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One mantra that I say over and over to my clients is as follows: “How we live in a home is much different than how we try to sell a home.” As George Carlin was fond of saying, “Our homes are a place to keep all of our stuff. We get a bigger home, and then go buy more stuff!”


If you are thinking of putting your home on the market, that means you will (hopefully!) be moving soon, so then let’s start packing it all up early. This will help speed the sale of your home, and may even boost the price as well. Homes that are full of stuff look crowded and cramped. We want your home to look spacious and bright, with plenty of room for all of the buyer’s stuff! This is especially true for kitchen and bathroom counters—clear them off as much as possible. If you have items you need to use frequently, put them in a basket and store in a cabinet for easy retrieval. Also look at your bookcases. If they are crammed full of books, thin them out.


Don’t have room to store it all? Then rent a storage unit temporarily. I’m serious! Go through all the rooms of your home, garage, and closets, too. Look for extra furniture, piles of magazines you are going to read “someday…,” and excessive decorative items that are unnecessarily cluttering your home.


A buyer starts deciding whether or not your home is “the one” within the first seconds of entering the door. First impressions are critical! Take out anything that is cluttering your home, put it in storage, and you’ll see the difference in the response from potential buyers.


Auctions are fun to watch if you are just a spectator. But if you are a buyer, they can be quite stressful. You do your research ahead of time, and set your “max” price you’ll pay for an item. But then during the heat of the moment, you have to make decisions quickly. The pressure on you builds to bid higher than you had decided to before the auction started. So you bid higher, then the gavel bangs and you “win!” You instantly feel a rush of euphoria and success, but then seconds later you are gripped with fear that you paid too much, but in an auction, it’s too late. This is called “buyer’s remorse.”


The same thing can happen in real estate, especially when the market is hot and there are multiple offers on a property. You see a property that seems like a good fit for you and priced right. But when you hear that there are other buyers that also want to buy it, suddenly the price seems too low and you “bid” higher in order to beat out the other buyers. Then the seller asks for your “highest and best” offer and you raise your price again. Another buyer does the same thing and up the price goes.


I’ve had three instances over the last few months where that scenario played out and a listing I had got bid up quite a bit over the list price, but then the winning buyer got buyer’s remorse and wanted to back out immediately. Luckily each time we were able to go back to the buyers that didn’t get it and got back into contract quickly. One time, for even MORE than the first time! Please note that I don’t have room to discuss the effect this had on the first buyer’s deposit. That’s a topic for another day…



A few weeks ago I warned you to make sure you hire licensed contractors to do work on your home. If it’s less than $500, you can consider using someone who isn’t licensed, but there are some risks. But what about when the homeowner wants to do work on their own home? Do they need to be licensed?


I contacted the Contractor’s State License Board (www.cslb.ca.gov) about this issue and they said there are some exemptions for homeowners doing work on their own home. They have two main categories – owner-builder and improvement. Owner-builder means the owner of the property is building a home from scratch, and they don’t plan to sell the property. The second category is someone just altering, repairing, improving or remodeling an existing structure.


If you want to build a house from scratch, and live in it, it is possible to do that without a contractor’s license yourself, although there are restrictions for which subcontractors you hire, how they are paid, etc. But if you just want to improve or repair your existing home, you can do that without a license as long as: “The work is performed prior to sale; the homeowner resides in the residence for the 12 months prior to completion of the work; and, the homeowner has not taken advantage of this exemption on more than two structures during any three-year period.”


I asked them what they meant by, “Prior to sale.” I asked if that means before you close escrow on the sale, or prior to the for sale sign going up? They explained that what they mean is that you don’t intend to sell the property for at least one year after doing the work. If you are prepping the home for sale, or you are in contract to sell, you should hire a licensed contractor.


“All the people said, ‘Amen!’” is the name of a song by Matt Maher that came out in 2013, and that title rightly applies to Zillow this week.


FINALLY, after years and years of complaints, Zillow is now allowing people to edit the facts about their home on Zillow. I’ve heard from many people over the years who complain that Zillow has their home details incorrect. They may have the square footage, or year built, or any number of things wrong. This is particularly troubling when people try to sell their home, and potential buyers see it on Zillow but pass on the home due to the incorrect information.


I checked my own home and it was listed as a mobile home, not a single-family home (it’s not listed for sale, but Zillow tries to list info on EVERY home). But now there is a NEW button next to my home’s details that says, “Edit.” When I clicked on that, it asked me to verify that I was the owner and then it allowed me to submit the changes, which showed up immediately on the live Zillow site.


Please note that they are NOT allowing you to change your Zestimate (their wildly-inaccurate guess at what your home is worth) directly. However, if your home’s info in Zillow was wrong, that does factor into your Zestimate. For example, if Zillow has your home at 1,500 square feet, and it’s really 2,000 square feet, when you correct that, your Zestimate SHOULD go up since size is one of the factors Zillow uses to come up with the Zestimate. They also use year built, lot size, wind direction, astrology, tarot cards and a random number generator that adds or subtracts $25-75K from your Zestimate. [Most of this last sentence isn’t true, it just seems like it!]


In the typical real estate transaction there are lots of parties with different roles. There is the Seller, and their agent who is looking out for the Seller’s interests, then the Buyer and their agent, who is looking out for the Buyer’s interests. Then you have the lender and the inspector(s), who are hired by the Buyer and are trying to look out for the Buyer. But what about the title company, who are they looking out for? The Buyer or the Seller?


It’s actually both, and neither. They are a neutral 3rd-party to the transaction and they act on the mutual instructions of the Buyer and Seller. What that means in English is that the title company will act when the Buyer and Seller agree, but they won’t act when there is a conflict.


This most often comes up in regards to the Buyer’s deposit when the contract is cancelled, or in regards to the Seller’s proceeds when there are multiple Sellers. If both Buyer and Seller agree who gets the Buyer’s deposit, or when the Sellers all agree on how to split up the proceeds, the title company will release funds according to their wishes. But when there is a disagreement, and the title company receives conflicting instructions in regards to the deposit or the proceeds, they don’t take sides. They just stop and hang onto the money until the different sides work out their differences and send in matching instructions. So calling and yelling at the title officer to give you “your money” doesn’t help (and it just ruins their day).The only other way for this impasse to be broken is if the two sides go to court and then the title company receives an order signed by a judge about how to disburse the deposit or proceeds.


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