Maybe it's because I was the youngest in my family. Maybe it's because I'm five-foot-three and have a voice like Snow White, but I lash out like a cornered rattlesnake when someone doesn't take me seriously.
A Southern California real estate agent found that out last week. He played the there-there-little-lady-you-can't-possibly-understand-the-big-complicated-world-of-home-sales card with me.
At issue was the pricing of my parents' home. Mom and Dad moved into assisted living last May. I'm in charge of selling their house, a responsibility that feels greater than selling my own home along with my children.
“We're not in a hurry,” I told the agent. “We'd like to get as much as we can for it.”
The agent came back with an as-is price so low a monkey could sell it at a pawnshop. His fixed-up estimate was even more ridiculous, and clearly meant to discourage the effort so he could nab a quick listing.
I run all this by Bill Wood, a Yorba Linda, Calif., real estate agent and longtime family friend, who's heard it all before.
“For most homeowners, their home is their biggest asset. For an agent it's just a listing,” said Wood, who in addition to selling homes, owns 59 homes that he has fixed up and rents.
To an agent making a three percent commission, the difference between selling a home for $300,000 or $330,000 is the difference between making $9,000 and $9,900. While that difference may not be worth the extra time and effort, for a homeowner $30,000 can be huge.
Sellers also need to find that sweet spot when fixing up their home for sale — that level of improvement that will help the home sell faster, net the most money, and eliminate reasons for buyers to lowball you, said Wood.
I also asked my real-estate savvy friends Susan and Michael Beane, who own a property investment firm that buys homes to fix up and sell, for their thoughts on how to improve — but not over-improve — a property you're fixing to sell:
•Be objective. Walk through the home with fresh eyes. List what needs improving. “Most buyers don't have a lot of imagination,” said Wood. “If the place has dated finishes, and looks run down, in the buyer's mind it will always look that way.”
•Start at the curb. The property needs to look clean and appealing when you drive up.
•Modernize. Even if your home is 50 years old, buyers want updated interiors. “The age of a house can't change, but freshening up the interior with new paint and flooring can make it feel like a new home,” said Wood. That's the feeling buyers want.
•Improve kitchens and baths. “The trick is to not overdo for the neighborhood,” said Michael Beane. Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins.” Contact her through www.marnijameson.com.