Questions to Ask a Realtor Before Hiring Them

real estate agent shaking hands with customer after deal at offi

Dave,

My parents have sold several homes over the years, but leave the experience with only a lukewarm feeling towards their agent. It seems like they generally are disappointed with the process and the outcome. They are going to sell their home in Arizona this summer and we would love some suggestions as to what questions they should ask when they interview agents this time around. I am not sure it will help, but I figured I would at least try. I am confident you have some questions that will help them find a quality agent. Thanks for the insight.

Andrea, Grand Junction          


Andrea,

This is a funny question, as it is still surprising to me that more sellers don’t ask more questions. I guess they just generally assume I know what I am doing, however, this could be a very costly assumption depending on who they are interviewing. Real Estate is such a relationship based business model that often times the relationship outweighs the expertise and if you take this stance it can cost you thousands of dollars. I also think most people are not very good at asking questions or don’t want to seem pushy. I must admit that I am not a great question asker, as it is a real art and gift. Asking the right questions is “THE” key to finding a good real estate agent. Here are a few:

  1. On average, how many homes have you sold each year for the past 3 years?
    You are looking for an answer that is somewhere north of 25 homes. Any less than 2 per month and it would be hard to call it your profession.
     
  2. Is Real Estate your full time Job?
    You want to hear “YES”. If not, end the interview.
     
  3. What will be your marketing strategy for my home?
    You want to see a comprehensive strategy with several marketing avenues in place with an emphasis on consistency and frequency of message.
     
  4. What separates you from your competition?
    This should tell you a lot. They should know their competition and better yet, know their marketing plan, office processes and how those are superior.
     
  5. How will you communicate with me?
    This one may be the most important. If you get an answer that feels like there is no plan that means there is no plan. Again, end the interview if the answer is not specific on when and how you can expect communication.
     
  6. What negatives do you see with my home?
    If they are unsure of what negatives exist or what the barriers of sale may be, then either they are not willing to confront the issues or they don’t have the skill set to identify them. Again, unless they provide you with some insight, end the interview. Even the most perfect house, has flaws. 
     
  7. Will you provide references?
    Ask for them and call them. You are interviewing. Do your homework or don’t blame the agent if it does not work out!
Notice, the question about how much the house is worth is not on the list. Make your decision based on the answers to questions similar to the ones listed above, not what value the agent tells you your home should sell for.

Notice, the question about how much the house is worth is not on the list. Make your decision based on the answers to questions similar to the ones listed above, not what value the agent tells you your home should sell for. Trust me, if the answers to the above questions all fit, then you and the agent will be able to find a real market value for your home and have a great relationship through to closing. I hope this helps your folks and that the process is enjoyable. Part of making the ride enjoyable is doing your homework up front so you are comfortable with the driver. Then you can sit back and relax knowing you are in good hands. 

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

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Can we add to our home value by including furniture in the sale of our home?

Family room interior features grey linen sectional

Dave,

We are considering selling our home and downsizing. We would prefer to sell it fully furnished, as we have purchased furnishings specifically for this house. All our decor has been professionally done, hand selected and very nice. I am sure that it would add value to our home and then we could leave it in the home it was chosen for. What experience have you had with sales such as ours, fully furnished and what advice can you provide? Thank you.

Loretta, Grand Junction


Loretta,

Sounds like you have a wonderful home and I would bet you have done it beautifully. To be honest, I have not been involved in many sales of fully furnished homes. Selling a home fully furnished can potentially be a good thing, but do not expect to get any real value from your furnishings. Most people would love to have your beautiful furnishings, but will likely be unwilling to pay any “real” sum of money for them, but this also depends on the price range of your home and frankly, the buyer who is purchasing your home.

including-furniture-in-sale-of-home-1

Often times, when a buyer comes into a home that has been professionally staged and decorated, the furnishings can be distracting because it is so nice! Most buyers say, “This is beautiful, but our furniture and decor is not near this nice...this looks like it is out of a magazine.” They know once the furnishings are removed the home will likely not look nearly as good and they assume (probably correct) and that it will cost them a fortune to get it looking that good again. If your home fits this description then leaving the furniture could be a great move, as long they are not too personalized or will narrow your buyer pool significantly. If everything is done in a western motif, this will appeal to some, but rule out the vast majority.

Remember that if you leave the furniture, you need to be aware that it is considered personal property, which can easily be removed from the home, and the cost of the furniture will not be added into the value of your home. This means that if you are selling your home at market value and leaving what you believe to be $30,000 in decor, the added $30,000 will not be reflected in the appraisal, your appraisal will not be $30,000 more because you left the furniture. The appraisal is used to evaluate the real estate, not the personal property included in the sale. Any personal property included in the sale will have to be given a nominal value as to not impact the appraisal value.   

A best practice, or one we typically use, is to have your furniture and decor itemized and priced so a prospective buyer can purchase them from you separate from the sale of the home. 
Beautiful New Furnished Living Room in New Luxury Home

A best practice, or one we typically use, is to have your furniture and decor itemized and priced so a prospective buyer can purchase them from you separate from the sale of the home. Keep in mind, if you make the list and make it available to the buyer prior to them writing an offer on your home, many of the items on the list are likely to show up in the offer as part of the deal and given no added value. We suggest letting buyers know that you are willing to sell some or all of the furniture and you will make the list available to them after you come to contract terms and you are past the inspection. This will help the negotiating of the contract and your inspection remain centered on the real estate and not the personal property.  

It is NOT a best practice to have family room furniture with a used street value of $1,500 getting in the way of a home sale of $250,000. Adding furniture and personal items to a contract for sale on property often leads down a bad road, where the furniture becomes a problem and all the energy is concentrated on who is going to get the couch and not the home! Best practice is to leave all personal items, including furniture, out of all negotiations until after the home is under contract and you are past the home inspection phase of the transaction. After the home is under contract and both parties have agreed upon the sale price of the home, you can open the door to furniture negotiations. I hope this advice helps make your decision easier and provides some clarity. Best of luck.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

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7 Tips for Winning a Home That Has Multiple Offers

Female Real Estate agent offer home ownership and life insurance to young couple.

Dave,

Some family friends just bought a home here and after hearing the details of their experience, we’re a little intimidated to start the home buying process this summer (we’ve been planning and saving to purchase a home—and we’re almost ready!). Our friends said that the home they ended up buying was actually the fourth home they had written an offer on. The first three homes they wrote offers on had additional offers and obviously, their offer didn’t win the contract. Their agent said it’s just the nature of the market in their price range right now. We’re in the same price range ($225,000—$250,000) and don’t have much wiggle room to move up in price. Aside from increasing the amount we offer on a home, do you have any tips on how to win in multiple offer situations?

Please help!

Marissa, Grand Junction


Marissa,

Wow! Your observations are absolutely correct! The segment of the market that you are searching in is moving at a very brisk pace and the competition can be fierce! Multiple offer situations are happening with more and more regularity, so as a buyer, you must be ready and willing to put your best foot forward right out of the gate. If you hesitate or make a mistake, you decrease your chances of success exponentially. Don’t be afraid to compete! It’s a bit like dating…If you find just the right one, be prepared to compete and win! Grab hold of a competitive mindset and remember most houses are lost over a fairly small sum of money or an overlooked detail that would have cost nothing! 

There ARE some simple things that you can do to help move your offer up in the pecking order when the offers are presented to the seller!

  1. Be willing to offer more than asking price or include an escalation clause that will automatically increase your offer over and above the next highest offer up to a price ceiling! I have seen many an offer lost over $500 or $1000. If you really want the property and there are multiple offers, go 1-2% over asking price and watch your chances soar! If the home is $225k, offer $229k and my bet is you get it.
     
  2. Offer more earnest money than what the seller is requesting. Earnest money is often times an overlooked negotiating tool that absolutely DOES mean something to a seller and can tip the scales if the offer prices are similar.
     
  3. Be flexible with the closing and possession date. This will show the seller that you are willing to work with them and make the transition fit their needs. 
     
  4. Be willing to cover your own or at least part of your own closing costs.  Over 70% of the offers I see contain seller paid closing costs. Eliminating these closing costs indicates to a seller that you are a stronger buyer. After 16 years and thousands of contracts negotiated, it is a fact that most sellers would prefer buyers pay their own closing costs.
     
  5. Do not ask for personal property or things that the seller is not offering as inclusions with the property.  If they have not included the nice new looking refrigerator, don’t ask for it.  If you find their lawn furniture comfy don’t try to throw it in, go buy your own.  I have yet to find a seller who looks upon request for personal property with a favorable eye. 
     
  6. Be willing to waive your inspection contingency!  If you do this, it will be clear to the seller that you are making a serious offer and have serious intent to purchase the home.  This is the last resort move, however, it is a doozy if you have confidence that the property is in good condition or you can handle whatever problems you uncover.
     
  7. Use a local lender that has a good reputation! Accepting an offer where the lender is local will sure make the seller and their realtor feel better about the chances of seeing the closing table.
These are several techniques to help you up your game in this increasingly more competitive real estate market. Notice that none of these are high dollar techniques or anything really fancy, but I promise they can make a difference.

These are several techniques to help you up your game in this increasingly more competitive real estate market. Notice that none of these are high dollar techniques or anything really fancy, but I promise they can make a difference. If you combine 2, 3 or 4 of these techniques in the same offer you will probably have an unbeatable combination. Remember sometimes it takes a little courage, faith, and risk to get what you want so don’t let fear or hesitation hold you back from making things happen. When you craft your offer with your agent, look at it through the eyes of a seller, be willing to think outside of the box and create a win/win for both parties and I bet you have a new home in no time at all. I’ll bet the next time you submit an offer, it will be FUN!  Good luck.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

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How much do neighboring properties affect your home value?

neighbors-affecting-property-value

Dave,

We have been watching a couple of homes that have been on the market for a couple months and we would be happy with either, but we really do like one of them quite a bit better than the other. Neither are perfect, but the one we like the most has two homes on the street, one right next door, that looks like it has been completely neglected and has junk everywhere.  When we drove by a couple times last weekend it had two cars parked on the front lawn virtually all day Saturday. We are very interested in the home but have big concerns about the impact these two homes are having on the neighborhood. What do you recommend? Thanks.

Donna, Grand Junction


Donna,

Great question and you have good reason to be hesitant about purchasing if the next door neighbor looks like a dump. There is no question that the surrounding properties have a direct impact on any home. If the neighbors do a poor job of taking care of their property, it brings all the other homes values down in the neighborhood. The questions I would have are, is it a relatively isolated incidence? Or is it a broader problem where there is a lack of a homeowners association or an HOA that lacks the authority or structure to enforce the covenants and keep the neighborhood looking its best?

I would recommend you have your Realtor pull a copy of the neighborhood covenants for you to look over and find out exactly what things are and are not allowed. I would certainly guess that parking of cars on the front lawn would not be in the provisions designed to bolster property values. Homeowners associations are designed to protect values and help enforce a consistency of product which leads to the solid maturity of a subdivision. If the neighbors appear to be in violation of the covenants then you could always contact the HOA and find out why the property is apparently in violation and what steps are they taking to get them into compliance? Don’t be afraid to investigate and ask hard questions, after all, you are considering making a significant investment in the neighborhood. I am making the assumption that there is an established HOA, if there is no HOA then all bets are off and what you see is what you get.   

One of the first things I do when looking a home is to look at the neighbors. Good neighbors can help make you money and bad ones will no doubt cost you money. I would be very hesitant to invest my money in a home that has a poorly kept home next door.

One of the first things I do when looking a home is to look at the neighbors. Good neighbors can help make you money and bad ones will no doubt cost you money. I would be very hesitant to invest my money in a home that has a poorly kept home next door. Keep in mind that this could also change. Should the neighbor move out, then there is the significant likelihood that the home would be cleaned up and updated by a new owner. Find out how long they have been there etc. Do your due diligence and do your best to evaluate their long-term viability of them continuing to own the home.

To sum it up, make sure you do your homework and remember this is not just going to be your home, but it will also be an investment in your family’s future. Location is key, not just the physical location, but the location of eyesore properties nearby, so be careful of investing where you do not feel like the neighbors are equally invested in the integrity of the neighborhood. My bet is that if you are patient you will find a great home in a wonderful neighborhood and not have to be concerned with the surrounding properties. Hope this helps. 

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

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Our front door is often left unlocked after showings. What should we do?

red door and cat

Dave,

This may sound like someone just complaining but it actually is more serious than that. Our home has been listed with a reputable firm for four months. Whether or not our house has sold by mid‑July, we will be relocating to Denver to start new jobs. The concern we have is that after leaving the house during a showing, we frequently come back to find a door unlocked, lights left on and occasionally our bathroom used. With us no longer in town, can we require our listing agent to inspect our house after each showing? Unfortunately, we do not have a relative or a friend nearby that we feel comfortable asking to oversee or burdening them with our property.  This issue becomes even more concerning if our house continues to linger on the market. How do you deal with these problems?

Thank you,
Gayle and Tom, Grand Junction


Gayle and Tom,

This is a common problem and a very real concern as it is too often for our sellers that they come home after a showing and find exactly what you describe. The simple answer is to sell your home, but I fully appreciate that sometimes it is easier said than done. 

First, I must point out that from time to time all showing agents make mistakes and overlook details like locking doors and turning off lights after they leave a showing. I will admit that one time, as careful as I try to be when showing a house, we went in through the front door and out through the back door and I forgot to lock the front door and actually left the key in the front door lock!! Luckily the showing agent was extremely forgiving and showed me quite a bit of grace, but as good as my intentions were that day, I failed to show the attention to detail and respect for the seller’s home that I should have. My point is, it happens to the best of us, but will not happen to me again! Should it happen? No, but does it happen more often than it should? Yes. That being said, you have hit on a couple of points that could help alleviate your concerns.

It is very reasonable to request your agent check up on the house after showings. This may be difficult for your agent to manage, depending on how busy he/she is and the frequency of showings. If you are getting 3-4 showings a week, this can be more difficult, but if it is 1-2, then it becomes much more manageable.  Most agents want to make the selling experience as trouble free for their sellers as possible and thus are typically very quick to accommodate their seller’s needs, if at all possible. Do not be afraid to ask your agent for their help, that is what they are there for. 

You mentioned, you did not have any friends or family nearby that you felt comfortable asking for help, but I would consider a reassessment of your friends and family and re-think who might be able or willing to help.

You mentioned, you did not have any friends or family nearby that you felt comfortable asking for help, but I would consider a reassessment of your friends and family and re-think who might be able or willing to help. I understand you may not have close neighbors, but any neighbor or friend who has kids (teenagers) who would like to pick up a few extra bucks each week for checking in on your house, may be just the ticket. As I recall, teenagers are eager to earn a few extra bucks, but I must admit there may be a generational gap between then and now. : ) Young people today do not seem as money motivated as I was when I was younger! You might even check around at church, as many times the youth group has folks who are looking for odd jobs and extra sources of income. As I have mentioned in this column before, you may see this as a burden to your friends or family, but believe it or not, there are many people who love to help. There are also two types of house sitters, those who would live there while you are gone and watch over the property and those who you can hire to come out once or twice a week to check things over. 

You have options, explore them. First and foremost, ask your agent and his/her company to help you solve the problem and alleviate your concerns, as I am sure you will find them very resourceful and helpful in finding a solution you are comfortable with. Here’s to praying for a worry-free move and your home selling soon!

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

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Engineered Wood vs. Laminate Flooring and Your Home's Value

laminate

 Hi Dave,

We have a 10-year old home that had a lower-end engineered wood floor in the kitchen and dining room when be bought it new. The flooring has a lot of scratches, a few chips, and some warping from water spills. We are looking to replace it with a good quality laminate flooring with a hand-scraped wood look - not to save money, but for the durability, and so that we don't have to baby it. We were wondering if this would lower the value of our home at all, compared to putting in engineered wood or porcelain tile. Our home is in the mid $300's, and has a lot of nice upgrades.

Thank you,
Jeff


Jeff,

Well thought out question! You are considering your price point when doing renovations and that is a very important step that too many people ignore. In your case, the concern about “cheapening” the home or your already nice upgrades with a less than quality flooring is a very real concern and one worth considering. Note that engineered wood and tile are considered substantial upgrades over other laminate or vinyl options, but are also considerably more expensive both in product cost and installation. 

The good news is that there are MANY flooring options that are available now that were not available 10 years ago and these don’t have to break your budget and can provide incredible durability. Wood products, including even the best wood laminate products, inherently don’t do well in wet environments or react well when water is left on them for a long period of time. Because most all wood products don’t react well to water, one of the products being used across many price ranges today is luxury vinyl planking. It is a great product that is very cost effective and is easily replaced if a portion gets damaged or scratched and because it is made from vinyl it does not swell or negatively respond to water…even if left on there for many hours. These products are easy to install, wear amazingly well and provide a look that is hard to distinguish from the real thing and do not soak up liquids. That is key if you are considering use in the kitchens or bathrooms!

If your heart is set on a laminate product, just make sure not to go cheap. My experience is that if it is inexpensive there is probably a reason.

If your heart is set on a laminate product, just make sure not to go cheap. My experience is that if it is inexpensive there is probably a reason. You just have to make sure that the reason is not a lack of durability or a cheapened look, feel or sound. The sound some laminate floors make when you walk on them, empty clacking sound, is hard to get past. The flooring does not feel solid or sound right and it is an almost always going to be an instant buyer turnoff, especially in your price range. There are ways to determine the quality of a laminate floor product.

One way to determine the quality is to investigate the warranty. As with anything else, the longer the better and some range into 15-20 years. Just remember to read the fine print. Also, there is what’s called a Nalfa (North American Laminate Flooring Association nalfa.com) seal that certified laminate flooring after subjecting them to 10 quality assurance tests, including water and stain resistance and overall durability under varying conditions. Nalfa.com is really both educational and helpful! You now have many flooring options that should provide the look and durability you desire, you just need to do your homework and find the right product for you and your family. My overall opinion is the LVT (luxury vinyl) is probably the first choice where water is present, but LVT and laminate are a toss-up in other areas of the house. Neither, if chosen correctly, should negatively impact the sales price or buyer appeal of your home. Hope this was helpful.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

We've had 20 showings, but no offers. Should we hire a new agent?

Dave,

We have had our home for sale for nearly six months with no offers and approximately 20 showings. Our current contract with our real estate agent expires in a couple weeks and we are considering changing agents and going with a new agent and company, although we have enjoyed working with our current agent. We are currently weighing the pros and cons of making a change and are looking for some outside insight to help us make the right decision. Thanks for your help.

— Josh and Brenda, Grand Junction


Realtor Showing Hispanic Couple Around New Home

Josh and Brenda,

Many times this is a very hard decision to make, especially if you like your current agent. Let me be the first to say, there are times a new agent, new sign and new energy are needed, regardless of how much you may like your current agent and want to stay with him/her.

If you have been on the market for nearly six months, several during winter, and had 20 showings, I would say that your traffic has been pretty good (although that does depend on your price range). It does not sound to me that you can blame your agent for lack of traffic. If you have good traffic, but no offers, it does not directly mean you need a change of agent.

Listen, you hire a real estate agent to drive traffic to your home in the form of showings and it appears he/she has done a good job. Statistically speaking you should get an offer within 12 showings (this is just a guideline I use and a national statistic) and I have found over the years that it really is a pretty good measuring stick as to where my properties stack up in the market. I have found it to be a very good predictor of home pricing vs. the market and if we have had 12+ showings and no offer, it generally means it is time to start considering a price adjustment.

The good news is, you are getting showings, which means your agent must be doing a good job of marketing your home and that you are not likely very far off.

The good news is, you are getting showings, which means your agent must be doing a good job of marketing your home and that you are not likely very far off. You can most likely resolve the issue with a moderate price adjustment and scare up an offer fairly soon. If you were not getting showings, this would indicate that the price is probably considerably above market tolerances and will require at least one price reduction of significance.

I will say, there are times a listing just needs new energy and it really can make a difference by changing the agent and or company and pumping some new energy into the property and marketing of your home. It has happened to every agent — the listing that will not sell and you have no idea why — no matter how hard you try, no matter how hard you pray, no matter how hard you beg all the agents who have shown it, sometimes you have one that just will not sell. You will know when your agent has given up, you will not see any advertising, you never hear from them or their staff, your flier box will stay empty etc. You will know at a gut level if you need a change. But if you still enjoy working with them and feel they are doing a good job, stick with them and let them stay on the hunt for a buyer...as long as they are earning it!

Considering you are getting good traffic and you have enjoyed working with your agent, I would suggest you stick with them. I would also suggest you have an open and honest conversation about where you go from here and what the game plan is going to be moving forward to get your home sold. Remember, showings are what you hire your agent to produce! Showings lead to offers and unless there is a pricing or condition issue you should have probably received an offer by now. Best of luck — sounds like you have a good agent doing a good job

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team - REMAX 4000 Inc.

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How do we know when it’s the right time to sell so we can get the highest value for our home?

Dave,

My wife and I have been discussing whether or not we should put our home on the market. We know the average home sale price is high right now. We’d like to take advantage of the rising prices and cash in on the equity we currently have in our home, but do you think the prices will continue to rise? If we wait another year could we get $5,000 or even $10,000 more on the sale? How do we know when it’s the right time to sell so we can get the highest value for our home?

Thanks for the advice!

John and Arielle, Grand Junction


right-time-to-sell

John and Arielle,

Knowing when the right/best time to sell anything is one of the hardest questions in the world to answer, but I will try! Ultimately, if I could predict the best time for selling anything I would be super wealthy and be writing this column from a white sandy beach on a tropical island with a drink in one hand and...Sorry, I was getting carried away there, back to reality...unfortunately I am writing this column from my office late on a Wednesday night to the not so relaxing hum of office lights and forced air heat! All kidding aside, the world is volatile and things can change quickly for the good and for the bad. Right now, things are quite good. We are currently in the best real estate market we have seen since 2008 and for that, I am very thankful!   

With that being said, I anticipate the market to continue growing across the board and prices to continue rising. I do believe that we will see some price settling in the next 12 - 18 months, as the low inventory levels we are now seeing receive some relief from new construction.

With that being said, I anticipate the market to continue growing across the board and prices to continue rising. I do believe that we will see some price settling in the next 12 - 18 months, as the low inventory levels we are now seeing receive some relief from new construction. There are many new subdivisions in process and that may help loosen up the supply and slow rising prices. Keep in mind that it will not stop rising prices, only slow them a bit! Like I recently wrote in an earlier column, the secret about Grand Junction is out and people are going to continue to come! Why not? It’s an amazing place to live.  

One last tidbit to consider. If you are selling at the top of the market, then it is highly likely that you are also buying at the top of the market. Buying and selling in the same market is somewhat relative. If one house goes up 10%, then it is likely the other one has gone up in a similar fashion! That is not always true, but something to consider, depending on the differences in what you are selling and what you are buying. I always recommend you try your best to maximize your price, but sometimes the “best” time is the “right” time for you and your family! Hope that helps!

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team