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“Don’t just love me for my comps!”

April 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Stop Sign

About a week ago, I was driving in Central Phoenix and I saw a Times Square-sized billboard of a happy, smiling Realtor who’s a well known name in the Valley.  Next to his portrait, in which he’s fielding an obviously mission-critical phone call with a clipboard tucked under his arm, and yet still managing to give a thumbs-up and toothy-grin for the camera, was a simple phrase:

What’s your home worth? Call Ted (not his real name) NOW to find out!

I dismissed the ad and continued my commute.

About 4 blocks later, while stopped at a red light, a bus drove by with a smaller version of the same advertisement plastered on the back.

A few blocks later and there he is, grinning at me from a bus stop poster.  Wow.  Deja vu.

At this point, I found myself wondering if maybe I was missing the boat on the commuter market and drivers’ apparent fascination with property values.  I mean, maybe ramping up my social media visibility was not the right strategy at this time after all.

“Hmmm…,” I thought, “perhaps I should enlist the Ron Paul Revolutionaries to engage in a poster-hanging, sign-pounding, sticker-stickering grassroots campaign to blanket the public streets and sign posts with my brand.”

Commuters would be pummeled on every corner with my messaging, stickers plastered over signs –

STOP  (wondering what your home is worth and call Justin!)” and

YIELD  (to the best comps methodology in the business and call Justin!)” and

NO U-TURNS  (Justin will tell you what you’re home is worth so you can make all the right turns! So call Justin!)”

ONE WAY (To know what your home is worth — CALL JUSTIN!)”

After a few bizarre Willy-Wonka-esque moments, I realized that, despite commuters’ apparent uncontainable excitement about property values, my blitzkrieg campaign was unlikely to yield sufficient ROI to cover the fines that would be levied against me for defacing public property.  I had hit a dead end, so to speak.

Having ruled out vandalism as a marketing strategy, my thoughts shifted away from how to reach an audience of perspective home sellers to the concept of VALUE.  Specifically, what do Arizona home sellers want from their Realtor?

Marketing 101 teaches us that one’s marketing message should convey some notion of value to the target audience.  Since the majority of Realtor marketing to sellers promotes helping them put a price on their home, one might conclude that home sellers look to their agents primarily for this purpose.

Now, I’m the first to admit that running comps the right way takes experience and a sound methodology.  However, I’d argue that ranking it as the number one service of value from your Realtor is like choosing a doctor because they have an accurate scale at their office.  (Not that we can choose our doctors anymore.)  Yes, knowing and tracking our weight is one factor in understanding our health, but we usually have a rough idea of our weight so a scale that’s a couple of pounds off isn’t going to have much of a difference on our overall experience.

When you visit your doctor, issues like timeliness, education, experience, “bedside manner”, office resources, staff support, and other issues have a much greater impact on the overall quality of care.

The same holds true with Realtors.  Are comps important?  Of course!  But I’ve never met a seller yet who didn’t have at least a “Zillow-rough” idea of what their property was worth.  If an agent suggests a value that differs grossly from their own opinion, they’ll know something is wrong.  They look to me to help them zero in on the right number that maximizes their sales price because every dollar counts.

However, there are several other facets of the client-agent relationship that can have a greater impact on the overall success or failure of the experience.  This is where not all agents are created equally! 

Consider a short list of factors that directly affect what I’ll refer to as the “sales experience.”  That is to say, the bundle of qualities that include sales price, transaction-related hassle, and potential liability.

Ways Realtors can add value beyond comps analysis:

  • Home staging (proactive recommendations to help your property show as well as it can)
  • Marketing strategy (how to position the property to target the right buyer)
  • Advertising (outlets and reach)
  • Quality and completeness of photos, descriptions, measurements
  • Ongoing adjustments (based on showing feedback, sales activity updates)
  • Accessibility of your agent (Are they there when you need them?  Do they return your calls?)
  • Negotiating skills of your agent (contract terms, repairs)
  • Knowledge of contracts, including when and how to modify to best protect your interests
  • Risk management to minimize your present and future liability (disclosures, repairs, insurance, etc)
  • Communication “flow” with your agent (current steps, next steps – do you know them?)
  • Post-sales support (does your agent disappear after the sale?)

The way these issues are handled can have a much greater impact on the sales experience, including the sales price, than a set of comps that’s a few thousand dollars off target.

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to gauge in advance how an agent will address these issues.

To find the right agent, whether you’re looking to purchase or sell a property, I recommend the following steps:

  1. Ask your family, friends, co-workers for recommendations.  Gather a short list of 3 – 5 names.
  2. Visit their websites and search around the Internet to get a feel for their online presence and candid Internet reviews.
  3. Schedule in-person interviews with those who “make the cut.”  Your goal is to learn about the agents’ services and philosophy.
  4. Ask for references from each agent and call them!  Have questions prepared that will give you insight on issues that are important to you.
  5. Once you find the agent who you feel offers the best mix of services and personality fit, get a commitment in writing of what they promised during your interview(s) so you can hold them accountable.
  6. You should also insist that the Listing Agreement contain verbiage that allows you to sever the Agreement if the Realtor fails to deliver on what they promised to you.

The concept of “value” in a real estate agent is much easier to appreciate after you’ve had a positive or negative experience.  With some due diligence up front, you’ll increase your chances of finding a Realtor that brings maximum value to the table, far beyond a good Comparative Market Analysis.


Staging Tip: Clean light fixtures for a brighter home

March 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 




When selling a home, there are a number of variables that you cannot control, such as location, lot-specific features, community dynamics, and (to an extent) floor plan.  

Home sellers and their real estate agents should embrace these variables – the good, bad, and ugly – and emphasize the positives as best they can.  

So while you can’t move that school across the street and replace it with a community park, you CAN remind prospective buyers that the days of driving their kids to school or the bus stop would be over!  “Easy walking distance to Madison Elementary!”

Just as there are important factors that a homeowner can’t change, I’m a big believer in taking charge of those things that are within a seller’s control.  Why not stack the deck as much in your favor as you can to present the most positive image of your home?

Today’s staging tip is a very simple 2-step process that will immediately brighten up your home to give the feeling of a larger, cleaner living space:

Step 1: Change light bulbs to the highest wattage incandescent (gasp! How not green!) or LED (gasp! How expensive!) bulbs that the fixture will safely accommodate.

Step 2: As long as you’re on the step-stool, take a moment to clean the existing bulbs AND the light fixture itself.

Lisa Kaplan Gordan, a luxury home builder and Homes editor for Gannett News Service, offers advice and cleaning tips for different types of light fixtures to help your home “shine” in the most literal sense.

“Dirty light fixtures not only look bad, they reduce brightness and waste energy. Here’s how to clean your fixtures and brighten the room to boot.

Granted, cleaning light fixtures is a hassle that requires a stepladder and a steady hand. But it’s a necessary spring-cleaning chore that freshens your home and gives you the light you’re paying for.

Dirty bulbs shed 30% less light than clean ones, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Add a dusty, dead-bug riddled cover, and you’ve got an automatic dimmer, whether you want one or not.

Got a dirty light fixture? We’ve got your cleaning tips.


Yes, you should dust your crystal chandeliers weekly, especially during pollen season. But once or twice a year, you should make those crystals sparkle with a thorough wash. 

1.  If the chandelier isn’t too big, take it down and lay it on top of a towel spread on a table. If it’s huge, hire a handyman to bring it down, or grab a stepladder and clean it while it hangs.

2.  Take a picture of the chandelier before you start cleaning. That way you’ll remember where each crystal belongs if you take them off during cleaning, says Meg Roberts, president of Molly Maid cleaning service.

3.  Mix a solution of 1 ounce mild dish soap with ¼ cup white vinegar and 3 cups water. 

4.  Add to a spray bottle.

5.  Spritz each crystal. 

6.  Let dry and polish with a microfiber cloth.

Light Bulbs

These days, bulbs have long lives thanks to new LED and CFL technology. They’re bound to get dirty and should be cleaned.

Mary Beth Gotti, manager of the GE Lighting Institute, says a thorough wipe with a dry cloth is the best way to get rid of dust and dirt.

“If you use a damp cloth, you can get water into crevices in the lamp that can damage electronics,” Gotti says.  Also, don’t spray cleaning solutions directly onto the light bulb, which could damage the bulb.

Most important: Turn off the electricity to the fixture before messing with the bulbs. To be extra cautious, turn off the circuit breaker, or put a piece of tape over the switch so no one else turns it on while your working.

Ceiling Fixtures

Ceiling fixtures can be a dusty, grimy, buggy mess. Carefully take down the fixture cover and slide it into a sink full of soapy water. Dry and shine with a microfiber cloth.

Avoid the temptation to put glass fixtures into the dishwasher. The glass can shatter, ruining your fixture and your dishwasher.

Pendant Lights

These usually are easier to reach than ceiling fixtures, so you can clean in place. 

Turn off the light, let bulbs cool, then spray and wipe the outside of globes with a microfiber cloth and cleaning spray.

Wipe bulbs and extension rods and cables with a dry cloth.

Recessed Lights

Dust weekly with a long-handle duster, such as a Swiffer, that traps dust and cobwebs.  For a more thorough cleaning, wipe the insides of canisters and the bulbs with a microfiber cloth or a slightly damp rag.

Caution: Before cleaning, make sure the electricity is off and the bulb is cool.

Ceiling Fans

Dust the lights on ceiling fans weekly when you clean the fan blades. When a bulb goes out and you have to climb a ladder anyway, clean globes and bulbs with a microfiber cloth. If the globes are really dirty, take them down and clean with soapy water or a cleaning solution.

When removing or returning globes or bulbs, be sure not to steady yourself by grabbing fan blades, which will turn if touched.

Tricks of the Trade

1.  Dryer sheets are low-cost alternatives to microfiber clothes. They’re great for dusting bulbs.

2.  Wear goggles when dusting or spritzing overhead fixtures to prevent dust or cleaning solution from hurting your eyes.

3.  If you’re having trouble removing the bulb in a recessed light, cut a 12-inch strip of duct tape, and fold it over the bulb so that the ends act like handles that are easier to grip than the glass.”


by Justin Lombard