One Bad Photograph

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I spend a lot of time online looking at real estate photographs.  I’m a real estate agent; it’s my job.  But these days, I expect to see crap photographs on listings.  ISN’T THAT NUTS?  I EXPECT to see bad photos???  In the digital age???  Listing agents, you are supposed to represent your seller client, and the photos you post online represent YOUR expertise as an agent AND your customer service skills. Think about that for a minute, will you?  I’m saying there are a lot of slack agents out there.  And sellers, if the photos used to advertise your property are terrible, will you please fire that agent?  We excellent agents don’t need the bad press.  One bad photo can lose your buyer.  Yep, they’re going to find interest in the homes where the photos look GOOD.  Nobody wants to actually shop FOR a dingy, creepy looking house.  Well, maybe some do, but not most buyers.  Let’s just say that.

I am sharing this insight with you, although I cannot believe I need to:  One bad photograph will make your potential buyer click off of your listing!  My GOSH, agents, can you please take good photographs?!?  It’s EASY; at the very least you have an expensive camera on your PHONE WITH editing capability.  Or, here’s a novel idea: Why don’t you hire a photographer who CAN take good photos??  I have a good camera with a bounce flash attachment, but you don’t need that.  You just need to photograph at the right time of day and think about what you’re doing.  By the way I use both my Nikon camera and my smart phone when I photograph a listing.  

Listen, I’ve had to photograph homes where bright lighting is not a good thing….I know.  Sometimes tar from years of smoking has created streaks on walls that show up in bright light.  But in general, it’s the LIGHTING that can make the difference in someone clicking OFF, or sticking around to investigate your listing.  Remember, selling is largely psychological.  I studied marketing in college; I know this to be true.  Most importantly I have the experience to prove it is true.  It’s about lighting, color, description language, camera angle…you get the idea.  You want to put assets in a good light, not hide them in shadow.  Give it a second’s thought!  Try being creative with your advertising, rather than dark and dull.

Here’s another idea: Don’t put 10 pictures of the ‘new kitchen island’ in the listing.  One or two will do nicely.  These days, buyers want INSTANT gratification, and clicking through ten images of the same thing will annoy your potential buyer.  Annoying is not what you want to do.  And besides, you want these folks to be interested enough to tour the home IN PERSON.  There’s a novel idea!  Create interest, not boredom.

Look, I’ve photographed spaces that were tough to present in a good light.  Don’t be afraid to ask your seller to help you move the King Kong statue out of the picture for just a minute.  And I chuckle when I think of how many times my awesome fake green plant showed up in photos of various homes and various rooms over the years, just to give the room some life.  Hmmm, I wonder where that plant is. Anyway, help out if you can!  Make the spaces look fantastic enough to draw in buyers.  Yeah, sometimes the seller loves the neon orange carpet complemented by neon purple walls, and you just have to go with it.  But at least take a good picture of it with fantastic lighting.

Now…about editing.  Don’t photoshop in extra square footage, and for goodness sake stop using WIDE ANGLE LENSES to stretch the photo or using the equalizing feature to create a photo that looks like an acrylic painting!! That’s fake, and when buyers see ‘fake’….well, buh bye.   The leap from ‘shopping’ to ‘running away’ is fast and short.  I’m talking about editing the brightness, highlights, contrast.  THAT kind of editing.  And use the crop feature to LEVEL the shot, or crop out a bush you don’t need in the shot.  Be HONEST, but present your client’s home in the best light.  I’m trying to help you, here.  And if you get fired, I’m showing up.

Seller, check out your agent’s advertisements online.  You’re paying for good service; make sure you get it.  Oh, and uh, why not move the King Kong statue to storage?  Just saying.

I’m Brenda Briggs with Coldwell Banker Advantage.  Find me online and contact me to talk about your real estate questions.  I like to chat.  And I’ve been doing this a while; I know what I’m doing.


It Is More Difficult Than It Looks

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For some time now, pricing a home has been a bit easier than normal, because of a raging hot market full of desperate buyers.  Agents were able to do a quick check and just add thousands to the number we derived…and it sold for that number or more!  I say ‘quick’ because the market moved so fast if we took too much time, we’d have to start over because another buyer would swoop in and buy the house before we were ready.  Well things have changed.  Pricing a home is as difficult as it has ever been for many reasons, not the least of which is that the markets are in flux…markets meaning 1) economic; and 2) housing.  Pricing a home has become a formidable task.

First, let me say that any agent who does a plug-and-chug ‘CMA’ and takes that as gospel is inexperienced.  You know the ones:  Plug in some recent sales and let the computer spit out a number.  I have never used them, don’t even know how.  They’re never right, and they CAN result in a home selling extremely fast (sounds good, right?) but for far less than it is worth.  Sometimes I see sales prices and shake my head.  Sometimes I can spot an inexperienced listing agent a mile away.   If a contemplative deep dive market analysis is done, the sales price makes sense.  A market analysis is complicated, involved, and takes hours.  It involves at least sixteen different elements, not the least of which is the economy.  And as I have said 99 times now, real estate is local, so a major factor is where the home is LOCATED, even within a subdivision.  Prices of recent sales nearby is just one factor of many, some with greater weight.

Greater weight?  Like what?  Well, what if a scary crime happened on a walking trail that loops around the community?  There you go: News.

Many years ago I used a spreadsheet, a BIG one, to price my homes.  This spreadsheet almost included the phase of the moon.  I loved it, in part because by the time I finished using it, I practically knew how many grains of sand were in the driveway of homes on the street.  It forced me to think about things most agents never consider, like: what percentage are buyers willing to pay above existing home prices to get brand new?  I know that number.  It holds true every time.

But today, it’s hard on both buyers and their agents, because while buyers look at the size of the closets, their portfolios are shrinking.  Their buying power is fading.  Their certainty about what they are about to do is waning.  Several things are changing because of these and other things, but one is that leverage is equalizing, meaning buyers don’t have to just open their bank accounts and pour them onto the table in order to compete.  I’m actually glad about that.  I serve both buyers and sellers, and I don’t like inequity in any form.  But while we achieve that fleeting balance we love, times are tough and deals are at risk for other reasons that what we ‘usually’ see.

So when you look at homes, know that the ground is shifting under your feet.  Sellers should stop expecting buyers to pour mounds of cash into the deal up front, and they should expect to negotiate.  No longer can sellers pick a high list price out of their wish list and expect to get it.  Prices are dropping; it’s a new day.  Buyers, please be careful about trying to buy every inch of your financial ability.  You may get near to closing day and find out you can no longer afford the home you want to buy.  Buyer agents, you have time to step back, cross your arms, and analyze the price of this home your buyers want to buy.  Do it carefully.  And Listing Agents, put on your work boots.  Pricing a home is as hard as it has ever been.

Buyers, before you shop, please get a handle on what you can expect for your price point.  In other words, be realistic.  And know that in these uncertain economic times, you should have well defined boundaries that will respect the times in which we currently live, and also keep you in the hunt.  If you put yourself too close to the edge, you could get pushed out overnight.

Homes are still selling; that’s the good news!  But the overpriced ones sit on the market a long time these days, and if they do go under contract, they may not appraise for that too- high list price.  I know, another element to consider.  Now, understand that if you have a pile of discretionary money, it doesn’t matter what the appraiser says.  Remember the LENDER is not going to lend more than the amount for which the home appraises.  Sometimes, only 90% of the appraised value is the loan amount, sometimes less.  If a buyer can make up the difference out of savings, great.  But appraised value has moved up in ranking as a strong pricing factor.  So be aware and plan accordingly.  

This one factor can lose the buyer their due diligence money, guys.  Remember if the buyer walks away, they lose their due diligence money.  This is one reason due diligence amounts are falling, as they should.  The market is too uncertain to put huge amounts of cash at risk.  Those days are over, thankfully.  Buyers and sellers don’t control the economy.  Be careful about list pricing and about offer prices.  And good news: You can negotiate again.  

Finally, watch the economic news.  It is the 900 pound gorilla.


This Season…

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Guys, I am a huge fan of letting our body do its job when we are ill.  Our body is a miraculous, amazing, self-healing creation if our immune system is well.  I don’t run to the doctor unless I have no choice…like a kidney stone.  But listen, this is flu season.  So being careful is not NOT trusting our body to do its job; it’s exercising intelligent caution.  

Every time I go in the grocery store, I wipe down the cart handle with a sanitizing wipe, and I sanitize my hands before and after going in the store.  I’m not masking at this time, but it may come to that…keeping in mind that the masks only keep our hands off of our face, nothing else.  But that’s huge!  This new strain of flu is BRUTAL.  I’ve had Covid twice, neither was as bad as this one.  So be careful!

When I attended UNC-W, I practically put OCTOBER FLU on my calendar, because it raced through the campus every single year in October.  And I ALWAYS got it.  People would NOT stay home when they were sick, and of course there were no ‘protocols’ at that time either, pre-Covid.  But remember there are other viruses besides Covid.  I had a flu virus several years ago, again, pre-Covid, that I thought I would not survive.  I remember falling asleep one of those days thinking I wouldn’t wake up.  It was that bad.  My sister has one like that now.  It’s killing me not to go stay with her; but she threatens me: I’m not allowed to come near her.  She’s wise and I am terribly worried.  And if I were to go take care of her, I would surely bring the virus home with me as well.  So yeah, isolation is best.

So please do this:  Put some hand sanitizer in your car console and use it every time you leave your car, and every time you get back in the car.  Keep your hands to yourself as much as you can; remember the viruses can live on ‘things’ for a period of time.  Imagine someone sneezing on everything and act accordingly. Above ALL, if you are SICK…STAY HOME FOR GOODNESS SAKE!!  What seemed manageable to your system might be fatal to someone else’s.  

I have a stash of cold/flu OTC treatments in my pantry, so if I get sick, I don’t have to go out or have someone shop for me.  I’m about as far from being a crybaby or drug seeker as you can get.  I don’t put synthetic drugs into my body, or any other kind of drug for that matter, unless I’m forced to…like kidney stone pain meds.  But this mess is serious.  Please take precautions and stay well.  Love yourself and others enough to take precautions.

Stop Saying “Crash”, Will You???

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We should all know by now that the media thrives on negativity.  I think the same is true of real estate news.  Here’s why.  Every time interest rates jump, we get the word “crash” shoved in our face.  What the media SHOULD be saying is that the market is CHANGING.

Let me say again that “Real Estate is Local!”  This means that your end of the subdivision may have a different valuation that the homes on the OTHER end.  It’s all about location.  Other factors come into play as well, like: Do you have a pig pen beside your house which will tank the value of your neighbors houses?  Or, is your house painted neon orange? That will kill your house value and that of the entire street!  But you get the idea.  Now back to the point.

Yes, interests rates are going up and yes all other prices have risen as well.  Yes, life is harder financially.   Yes, some buyers will be out of the market because of interest rates going up. But this is not a crash. It is this:

First, a section of buyers will be pushed out of the market unless lenders get creative.  Buyers won’t have huge sums of money to put into the purchase up front.  There are ways around that issue and the ‘requirement’ for large sums is already changing.  Already we are seeing 100% financing coming back into favor.  Eight months ago an offer with 100% financing would not have made it to consideration.  No way.  But now, yep, that type of financing is back, going back to normal; NOT crashing.

Second, if the first line of buyers falls out, then the second line steps up.  These will be buyers who still won’t have big sums of discretionary money but will be able to make the larger payments caused by higher rates.  This is a change in the buyer demographic, NOT a crash.

Price ranges of purchased homes will change.  Around here, there aren’t many homes with a 2 or 3 in the first number.  In fact, most often the first-time-buyer price starts with a 4.  They’re selling, but not to folks who don’t have some savings or excellent credit, or both.  In my area, median home price has gone UP.  This is NOT a crash; it is a change.

Next, parents stepping up to help kids buy a first home are stepping back.  Why? Because their investment/retirement nest egg has shrunk due to a falling stock market.  Does this take the kids out of the market?  Not necessarily, but it will surely change the buyers’ target price point.  Change, NOT crash.

Some home LIST PRICES are ‘reduced’.  I see that every day when I look at my market.  That’s because agents are used to pricing in a RISING market, which is one of the factors to price a home to sell.  The market isn’t rising, GENERALLY speaking, so prices can’t just be pushed up in the expectation that the value will rise by the time of offer.  A good agent knows that you look at many factors to price a home and you can’t just use the plug-and-chug market analysis online.  There are MANY factors to consider in pricing. Today, pricing is a real challenge in a market in what I call ‘flux’.  But expecting to price high is no longer a given.  That is a change, NOT a crash.

Next, more people will elect not to sell because…where are they going to go?  This is a huge factor in my market, but a good agent can find you a place.  A GOOD agent.  But this factor is also a change; it is NOT a crash.  And by the way, fewer sellers listing homes increases the dearth of homes to sell, making it harder for buyers to find a home.  These folks STILL need a place to live.  And, builders will benefit from ‘existing home sellers’ electing to sit tight.

And by the way,  a GOOD agent will help clients figure out how to stay put if that benefits the client, by helping them to decide on home improvements or hiring help for lawn care.  Particularly for what I lovingly call my ‘super seniors’, this is key.  I love my super seniors and THEIR wellbeing is of utmost importance to me.   That was a rabbit trail, folks.

Back on track:  Interest rates that fueled a blazing hot and in my opinion, unbalanced market, were NOT normal.  What we are seeing now is a return to normal.  It is unfortunate that the steep rise in loan payments keeps some people out of their ‘comfort zone’ with respect to living conditions, but this is still not a crash.  And if clients have to buy a less than ‘standard’ home for themselves, they can always bring the home up to their standards over time. Not a crash, folks.  A change.

I wish with all my heart that our so-called ‘news’ was actually true, but it is not. If you don’t know that by now, you’ve been living under a rock.  Take a deep breath, calm down and adjust your sails. That’s what we are ALL doing, in all areas of life, not just real estate.  And remember this:  A home you buy and bring up to better standards will be worth more when you sell.  A silver lining, folks.  

And can I just say this again?  PA-LEASE look at houses online that you think you would buy so you have a clue what the market in your destination looks like.  Don’t tell us agents that you want an acre, three stories, granite and stainless on a cup-de-sac for 180 thousand.  Please don’t.  That is a fairy tale.

I’m Brenda; I’m a GOOD agent an I would love to talk with you.  You can find me at Coldwell Banker Advantage in Wake Forest NC, online, or call me.  Or text.  Or email.  But you won’t find me on Facebook. That’s a hint.