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Monday, August 18, 2014

The Internet, What Role Does It Play In Marketing Your Home?

My how the world has changed. It's all about the Internet isn't it? When is comes to marketing homes for sale virtually every agent is placing their listing online. The consumers go there to search for homes. Nationally Zillow is the 38th busiest website, Trulia is # 98, #148, and is #557. As of January 2014 there are around 861,379,000 registered host names. Even getting an honorable mention is a big accomplishment.These specific real estate sites benefit from people staying on them, looking at several pages. Not all sites have this sticking power. The average visitor to visits about 8 pages and stays for over 7 minutes.

There is the rare agent that doesn't belong to the MLS, very rare, and for sure he or she is costing their client dearly.

And what do Internet shoppers see online? Some see a messy home. Some see amateur photos. Some see just six or so photos. People searching on line want photographs, lots of photographs. They make their decisions quickly, a typical internet shopper trait. Do they see clutter? Do they see a home they want to visit? A home that has an ugly shot is virtually shot. The appeal of your home is now driven by what they see online.

One of the benefits of being licensed at MediaOne is that our firm provides every home seller photos done professionally. One of the benefits of having Kathleen as my wife and partner is that she too is an excellent photographer. When she had her own Interior Design Company she was often involved in show homes, Street of Dreams Homes, and homes that were being published in magazines. She has a degree in art and Interior design. What we do is pick the best of the photos from the professional and from Kathleen's photos and those are what go online.

As I said, virtually all agents place their photos online. The MLS requires photos. These then are syndicated to agent and broker sites, such as my agent site: When a listing goes live, so do the photos and property information.

Ninety per cent of the agents listings and photos now end up on and/ or Most agents take the effort to do some sort of national website syndication. Before I joined MediaOne I had arrangements that published my listings to over 30 sites. Joining MediaOne bumped that to over 50.

I have an additional niche, having written about genealogy on for over two years. As of this writing it has had over 74,000 visitors. I have had people tell me that various LDS Family History Family Search centers have its website address posted on the wall as a site to visit. Many downtown home buyers come to be around Temple Square. I seek to let them know what is available downtown.

It is simple technology that now allows a blog post to be posted on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Combined I have over 14,000 connections with people. I also publish my content on a site recently purchased by LinkedIn, I received an email from them congratulating me that my content was in the top 5% viewed by others. You may or may not have heard of Slideshare but it is ranked # 211 in the United States for traffic. I was stunned when they announced my high ranking with them.

Effective home marketing should be designed to find the right buyers. No buyers means the price will go down to sell. To sell at the listing price just needs that right buyer. To get a higher price you need multiple buyers.

The internet, including the quality of the photography is an important, but not the only way to find those right buyers.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

You Can Make The Mortgage Process Go Well

Not many realize that there are several barriers to a smooth closing. A borrowers interaction is usually limited to the loan officer. There is an automated underwriting process which does a quick approval. The Loan officer has a processor doing backup, getting your loan ready to close. Additionally there is an underwriter. What many don't realize is that often there is another underwriter looking at your file. After receiving an initial automated approval you might be shocked to find out that it may not be as simple as you think. Don't let your loan officer make you think it's a slam dunk, even if it is.

What may excite a borrower is that the automated underwriting can give a quick approval. Yeah baby, you are done, you are approved.

Not so fast.

This is just step one. You have a long way to go to get to the end. It has always been a trek to the end, but with the advent of the meltdown everyone involved in your loan became fearful of making a mistake or being too lenient. This resulted in a lot of last minute issues.

Now I bring up the pressure event - the U Haul is rented and the loan must close on time. Nothing is more problematic than a delayed closing. It can actually be worse than the U Haul issue, closing late can kill the transaction. Sometimes a seller gets remorse, maybe has a better offer as a backup.

You are responsible to provide everything asked for, be it pay stubs, bank statements front and back, everything. So many of my borrowers have been slow, sloppy, even resistant to requests. And hey, your loan officer and processor might have more than your loan to get funded. Push Push push your way around. "What is the status, do you have everything, may I see the list of conditions by the underwriting" are all things you can do.

No matter what your nature, detailed or not, get involved in every detail of your loan. Make sure you see a copy of your credit report. See if anything is fishy. Fix everything fast that needs fixing or explaining. Ask your loan officer if they have a back up plan if trouble arises. I did. Doing loans was pressure packed for me. I laid awake at nights or woke up early in the morning scouring the loans in process in my mind. What if this happens, what will I do? I loved it, but it was grueling. At times I had 11 to 15 loans of my own in process. If you only knew what a gigantic list of details that created.

Don't lie. The only loan that I had that blew up at the end was not my fault, yet I was the target of blame. The borrower was from Hawaii. Hawaii like Utah, isn't a community property state. Spouses can buy real property separately. In Washington, where I was working, the opposite is the rule. This borrower - buyer, lied on his application. He said he was single. We came right down to closing and the underwriter conditioned a document to be signed  by his wife. He was furious and wouldn't comply. "How did you find out I was married?". Dumb question! He made such a fuss that since I was working for a mortgage company owned in part by the real estate company he pressured the real estate company to fund the loan out of their own capital.

I will never forget the brokers statement. He too was out of step. He said he hated it - that loan officers say all the way through the process; he is approved, he is approved, he is approved and then at closing - sorry he's not approved. He lied folks, and got caught.

I had another borrower that two days before closing came to me to back out by blaming it on me. He had $5,000 earnest money in escrow. I listened to his accusations which were many. I finally had had enough and said, "listen buddy this is all crap. I don't know what is the real excuse but you better come clean with me right now. I have done loans for several members of your family, if you don't come clean that's it for the whole bunch of you." He then humbly apologized and confessed that he had his accountant provide us with phony tax returns. I felt compassion for him, for he had already confessed this to his young wife. He said it broke her heart, both in losing this great home and in his actions. I assured him it was better to quit now and lose his earnest money than proceed with committing a crime. His conscience was his buddy even though the consequences were painful.

I once received a call from an underwriter. It was over one of our loan officers who had submitted his own loan. She tactfully said she was sending the loan back and that I should confront him over the income he claimed. I did. He blew up and threatened my with bodily harm that I should suggest that he faked his income. He said that he had filed amended returns and how dare I insult him. He was fired that moment and I informed him the underwriter had pulled a summary of all of his tax returns and I had copies. They did not match his application and he could leave now quietly or my next call was to the Feds.

He left.

So please do all you can do to make sure things go will with that you haul you have ordered. It's on your shoulders too. Do it all, do it immediately, and do it right.

And oh, pick a lender recommended by your loan officer - even if he or she has to recommend several. Forget the neighbor or cousin that does loans. Go outside of this advice and beware, be prepared for a crash. This also includes avoiding that hot radio ad you heard. Ignore this advice and see how easy it is to change the date of the U Haul as you just may need to make that change. Sorry, but that is based on having closed thousands of loans.It's experience talking.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Selling Your Home. Is There a Difference Between Interior Design And Staging? Yes, Yes and Yes! Part 1

I published a series of article by Kathleen about Staging your home for sale. They originally went up every few days. We have had several Positive responses to them so I am making it easier to read them all together. They are now seen in order. If they are split at the bottom of the page (as each new article pushes the old one down one) click older posts to go to the previous page.
by Kathleen Leavitt Cragun
When you are selling your home, it immediately becomes a product that buyers compare with all the other homes they look at. Preparing to have your home look its best is a very smart idea. However it is easy to spend time and money on things that may not help all that much, and could even have a detrimental effect. A lot depends on the price range of the home. Hiring professional help to put your home’s best face forward is a relatively new phenomena.
Most Interior Designers think they can stage homes and most Staging Professionals think they can do Interior Design. There is some crossover, true, but the philosophies and purpose are very different. There is much more training, talent and skill needed to be an effective designer than most Staging Professionals possess. On the other hand, many designers don’t really understand the common sense or purpose behind Staging. Their egos take over and bad advice is given. Even though I believe I succeeded in my goals with the rooms below, they were Street of Dreams homes, so the final results were to that end.

 When you are living in your home you usually want to express your individual tastes. You want it to look great, but you want it to be YOU! Enter the Interior Designer. After determining how you live, what your family’s functional needs are and style, color preferences, etc., she prepares and executes a plan that will make your home the envy of your friends who have no courage to dare to be different. You love it. The designer loves it.
The objectives are different when you are staging your home for sale. You don’t want the prospective buyer to fall in love with your decor, or be green with envy over your art collection, or focused on your great black and white photography collection of your children and pets. You want them to be able to focus on the HOUSE! You want them to get a vision of how their things and their family could fit in it. You don’t have to pack up and move completely out leaving it empty, but almost every home needs a little editing. We all accumulate a lot of stuff and a little early packing is in order.
Staging is not rocket science! Much of it is common sense. If successfully accomplished, prospective buyers will be able to view your home at its best. Best because its good features will be discovered and enhanced and they can see and feel themselves living there. That usually means a faster sale and a better price. Much of this is related to Clean Up….Clear Out…..Fix In…..Fix Out! The hardest part is to be able to be objective. Pretend you are the buyer. Would you buy your house? If you are a person who can’t remember if you made the bed today, or your friends say to you ” I can’t believe what you did to your house,” (and not in a positive way) you definitely need professional help! (staging help, that is) NO 1. in a series of staging posts.
Posted by Kathleen Leavitt Interior Designer, a.k.a. Kathleen Cragun Part 1 of a series

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Selling your Home - Staging Your Home - Part 2

Part 1:  Selling Your Home. Is There a Difference Between Interior Design And Staging? Yes, Yes and Yes! CLICK HERE FOR PART 1

 By Kathleen Leavitt Cragun
Selling your Home - Staging Your Home - Part 2

In my first post on staging your home in preparation to putting it on the market, I mentioned Clean up…Clear out…Fix In…Fix Out. Let’s start with Fix Out. Backwards, yes but the saying sounds better that way! Take a note pad with you and go outside. Better than that go across the street and look at your house. Pretend you don’t live there. Can you see the house? Does it look inviting? Is the yard mowed, trimmed, clear of stuff. Is the paint peeling or does the driveway, sidewalk or the roof have moss on it. Imagine the For Sale sign out front. If you (remember you don’t live here) drove by and saw that sign would the house beckon you to take a look? We are talking Curb Appeal.
I kind of miss this home.

Fix Out: The pots out front add charm but the base of the pots could stand a little scrubbing. You can’t see it here but a tree near by is overgrown and parts are dying. Time for a replacement. If you are selling right away get bigger plants instead of waiting for them to grow a bit. Some nurseries will help you select plants and even plant them for you, but there are all kinds of books and magazines that tell you how to do that. And don’t forget to water them daily if the weather is warm. Make sure your front door is in good shape and painted a pleasing color. Spray painting the door is preferable so you don’t have brush strokes. And you need to take the door OFF to do that. New bark in the planting beds is usually a good idea.
Fix In: After you fix up the outside its time to tackle the inside. Using the same approach and notepad, walk around your house taking an inventory of things that need fixing. Having it in one notebook and checking off the items as they are done will keep you on track. A well maintained home will always sell faster and bring a better price than one that is not. All functioning parts of your house need to do just that, function! Furnace, water heater, stove, oven, toilets, ect. ect. Speaking of toilets, new toilet seats should be put on so they are bright, sparkling clean.
If you need to paint, and that is usually the case, this is not the time to add bright accent walls. Neutral tones are best and even though dark colors can be used dramatically and effectively, when you are selling is not the time for dark. Do it in your next house, just for you. There are exceptions, a powder room perhaps. (See pictures in part 3) Once I was working with a seller that did a great job of fixing up his home as I suggested. However, he didn’t wait for me to pick out the paint colors, I arrived to find he had painted the whole interior of the house bright, high gloss white! Bad idea. Neutral, yes and sometimes white would be alright but high gloss NO. Even then in most cases it is better to use a soft light beige or tan or taupe, boring maybe but there is a reason builders use neutral colors. Everybody’s stuff goes with it. Even then watch those undertones! I once was attending a class on Color, the instructor said there are studies that show the average American man can distinguish between 250,000 colors. Sounds good, right? However, the average American woman (he said) can distinguish between 2 million or more colors. Perhaps this is why Larry can’t match up his socks (and he only has 8 pairs!) Who should pick out the paint colors?! Larry has other redeeming qualities!
Wallpaper. Don’t even get me started! Don’t do it to sell your house. Your chances of picking out something that your buyer would like are almost nil! Wallpaper choice is a very individualized taste.
Next post will be dealing with Clear Out, Clean Up AND the real rocket science part of staging.

Monday, August 11, 2014

K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Staging - Part 3 - Clear Out, Clean Up

This is the 3rd in a series by Kathleen Leavitt Cragun

Click here for part 1:Is There a Difference Between Interior Design And Staging? Yes, Yes and Yes! 
Click here for part 2: Selling Your Home - Staging Your Home

Clear Out: After you have fixed and repaired it is time to de-clutter! And you can’t just stuff it all in the closets because people do want to see how the storage stacks up. They open up drawers, cupboards and closets if they are even somewhat interested in your house. Spend some time tidying these up and cleaning. You will have far less to do when you start serious packing, so it will help in two ways. The best solution is to rent a storage unit. Start packing up the things you don’t use very often, if at all. Too crowded with furniture, store it! 2nd best, pack up smaller stuff in boxes and put in the garage, but a garage isn’t too impressive stuffed with excess furniture. Get a storage unit. Call the Salvation Army or St Vinnie’s.
Things to make disappear: Most of the stuff on your kitchen counter tops, i.e. kitchen appliances ( except for a toaster) that dead plant you keep trying to revive, any cleaning supplies, soap, dish rags and so on. Only a few strategic attractive items should be left. Banish as well that pot rack and hanging pots, refrigerator magnets and notes, dishes in the sink, toothbrushes and personal grooming items, towels in bad condition and uncoordinated colors, ugly shower curtains, stuff on window ledges, scatter rugs, too many plants, too many pillows, too many cars, too many accessories, too many of anything! If the things left are arranged with skill, less will be more. It’s the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Staging! If in doubt, throw it out!

 ABOVE-NOT THE WAY COUNTERS SHOULD LOOK. Too much stuff - wrong kind of stuff                                                          

Clean Up. You will be doing some of this as you go through and are fixing up and getting uncluttered but when all the other is done, go through and check for clean. Carpets should be cleaned, it is best to have a good professional do it or if worn or stained or a color that is hopelessly out of date, or would be difficult for most people to work with it should be replaced before you put your home on the market. This will work much better than giving a carpet allowance if wisely chosen, as far as selling your home. All appliances need to be super clean, as do bathrooms. Clean also floors, walls if soiled, windows, showers, shower curtains, outdoor furniture if on display, drains, exhaust fans and hoods, blinds, light switch plates, garbage cans, fireplaces, dog and cats dishes, side walks and patios and decks and driveways may need pressure washing. Clean is something that will need every day attention when you market your home. After you do all of this it should smell good! Smelling good is important.  The saying goes “If you can smell it, you can’t sell it.” Unless the smell is good of course, but be careful about artificial perfumey smells. Sometimes that may be interpreted as someone trying to cover up a bad odor. (And sometimes it is)! Also many are allergic to these and won’t stay in your house long enough to look at it.
I was going to go into what I call the rocket science part of Staging but I am tired from just writing about all this work!
Posted by Kathleen Leavitt Cragun

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Rocket Science Part of Staging - Staging Part 4

First a note from Larry. Kathleen has great advice in this series. In case it isn't obvious, much of what is important needs to be addressed months before your home goes on the market. This is especially true if you are going to invest money or effort on getting your home ready to sell. Many times poor choices are made. Just yesterday we toured a condo where they had put expensive slab granite in the kitchen on very old outdated cupboards. Some agents won't catch the error which Kathleen jumped on as soon as we entered the home. This particular granite also didn't go well with the rest of the condos colors. The investment could have paid off had they had a little professional consultation. It would have been better to update the cupboards. Granite doesn't solve all problems. Read on for more info.

by Kathleen Leavitt Cragun

Click here for part 1:Is There a Difference Between Interior Design And Staging? Yes, Yes and Yes! 
Click here for part 2: Selling Your Home - Staging Your Home
Click here for part 3: K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Staging - Clear Out, Clean Up

Before I get to that rocket science part, I want to refer to an article in a recent newspaper article. In the Real Estate section was an article on tips to make your house sell fast, introduced by a huge picture. Much good advice was given BUT a few things made me cringe, so I just want to warn you what NOT to do. Do not paint your kitchen cupboards Gloss white. I already mentioned not to use gloss white on walls in an earlier post. When was the last time you saw a new model home that had GLOSS white cabinets? White maybe, but NOT gloss. If you are redoing old cabinets Gloss white will show every flaw, every brush stroke, every imperfection! It is a finish that should only be done by professionals ( sprayed on) but also one that is not really a “with it” thing to do. If your cabinets are stained wood, there are products you can get, like Cabinet Magic, Liquid Gold, that will cover scratches and revitalize cabinets, sometimes miraculously. They are also easy to apply, most are rubbed on with a soft cloth. Oak cabinets almost always look bad painted. Regarding painting anything, it is very important that it be done well. If you can’t do it well, you shouldn’t do it yourself. It takes time and patience and skill to do a good job. Prepare to give it that. It isn’t called sweat equity for nothin’.
Other advice in the article regarding fixing up Kitchens and Bathrooms, “You can do all this for cheap.” If it looks like you did it “on the cheap”, it will not help you sell your house. A very good bit of advice given was to hire a home inspector yourself to go through your home and get a list of things that need to be fixed. That way you shouldn’t have any unpleasant surprises when your buyer’s inspection is done. I have done this and it was very helpful and brought peace of mind.
The idea of staging is to present your home to stand out from the rest. It should be a well-maintained home, not just looked like one on the surface. We want the buyer to be happy living in the home, not just happy buying it, don’t we? No cover ups, no law suits.
Many of the clients I have advised on fixing their homes before they sold, did quite extensive things like replacing very outdated kitchens and bathrooms. When they saw how good they looked, every single one wished they had done these things as they lived there and enjoyed it themselves as well. Something to think about!
OK, OK, The Rocket Science part. Presentation. Now that you have done all the things recommended in the first three posts, the fun part begins but also the part that you may want to call in your staging advisor to complete. Not all designers and stagers are created equal. Some are better than others just as some home builders, lawyers and hairstylists are better than others. This is advice I should have given you in the beginning. Ask your real estate agent for a referral to someone who does it right. Check out a portfolio of before and after photos. Look at model homes they have done or if you have the chance to see, what does their own home look like?
Everything that is left now needs to be moved, arranged, and accessorized. What to put in, and what to leave out? Where to hang the pictures and how high for the best effect? A tip here, don’t hang pictures at LeBron James’ eye level! A common mistake is hanging pictures too high where they have no connection to anything else. While you want to keep it simplified this doesn’t mean it needs to be boring and bland. Don’t just line furniture up around the room. How things are arranged in groupings and with just the right choice of accessories and accents are the key. I am realizing I can do it, but it isn’t something I can easily explain and tell you how to do. I guess that is why it is the rocket science part of staging!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Presenting Your Home For Sale Part 5

by Kathleen Cragun
The homes below are NOT STAGED,

they are from my portfolio many years back. But, they are an example of what I am talking about in the previous post:

Everything that is left now needs to be moved, arranged, and accessorized. What to put in, and what to leave out? Where to hang the pictures and how high for the best effect? A tip here, don’t hang pictures at LeBron James’ eye level! A common mistake is hanging pictures too high where they have no connection to anything else. While you want to keep it simplified this doesn’t mean it needs to be boring and bland. Don’t just line furniture up around the room. How things are arranged in groupings and with just the right choice of accessories and accents are the key. I am realizing I can do it, but it isn’t something I can easily explain and tell you how to do. I guess that is why it is the rocket science part of staging!
I would edit and simplify if I were to stage these for sale, especially that secretary in the French family room. At the time I was trying to make it looked lived in!




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Friday, August 8, 2014

That Condo Stunk

Yes, another sales prevention program.

The smell was hard to identify.
It was even harder to put up with.
So guess what?
We didn't stick around.
We left in the let's get out of here mode.
When the potential buyer walks through the door they often make a quick decision. I like it. I don't like it. It stinks. You want the opposite, I love this place response.
I don't know if the home was rented or owner occupied. I wouldn't be surprised if it was a renter as all too many could care less. The beds weren't made, the place was not neat.
Owners and agents need to be on top of this type of thing. If you live in the place, ask your agent if you need to fix an odor.
In this case I believe part of the smell was cigarette smoke. To most that is a big turn off. I'm just pointing this out. After all you put your home on the market to sell it. Why subscribe to a sales prevention program?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

2014 Greater Avenues Street Fair Needs You

The 2014 Street Fair will be on Fourth Avenue between N and I Streets on September 13 from 9Am to 6 PM.

This street contains many lovely homes and shade trees. There will be food, water stations, and vendor booths. I look forward to attending.

Last night in the community meeting a request was put out for volunteers. It was explained that these aren't huge tasks, but important ones. Below is the flyer passed out. You might want to join in.