As a seller, that’s probably not the best call-to-action blog post. But it’s possibly the most critical. When you sell your home, you are exposing your possessions, your world and a very good chunk of your life to the world at large. A sign in the yard announces your intent. “Syndication” distributes your listing to a million plus websites. Zillow for instance is the 49th most viewed website in the United States. When you list your home and go on that site, 10-35 photos of your home, your yard, maybe your enormous master closet pop up. Twenty years ago at sales meetings, older agents would scoff at the rise of the internet. “It’s just thieves looking at pictures to case the place for things to steal!” they’d complain. While there is no doubt that the internet has massively changed the real estate business, and that thieves almost never use real estate websites to “case a place”, I have seen that cigar-chomping complaint from the back of the room with my own eyes.
The single worst thing I have seen in a real estate transaction is when a well-to-do client moved out of state and moved their important stuff in their own rented truck. They towed a fairly nice car on a car trailer behind it. Well outside Colorado, a half hour before dawn with the truck parked below their hotel window, they awoke startled to the sound of a diesel engine and a clutch engaging. They never saw a truckload worth of stuff – plus a very nice car – again.
It’s details like these that can make a seller deeply paranoid. It’s a good reason to take down most (but not all) personal photos throughout a home, especially those of children. It’s a good idea to use a credit freeze from a company like Lifelock or Transunion. It’s a very good idea to employ a house-sitter if you’re out of town while your home is for sale and occupied. I wish I could say I have never left a door unlocked after visiting a house. It might have happened twice in 18 years. Accidents do happen, agents take phone calls on their way out the door, the buyers brought their kids who need to go to the bathroom, the neighbors’ psycho dog is barking while they leave… doors get left unlocked, especially back patio sliders and the really nice Pella frame-bolt locks. An agent’s errors and omissions insurance covers them (after their deductible) if something should happen but it’s oh-so-much-better that nothing actually happen. Easily avoided common-sense issues do occur. Having someone to come by who knows that the house was shown to check it out and make sure all is well after the showing is just a plain good idea.
One of the most notorious real estate pratfalls is the long-on-market (90 days or more) listing that has had its photos scrubbed and cropped of their “RSC” watermarks and placed as a too-good-to-be-true rental ad on Craigslist or some other no-cost website. These rentals ads are written very much like the “old heir to the fortunes of Namibia in whose trust they have been secured with a very large sum of money to deposit please in your account.” This was so frequent as to become annually predictable during the late summer months of the real estate downturn in 2008-2011. In one case, I had a new-to-Colorado transplant from Texas complaining that I was trying to sell their rental home. They had pulled up with a rental truck in front of my listing that had my sign out front. They had sent a certified funds check to an address in Virginia for $800, “the first month’s rent” on the place. No, they did not have a signed lease, but they didn’t have their $800 either. This was 2009. Eight hundred a month might have got someone a four bedroom in Monument in 1979, but not 2009. I had to apologize and explain to them that the person in Virginia was totally unaffiliated with this house but was $800 richer, and I’m sorry, I did not know of any other four bedroom rental properties that would take three Chow-mix dogs for $800 a month.
Things that are precious and small and of significance should not be left out in a house for sale. Especially at a level easily bumped into or within reach of a child. For the love, please do not put the Viennese Slow Globe out in your home for sale this Christmas. The sound of my clients’ five-year old picking that up with a “look Daddy!” and it shattering at my feet in a $600,000 house 14 years ago is a Ghost of Christmas Past I would soon forget.
I’m not a fan of personal security cameras patrolling buyers while they’re in the house. But having a Nest thermostat is a pretty slick idea to upgrade your home before listing.
Not only are they sleek, but they have consumer cache when a buyer walks by and sees one. As a Seller, you may not watch a lot of HGTV… but the Buyers do! It’s a badge of honor how much buyers watch HGTV! Because of the miracle of aspirational living. NESTS and their programmable, app-able kindred are new symbols of both energy-conscious upgrades and status. Think of it as giving your house an Apple Watch that actually has a really functional purpose. Plus, when the buyer or their agent adjust the temperature in the house (yes… something else that shouldn’t happen, but it does!) you can change it back with your phone’s app setting. If your home is vacant, think how that $250 little dial of smarts can help your utility bill.
Hyper-vigilance should not be necessary when selling a home, and this post is not intended to make you stay awake at night paranoid about the dozens of pratfalls that might happen. It is an encouragement to use a professional that learns from their experiences and shares that knowledge for the benefit of others.