Top 10 Qualities to Look For In An Agent

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Buying a home is one of the most significant financial and emotional purchases of a person’s life. That’s why it is so important to find an agent that can not only help you navigate the home search process, but one who can also answer your questions and represent your needs from start to finish. Most importantly, your agent should care about your happiness and ensuring that you find the home that best fits your needs.  Here are some qualities to consider when selecting a real estate agent:

    1. Someone you like. More than likely, you will be spending a lot of time with your agent, so look for someone that you enjoy interacting with.
    2. Someone you trust. One of the best ways to find an agent who you feel you can trust is to ask friends and family for a referral. Another way to do this is to interview different agents and ask for client references.
    3. Someone who listens. While your agent can’t read your mind, they should be able to make educated recommendations and offer advice by listening closely to your needs. Make sure you talk to your agent about your priorities, what types of features appeal to you, as well as any factors that could be deal breakers. This will arm your agent with everything they need to help find you the perfect home.
    4. Qualified and experienced. Make sure your agent has the qualifications and experience to meet your specific needs. For example, some agents have more experience with short sales, while others might be experts on certain neighborhoods or types of housing.  Your agent should also be fully trained in contract law and negotiations.
    5. Knowledgeable. A great agent is someone who is out in the neighborhoods, exploring communities, visiting listings, performing marketing analyses, and collecting all the information that you need to make an informed, confident decision about your real estate needs.
    6. Honest. Your agent should be upfront and honest with you about every aspect of your home search process – even if it involves delivering bad news. The best real estate agents are more concerned about finding the right home for their clients, not just the home that brings in the fastest commission check.
    7. Local. Every community is different and all real estate is local, so it’s important to find someone who really knows the local market and can provide you with whatever information you need to familiarize yourself with a particular area.
    8. Connected. A well connected agent will have relationships with lenders, inspectors, appraisers, contractors, and any other service provider you might need during your home search.
    9. Straight forward. You want an agent who will work hard to help you find the best home, but you also want someone who will be straight forward with you about the process, the market reality, and what is realistic for you.
    10. Committed. Your agent should be in it for the long haul, meaning that they’re looking out for your best interests every step of the way, no matter how long the process takes. The best way to find an agent with these qualities is by asking around. In all likelihood, someone within your circle of friends or family will have experiences to share and professionals to recommend. You can also search for agents based on area, so you know you’re getting someone who is knowledgeable of the neighborhood(s) you’re interested in. Click here to learn more about the buying process.
Posted on April 2, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Buying, Fort Collins Real Estate, Homes for Sale, Northern Colorado Real Estate, Selling, Windermere Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sellers: Making the Most of your First Impressions

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As the old saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. If you’re selling your home, it’s true, except that there are several impressions to be made, and each one might have its own effect on the unique tastes of a prospective buyer. I’ve worked with scores of buyers, witnessed hundreds of showings, and I can summarize that experience down this: a tidy and well maintained home, priced right, listed with professional photographs, enhanced curb appeal and onsite visual appeal will sell fastest. We all know first impressions are very important, but the lasting impressions are the ones that sell your home. It’s not easy, but if you can detach a little and look at your home from a buyer’s perspective, the answers to selling it quickly may become obvious to you.

The very first impression your home will make is through its web presence, whether on Windermere.com, the MLS, Craigslist or any multitude of websites. Fair or not, the price is typically the very first thing people look at, and it will be the measurement by which your home is judged. You can always adjust to the right price later, but the impact is lost. It will take something dramatic to get a buyer to reassess the way they feel about the value of your home.

Closely following price are the listing photos. According to this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, professional photos will not only impact your first impressions, it may also make a difference in the final selling price. Great photos might even overcome those initial price objections. Does the exterior photo capture your home at its hi-res best? Does the accompanying text enhance or distract? Online, your home has only a few seconds to capture the home buyer’s attention. If it doesn’t, they’ll click the “Back” button and resume their search. The goal is to have buyers excitedly calling their agents to arrange a showing.

Another old saying is “Location, location, location,” and sure enough, the first live impression of your home is the location. Forget this one; you can’t move your home. There’s not much you can do about location, right? Actually, there is one thing you can do: price it right from the start.

Let’s move on to the first time a buyer sees your home as they pull to the curb out front. Go stand out at the curb and look at it the way you would if you were shopping for a home. Sometimes, a couple hours of labor and $100 worth of beauty bark can be worth thousands in the sales price. I’ve had buyers choose not to get out of the car when we pulled up to a home that they had once been excited to see.

Likewise, I’ve had buyers say they’ve seen enough simply by peaking into the front door. The nose trumps the eyes when it comes to the first impression when entering the house. Buyers get more caught up in the details. Once the home shopper is inside, it’s easy for them to get distracted and focus on something that seems to have nothing to do with the structure they will be buying, from a dirty dish in the sink to a teenager’s bedroom that’s been decorated in posters and/or melodrama. Do everything you can to set a positive lasting impression. The buyer may look at dozens of homes. What is your strategy to convince them to make an offer on yours?

Guest post by Eric Johnson, Director of Education

Posted on March 22, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Homes for Sale, Housing Trends, Selling | Tagged , , , , , ,

Considering becoming a landlord? How to evaluate whether to rent or sell your property

Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in homeowners choosing to become landlords rather than placing their homes on the market.  In deciding whether or not becoming a Landlord is right for you, there are a number of factors to consider, but primarily they fall into the following three categories:  Financial Analysis, Risk and Goals.

CalculatorThe financial analysis is probably the easiest of the three to assess.  You will need to assess if you can afford to rent your house. If you consider the likely rental rate, vacancy rate, maintenance, advertising and management costs, you can arrive at a budget.  It is important both to be reasonably correct in your assumptions and to have enough reserves to cover cash-flow needs if you’re wrong.  The vacancy rate will be determined by the price at which you market the property.  Price too high and you’re either vacant or accepting applicants that, for some reason, couldn’t compete for more competitively priced homes.  Price too low and you don’t achieve the revenue you should.  If you want to try for the higher end of an expected range, understand that the cost may be a vacant month.  It is difficult to make up for a vacant month.

Consider the other costs renting out your property could accrue. If you have a landscaped or large yard, you will likely need to hire a yard crew to manage the grounds. Other costs could increase when you rent your home, such as homeowner’s insurance and taxes on your property. Also, depending on tenant turn-over, you may need to paint and deal with maintenance issues more regularly. Renting your home is a decision you need to make with all the financial information in front of you.  You can find more information about the hidden costs of renting here.

If your analysis points to some negative cash-flow, that doesn’t necessarily mean that renting is the wrong option.  That answer needs to be weighed against the pros and cons of alternatives (i.e., selling at the price that would actually sell), and some economic guesswork about what the future holds in terms of appreciation, inflation, etc. to arrive at an expectation of how long the cash drain would exist.

Risk is a bit harder to assess.  Broadly though, it’s crucial to understand that if you decide to lease out a home, you are going into business, and every business venture has risks.  The more you know, the better you can mitigate those risks.  One of the most obvious ways of mitigating the risk is to hire a management company.  By hiring professionals, you decrease your risk and time spent managing the property (and tenants) yourself.  However, this increases the cost.  So, as you reduce your risk of litigation, you increase your risk of negative cash-flow, and vice versa… it’s a balancing act, and the risk cannot be eliminated; just managed and minimized.

In considering Goals, what do you hope to achieve by renting your property? Are you planning on moving back into your home after a period of time? Will your property investment be a part of your long-term financial planning? Are you relocating or just hoping to wait to sell? These are all great reasons to consider renting your home.

Keep in mind that renting your family home can be emotional.  Many homeowners LOVE the unique feel of their homes.  It is where their children were raised, and they care more about preserving that feel than maximizing revenue.  That’s OK, but it needs to be acknowledged and considered when establishing a correct price and preparing a cash flow analysis.  Some owners are so attached to their homes that it may be better for them to “tear off the band-aid quickly” and sell.  The alternative of slowly watching over the years as the property becomes an investment instead of a home to them may prove to be more painful than any financial benefit can offset.

In the process of considering your financial situation, the risks associated with becoming a landlord, and the goals you hope to achieve with the rental of your property, – ask yourself these questions.  Before reaching a conclusion, it’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the landlord-tenant-law specific to your state (and in some cases, separate relevant ordinances in the city and/or county that your property lies within) and to do some market research (i.e. tour other available similar rentals to see if your financial assumptions are in line with the reality of the competition across the street).  If you are overwhelmed by this process, or will be living out of the region, seek counsel with a property management professional.  Gaining experience the hard way can be costly.

J. Michael Wilson is the dedicated broker at Windermere Property Management Seattle, and has 17 years of experience managing properties in the Seattle region.

Posted on March 19, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Selling | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Four In Forty!

Did you know, according to FHFA, prices in Larimer County have dropped more than 1% only 4 times in the last 40 years?

FHFA stands for the Federal Housing Finance Authority. We are one of 261 markets that they track. Since 1978 they have been measuring home price appreciation here.
If you look at the appreciation numbers for each individual year, you will notice that most years the prices go up and some years the prices go down.
But there have only been 4 times in those 40 years where prices decreased more than 1%
Here’s what happened those 4 times:
• 1982 = -3.99%
• 1987 = -1.86%
• 2008 = -2.29%
• 2010 = -1.12%
Sometimes we hear buyers say that they would like to wait for the “prices to come crashing down.” The reality is that the price drops don’t happen all that often and when they do, they don’t drop by that much at all.
If you would like to see a short video with a recap of our annual Market Forecast presentation, watch the video below.
Posted on March 4, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Buying, Fort Collins Real Estate, Homes for Sale, Housing Trends, Northern Colorado Real Estate, Selling, Windermere Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Staging Your Home – Pink Flamingos Not Included

It can sometimes be tough to hear an agent asking you to hide your prize possessions when preparing your home for sale. I overheard two agents giving each other advice about how to politely help their sellers relocate their pink flamingo display and car collection off the front yard before putting the homes on the market.

Studies indicate that buyers decide if they’re interested within the first 30 seconds Pink Flamingoof entering a home. You get one chance to make a first impression.

Make sure your house looks attractive, well maintained and move-in ready at a glance. Before you put out your “for sale” sign, put these tasks on your to do list.

•  Get your yard in shape—Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, haul away debris, sweep the walk, porches and patio, and consider adding some potted plants or hanging baskets for a touch of color.

•  Keep it clean—Make sure your house can pass the white-glove test. Polish windows and scrub bathrooms, appliances, counters and floors until they gleam. Vacuum carpets, rugs, drapes and upholstery. Dust shelves, floorboards and molding.

• Give it a fresh coat—Paint the front door, walls leading to entrances, ceiling stains, cracks, chipped or damaged areas. A little paint goes a long way to improve the look of your home.

• Just fix it—Repair anything that needs it, including broken doorbells, torn screens, leaky faucets, broken deck railings or banisters, damaged floor tiles or doors that don’t close properly.

• Lose the chaos—Organize your rooms, closets and basement—anywhere a prospective buyer is likely to look.  And don’t forget to remove pets and litter boxes.

• Set the stage—Help prospective buyers imagine life in your house. Remove excess furniture and rearrange what remains so that rooms look spacious and welcoming. Light scented candles, play soft music, add flowers here and there, you might even bake cookies.

• Hire a pro—Don’t have time to get your house ready to show? Turn to a realtor with an ASP® (Accredited Staging Professional) designation to stage your house professionally.

Posted on February 25, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Selling | Tagged , , , , ,

Going from Homeowner to Home Seller

The following post was written by Kathryn Madison, a real estate broker out of the Windermere  Portland-Raleigh Hills office. You can learn more about Kathryn and read more insightful articles on her blog, GoBeyondtheOrdinary.com.

How do we transition from the mindset of a homeowner to a home seller?  Homes bring us shelter, comfort and are a place to express our individuality. But when it’s time to move on, that same home will now be the financial springboard to the next chapter in our lives.

We start by letting go of the home layer by layer.

Both buyer and seller benefit when the seller- perhaps with some judicious coaching from their skilled Realtor- peels away those things that made their home uniquely theirs. In essence, the serious packing begins once the decision has been made to sell; bookcases and closets should only suggest their function with a few items, rather than store seasons and years worth of books and clothes. Carefully removing prized collections and family photos is also vital- nothing should distract the buyer from seeing the house, and seeing themselves in it.

Personal colors are just as important to remove as objects. After all, if you were serving ice cream to a few thousand people (that’s how many will see your house photographed online)- would you serve them mango flavor? It’s a lot more likely you would choose vanilla- and that’s pretty much what the color of your walls should be- neutral or deep neutral tones.

The last touch is a good deep cleaning- ask your REALTORtm if they have the name of a reputable company.

The seller can then replace those familiar objects with a fresh new welcome mat at the front door.

This process allows the buyer the visual and emotional space to move in.

This process allows the seller to move on.

Posted on February 22, 2019 at 8:00 am
Jon Holsten | Category: Homes for Sale, Housing Trends, Selling | Tagged , , , ,

More Than a Yard: Finding the Right Home for Your Pooch

For many house hunters, a dream home isn’t complete without being a good fit for the family dog. Some might see the fenced in yard, and consider the box checked. However, if you are looking for your next home, you may want to look a little deeper to be sure the fit is right before signing on the dotted line.

It’s worth taking a little extra time to consider your pooch in a little more depth. Here is a quick checklist of considerations to be sure you find the right fit for your canine companion:

 

What’s in a Yard?

 

A fenced yard is, of course, ideal for many dog owners. It gives you the ability for off-leash play, a must for meeting the exercise needs of active breeds such as Border Collies or Labradors. But not all yards are the same. Here’s a quick checklist of what to look for:

  • Check the fencing to be sure it is secure. Factor in any repair costs into the cost of the home since they will need to be addressed right away.
  • Are there flower beds with potentially toxic plants that will need to be moved outside of the fenced area? Examples include many spring bulb favorites such as daffodils, tulips, and crocus, as well as some bushes such as azaleas.
  • Is there a nice shady spot so your pooch can find shelter from the heat on a hot summer day?
  • Is there access to water for an outdoor bath?
  • Will delivery people be able to access your main entrance when the dog is outside without entering the fenced part of your yard? It is easy to overlook, but this can become a major annoyance if you do a lot of online shopping.

 

Indoor Space Considerations

 

It won’t always be a beautiful sunny day, even in your dream home. Make sure your new home will have enough space for a little indoor play on rainy days and during colder winter months. A long hallway can make a great runway for a game of fetch when getting outside just isn’t practical.

Likewise, consider the needs of aging or injured dogs. Does the layout of the home require going up and down stairs to get to the most used areas of the home? This can be a major problem for some special needs dogs, and a deal breaker for some pet owners.

Finally, most dog trainers recommend that every dog has a little space to call their own during times of stress. This may be as simple as a corner of the living room with a comfy dog bed or crate. If you have a puppy, however, a space that can be puppy-proofed and cordoned off (with appropriate flooring for potential accidents during potty training) is in order.

 

Go for a Walk

 

It may be impractical to include a dog walk for every home you look at while searching for your dream house. However, once you are down to a short list, it is time to actually take your dog on what is likely to be the daily walk route. Make sure this is a walk you would feel comfortable making every day, or even letting the kids take.

Be on the lookout for hazards: A dangerous intersection, a portion of the walk that requires walking in the road, or a neighbor who lets their dog run right up to the curb with invisible fencing (a recipe for territorial fights with leashed dogs passing by). A drive through is unlikely to reveal these walk spoiling annoyances. In addition, look for evidence of good lighting for evening or early morning walks.

 

Nearby Canine Amenities

 

If you are moving to a new part of town or relocating to a new state altogether, it is worth doing some research to find out where the pet services are located. Depending on the services you tend to use, it can make a big difference in your quality of life to be able to take advantage of nearby conveniences.

Think about what services you are likely to use most, and check on Google Maps to locate:

  • Veterinarians
  • Dog boutiques (particularly important if you buy specialty food)
  • Grooming services
  • Doggy daycare and boarding
  • Pet sitting and dog walking services
  • Dog-friendly restaurants (BringFido.comis a great research tool for this)
  • Dog parks and dog-friendly paths for long walks

 

Flooring

 

Although luxurious hardwood flooring adds a great deal of ambiance to a home, it will have the opposite effect if it gets scratched up from the nails of a rambunctious canine. Large and even medium sized dogs can easily create unsightly scars in hardwood floors that can only be fixed by a professional who will need to sand away the wood then stain and refinish it. It’s a costly fix!

Modern carpets can generally hold up to doggy traffic. However, think about where you will be coming in and out of the house with your pooch to be sure you have a place to wipe muddy paws first on rainy days. A mudroom or garage entrance can easily stow a few extra towels for the job.

Tile and high-quality laminate flooring are the most durable as both will resist scratching and are easy to clean.

 

Consider Pet-Friendly Condos and Planned Communities

 

If you have a truly pampered pooch, one way to go the extra mile is to ask your realtor about dog-friendly communities in your area. Many condominium complexes, for example, have pet services right on site. Pet grooming, pet-sitting, dog walking services, and even a fenced in dog park and/or pool is available in some areas.

Work with a Knowledgeable Realtor

 

Make sure to let your agent know upfront that you have a canine member of your family to consider during the house hunt. If there are certain “musts” such as a fenced yard, or proximity to veterinary services, be sure to put that on the table upfront to help your realtor find a home that works for you and your furry friend.

 

Sharon is the lead author at wileypup.com. She received her M.S. in Science & Technology Studies from Virginia Tech and has worked as a professional dog trainer for over 10 years.

Posted on February 13, 2019 at 6:42 pm
Jon Holsten | Category: Fort Collins Real Estate, Homes for Sale, Landscape, Windermere Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Selling Homes

I am so excited to announce that I had the opportunity to co-author a new book called “The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Selling Homes.” The eBook edition has just been published and there is a special launch price of only $0.99. You can get the book at https://www.Amazon.com/dp/B07N8BXWB3. The paperback edition is coming soon!

The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Selling Homes: Insights from America's Top Agents by [Worters, David, Deck, Mike, Bauscher, Matt, Fuqua, Cheryl, Fuqua, Brad, Noble, Michelle, George, Paul, Oyler, Scott, Marlatt, Tonya, Holsten, Jon, Kim Ziton]

Posted on February 7, 2019 at 5:59 pm
Jon Holsten | Category: ebook, Homes for Sale, Housing Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,