Vegas wanted to list our house at a modest price that was obtainable and not off-putting. We had interest in a few hours, and multiple bids within days. From there, we were able to choose the best offer from many within a week. Taking this agent’s advice to price modestly ultimately ended up fetching us a much higher price than we’d even dreamed we could get.” – Matt Romero, Las Vegas, NV

Spring is not always the best time to sell

“People will tell you to sell in the spring because the weather is usually pleasant and the flowers are probably blooming, making the yard look warm and pretty. However, not everyone’s house will show best in spring.

“The last house we lived in, in fact, wasn’t great during the warmer months. It was small and stuffy, so when it was hot outside, it was extra-hot inside. Plus, we didn’t have much of a front yard and very few plants. We were afraid buyers would think our house was dark compared to the lush, green gardens they saw on other home tours.

“So, we decided to sell in winter. Our living room was small, but when we decorated for the season (like putting blankets on the couch and lighting a fire), the house warmed up and seemed more like a romantic cabin than a small two-bedroom. Plus, during Christmas our whole neighborhood really got into decorating their homes with lights. It was beautiful to see all the houses lit up, and we knew some buyers might really value that, too. In the end, it worked out and we ended up selling our house at a great price.” – Bill Ford, Irvine, CA

Photos sell houses

“The best advice I heard was to hire the right real estate photographer so you have great pictures for online listings. Unfortunately, I ignored this advice at first. I’m sort of a DIY kind of guy, and I was thinking that hiring someone would be a waste of money. Why couldn’t we just take them ourselves?

“So, I took it upon myself to snap some pictures on my phone … and immediately realized that I was not at all qualified to do this. Our house was bright and open, but looked so dark and small in my pictures. I knew we had to hire someone.

“So my wife and I got a list of recommended photographers from our real estate agent and started narrowing down our choices. We ended up picking one photographer and were completely happy with her work—her stuff was a hundred times better than anything I could have taken on my phone. We knew that those pictures really helped drum up interest from buyers.” – Jesse Edmunds, La Habra, CA

Curb appeal and bathrooms are 80%

“Before I sold my house, I remember my parents telling me to focus my energy on making the front yard and the bathrooms look their best.

“They told me to hire a gardener before I started showing the house because they said lots of people make home-buying decisions based, at least in part, on the front yard or garden. I found that this is completely true: When I was going on tours myself, looking for my current home, I started to notice that I would often make my decision about a house before even stepping through the front door. So I ended up hiring a gardener, putting more plants in, and was pleasantly surprised with how good the front of the house looked.

“With the yard looking great, I tried to fix up the bathrooms as much as I could, too. I didn’t have a big budget for this, but I ended up going on Pinterest and watching some HGTV to get some inspiration. I ended up getting the master bathroom shower retiled, repainting the guest bath, and adding some stylish wall hangings and towels to both of them.

“I was really happy with how both my yard and the bathrooms turned out—and apparently so was my buyer!” – Jennifer Davis, St. Louis, MO

The post ‘The Best Home-Selling Advice I’ve Heard, Ever’ appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

5 Nonlazy Reasons to Skip Remodeling Before You Sell

reasons to skip renovation before selling


Home sellers often hear that if they ever hope to find a buyer, they must whip their house into perfect shape—fix this, paint that, overhaul your horribly outdated kitchen. But just looking at the list of renovations is exhausting!

This leads many to wonder: Do I really need to do all that just to sell my home?

If that’s how you feel, here’s some good news: There actually are some good reasons—meaning reasons other than sheer laziness or lack of budget—to not bother renovating before you sell. Really.

Surprised or secretly relieved? Here’s why you should give yourself permission to skip certain upgrades before putting your house on the market.

1. You can’t read your buyers’ minds

Talia McKinney, a licensed real estate salesperson for Nest Seekers International in Brooklyn, NY, once had a seller who updated her kitchen floors and countertops and splurged on high-end, stainless-steel appliances in the hopes of getting more money for her sale.

Unfortunately, “the buyer who got into contract wanted a different color floor, different countertops, and black matte appliances. They basically wanted to rip out and change everything my seller just renovated,” says McKinney.

The moral of this story: Don’t assume you know what can drive a potential sale.

“When a buyer comes into a home, they have a vision of what they want. Just because something is new and renovated doesn’t mean they’ll pay a premium on that,” McKinney says. “Leave the property as is or do minor touch-ups rather than put a lot of money into upgrades.”

2. Renovate on the cheap, and it’ll show

It’ll make a difference all right—but not for the reason you may think.

“Every time I walk with a buyer through a home that has laminate floors, Home Depot light fixtures and vanities, or cheap cabinets, there is a visceral disappointment factor—an ‘Add that to the list of things I need to budget for once we close,’” admits Courtney Poulos, broker-owner of ACME Real Estate in Los Angeles.

“Rarely does the cost of any home renovation increase the value of the property enough to offset the renovation costs, time, and energy,” says Terrie O’Connor, broker and president of Terrie O’Connor Agency, which handles luxury real estate listings in Saddle River, NJ, and other towns.

3. Small upgrades won’t change the house itself

“I have seen instances in which a flipper buys a cute, little house that needs work, and thinks that just by some painting, tiling, and a new builder-grade kitchen, they can sell the house for two-thirds more than they paid,” says Lori Hoffman-Chlapowski, a licensed real estate broker for William Raveis Real Estate in Chappaqua, NY.

They seldom do, she says. “The house is still small, and buyers are keenly aware when a renovation is cheaply done.”

And so, the property sits on the market. Until, she adds, “the seller can finally find a buyer willing to pay just a bit more than the renovation itself cost.”

4. Taking the DIY route might make things worse

Jose Hernandez, a real estate consultant in Chicago, once had sellers forgo professional contractors and redo bathrooms themselves to save money.

“But while the tile and vanity were new, it was all improperly installed,” he remembers.

Cheap repairs don’t add value, Hernandez cautions. Rather, “sometimes they negatively affect the value because the buyer sees it as another project that has to be redone.”

5. You might end up going overboard

First, you fix the floor. Then you realize the kitchen cabinets need to be replaced. And the countertops. And the sink. And, hell, you might as well do the appliances, too. Once you start fiddling with stuff in your kitchen (or bathroom, or any other room of your house), you may realize you keep finding more and more stuff that needs to be (cheaply and quickly) redone.

“I’ve seen plenty of clients overspend or design too specifically and then net less money than they would have if they had just sold the home in its prerenovation condition,” says Mark Cianciulli, a Realtor and a co-founder of the CREM Group, in Los Angeles.

And while a full renovation can return you a lot of money when you sell, there’s no guarantee. And by the way, did you really mean to do a full renovation?

What you should do instead

Want to get your house ready to sell without going overboard? Here’s how to tread that fine line.

Take care of major problems: First things first, “fix any maintenance issues that might prevent a future buyer from getting financing,” says Amine Aghzafi, managing partner and real estate agent with the Sheehan Agency, in Jupiter, FL.

If your roof, water heater, or plumbing are ancient, consider replacing those items before they cause issues at inspection time.

Not sure of your home’s problem areas? “Consider having a presale inspection before putting the house on the market,” says Aghzafi. “This will bring to light any major points that need addressing and help prioritize costs if your budget is limited.”

Go for truly easy DIY upgrades: Swap out old light fixtures, switch out new handles on your kitchen cabinets, and paint the trim in your home to instantly improve the contrast with the current paint. These are all “inexpensive upgrades that add significant value to your home and will cost a fraction of a full or partial remodel,” Cianciulli says.

Stage your home: Home stagers systematically pack up your personal items, clear out your clutter, and rearrange (or remove) furniture to optimize your home’s flow. Then they bring in their own gorgeous furniture and accessories.

“The proper furnishings showcase the home’s best features, while drawing attention away from any negatives,” says O’Connor. “It creates a mood for the buyer.”

A staged home will also shine in the online listing, which is crucial.

“Buyers today are getting that big first impression of a property long before they physically see it,” says O’Connor.

Choose a price buyers can live with: “Price your home in a way that allows buyers to accommodate making personal choices,” says Poulos. “Some buyers really want to put their own stamp on their new home.”

Don’t think of this strategy as “giving up.” After all, the faster your home sells, the more money you’ll save in the end.

The post 5 Nonlazy Reasons to Skip Remodeling Before You Sell appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

5 Strange Things That Can Stop a Home From Ever Selling

House with mold


Ever wonder what could keep a home from selling? Just ask a listing agent. They’ve seen some doozies.

Listing agents, as the professionals who help prep a home for sale, are often tasked with telling home sellers why their house might not sell in its current condition. It’s a tough job, but it sure beats saying nothing and then watching a home sit indefinitely.

While most corrective tweaks are small—say, a fresh coat of paint or a solid decluttering—sometimes the things that stop a home from selling take everyone by surprise. Here are a few that listing agents have dealt with, and the solutions that saved the day.

1. The ‘green monster’

Seth Lejeune, real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway in Collegeville, PA, coined this phrase to describe a “horrendously colored hunter-green carpet” in his home seller’s living room. This home had already been listed once with another agent with no offers; Lejeune was quite sure this carpet was the culprit.

“So I told the seller to replace the carpet with something neutral,” Lejeune says. The seller “was surprised, but receptive. I explained the importance of first impressions, and he got it after a few minutes.”

Replacing the carpet cost only $1,500. “We got four showings within two weeks, and it was the fastest townhome sale of the year,” Lejeune says. In fact, the home buyers mentioned at settlement that they especially loved the living room.

Take-home lesson: Even simple cosmetic flaws, like an ugly shade of carpet, can make some home buyers run. Luckily swapping out carpet is an easy fix.

2. Too many pets

Seattle real estate agent Matt Parker recalls meeting with a landlord who was looking to sell his rental property. The problem? The home had been rented to, as Parker puts it, a couple of “pet enthusiasts.”

“They had about 30 injured birds, squirrels, dogs, cats, lizards, snakes, and dozens of fish in a 910-square-foot house,” he says.

The snakes were in cages and the fish were in bowls, of course, but the rest of the animals roamed free.

“You can imagine what the home smelled like, how stained the floors were, and how many ‘hidden treasure’ land mines there were throughout the house,” Parker says.

The carpet, flooring, subflooring, walls, and exposed wood throughout the house had been permeated with a foul odor, Parker says.

Parker told the home seller that his odds of selling were slim, unless it were a teardown. Thankfully, the seller accepted the news without much drama.

Take-home lesson: We love our furry friends, but that doesn’t mean potential buyers want to see our pets (or any of their traces) when looking at a home they’re thinking of buying. (Here are tips on how to sell a home with pets.)

3. Noisy neighbors

Homeowners value privacy, but, alas, they don’t always get it.

Courtney Poulos, a broker at ACME Real Estate in Los Angeles, experienced this firsthand with a client who was looking to sell a stylishly remodeled three-bedroom home. Unfortunately, the house “was right next to a large apartment complex,” Poulos says.

“When you were in the backyard, you felt that the occupants of the apartment complex were looking right down on you,” she adds.

Poulos agreed to list the house, but remembers a couple of troublesome open houses. During one, a couple living in the apartment building out back “were fighting and you could see them and hear them from the backyard,” she says. At another open house, “one of the neighbors had his TV on so loud that we had to blast music of our own in the open house to try to cover it up.”

The fix? “Since we were not getting the offers we wanted after the first couple of weeks, we built a 12-foot fence, incorporated canvas sun shades, installed twinkle lights, and made the outdoor space much more private,” Poulos adds.

The costs tallied up to $3,000, but it was a modest expense considering “this backyard solution ultimately helped sell the property.”

Take-home lesson: No one likes noisy neighbors, especially those who can see right in your house without effort. So, if your home is located adjacent to an apartment building or another home, you’ll want to take steps to provide yourself some privacy.

4. An underground oil tank

“I sold a home earlier this year that an investor had purchased through a foreclosure auction,” says Christopher Pagli, associate broker at William Raveis Legends Realty Group in Tarrytown, NY. But a presale inspection turned up some unwelcome news.

“There was a buried oil tank on the property,” Pagli says. “This came as a surprise, because the home was fueled by natural gas.”

Altogether the testing, removal, and backfill for the oil tank cost the seller about $8,000. The good news? Once the oil tank was removed, the home sold in three weeks.

Take-home lesson: Underground oil tanks are rare, but if you suspect your property has one, you’ll want to have the land tested by an inspector who specializes in oil tank location and decommissioning before putting your house on the market.

5. Mold

No word strikes fear into the hearts of home buyers and sellers more than mold.

“It is a four-letter word, and most definitely has been the issue of greatest magnitude for my home sellers,” says Michael Edlen, a real estate agent in Pacific Palisades, CA.

One particularly bad experience sticks out: Before listing a house, Edlen spotted mold in a relatively small area of the garage, but that was just the start.

“[Mold] remediators found that the mold had gotten into the wall framing, so they had to open walls up behind and next to primary areas,” Edlen says. “By the time the work was done, it took two full months and nearly $60,000.”

Fortunately, the sellers didn’t freak out over the bill—or Edlen.

“One way or another, they would have had to deal with it—and better to fix it upfront than leaving it to later,” he explains.

Take-home lesson: Mold can put a homeowner’s health at risk, which explains why it’s one of the most common fears among home buyers. Make sure you check your house for mold and address any issues before listing it.

The post 5 Strange Things That Can Stop a Home From Ever Selling appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: Why a California Craftsman Sold for $200K Over Asking

Craftsman Home

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pics highlight the home’s best assets.

This Craftsman home in San Jose, CA, is proof that a little bit of work can pay off in a big way—and that staging a home really does matter when it comes to selling.

These sellers bought the three-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom home in 2013. After making mostly small cosmetic changes, they were able to sell it five years later for nearly $600,000 more than they paid (and more than $200,000 over asking price). Even better, it closed just one month after they listed it.

So how did they make so much profit without a total renovation? According to our experts, it’s all in the details.

Before: Living room

living room before
The living room has good bones but a drab color palette.

After: Living room

living room after
The refurbished living room is light and feels more spacious.

The sellers knew they were working with a space that has great bones, from the hardwood floors to the fireplace. And after a few key changes, the living room feels completely different.

“The color on the walls took the room from a dark den to a bright, beautiful entertaining space,” says property stylist Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP.

The fireplace underwent perhaps the biggest change with new paint and tile, and Gray-Plaisted picked up on it right away.

“Updating the fireplace tile highlighted this key feature. It’s exactly what you want to do when selling,” she explains.

Designer Laura Hodges of Laura Hodges Studio agreed. “You don’t really need an accent wall when you have a great-looking fireplace like this one,” she says. “Now the mantel stands out much more prominently.”

Before: Dining room

Dining room before
Previously this space functioned as the dining room.

After: Dining room

Dining room after
The sellers thought it made more sense to stage this area as a den.

No, you’re not seeing things. After the renovations, the sellers decided to flip the dining room and den. It’s a genius move because the current den area appears to be more spacious and farther away from the front of the house.

And while they did bring in more contemporary furniture, there’s actually a lot they didn’t touch.

“The color of the walls and light fixtures did not change,” Gray-Plaisted says. “The decor enabled the rooms to feel light and bright, and buyers love that.”

That just goes to prove that sometimes, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to completely change the feel of a room.

Before: Den

den before
Before the revamp, this room functioned as the den.

After: Den

Den after
The new dining room is filled with natural light.

What was previously the den now functions as a full dining room. Once again, the paint and fixtures stayed the same, but simple swapping out of furniture makes the room feel completely different.

This new arrangement means the dining room is adjacent to the living room. So if the new owners host a dinner party, guests can seamlessly transition from cocktails to dinner without having to walk through the entire house. Genius!

“The light and neutral fabrics and clean, tailored silhouettes are very complementary to the style of this home and make it feel more modern,” Hodges says.

Before: Bedroom

Bedroom before
The bedroom was decked out for two young sisters.

After: Bedroom

Bedroom after
This is a more mature version of the bedroom.

Much like the rest of the house, the bedroom got very few cosmetic updates, yet it’s been completely redesigned—and much less crowded.

“Removing one bed and adding a console table makes it feel much more open and spacious,” says Hodges. “It’s a better use of the room.”

Gray-Plaisted also believes that removing the adolescent decor and replacing it with more grown-up furnishings made a huge difference for the marketing of the property.

“Furniture can really make a huge difference,” she says. “Whether subconsciously or not, the right furniture can bring value and persuade buyers to make an offer.”

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: Why a California Craftsman Sold for $200K Over Asking appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

How Virtual Renovation Photos Help Home Buyers Dream Big—and Sellers Score Top Dollar

Virtual Renovations


Home sellers know that quality photographs are essential to generating buzz about their listing and quickly nabbing a buyer. That means including pictures of well-staged rooms in tiptop shape that show off the house’s best assets. But for folks selling a fixer-upper, coming up with enticing listing photos of a house that’s in desperate need of TLC is a much bigger challenge.

Because of that, sellers have taken to a new trend: including virtual renovation photos in their listing slideshow. These not-quite-real shots are meant to show the house’s potential. All that’s needed is a buyer with a renovation budget to bring it to life.

But just how effective are virtual renovation pictures when it comes to selling? We did a real-life deep dive into the unreal to see if inserting room mock-ups can work to a home seller’s advantage. Here’s what sellers—and buyers—need to know.

What are virtual renovation photos?

Virtual renovation photos take the concept of virtual staging a step further.

“A photographer will shoot from specific angles from outside and inside the home, and a virtual artist will create renderings that show the home’s potential,” says Christopher Totaro of New York’s Warburg Realty.

These renderings can show an elegantly decorated living room or a decked-out chef’s kitchen.

Totaro has several listings that use the virtual renovations, including a loft in the Manhattan neighborhood of Tribeca. The images emphasized the unit’s potential with renderings that showed what it would look like with the walls taken out.

What are the most common virtual fixes?

“Remodeling kitchens and bathrooms are likely the most common, since those are big hot buttons for buyers,” says Phoenix-based HomeSmart agent Kellie Parten. “And it’s sometimes difficult to imagine the face-lift that a new kitchen or bathroom can give a space without ‘seeing’ it. Virtual renovation photos help a buyer to see a new possibility.”

Domingo Perez Jr. of Warburg Realty virtually renovated the dated blue-tiled bathrooms and flamingo-etched shower doors in a Brooklyn brownstone. And he virtually removed a wall between the living room and the 1950s kitchen with formica tops to turn it into an open-concept space with an expanse of windows overlooking the garden.

Are virtual renovation photos an effective tool to help sell homes?

All signs point to yes. After all, home staging is popular—and successful—because buyers often have a difficult time imagining what a space might look like if it is empty or if the furniture is unattractive. And virtual renovation takes the guesswork out of homes that need really big leaps of imagination.

For example, Perez took over the sale of an apartment that had been on the market for eight months.

“My pitch to the seller was all about how I was going to reintroduce a totally reimagined space,” says Perez. He put the property back on the market—with virtual renovation photos—and had an all-cash offer in 53 days.

Perez also had two offers on the Brooklyn brownstone with virtual renovation photos by the end of his only open house.

“Do I think virtually staging and renovating had anything to do with it? Absolutely!” says Perez.

And instead of just using the idealized renderings in the online listing, he enlarged them for posters he placed on easels at the open house. That way, when prospective buyers walked into a room or floor, they were greeted with a completely reimagined—and totally feasible—version of the space.

If you decide to include virtual renovation photos

To make sure you don’t mislead buyers, virtual renovation photos—as well as the current condition of the home—should be disclosed in the listing.

Totaro has a listing of a SoHo loft that has the potential for an extra bathroom, so he’s commissioning a virtual rendering that depicts what it could look like.

“It’s important to clarify that a bathroom is a guaranteed option,” says Totaro. “It’s a ‘what-if.’ We also make it very clear that an architect needs to be consulted and the board would need to approve the plans.”

What’s next in virtual technology?

Parten recently held a brokers’ open house for a property that was “remodeled” using virtual reality. As they walked around the actual property, the visitors were able to use virtual reality headsets to see a virtually renovated space.

“It was great to hear everyone’s reaction when they first saw the house through the headsets,” says Parten. “People were reaching out to touch the updates.”

VR tours would not only benefit buyers in the immediate area—this type of technology could also give out-of-town buyers the type of intimate feel for the home that photos could never provide.

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The Real Estate Commission: A Guide to Who Pays, How Much, and More

real estate commission


If you hire a real estate agent to help you buy, sell, or rent a house, this professional gets paid through a real estate commission. So how much do you pay, and what for? Is there any wiggle room to negotiate this fee?

As a real estate agent myself, allow me to tell you firsthand everything you need to know about real estate commissions, from who pays to how much to where that money goes.

How much is a real estate commission?

Rather than getting paid hourly or weekly fees, most real estate agents earn money only when a real estate deal goes through.

While there are some real estate agents who will charge a flat fee for their services, most charge a percentage of the sales price of the home once the deal is done. That exact percentage varies, but the commission is typically 5% to 6% of a home’s final sales price. On a $200,000 home, a 6% commission would amount to $12,000.

Granted, this may seem like a serious chunk of change, but keep in mind that no one makes off with the whole amount! Plus, real estate agents don’t see a dime until a buyer finds a home she loves, the seller accepts the offer, and all parties meet at the closing table. That process can mean weeks or months of work.

Who pays the commission?

Generally, the home seller pays the full commission for the services of both their own listing agent and the buyer’s agent (assuming the buyer has one).

Buyer’s and seller’s agents typically split the commission. So if a home sells for $200,000 at a 6% commission, the seller’s agent and buyer’s agent might split that $12,000, and each receive $6,000.

However, the commission split varies from one agent to another, with new agents sometimes earning a smaller percentage of the commission than experienced agents who sell more homes or more expensive properties.

What is dual agency?

So what happens if an agent represents the buyer and the seller? In that case, the agent becomes a “dual agent” and gets paid both commissions. (Talk about a big payday!)

However, because it puts them in a sticky position of having to work for both the seller and the buyer, many agents don’t practice dual agency—and some states don’t even allow it. I believe it creates a conflict of interest. After all, clients hire me to represent their best interests. How can I do that when I’m sitting on both sides of the table?

What does a real estate agent commission cover?

Though people certainly have the option of selling (or buying) their house without a real estate agent, agents provide clients a wide range of services, including helping you price your home, marketing it (on the multiple listing service, social media, and other venues), negotiating with home buyers, and ushering the home sale through closing.

As trained experts, real estate agents can help you fetch top dollar for your house and put out fires—while also alleviating some of the stress that comes with selling a home. (It’s no picnic!) I might be biased, since I’m an agent myself, but great ones earn their keep.

Want proof? Just look at the numbers: A recent survey found that the typical “for sale by owner” home sold for $190,000, compared with $249,000 for agent-assisted home sales, according to the National Association of Realtors®. That’s in line with a recent survey from Keeping Current Matters that found that homes listed for sale with a real estate agent sell for $46,000 more on average than FSBO houses. Perhaps that explains why 92% of home sellers use an agent to sell their house.

Is a real estate agent commission negotiable?

Though 5% to 6% tends to be the norm, commission standards can vary from state to state and among brokerages. Still, there are no federal or state laws that set commission rates—meaning commission is negotiable.

In other words, if you’re a home seller, you can certainly ask your agent to reduce their commission, but be aware that he is not obligated to do so.

A factor to consider: Because the marketing dollars for a property generally come from the agent’s commission, a lower commission could mean less advertising for your house.

That being said, it doesn’t hurt to ask for a lower commission. Most agents won’t take offense, and the worst case is they say no. Or, if you’re truly tight on cash—say, because you’ve maxed out your budget buying your next home—you could opt for a transactional agreement, in which the listing agent will help you set an asking price, facilitate communication between you and the buyer, write the contract, and move the process along to closing for a flat fee or lower commission, but you won’t receive the agent’s full services. It’s not ideal, but it’s the right route for some people. However, not all agents offer transactional agreements, so you may have to shop around to find one.

Bottom line: It is likely that buying and selling a home will be the biggest financial transactions of your life, so be sure you find an agent that you trust will do a great job. This is not the time to shop solely on price.

What else do I need to know about commissions?

All of the details about a real estate agent’s commission (and any transaction fees the agent charges) should be outlined in the contract that you sign when you hire an agent. This is typically referred to as a listing agreement, and it also specifies how long the agent will represent you. (Generally, listing agreements last 90 to 120 days.)

Also keep in mind that there are some exceptions. For instance, rental agents work differently from purchase agents. It’s usually the landlord’s job to pay the rental agent’s fee, but that’s not set in stone. In New York City, for example, tenants often pay the rental agent’s commission. It’s up to the landlord and the tenant to decide who pays the rental agent’s fee.

Furthermore, commission is usually higher when selling a vacant lot (anywhere from 10% to 20%), since selling land often takes longer and requires more marketing dollars. Some auctions charge home buyers a 5% “premium,” or commission.

As a seller, you want a real estate agent who can broker the best sales price and terms for you, but good agents aren’t cheap. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

Michele Lerner contributed to this report.

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What Is a Comparative Market Analysis? The CMA Explained


A home’s price is a moving target—based on where it is, when it’s listed for sale, whether it has that trendy open kitchen, all of it. So if you’re tasked with pricing your own home before putting it on the market, how do you figure out how much your place is worth?

Home sellers pondering this question will no doubt hear they should figure this out by asking a real estate agent for a comparative market analysis, or CMA. But what is it? A comparative market analysis estimates a home’s value based on the recent sales of similar real estate in the area.

Whether you’re hoping to buy a house or sell one, understanding the CMA is essential. Here’s everything home buyers and sellers need to know.

Comparative market analysis (CMA) explained

Real estate agents create CMAs by looking at comparables, or comps—recently sold properties that are similar to your own home (or, if you’re a home buyer, the one you want to make an offer on). Similarity is key, since it gets you closest to an apples-to-apples comparison.

Let’s say your own home has three bedrooms, two baths, and is around 2,000 square feet. Your neighbor’s down the block is also a three-bedroom, two-bath house clocking in at 1,950 square feet—and it sold last week for $300,000. Odds are, your place is worth about that same price.

“Comparable homes should be in the same or similar neighborhood, have similar square footage, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, features, and upgrades,” explains Shayan Jalali, a pricing strategy adviser with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Boston.

But since most houses are at least a little bit unique, how identical do they need to be?

Tristan Ahumada, CEO of Lab Coat Agents, says comps should ideally have the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms, be located within a quarter-mile of your home, and within 200 square feet of your home’s size. Whenever possible, they should be in your ZIP code and school district too.

It’s also important to make sure your CMA analyzes recent sales. Markets can change quickly, so Ahumada advises not going back any more than six months.

Another rookie mistake? Looking at listing prices on homes and assuming those are realistic comps. Those numbers may be inflated based on home sellers’ hopes of what they’ll get rather than reality.

“Or, in really competitive markets, agents purposefully underpricing their listings to generate more interest,” says Beatrice de Jong, director of residential listings at Open Listings in Los Angeles.

Bottom line: CMAs should take into account the final sales prices of homes.

The more comps you use, the better you can triangulate a home’s price, but if you have at least three comparable, recently sold properties, you should be able to average out their prices and get a good sense of what a given home is worth.

Why to ask real estate agents for CMAs

Most real estate agents will provide you with a CMA for free, especially if you are selling your home. In fact, comparing CMAs is a great way to find the agent you want to work with. Ahumada encourages potential clients to get market analyses and conduct interviews with at least three different agents before signing with one.

“It will help you really spot the agents who know the area well,” he explains.

According to Ahumada, most agents should be happy to email you a CMA before you even sit down to have a conversation. Consider it a good kickoff to your working relationship and a way to find the right real estate agent (search your options at

How to do your own comparative market analysis

While your real estate agent can do a CMA for you, you might want to do your own analysis. You can find comps by searching for recent home sales in your area on listing sites such as

One way to quickly assess how much a house is worth is to use an online home value estimator.You plug in an address, and within seconds, a computer algorithm will scan comps, crunch the numbers, then deliver an estimate of how much the house in question is worth.

While online home value calculators are a great starting point, they aren’t the end all, be all. Like any fully automated tool, they can’t take everything into consideration that a human could. Consider it your springboard for further research you or a real estate agent can explore further.

Taking condition into consideration

OK, so you’ve found your recently sold comps, and hopefully they match up with the property you’re analyzing. The more nuanced bit is taking things like condition, lot size, extras, and curb appeal into consideration.

“You can’t compare a fixer-upper to something with lots of upgrades,” says de Jong. Ideally, you will be able to find comps in a similar condition to the house you’re trying to price—but if not, be wary of just adding the full cost of your remodeling to a home’s price.

In other words, just because you spent $10,000 installing an in-ground pool does not mean home buyers are willing to pay you $10,000 more. On average, homeowners should expect to make back only about 56% of the money they spend on renovations, and that return on investment varies widely based on what you do (here’s the ROI on 20 popular home improvements).

De Jong also encourages people to try to find comps with a similar home style. In her market, for example, trendy midcentury modern homes bring a higher price.

Some market knowledge is harder to DIY. Every area will have different things that are desirable, and upgrades and extras will be worth more in some areas than others. In California, for example, Ahumada estimates that a high-end kitchen remodel adds between $20,000 and $40,000 to a home’s price. But if you’re doing a CMA for an area where home prices average $150,000, those numbers are going to be much lower.

Going beyond comps

Still not sure you’ve done enough homework? Another tactic to further hone your CMA is to ask your real estate agent to contact other agents to get the scoop on homes that aren’t sold quite yet, but are currently waiting to close.

“If a house is in escrow, you can reach out and find out how much higher or lower than asking the house went for,” says de Jong. Getting the inside scoop can give you an edge with pricing, and give you a heads-up about potential bumps down the road. For example, did a comparable home have multiple offers? Did the buyer have any appraisal issues? Did the seller have to give any concessions to push the deal through?

All of this can give you an up-to-the-minute snapshot of where the market is headed. It can also explain weird or lowball comps that pop up, throwing off your price.

“Recently, there was a home that sold for 5% less than other homes in the neighborhood. After calling the listing agent, we found that the buyer paid all cash and closed in two weeks,” recalls Allen Johnson, a real estate agent in Woodbridge, VA. “You could have easily used this property as a comparable home, but these details certainly affected the final sales price.”

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Can I Sell My Home If I’m Behind on My Mortgage?


If you’re behind on your mortgage payments and don’t see your situation improving, you might be thinking the only way out of this mess is to sell your home. But can you? The short answer is yes—that is, so long as your lender hasn’t foreclosed on your home yet.

The foreclosure process begins once you fall behind on your mortgage payments. Miss just one payment, and you may soon receive a foreclosure notice in the mail. Once you’re more than 120 days late, your lender has the legal ability to reclaim your home and sell it to recoup its money—and yes, you’ll be forced to vacate the premises.

Adding to the pain, a foreclosure goes on your credit report and can drop your credit score by as much as 300 points, possibly more. This can hurt your ability to obtain a credit card, auto loan, or cellphone plan, and also prevent you from being able to qualify for another mortgage for many years.

But here’s the bright side: You have up until the day that foreclosure takes place to sell the home on your own. Still, the process of selling your house before foreclosure isn’t easy. Here’s what you need to know.

Can you sell a home if you’re behind on your mortgage?

Whether or not you can sell your house before foreclosure will depend, first and foremost, on whether your house is worth more or less than what you owe on your mortgage.

If you’ve fallen behind on your loan payments but aren’t underwater yet—meaning the fair market value of your home is greater than what you owe on your home loan—you can sell your house and use the profits to pay back your lender.

If you choose to go this route, you’d follow the same steps you’d normally take to sell a home: You’d find a listing agent, accept an offer, and fulfill any contingencies before closing on the sale. Typically, you don’t need to get your lender’s permission to sell your home this way.

However, if your home is worth less than what you owe on your mortgage, you’ll need to sell your property as a short sale to avoid foreclosure. The caveat is that your bank has to be on board with this kind of transaction.

Here’s how a short sale works: Let’s say the bid you get on your home is so low that it won’t cover the total amount you owe on your mortgage. If you accept the offer, you’re going to end up “short” on paying back your lender. That’s OK only if your bank has agreed to accept less than what’s owed on the loan.

Getting your bank’s blessing, however, may be difficult. Since lenders lose money with short sales, they’re not always eager to approve these transactions. But some lenders actually prefer short sales over foreclosing and repossessing homes, since owning and selling property can be huge hassles.

Before approving a short sale, your bank will require you to submit some paperwork, including your offer letter and a “hardship letter” explaining why you can no longer make your mortgage payments, along with financial documents such as income statements or medical bills to back that up. Also, most lenders will have your home appraised to determine if the offer you’ve received is fair. If it is, they may allow the deal to go through—though there may be stipulations.

Indeed, lenders will often counter short sale offers with their own demands in an effort to raise their bottom line. For example, buyers might hear, “We’ll accept your offer, but you’re responsible for all repairs, wire transfers, and notary fees.” It’s ultimately up to you, though, to decide whether you’re willing to absorb these extra costs. The good news: Your real estate agent can help you negotiate these terms with your bank.

As a home seller, a short sale is preferable to foreclosure, since short sales do way less damage to your credit score than a foreclosure. This means you’ll be in better shape to apply for a mortgage and buy a new home down the road. In addition, you get to stay in the home until the sale is completed. (Foreclosures force homeowners to vacate.) You also avoid the shame of having your property repossessed by your bank.

Alternatives to selling your home

If you’ve fallen behind on your mortgage payments but would like to stay in your home, there are a couple of ways you can get back on track. You might qualify for a mortgage forbearance, a process where your servicer gives you a temporary break from your mortgage payments. Think of it as an “extended grace period,” says Guy Cecala, chief executive and publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance.

Another strategy is to negotiate a loan modification, in which case your mortgage lender agrees to let you change the terms of your loan. However, if you choose to modify your mortgage and your lender allows you to skip payments temporarily, those missed payments will be added to your loan’s principal to pay later—meaning this isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card that lets you walk away from falling behind on your mortgage unscathed.

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