Tips for Choosing the Best Realtor to Sell Your Home

Hello Dave,

 Let’s assume that I have done my homework and I have decided on a Realtors’ office based on brand name recognition, market share, aggressive marketing, reputation and other factors. Now what? Is there a way that I can pick an agent within that company based on their success, professionalism, enthusiasm, abilities, etc.?

There are good, better and best (most productive) in any office. How can I decide who or which company is better for me to list my home with?

Thanks,

Dave, Cedaredge


Dave,

I could write a book answering your question, however, I am going to do my best to not be overly verbose or opinionated and stick to facts and try to be as objective as possible. First, I applaud you for “doing your homework”! For most people, their home is one of, if not their largest investment, and it always shocks me how little “real” homework people do when choosing an agent or real estate company. If you stop and think about it, trusting such an investment with someone who does not have a proven track record just does not make sense.  However,  people make that choice every single day!

All of the qualities you listed in your question are important when evaluating agents and companies. Brand name recognition, market share, reputation and other factors are all key elements in choosing a real estate company and evaluating those factors should allow you to narrow down your choice in the real estate company you choose. You mentioned aggressive marketing and I suggest you use that element of evaluation as one you use when evaluating agents, not your real estate company. The reason I suggest this is that each individual real estate agent markets their properties differently. No two agents do things just alike and to ensure your agent of choice has an “aggressive marketing” plan you MUST evaluate every aspect of how they will market your property and the vision they have for YOUR specific marketing plan. How an agent presents and prepares your marketing plan will tell you all you need to know about your potential for success and their abilities.

When you evaluate the agent’s specific marketing plan you will learn a lot about their professionalism, enthusiasm and track record of success…or lack thereof. My suggestion would be to choose your agent on all the aspects you have listed! Trust me on this one, the level of marketing expertise and understanding displayed is likely a VERY strong indicator of your chances of a positive outcome. Just putting a property on the MLS does not cut it anymore! They should have a strong plan across many mediums like internet, social media, agent to agent promotion, direct to consumer programs, newspaper, radio, television and more. If they have this in place, you can bet they are enthusiastic about their job and work at it as a profession, not a hobby or way to collect some extra vacation money. Search for someone who is full time and HAS A PLAN for you and your property.

If the agent checks the boxes listed above, then I can almost guarantee they are productive and achieve results on a high level. Really, who doesn’t want a top level agent working on the sale of their home?

If the agent checks the boxes listed above, then I can almost guarantee they are productive and achieve results on a high level. Really, who doesn’t want a top level agent working on the sale of their home? I would pray that nobody ever hires an agent based on an average marketing plan or expecting an average result. Don’t settle! Follow some of the selection methods I have listed and you will find the best agent in any office or town. It is just like anything else, the cream rises to the surface and typically it’s pretty clear who performs and who doesn’t. Remember, success does leave clues.

Lastly, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Being a father is not easy—it’s a tough job that requires leadership, dedication, patience, understanding, selflessness and unconditional love! Keep up the good work and remember it is far more important to be a dad than it is to be a friend. Friends will come and go, but your Dad will always be there! Thanks Dad.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

Dave's advice on budgeting and home ownership

budgeting

Dear Dave,

It seems like everywhere I turn these days there is someone talking about Dave Ramsey and his budget plans. It has really got me thinking about budgeting and has prompted me to look into some different apps and plans to do this effectively.

This past year we purchased a home and I really want to make sound decisions as I move into my 30’s and budget and invest wisely.

Do you have any great advice for me in terms of budgeting and home ownership? I value your opinion and look forward to reading your advice every week!

Thanks,
Alex - Grand Junction, CO


Alex,

Great question and it is awesome that you are looking to be fiscally responsible as you move into what are your prime income earning years - your 30’s and 40’s.  Dave Ramsey, in my mind, without question is on the forefront of fiscal responsibility with his programs, talk show and website. You can find an incredible amount of financial advice at daveramsey.com and there you will find his "7 Baby Steps to Taking Control of Your Money!" Let me add, purchasing a home is a wonderful way to start creating wealth.

Several of the “Baby Steps” listed on the Dave Ramsey website make a ton of sense, regardless of your age. First, is to save $1,000 for an emergency fund. You never know what curveballs life is going to throw, but there is little doubt there will be some coming your way. Having an emergency fund, for a bump in the road, is a wonderful idea and you will be prepared for that broken arm, car repair or trip to visit a sick family member. As any experienced home owner will tell you, there are many things that can pop up at the most unexpected times - like a hot water heater, furnace, swamp cooler, roof repairs, fallen tree and much more.   This emergency fund can also relieve quite a bit of stress, just knowing that you have something to fall back on, if necessary. After you have saved your emergency fund, it is a great idea to save and have at least 3-6 months of expenses in savings. This will allow you to weather the more significant problems that come up in life…the birth of a child, loss of a job or a major health related issue. Having 3-6 months built up can offer you the mental freedom of knowing you have taken steps to protect you, your family and your future from a potential disaster.

It is a great idea to pay off all debt, except your home. Your home is generally financed at a low interest rate and the interest each year is tax deductible.

It is a great idea to pay off all debt, except your home. Your home is generally financed at a low interest rate and the interest each year is tax deductible. Non-mortgage debt is generally high interest debt and paying it down is critical to gaining financial freedom. Getting rid of credit card debt is key. According to nerdwallet.com, the average American household (of households who have credit card debt) currently carry over $16,000 in credit card debt and the high interest rates on that debt makes it very hard to pay off. Remember, before you purchase something with your credit card, ask yourself “how bad do I really need this and can I pay it off in the next 30 days?” When I got my first credit card, my parents advised me to ask these questions and it has been very beneficial to me. Even today, I still ask myself those questions before pulling the trigger on the newest video game or tennis shoes. The answers to those two questions will probably lead to less spending and also the accumulation of less stuff. If you are spending less, you should now be able to begin saving more for retirement.

Your home is now a big part of your wealth building and financial portfolio. Make sure to treat it as such. Keep up with maintenance and updating to help protect your investment. Remember to celebrate your successes and let them build on one another until you become a saving machine! I have no doubt you have a very bright future.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team 

Is carpet or laminate wood best for bedroom flooring?

bedroom

Dear Dave,

Two years ago we completely remodeled our kitchen and replaced all of the tile floors throughout the home and living areas with laminate wood, but decided to wait to replace the bedrooms existing carpet for financial reasons. We will be selling our home next year and are ready to replace the carpet, but now we aren't sure if we should replace it with new carpeting or the same laminate flooring as the rest of the house. I've learned from your articles that both choices would give us an excellent return, however which choice is more appealing to buyers in our area? We are so conflicted!

Virginia, Grand Junction


rugs

Virginia,

Ugh…I understand why you are so conflicted, as I am also conflicted with my answer! Personally I can’t stand having my bare feet on any surface other than carpet, thus I am not a big fan of tile, wood or any “hard” surface. We have tile in our bathroom, however my bare feet almost never touch it…weird, I know. One of the things I miss most when we are on vacation to any beach locale is carpet. I know you can’t get carpet as clean and that it harbors sand, dust, mites and who knows what else, but personally I love carpet in bedrooms.

You are right, either will give you a good return on your investment so honestly you can’t really go wrong, but I am going to say carpet in the bedrooms is the correct choice.

You are right, either will give you a good return on your investment so honestly you can’t really go wrong, but I am going to say carpet in the bedrooms is the correct choice. It is a softer surface and helps create a warmer atmosphere and I believe that is the more desirable surface in a bedroom. You have chosen wisely in the rest of the house, as people love that wood and tile is easier to keep clean, but in the bedrooms go with carpet!

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

Creating an outdoor living space with resale value

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Dear Dave,

My wife and I have been in our new home for about a year now. We are considering, putting in a hot tub.

We have a couple of different options to locate the hot tub and wanted your advice. One idea would be to put the hot tub on the small patio that is off our master bedroom. However, that would be the only access and we aren’t sure that is a good idea. The other option is to put it on our patio off the dining room - which would definitely be a more central location, but not as secluded.

Do you think it makes a difference for future resale potential? And if so, what do you think is best? Thanks for your feedback!

Joe and Sydney, Grand Junction


Joe and Sydney,

Making improvements on your outdoor living space is always a smart move! For resale it is hard to beat the bang for your buck of outdoor home improvements.  Outdoor living spaces are very in vogue and there is little that lights the fire of a home buyer like a really well done outdoor living area. One thing to keep in mind is that hot tubs are a bit like pools, people either really like them or they really don’t and there generally is not much in between. If you simply add a hot tub to an existing deck or patio your financial return will likely be quite underwhelming, however creating a truly amazing outdoor space will add real money and end up being a real selling point when and if you ever decide to sell. All that being said, there are a couple of things you can do to maximize the space and the improvement.

First, concentrate on making the space not just a hot tub space. Make the effort and spend the time to create a space that provides not only a home for your hot tub, but a space that creates an atmosphere and ambiance of a true outdoor living area.
outside-space

First, concentrate on making the space not just a hot tub space. Make the effort and spend the time to create a space that provides not only a home for your hot tub, but a space that creates an atmosphere and ambiance of a true outdoor living area. Marry your hot tub with a multi-purpose area that serves as an entertaining or sitting area and see the impact soar. I am not sure it matters if you situate the hot tub off master bedroom or off the dining area if you really create something wonderful. Both locations will have their appeal, if you go off the master you probably want something a bit more intimate and private and if you decide to locate off the dining area you want to shoot for making it conducive to entertaining. On another note, make sure to add the extra element of lighting to your area. Lighting is a far too often overlooked as a very inexpensive item that provides high impact and is essential when trying to create a mood and ambiance. If you go the extra mile and enhance your landscaping to accentuate the new hot tub/entertaining area and you should be well on your way to creating a space that many hot tub lovers and even those who are not will covet!

Tomorrow is Memorial Day and I encourage everyone who is reading this article to stop for a few minutes and remember those who served in our armed forces and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Without their sacrifice it is likely the world we live in would be much different and not nearly as good…Personally I am very thankful.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

Tips for Downsizing Your Home

Dave,

We have been living in Grand Junction for nearly 12 years and when we moved here we had our 3 children living at home and our lifestyle required much more space, inside and out, then it does now that they have moved out. We are in our late 50s and have a large home on several acres and we need to downsize our home and land, as it has become way too much for us to keep up with. First, is this a good market to down size in? Second, we are struggling with where to begin. We have so much stuff that has accumulated over the years that the process is very daunting. Any words of wisdom you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.

William and Barb, Grand Junction    


William and Barb,

Downsizing can be a very daunting task that can seem overwhelming as you sit and look at everything that has to be done. I would suggest to create a game plan and timeline for making your move. Break it down and put a realistic timeline on the items that need to be completed and then mark them off as you get them done. This timeline will help make the process not appear so daunting and will give you steps to complete and when you complete them. This will also allow you to see your progress as you mark off the tasks and this will serve as mini rewards as you mark of each step. That being said, it still can be quite overwhelming. Hang in there!

My view on timing, when you buy and sell in the same market, then all things are relative. When your home goes down 10%, so does you neighbor and visa versa.  There is no doubt that 10% of $400,000 is more than 10% of $200,000 and this is probably where you have heard the side of the story that it is a great time to move up, but not necessarily a great time to move down. The question you must ask yourself, how long will it take for the market to come back up? And am I willing to keep slaving away on the large house and land or am I willing to cut ties and make a serious lifestyle change? A quality of lifestyle change is typically worth the trade off of waiting for your property to come up in value, but only you can make that decision. After you have decided if the time is right, the next steps are the one’s that can take the wind out of your sails.

First, assess your current and future space needs. Walk through your home and ask yourself questions about all your belongings. Do you use your exercise equipment? How often do we eat at the dining room table? How many times have we used the sitting room in the past year? If you have a collection of 300 books, do you really need to collect them? Or better yet, are you going to read them again anytime soon? Same can be said for movies, etc... Many times, much of what we have accumulated is kept for those “just in case” moments. "Just in case” moments can lead to a never ending amount of clutter that needs to be thinned out, because “just in case” moments do not come around very often. We keep things around "just in case", or hoping that their presence will eventually encourage us to use them. For the items you really have a hard time getting rid of, make an agreement with yourself and put the items in storage. If you don't need or use them within 6 months, give, sell or throw them away. I bet you find that most of your stuff you do not need. That is when you will realize your space requirements may be much smaller than you originally thought.

Go out on a home viewing tour and establish if there are homes currently on the market that will meet your new “downsized” needs and living requirements.

After you have downsized the amount of stuff you have or have a good grasp on what stays and what will go, you need to start looking at replacement homes. Go out on a home viewing tour and establish if there are homes currently on the market that will meet your new “downsized” needs and living requirements. A good rule of thumb, we use, is to go out and view homes and if you can find two or more homes that you would be happy with, then it is reasonable to anticipate you can find a home you will love, once your home goes under contract.

Remember, control the things you can control and try not to eat the cow in one bite! You need to pace yourself and making a game plan with realistic goals will help set you up to succeed and make the process as enjoyable as it can be. I will also warn you, once you start getting rid of your unused stuff, it can be addictive and fun. Have fun with it so you can look back on it as a rewarding experience and setting up goals and crossing them off leads to a positive outcome! Hope this helps.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

Most valuable upgrades in new construction homes?

Dave,

My husband and I are buying a new construction home and are very excited to build a house we love. We’ve decided on our lot and are about to meet with our builder to decide on some major aspects of the home. Our question for you is what upgrades should we go for? What holds the most value?  High end finishes vs larger square footage?  I’m sure our builder will also have an opinion, but we’d love to hear what you think as well!

Thanks,
Becca, Grand Junction


Becca,

new-construction-home

Great question! There are many aspects to look at when deciding what lot to choose and which floor plan will best fit your family. Remember to start with the basics and work from there. By basics I mean start with which floor plan will work best. 

When choosing a floor plan remember to stick with a few common features that will help retain and increase future value. Some simple things that I believe are here to stay are floor plans with a great room concept design and feature raised or vaulted ceilings, split bedroom concept (master bedroom on one side and secondary bedrooms on the other side of the house), large kitchens, luxury master baths and a 3 car garage. If you are lucky enough to incorporate all these into your floor plan, consider yourself blessed! If you can’t get them all, you will need to prioritize which of these features are most important for your family. Also remember that today’s open concept floor plans live larger than their square foot size so don’t be surprised if a smaller plan lives larger than its actual size. If you are able to find a smaller plan that lives large you can use some of the savings and splurge a little on your finishes. After you have chosen your floor plan, stick with more basics by focusing on how to best position your home on the lot.

Keep in mind that you will boost your long term value if you position your home on the lot leaving maximum space along the garage side to be used for RV parking.

If you have options of how to best position your home on the lot you will want to focus on how to maximize back yard, privacy and RV parking. Keep in mind that you will boost your long term value if you position your home on the lot leaving maximum space along the garage side to be used for RV parking. This is an easy one to miss, but if the lot allows enough room to make RV parking make sure you take advantage of it, as it can be a make or break feature for some buyers. Lots are getting smaller and pushing your home forward on the lot can help create a few more feet in the back yard and even a few feet can make a big difference.  After you have conquered the basics of the lot and floor plan, focus on the finishes!

new-construction-home-2

Picking the finishes for your home is the fun part and this is where you will give your home some personality. When you start picking finishes ask yourself how long you are planning on living there? If you plan on this being your long-term home then you might pick finishes that focus more on what you want and less on what will prove easier to sell when the time comes. If you are planning on being there a few years and then moving up or potentially moving out then you might stick closer to a conservative middle ground than on the edge of new trends! Timeless finishes are wood and tile floors, granite counter tops, neutral carpet and wall colors (maybe with a splash of color on an accent wall). Hard to go wrong with any of these and they are all for maintaining and enhancing future home value. Most importantly have fun with the process and choose things that you love!

Lastly, for all the Mom’s out there enjoy your day! For every person reading this column, take time to thank your mom for all she has done. Remember, without her you would not be here! Happy Mothers Day!!

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

Who gets to keep the earnest money?

Dave,

My neighbor’s home recently was under contract and was supposed to close last week, but we found out it didn’t. Apparently about a week before closing they were notified by their real estate agent that the house did not appraise for the price they were under contract for. The buyers were not willing to obtain another mortgage company or get another appraisal, even if our neighbor paid for the new appraisal. We were really surprised, and so was our neighbor, to find out that the buyer did not even have to forfeit the earnest money. I thought that if the buyer did not close, they would lose their earnest money? If the buyer does not close and they still get their earnest money back, why do you even have earnest money in a contract?

Thanks Dave,
Tom, Grand Junction


Tom,

The story you described happens more often than you would think and the “what happened to the earnest money?” question is almost always certain to follow! Unfortunately the “what happened to the earnest money?” answer is always very disappointing to the seller and it typically comes as a big surprise that not only will they not be keeping it, but it is going to be returned to the buyer. Sellers beware, in Colorado earnest money does not mean what you think it means. I think you pose a great question, “Why do we even have earnest money?”

Earnest money is basically considered good faith money that the buyer typically provides to the seller when they present a contract to purchase.

Earnest money is basically considered good faith money that the buyer typically provides to the seller when they present a contract to purchase. If the buyer and seller come to agreeable terms on a contract, then the earnest money should be held by either the real estate brokerage or a title company until the time of closing. When things go smoothly (most of the time) this earnest money is used as part of the buyer’s funds to purchase at the time of close. It’s when things don’t go smoothly…they can get complicated in a hurry! Let me make one thing clear about earnest money and Colorado real estate contracts, and as far as I am concerned it is a good rule of thumb to use, unless the buyer’s actions are egregious and ALL of the contingency dates and deadlines in the contract have passed the buyer will almost ALWAYS receive the earnest money back!

earnestmoney

Colorado real estate contracts are written with the primary premise to protect the buyer and provide the buyer ample opportunities to figure out exactly what it is they are buying and exactly how they are going to obtain the funds for their purchase. Buyers generally place a contract on a home that they love. They imagine raising their family there, having weddings, prom nights, Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas mornings under the tree in their new home. Buyers typically place contracts on homes they love and when it does not work out they are also very disappointed. Also, keep in mind that when things don’t work out, it is not typically by fault of the buyer or really anyone’s fault. There are many moving parts to any real estate transaction, especially those that involve a loan, and there are plenty of opportunities to hit a “snag” and sometimes those “snags” are too much to overcome.  

The moral of the story here is to not be surprised, as a seller, when you do not get to keep the earnest money if your transaction does not see the closing table. About the only time a seller will receive the earnest money is when ALL of the dates and deadlines have passed on the contract and the only date remaining is the closing date. If the buyers back out after all dates have passed, then that is when they will likely lose their earnest money! Here is hoping that you never have to have to ask the question, “who gets to keep the earnest money?” but if you do at least now you will know the answer before you ask!

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

Can a seller still back out after we agree to his counter offer?

Dave,

We recently made an offer on a house and the seller sent us a counter offer that we agreed to, but then we received word that he had changed his mind and was going to sell the home to another buyer. We feel like he made a deal and he should have stuck to his word and had to sell it to us. We feel we lost out on the perfect home and we are now struggling to get in the mood to find another home. We have lost our oomph.

Dale & Nicole, Grand Junction


Dale and Nicole,

country-house

No doubt you are feeling “wronged” by this sellers actions, but it may have well been within his rights to not sell you the house, even after a counter offer was given. When the seller made you the counter offer, I am assuming, that it was in writing. A seller has the option to withdraw a counter-offer any time prior to your “accepting” the counter offer in writing and delivering it to the seller's agent. If your acceptance was in writing prior to the counter-offer being withdrawn and was delivered to the seller agent, then you would have a binding contract on both parties. If this was the case the seller should honor the contract and in the state of Colorado, close the transaction with you as long as you abide by the dates and deadlines of the agreed upon contract.

If any part of this offer/counter-offer process was done verbally, then you would have some significant gray area. Verbal offers and counter-offers are often used by agents throughout the process of negotiations, but when doing this you open the door to many, much more significant issues and misunderstandings that often times lead to problems. If you only accepted verbally or the counter offer was made verbally, then I would say that you do not have much of a case. Without written and signed contracts, enforcement becomes a larger issue and inevitably it comes down to he said/she said. You would need to weigh the cost/benefit of attempting to hold the seller to a verbal commitment and I believe that would be very difficult to achieve.

Things do not always work out the way we think they should and often times in negotiations people change their mind on an ongoing basis, I see it every day. 

Things do not always work out the way we think they should and often times in negotiations people change their mind on an ongoing basis, I see it every day.  The best rule of thumb is to do everything in writing and be prepared to respond promptly and make sure you respond in writing. Communication is difficult, even under the best circumstances, this is part of the reason why we have contracts and we do our best to make sure all negotiations are done on paper. Contracts should spell out the terms and conditions and remove interpretation or changes of mind from the equation.

Please remember this is not legal advice and I always recommend you speak to an attorney and see if you have any legal grounds for recourse, he/she will be able to steer you in the right direction. Don’t lose hope because of this set back, doors open and doors close and maybe an even more perfect home is right around the corner. Keep the faith.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team