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Your Home Smells

Whether your home smells musty, like the grandparents, or last night’s fish fry every home has an odor.  The same can be said of your car, and I digress!

Whether you are buying or selling a home, when someone enters the home their senses are engaged…eyes are looking at the curb appeal, ears are listening for road noise, many touch a wall, and the nose knows.  I’ve never seen anyone take a bite of a home!

Odors accumulate in the walls, carpet and furnishings of a home. Some are easy to pinpoint and eliminate – like a stinky litter box.  Others can be more difficult to pinpoint. For example, if you treated for mice with a rodenticide it’s possible there’s a dead mouse in your wall….or dead mice.  While you could punch a hole in the wall to remove the carcass identifying the location can be challenging. (FYI That specific odor typically dissipates in a couple weeks.)

Odor coverups are rarely effective.  Some sellers like to bake cookies, and clients with diabetes can be offended.  One client put garlic in a shallow pan of water and baked to produce the smell of a cooking roast…making vegans and vegetarians bristle.

The universally acceptable odor in a house is the scent of clean! Everyone likes clean. A diluted vinegar solution (1:1) can be used to clean walls and bathrooms. Get those carpets clean! Make everything smell fresh!

If the walls still have a scent, a fresh coat of paint should help, with the side benefit of giving a chance to update to a neutral color if needed.


Home Selling with Pets

I’m a dog person. Most dogs are loveable creatures.  Cats not so much, but I digress!

When it comes to selling homes, it’s generally best to get animals out of the home.  Pets, no matter how cute, are problematic for some people.  Buyers may be afraid of them, or worse they may be allergic.  The animal may bark, howl or otherwise become distressed during a showing.  There’s also the whole liability topic – nothing good happens if a buyer gets bitten or scratched by a pet.

We recommend getting animals out of the house if possible during showings, and putting away signs of the pet (water bowls, chew toys, etc).  When impractical, we recommend crating.  It’s also unfair to ask a sales agent to deal with your loose pet during showings…and you don’t want to risk losing your pet if a door is inadvertently left open.

While I’ll cover home odors in more depth in a subsequent post suffice to say YES I can smell your pet.  Your pet contributes to the smell of your home (even your fish tank.)  A wet dog always smells like a wet dog (all breeds, fur or hair, big or small, long or short haired).  Cat litter smells unnaturally perfumed, or worse like the content the perfume is supposed to cover. In addition to dogs and cats, my personal home has had water dragons, rabbits and guinea pigs.  During the home sales process, extra attention needs to be paid to litter, bedding, etc.

As your real estate agent, my job is to give you the unvarnished truth regarding the home sales process. Pets are great, and with some extra attention won’t fowl your home sale!


Smile! You’re on camera!

In our world of the Internet of Things, one of the common items homeowners use is cameras.  We instruct our buyers there is a high likelihood they are being watched in homes, and to save detailed conversation for out of the house.

Cameras are everywhere.  They may be in the door bell as you approach the house, inside they may be in plain site as baby/puppy monitors, or they just may there as a part of an overall security system.

Some argue cameras without sound are legal.  Some say a notice must be given if audio recording.  Often homes will have a sticker or yard sign somewhere, and this does not guarantee you’ll see it.

Legalities aside, we stick with our recommendation. Do not have detailed conversations inside the home…wait until you are outside.



I’m not in the mood.

It’s 10:00 on a Sunday morning and I’m in the office. I am just coming back from a (rainy) vacation and honestly am not in the mood to start the hustle.  There’s a part of me still on vacation. I compromised; I’m wearing shorts and haven’t shaved.  Call me a rebel.

You see these articles are written by me and are not produced by some nameless faceless service. My feelings this Sunday morning may mirror some homeowners as they think about putting their home on the market: it’s just easier to grab another coffee and get sucked into a distraction rather than think about selling a home…or finding the next home.

What I’m doing this morning is what homeowners need to do.  After I watered the office plants (caring for nature is important), I put together my list of items to accomplish today. Homeowners need an action plan together helping them to stay focused. As experienced real estate consultants, we’ve helped dozens with the purchase and sale of property. We can put together the action plan and help with creative approaches for making things happen. For example, in a pinch put excess furniture/stuff in the garage as a storage spot. Buyers understand you are readying the home for sale.  Pack last season’s clothes to start packing AND thin out closets. Frankly a dumpster is often a big help if you’ve accumulated decades of “stuff.” I’m personally not a big fan of “Facebook Marketplace” and the like for selling the ordinary as it can be a distraction to the main mission, yet many enjoy selling items in those forums. Removing dated or ornate window treatments is a fast way to update a look.

Getting a home ready for sale can take a day (yes, we put a home on the market in a day) or months if painting/updating is desired to maximize curb appeal.  Buyers often want move-in ready condition meaning neutral paints and finishes. We believe in planning our work and then working the plan.

Give us a call and we can help show you a path for getting in the mood and even psyched about a move! If we meet on Sunday morning, we can bring a box of Joe and make it a very informal conversation.  It’s an exchange of ideas. Hope to see you soon.


Inspection Topics

Home sellers often despise the home inspection because it can open further negotiation. Home buyers are advised to have a home inspection so an impartial party can examine the major structural, mechanical and life safety systems of the home.

We advise our buyers to listen to the home inspector and take what is discovered under advisement.  If an issue is discovered, have a licensed professional in the discipline review the findings (for example, have the furnace company evaluate the furnace if in question.)  Home inspectors make visual observations of the home, and often refer findings to specialists.  This is useful in determining whether the finding has merit and the cost to remediate the issue.

Buyers are also advised to be reasonable and to focus on major structural, mechanical and life safety issues.  We’ve had buyers ask sellers to replace all the light bulbs in a house so they are “new.”  This is arguably a frivolous request and does little to move a transaction forward. If anything, it sets a tone buyers can regret later in a transaction.

If buyers are still unsure, a home warranty might solve the concern.  Home warranties can help address concern with serviceable and aging appliances and some home systems.

In the end, if the buyer is still uncomfortable they can rescind their offer. Buyers should do this as quickly as possible so the home can be placed “back on market” and another buyer located.

Note:  the local fire department will check smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors for items including location, purpose, age, and battery life.  They issue a certificate before the closing.  On Smokes/CO it’s a PASS/FAIL grade, with PASS needed to sell.


What will the owner take?

As a real estate professional, we are legally obligated to represent the seller of a property UNLESS we are representing the buyer.  Sounds convoluted, and thinking about it more there is elegant logic.  We must represent the buyer when we have signed paperwork saying we are representing the buyer.

When asked, “what will the owner take” we generally answer, “the way to find out is the make an offer.”  A seller may not accept the first offer, and generally a process of negotiating begins.

We’ve had some buyers say, “Let’s find out if they’ll accept our offer before writing it up.”  Why would a seller accept an incompletely documented offer?  It’s almost saying to the seller, “We know our offer is low, and it is not worth our time writing it up.”

We’ve seen sellers accept lower offers when accompanied by an appropriate offer package.  A professional real estate consultant will take the time to present an offer in a compelling manner. And we often never know what is motivating the seller to sell…are they just “done” with the process or the house, or do they have other financial or personal commitments rendering a house sale beneficial.  Maybe they want a quick close and timing is more important than sales price.

Buying a home is often an emotional process.  We believe you don’t want to lose your dream house over a thousand dollars.  We also believe all houses have a reasonable top end price where the home simply doesn’t represent a good investment.

We recommend knowing your numbers and working with a real estate professional helping you make the right move.


I Don’t Know Where to Start

A friend reached out recently to ask for help selling his house. We had talked about selling his home years previously, and he simply never made a move.

My friend was simply overwhelmed.  “I see so much to do and don’t know what to do or where to start.”

In this case, we did a pre-sale home inspection.  The inspector covered the home from the foundation to the chimney and came up with a list of items needing attention. We worked with contractors and specialists to address any major structural, mechanical and life safely issues prior to putting the home on the market.  Of course, we also freshly paint in updated colors as needed.

We also arrange for dumpsters or removal people to come in.  Inevitably some materials are not needed any more (like tax records going back to the year 2000)…and we can coordinate appropriate removal (including shredding!)

Getting a jump on the process helps showcase the property in the best way possible and reduces subsequent surprises at inspection time.


What’s a Senior to Do?

The morning crew at Chet’s Diner often asks me real estate questions.  Sumner, Steve, Billy, Carl, Bill, Jess….we converse over morning breakfast.  Steve recently complimented these articles, and Sumner asked what should seniors do?

One thing we observe is seniors with the “big house” often freeze when viewing the difference in selling price for their big house and the purchase price for an over 55 or assisted living center. They are surprised it is so small, and conclude they should stay in the “big house.”

We’d offer the maintenance and upkeep of the “big house” isn’t going to get smaller….and deferring maintenance often decreases the value of the home. Add in increased utility costs and the senior is further disadvantaged.

Some seniors have decided to take advantage of the lengthy run of home value increases since 2008 and want to sell before any “pullback.”  Rather than purchase an over 55 complex at the perceived height of the market they are opting to rent…and will purchase again when the market adjusts.

By renting the senior realizes the benefits of a smaller property managed by someone else (providing predictable costs), and the proceeds of their home sale can be used to opportunistically purchase when the right property comes along. Some seniors are using this strategy to rent in the city…so they can experience city living!


Tech in Real Estate

Like many industries technology is helping real estate. Video and camera technology is allowing an immersive experience so buyers and sellers can evaluate properties from their couch or office. Will this technology replace real estate agents and showings?

I believe in the value of video and 3D viewing experiences, and a review of MoveWithGary.com shows my commitment to various technologies. It’s my view these provide an augmented experience to professional pictures helping consumers extend a preview or walkthrough to hours if so desired.

That said, nothing so far replaces a home visit. Buying a home is an emotional experience for non-investors. A buyer needs to “sense” a home…feeling whether the home is “warm & welcoming,” smelling the home (is it a fresh smell?), listening for noises (road noise, or floors creaking (some worry about a squeaky floor, others consider it charm) and in general taking in the home.

Buyers know if a home is right for them once they walk-in. It’s a visceral experience…not one derived from spreadsheets or analysis. Technology has a role in the research of a home, and like a car you still need to take a “test drive” to make the final decision.


Capturing your home

The number one way buyers are introduced to a home is through the photography – pictures appearing on the Multiple Listing Service.  People study the pictures seemingly far more than the written word, and they pick up on flaws in the home.

While we all have a pretty good camera in our pocket these days (with an attached phone) great photos require a creative eye and approach. Some houses a basically dark and need supplemental lighting.  Capturing the right angle requires skill and experience.

Professional photography requires the right equipment and training.  The photographer works with the agent as a team making sure counters are clear, beds are made, and all toilet seats are down.

As a bonus, my photography team also creates a floor plan we use in our marketing materials.

This professional team approach helps get your home in from of the buyers’ eyes!