How to become a Smarter Client? Learn what you need to know in advance of picking a Realtor?
Ron Greenwald weighs in with his answers to seven questions.
- Is the Realtor well versed on the seller(s) circumstances and support team including attorney, doctor, and financial advisor?
Selling and moving from your home can be a traumatic experience at any age. Nobody likes to pack up and move from their home. And for someone who has lived in their home 30,40, or 50 years, moving will take an emotional and financial toll on their lives. One doesn’t just wake up in the morning and say “I’m outta here” and I need to move. There is a trigger– a mechanism that sets off the realization that aging-in-place is no longer a viable option. A fall, a health scare, a family event, need for extensive care, being proactive to get into an independent community, etc…. The senior may come to this idea of moving through self realization, having family or friends make a move, or it is suggested by their physician, children, grandchildren, or trusted advisor. A Realtor needs to be very in tune to the surrounding conditions that are prompting this wish to sell the “family home”.
- Does the Realtor know the questions to ask of the seller(s) and the Support Team?
Usually, there is an estate attorney and financial advisor as part of the team. They are typically the professionals that have the greatest influence on their clients. For example, let’s examine a situation where a widow who wants to sell her home and move into a senior living community. When the widow calls me out to her home, I need to ask… Is this a knee jerk reaction to an event or has the widow gone through a process of weighing the pros and cons? I ask, “Why do you want to move?” I ask about the clients team of professionals. Why? When dealing with an elder, I need to be concerned about the client’s capacity to make decisions, sign a listing agreement, and manage through the process of selling a home. Think about someone in their 80’s or 90’s going through the process of selling a home and then making a move. Exhaustion becomes a concern. By calling and talking with the client’s attorney, I get a comfort level about capacity. Then, I follow up with the client’s financial advisor. Why. The financial advisor explains that based on various factors, the seller needs to net $500,000. Number one concern is that the client’s money outlives her life here on earth. What happens if the home only nets $450,000…is there a way to fill in the remaining gap? Setting the right expectations and having full range of “what if’s” discussions, then we can proceed.
MORE ON THE SUPPORT TEAM.
There are people who specialize in moving seniors called Senior Move Managers. They become the third party intermediary and can take the children out of the equation. (rightfully so because the children are often too emotional). The Senior Move Manager(s) work with the senior to sort, pack and distribute the personal property in the home– from chest of drawers, closets, to the garage. The manager and senior decide who gets what–what goes to charity–what gets sold at an estate auction and what just gets tossed. As a bonus, the Senior Move Manager will act as an interior designer for the new home. Making the new home a place of immediate comfort, happiness, and ease of use for the senior is a very high priority for me. When we turn this move from trepidation to elation then we’ve done our job.
- Does the Realtor know the full circle of life issues impacting our seniors which will positively impact his/her quality of life going forward?
A Realtor who is a Senior Real Estate Specialist has a love for our seniors and what them to be treated with the dignity they deserve. Therefore, the job does not stop when the home has closed escrow and the Realtor has collected the commission check. They say ‘a client for life’. Can your Realtor deliver on that promise? A great Realtor is a connector to all the services that the family, the senior, the heirs may wish to explore further. Many many times, the senior and the family are not aware of what is available to them to maintain, improve, and secure the senior’s quality of life issues. Since I work with the very best and ethical professionals, it is his desire to reach out to my clients to educate and inform them as to the many products and services a senior(s) should have insight too. For example, the role of a what I call the guarantor of the senior’s wishes while living and, then again, once passed on may be the role of a Private Fiduciary. Does your Realtor know the advantages that a Private Fiduciary can provide to one’s quality of life? Can your Realtor bring that conversation to the table with conviction and knowledge knowing that it is the very best interest of the senior and of family governance. I believe that one has supreme power over their daily life and their deepest wishes when one lets go and gives the reins to a neutral 3rd party and not the heirs.
- What is your Realtor going to do to go the extra mile and outside the box to achieve the best results?
For me, I ask myself each step of the way “What will generate the highest selling price in the shortest amount of time with a buyer dedicated to closing escrow.
Step 1. I will hire a certified home inspector to find out what we’re dealing with. I do not want to be blindsided by a report that is generated by the buyer. Before we list the property, I will review the report with the seller(s) to discuss the homes current condition and if repairs, if any, should be completed prior to active listing. Does the seller wish to invest upfront in any repairs or upgrades? If yes, what is the expected increase to the selling price? My goal is to generate a 3x to 4x the return in the selling price to any upfront cost.
Most agents and sellers don’t do that. What is the first thing a buyer will do once getting their offered accepted and escrow has been started? The buyer will get a certified home inspection and it may be 17 days before we, as the seller representatives, get the results of that report. If I wait for that to happen, the leverage has been moved to the buyers side because the buyer is holding a document in front of the seller saying, “Did you know this roof is at the end of its useful life and the electrical system is considered a fire hazard on many websites?” Sellers may have known it, but failed to incorporate this into their mindset to determine how to price their home.
With seniors, they may think there home is fine, but not have factored in the current improvements in technology, building standards, and interior upgrades. So, I want to set the right expectations for the seller. If the senior’s child(ren) are involved, it is very important to have the family pow wow to make sure everyone is glued in as to expectations. They might have misconceptions about this wonderful house they grew up in. Setting these expectations up front is important.
Do the homework up front so the expectations are set. The family needs to be approached with the following questions. 1. What do you want to spend, if anything, to prepare the home for sale?
2. What kind of return do you expect on the sale price?”
If there are funds available, Ron will identify those items that return the most money for one’s investment dollar. The kitchen and bath will generally generate the highest return on the dollar invested.
- What is the Realtor going to do for you to maximize the selling price?
Bottom line for the seller: What is the Realtor going to do to get the most dollars for the seller in the shortest amount of time that the home is on the market? Besides the psychological issues of selling the family home, it still boils down to maximizing the clients return of achieving the highest sales price with the best terms. How does your Realtor utilize social media, traditional media, local/ international advertising, video marketing, pricing analysis, networking, and negotiations to achieve the highest and best results for YOU?
- What are your Realtors skill sets in terms of education, work experience, negotiations, and above all ethics?
Real estate transactions are, usually, highly emotionally charged events as opposed to almost any other purchase or sale. The saying goes, the three most emotional events in one’s life is divorce, having children, and selling your home. Therefore, when you are interviewing a Realtor to manage, oversee, and fulfill your dreams, desires, and needs, it is highly advisable to pick that person whose background is varied and diverse. The human equation, the financial acumen, the legal hurdles, and the nuts and bolts of the house sitting on a piece of land are equally important factors that a Realtor must bring an understanding to his/her client to create a winning strategy.
With over 40 years in finance, management, real estate marketing and sales, Ron combines his MBA education with his experience as a CPA. In addition, Ron weaves together a humanistic, realistic, and transparent approach when working with all the various parties involved in any real estate transaction. The results are successful transactions with satisfied clients. Will your Realtor communicate effectively and continually with you? Will your Realtor not be afraid to tell you the truth if there is disappointing news to share? Will the Realtor always above all else work in your best interest 110% of the time?
- What is your Realtors focus?
Many Realtors praise themselves that they know every home in a very very narrow radius. Where will the buyer come from? That very narrow set of 200 or 300 homes or will that buyer come from all corners of San Diego County or all corners of the world? Does your Realtor understand the makeup of your community? Who is the most likely candidate to buy your home and how do we attract that buyer coming from all points on the globe. For example, for those familiar with San Diego County, we know that many young renters choose to live in the Mission and Pacific Beach community. As they “mature” and seek quieter surroundings, they may choose to move to the suburbs. Many first time home buyers come from those beach communities. The right Realtor will know how to market to those areas, if necessary. Does the Realtor have a grasp on both the micro and macro economics of your immediate area, the county, and even the country? From the micro of local schools, local zoning, plans for new construction projects, re-zoning, neighborhood history, local economy and more to the macro economics of interest rates, housing trends, stock market, politics. All of these factors play into what your home is worth to a buyer.
- BONUS: One last piece of advice from Ron on senior communities.
Be proactive. Don’t wait until a decision is forced upon you. Know the differences between the level of care of each community. From independent, to assisted to continuing care retirement communities. Senior communities love visitors. You will eat like a king or queen. The marketing representatives at each senior community will be a gracious host to you and your family offering their delicious food for either lunch or even dinner. Putting you up for the weekend is not out of the realm of possibility. It’s like a cruise ship in dry dock. When you were young, I bet you visited new home communities and their beautiful models even if you were not looking to buy a home. It was fun to see what was new in housing. Think of visiting a senior communities in the same light. Make if fun, make it informative, and make it insightful. If and when the time is right for you to move to a senior community, you want the decision to be of knowledge and insight.