SELLER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
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» SHOULD WE BE BRACING FOR ANOTHER REAL ESTATE DOWNTURN?
The market value of assets such as real estate natural rises and falls in cycles. But informed observers mostly agree that the exceptional “downturn” that happened in about 2008 was the result of several extraordinary conditions that came together at the same time. One of the major components was unrealistic home value expectations on the part of both home buyers and re-financing homeowners.
Home value recovery since the downturn has been slow but steady, and now, even in our current market of briskly rising prices, lenders and home buyers are far more cautious than in the frenzied past – as are homeowners. As a real estate brokerage, we’re now consulted on a regular basis by homeowners who want informed input about current market values and how much they should realistically spend in improving their homes, either for sale or for their own enjoyment. That major component of the previous and exceptional downturn is gone.
Will a similar downturn happen again? No one knows for certain. Is it likely to happen in the foreseeable future? No, and even less likely in our costal California area, and even less likely in the relatively affordable manufactured home market.
Should we be preparing anyway? Yes, but only to the extent that it’s always advisable to be financially thoughtful and conservative. And, apparently, as a whole, we’re doing that.
» WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY A “FULL SERVICE” REAL ESTATE BROKER?
— Direct access to the advanced training, licensing, and expertise of a real estate broker, not only the salesperson licensee.
— Full and personal attention given to you and your property in every aspect of the sale process. Our practice of real estate is relationship-based, which means our business model is centered entirely on providing personal service to our clients, not on achieving a high volume of transactions.
— Experience with your type of residential property. We work extensively with mobilehomes and manufactured homes. We’re very well versed in state, local, and individual park requirements that come into play during a sale, and we have extensive experience addressing buyer concerns about manufactured homes.
— Full-scale marketing and networking, including active membership in 3 Multiple Listing Services marketing directly to agents throughout the South Coast and Southern California regions, and marketing worldwide to all the major Internet sites. We have the expertise to recognize the most compelling features of your property, and we’ll expend whatever time, effort, and cost may be needed to present them to prospective buyers.
— Broad experience in probate, estate, and trust sales; interacting with related attorneys and other professionals; and experience in court confirmation processes.
» WHY SHOULD I HIRE AN AGENT WHEN I CAN JUST SELL BY OWNER?
There are so many reasons to not sell your own property that we couldn’t possibly list them here. The short answer is that it comes down to really knowing how proceed as each of the many questions, challenges, and legal requirements arise. We don’t learn this from books, and we sure don’t pick it up on the Internet. It’s about knowing, in each instance, how to apply the expertise that comes from on-the-job experience. We can assure you that you stand to lose much more than you stand to gain by not hiring an experienced professional. Contact us and we’ll give you all the points to back this up!
» WHY SHOULD I HIRE YOU WHEN I CAN SAVE MONEY WITH A DISCOUNT BROKER?
The only way a discount brokerage can survive financially is to “play the numbers” as a high-volume business operating at reduced costs. But real estate agency is not a numbers game, it’s a people business – and a personal service. To properly serve your interests, your agent needs to give you his or her full attention at all times, be ready to incur whatever costs necessary to properly market your property, and personally handle all aspects of the sale process. Without that, you stand to lose far more on the sale than you could ever save in commission.
» ISN’T IT TRUE THAT ALL REAL ESTATE AGENTS PROVIDE PRETTY MUCH THE SAME SERVICE?
Absolutely not! This myth takes its toll in money, headaches, and heartaches. Agents vary widely in how they understand and approach their business, how seriously they take their responsibilities to their clients, and how skilled they are in advising, marketing and communicating, negotiating, and providing customer service. Trust your intuition on this. If something about the agent you hire seems lacking, it probably is.
» THE SMART MOVE IS TO LIST MY PROPERTY WITH THE AGENT WHO QUOTES THE HIGHEST ASKING PRICE, RIGHT?
Among other qualities and qualifications you look for in selecting an agent to advise and represent you, you should look for someone who is very knowledgeable about current trends in the marketplace for properties comparable to yours. As regards the asking price, you should consider what that agent says in support of his or her advice and, with that in mind, set the price you feel is best.
On the other hand, an agent who is not sufficiently knowledgeable about the market for your home might very well unknowingly advise an unrealistically high price. Or an agent who is desperate for business might try to flatter you with an unreasonably high asking price; that’s known as “buying the listing.” Either way, it’s not in your best interests to have this person representing you in selling your home. You end up wasting time and very often money trying to sell an unrealistically priced property.
» WHAT’S BETTER ABOUT A SMALL, INDEPENDENT REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE?
Complete confidentiality and greater flexibility and efficiency in adjusting to your needs and the needs of the property sale campaign. The big brokerages, of necessity, will have the bureaucratic controls and restrictive self-serving policies that come with having hundreds — or tens of thousands — of agents.
And our company does not have any of the administrative fees, transaction fees, or late-closing fees that many of the big-box companies charge in addition to commissions. Bigger is definitely not better!
» CAN YOU PROVIDE ASSISTANCE WITH MORE THAN JUST THE SALE?
Absolutely. We will advise and help you with preparing your property for sale; staging, if needed; finding vendors for household repairs, organizing, packing, and moving. And we can help you find your replacement home anywhere, either working with you ourselves, locally, or referring you to appropriate agents in other areas. You’ll find the assistance we provide meets or exceeds the services of even the biggest real estate brokers, and our company does not charge vendors a “fee” to be on the recommended list; nor do we own the companies we recommend.
» DOES IT PAY TO FIX UP MY PROPERTY FOR SELLING?
More often than not, yes. But what kind of fix-up and how much to do – and how much to spend – will vary widely depending on your property, your pool of prospective buyers, and your goals in selling. After reviewing all of these, and with years of observing buyers plus several times having done it ourselves, we can give you real-world input about what will likely be most effective in your case.
» HOUSING’S IN SHORT SUPPLY. HOW IMPORTANT – REALLY – IS MARKETING?
Yes, housing’s in short supply, so it’s a seller’s market. Nevertheless, buyers, for example, even when choices are few, still need to find the best prospective homes they can and choose carefully. The same is true of sellers. The manufactured home market doesn’t typically enjoy a flood of buyers at any given moment. To find the best buyer for your property – one who will pay your price and give you the best terms – your property needs to be thoughtfully prepared and presented to appeal to the widest possible range of prospective buyers, and that presentation then needs to reach those buyers.
Because the manufactured home market is unique, as is each home, you need an agent who thoroughly understands how and why your particular property will fit in to the manufactured home market and will expend the extra time and effort to reach your buyers.
» WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT MARKETING, WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
Properly marketing a home means effectively bridging the gap between the “product” – meaning the individual home – and the best buyers for that product. This requires an expert who knows not only where to find the buyers but what those buyers are looking for, meaning, what factors affect their choices.
Especially in the case of manufactured homes, which is like no other field of real estate, this requires a depth of experience with buyers’ preferences and their typical objections, and the ability to address both.
The right way to reach qualified buyers might vary somewhat from home to home, but in any case good marketing goes well beyond simply putting the property in the MLS. We design marketing campaigns to be balanced and flexible in pairing the best possible presentation of the home with the most effective resources for making that presentation – in-person showings; printed materials such as brochures, floor plans, home highlights; the Internet; print advertising; mass emails; agent networking; open houses, etc. We review and revise our marketing as needed and, ultimately, do whatever is required to reach the best qualified buyers.
» HOW MANY OPEN HOUSES WILL YOU DO?
Typically, we’ll do at least a few, some just for agents and some for the public. It depends on your household circumstances and the marketing needs of your property. Some properties benefit from public open houses more than others; but the truth is, public open houses are more for the benefit of the agent than the property. This is how most agents are exposed to prospective sellers and buyers of other properties.
» WHAT ABOUT OFFICE EXCLUSIVES?
Except in a very few cases where a seller has extreme security issues and is willing to concede a reduced sale price, such as a celebrity or otherwise highly public figure, taking the “office exclusive” approach is counter-productive. Achieving the best possible outcome for the sale of your property requires marketing it to the widest possible pool of prospective buyers, but office exclusives restrict the marketing process to the broker’s own company. This tends to benefit the broker more than the seller because very often there’s no buyer’s broker to receive part of the commission.
» WHAT EXACTLY IS THE MLS?
The Multiple Listing Service is a database of properties for sale within a certain locale or region. It’s produced from within the real estate industry and is available to all real estate agents who are subscribers to that particular MLS. In that respect, it’s a private Internet-based database, not available to the public. Agents can forward information about your property to their buyers, with certain information redacted for security.
The MLS is a very powerful marketing tool in that it disseminates the most complete, accurate, and pertinent information about your property to the most valuable prospects — local agents and their buyers. Most agents subscribe only to the local MLS. We are members of three MLS services which cover pretty much all of Southern California.
» WHAT ABOUT THE SECURITY OF MY HOME WHILE IT’S ON THE MARKET?
While security problems only rarely arise, it can happen. But there’s much that can be done to manage security during the marketing process. The real estate industry has developed a number of measures such as electronic lock boxes and careful management of information that appears in the Multiple Listing Service, and you and we will evaluate your home together as regards on-site security and any hazardous conditions. In addition, we’ve developed a pamphlet that will help you manage the security of your home.
» HOW WILL YOU USE THE INTERNET TO MARKET MY PROPERTY?
Using the Internet, buyers anywhere in the world can access information about your property, but it can easily become just one needle in a very large, constantly changing haystack. Our approach is to make your property stand out by presenting concise and pertinent descriptions combined with the most compelling images possible — carefully planned photographs of your property and your community. Our listings have an enhanced presence on Realtor.com and appear on pretty much all of the best-known real estate web sites. We also use massive email campaigns to keep your property prominent among agents and prospective buyers.
» YOU’RE PUTTING MY HOME ON THE INTERNET. IS THAT SAFE?
Anything posted on the Internet public web sites is subject to viewing by anyone, anywhere. That massive exposure is both the good news, in terms of marketing, and the bad news as regards security. Our marketing plans are typically designed for maximum Internet presence with excellent photography to catch prospective buyers’ interest. But you and we will discuss what will be considered safe to post and what will not, and you can direct us to not post anything at all on the Internet.
» IS IT TRUE THAT MOBILEHOMES LOSE THEIR VALUE?
Like any commodity, it’s important to differentiate between a mobilehome’s intrinsic value and its market value. The intrinsic value of a mobilehome or manufactured home, meaning, the value of its component parts, will theoretically depreciate over years, like any physical asset. The market value of the home is an entirely separate consideration. That will follow general real estate trends of the local area and will go up or down accordingly. Since our economic “downturn,” the value of mobilehomes has been going up at a steady rate in the general California coastal region.
» WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN AGENT, A BROKER, AND A REALTOR?
In California real estate, “agent” is a generic term applied to both a real estate salesperson and the broker who employs that person. A salesperson is an individual who’s passed certain minimum course requirements, some background screening, and the real estate salesperson exam. A salesperson can only do business under the supervision of a licensed broker. By far, most agents in California are licensed as salespersons.
A real estate broker is an individual who has specific advanced real estate education and experience, and has passed background screening and a rigorous state broker licensing exam. A broker can function as a salesperson and/or operate a real estate brokerage and employ salespersons.
A Realtor is a member of the California Association of Realtors. This is a trade organization which both salespersons and brokers can join, for an annual fee. Membership in the Association of Realtors is not required to practice as a real estate agent or broker in California, nor does it indicate a particular level of expertise. “Realtor” is a trademark term that, strictly speaking, should be applied only to members of the Association of Realtors, not to all real estate agents.
» WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MOBILEHOME AND A MANUFACTURED HOME?
In California, mobilehomes and manufactured homes, as defined by law, are very similar, but not entirely. Both are single-family dwellings of a certain minimum size that are built in a factory on a permanent chassis and are transportable (in one or more sections) on public roads. The law requires that they include certain basic systems, such as plumbing, heating, and electrical, and that when they’re installed they are connected to utilities. They can be used with or without a permanent foundation.
These homes are intended for long-term residential use and are more or less permanently installed. Other types of transportable dwellings, such as various kinds of trailers, motor homes, recreational vehicles, etc., are defined separately and are not mobilehomes or manufactured homes. (The California Mobilehome Residency Law, however, does govern other types of transportable vehicles under certain circumstances.)
More specifically, a home is considered a “manufactured home” if it was built on or after June 15, 1976, otherwise it’s a mobilehome (spelled as one word in state law). June 15, 1976 is the date that minimum construction standards were set by the federal government (HUD Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards). Manufactured homes are built under controlled factory conditions and most are built to very high standards. They are often better made than many site-built homes.
We use the terms “mobilehome” and “manufactured home” interchangeably.
Other factory-built homes and structures, such as modular homes and panelized homes, are constructed under local, not federal, codes and vary more as to construction methods and quality.