Some homes seem to get all the offers while others sit on the market for months. What’s the deal? It happens even in the fast-moving Mammoth Lakes real estate market. Selling your home can be stressful, but if you market it right, you’re going to have a much easier time.

Here are my tips for showing potential buyers why your home is the perfect one for them:

Make Sure You Have Good Photos

Photos are the best way to convey to buyers just how wonderful your Mammoth Lakes condo or house is. Before taking photos, make sure your home is clean and orderly. Make sure your Realtor™ works with a professional photographer to get well-lit photos that show off each room and capture the exterior and any view.

Your Realtor™ should post high resolution images on your listing. If you have photos from all seasons, share them. In Mammoth Lakes, buyers will want to see photos of the property in all seasons, especially summer and winter.

Answer All The Questions

Your listing may be the first one that a buyer comes across, or it may be the 100th. If they’re looking for a turnkey property or a fixer-upper, make sure your Realtor™ tells them as much as possible in the description. Does the fireplace need to be redone? How much is the HOA? Are you selling the property furnished?

Share What Makes Your Home Unique

a chairlift catching the afternoon sun on Mammoth Mountain with the ski slope in the background

Photo by Josh Wray for Visit Mammoth

You’ll need to share more than just the address and the number of bedrooms to sell your Mammoth Lakes home. There are so many things that make your home stand out—you might take them for granted, but a new buyer might be thrilled to be on a bus line or be walking distance from the gondola or chairlifts. Is your front door close to a parking area? Do you have a mountain view? Did you renovate or do major updates? Share your favorite things about the property with your Realtor™.

Consider Home Previews and Open Houses

Getting other real estate agents into your home can make a huge difference in selling it, but agents don’t have time to check out every Mammoth Lakes home. Ask about including your home on a weekly agent caravan. During busy weekends (holidays, special events at Mammoth Mountain, etc.), request that your Realtor™ hold an open house, especially if your property is in a highly trafficked area.

Get Social

woman using her iphone with a notebook and a coffee cup in the background

Most buyers start their search online, so be sure your agent uses social media and online marketing to maximize digital impressions. Ask what sites they use and how they spread the word among their local community—will they let their neighbors know that your property is listed? Share the news on your social media channels too. I always send clients links and videos they can share with their friends and family.

Don’t Forget Curb Appeal

Include good photos of the outside of your property for online shoppers. Put a for sale sign somewhere easily visible from the curb. People nearby may be interested in buying, or your neighbors may want to help find a new person to join the neighborhood.

Learn more in my Ultimate Home Seller’s Guide. If you’d like to talk, call me at (760) 914-4664.

taxesThe Internal Revenue Service’s Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act of 2007  has been extended through the end of 2013. What does this mean?

You probably recall the Mortgage Debt Relief Act of 2007 allows certain taxpayers to exclude income connected with the discharge of debt on a primary residence.  This includes debt that has been reduced through the restructuring of a mortgage as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with foreclosure, short sale, or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.

The recent extension comes as part of the vote that passed so we do not go over the “fiscal cliff.”  This vote should motivate potential short sale sellers to list and sell their homes in 2013.

According to the IRS (Tax Tip 2011-44), here are 10 facts that the IRS wants people to know about Mortgage Debt Forgiveness. (Information courtesy of the IRS. Please check with your tax advisor/CPA regarding your specific situation.)

  1. Normally, debt forgiveness results in taxable income. However, under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, you may be able to exclude up to $2 million of debt forgiven on your principal residence.
  2. The limit is $1 million for a married person filing a separate return.
  3. You may  exclude debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in a foreclosure.
  4. To  qualify, the debt must have been used to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence and be secured by that residence.
  5. Refinanced  debt proceeds used for the purpose of substantially improving your principal residence also qualify for the exclusion.
  6. Proceeds of refinanced debt used for other purposes – for example, to pay off credit card debt – do not qualify for the exclusion.
  7. If you qualify, claim the special exclusion by filling out Form 982, Reduction of  Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness, and attach it to your  federal income tax return for the tax year in which the qualified debt was      forgiven.
  8. Debt  forgiven on second homes, rental property, business property, credit cards or car loans does not qualify for the tax relief provision. In some cases, however, other tax relief provisions – such as insolvency – may be applicable. IRS Form 982 provides more details about these provisions.
  9. If your debt is reduced or eliminated you normally will receive a year-end statement, Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, from your lender. By law, this form must show the amount of debt forgiven and the fair market value of any property foreclosed.
  10. Examine  the Form 1099-C carefully. Notify the lender immediately if any of the information shown is incorrect. You should pay particular attention to the amount of debt forgiven in Box 2 as well as the value listed for your home  in Box 7.

The follow-up question is does the tax forgiveness apply to state taxes as well?  The California Association of Realtor® recently issued the following statement about California taxes in a short sale:

“The state Senate today passed C.A.R.’s tax relief bill without a single “no” vote. SB 30, which provides tax relief to those who are selling a home in a short sale, will now be considered in the state Assembly.

In late May, the Senate Appropriations Committee linked SB 30 to SB 391, a C.A.R.-opposed bill that creates a recording tax. This link, in the form of an amendment, says that SB 30 cannot take effect unless SB 391 does as well. While we are troubled by this transparent political maneuver meant to force C.A.R. to support the recording tax, C.A.R. will continue to work toward the passage of SB 30 in the Assembly, the defeat of the recording tax, and the delinking of the two bills.”

Again, check with your tax advisor/CPA for details regarding your specific situation.

Source:  Short Sale Expeditor and IRS

For previous articles, visit www.sonjabush.com

Stand Out From the CrowdOne of the most interesting things about showing property in Mammoth Lakes is I can show several different condos in the same complex and get drastically different feedback from the same potential buyers.

This past weekend was a good example. I took my client to see three different condos in the same complex. He wanted to see for himself why the price was so different when the floor plans and views were exactly the same.

The answer boiled down to four key areas:

1. Carpet: It is nice if the carpet is new but if it is not new, is it at least clean? Even though it is easy to clean, a dirty carpet leaves a nasty first impression.

2. Paint: When you enter the front door are the walls scuffed and paint chipped? If you are going to paint before selling, consider a neutral clean palette. The first 30 seconds in the property is important — paint can help make a good first impression.

3. Clutter: Should go without saying but buyers want to visualize the place as their own. All the ski gear, knick-knacks and items you will be taking when you sell, should be out of sight. Since most places are sold furnished in Mammoth Lakes, buyers can get a real sense of what it will be like for them when all the clutter is gone.

4. Kitchen: This is a costlier issue than paint, carpet and clutter but a necessary fix if someone really wants to sell. A total remodel is not necessary. Something as inexpensive as new kitchen cabinet hardware and light fixtures all the way to costlier new appliances will help you sell your property. Even a dated formica kitchen with dark wood cabinets looks better with new hardware. Consider a new faucet, painting the cabinets and upgrading appliances for a real boost.

Granted there are some buyers who want a “fixer” but most want a turn-key property. They want to buy it and enjoy it.

Ask your real estate agent for input. Better yet, ask them to show you a property similar to yours that has made some of these improvements so you can get some fresh ideas m

For previous articles visit www.sonjabush.com

We all know houses are not selling like they used to.  If you are considering selling your home, there are several tips that will make it easier to sell.   First impressions make a huge difference between a sale or no sale.  These tips apply to any economy or market.For Sale

  1.  Less is More:  Even if you have not moved out, removing some furniture can help the home feel more spacious.  This also provides a potential buyer with a better visual of how the property could look as their home.
  2. Odor Control:  Sometimes homes have an odor you may not even notice since you there every day.  Ask a friend (or your agent) to be honest about any odor.  While the house is on the market, take the trash out every day and clean the refrigerator regularly.  If you have pets, keep an eye on the situation (i.e. litter box).  I have been in some gorgeous homes but a strong offensive odor has turned buyers away.
  3. The Little Things:  There are small and often inexpensive changes you can complete yourself to freshen up your home.  For example, replace dated/cracked light switch covers , install new hardware on cabinets, remove broken window treatment (no window covering is often better than broken blinds).  Although potential buyers know the house is lived it, it is helpful to remove excess clutter such as newspapers, mail, laundry and shoes.
  4. A Neutral Appeal:  If you have customized every room with dark paint or wall paper, you may want to update the colors to a more neutral tone.  This can help potential buyers create their own vision for the home and also when they are comparing their options, your home may need less investment and work if they buy the house.
  5. Curb Appeal:  This one is pretty obvious to most but again look at the exterior of your home from the potential buyers’ perspective.  Is the home welcoming?  Is there a clear path to the front door?  Is the front porch clean and appealing?

Keep these tips in mind when selling your property.  The best way to do this is to walk through your home with an honest friend as if you are both touring the home for the first time.  An experience real estate agent can also help.

Source:  Investopedia

For previous articles, visit www.sonjabush.com

What happens when you receive multiple offers on your property?  Should you accept the highest offer?

This is a great question and I recently faced the same dilemma myself.   Last week, my husband and I listed personal property for sale and the same day we had five offers!   All the offers were over the asking price and we were tempted to go with the highest price.   The offers ranged from $1,000 over asking price all the way to $25,000 over asking.  Sounds like an easy decision, right?  Not so fast.   After careful review it became apparent the highest offer was not the most favorable offer.

All the offers were contingent on the buyer obtaining financing.  Three of the offers had “pre-approval” letters and the other two had “pre-qualify” letters.  (Note:  pre-approval is further along in the process than “pre-qualify”).  One of the pre-approval offers was going to pay 50% cash and finance the rest.   When buyers are obtaining a loan that means an appraisal is going to be required by the lender.  The first question was what would the appraisal be?  Although we didn’t know for sure, we did know what the comparable sales were for the last 6 months as well as the current listings.  With this knowledge, we guessed the appraisal would come in a little under asking price.  Assuming that was the case, how much out of pocket were the buyers willing/able to come?  After speaking with the other agents, it was obvious only one seller could come out of pocket for the difference.  This was not the highest bidder but the 3rd highest. The highest bidder was only willing to come out of pocket an additional $10,000.  After quick math that took their actual offer below the bid we accepted.

If we would have jumped at the highest offer we could have seen the deal fall apart in escrow.   At that point the other buyers may have moved on to another property and we would have to start all over.    Worse, the deal could be held up in escrow.

In summary, a qualified agent and solid information can help you make an educated decision when reviewing multiple offers.    The highest offer is not always the most favorable.

For previous articles, visit www.sonjabush.com

Smart consumers interview potential real estate agents before deciding on whom to hire. Just as you are sizing up the potential for a good fit, rest assured that the real estate agent will likely be interviewing you, too.

1. How Long Have You Been in the Business?
Experience is valuable, but that’s not to say that freshly licensed agents aren’t valuable. Much depends on whether they have access to competent mentors and the level of their training. Newer agents tend to have more time to concentrate on you. Some agents with 20 years of experience repeat their first year over and over. Other 20-year agents learn something new every year.

2. Will You Please Provide References?

Everybody has references. Even new agents have references from previous employers.

3. What Are the Top Three Things That Separate You From Your Competition?
A good agent won’t hesitate to answer this question and will be ready to fire off why she is best suited for the job. Find out what area they consider themselves experts.

4. May I Review Documents Beforehand That I Will Be Asked to Sign?
A sign of a good real estate agent is a professional who makes forms available to you for preview before you are required to sign them. If at all possible, ask for these documents upfront.

5. How Much Do You Charge?
All real estate fees are negotiable. Typically, real estate agents charge a percentage, from 1% to 4% to represent one side of a transaction: a seller or a buyer.

6. What Haven’t I Asked You That I Need to Know?
Pay close attention to how the real estate agent answers this question because there is always something you need to know, always.

Source:  About.com

On average, serious buyers look at 15 homes before making an offer. This gives them an idea of the market and competitive pricing. If you overprice your property you will usually lose those serious buyers—even buyers who love the home—because those buyers often assume that a reasonable offer on an overpriced home will not be accepted.

When pricing your home, consider this:

Know what comparable homes are selling for….actual SOLD prices are much more helpful than listing prices.

There is no law that says you need a Realtor to sell your property in California.  That being said, real estate is a complex transaction involving the sale of what is very likely one of the most valuable assets you own.   The legal requirements involved in buying and selling property in California have become increasingly complex in the past several years.  An active licensed Realtor is trained in these areas.

The top 5 reasons to hire a licensed professional Realtor:

1. Education & Experience:  You don’t need to know everything about buying and selling real estate if you hire a professional who does.

2. Realtors are Buffers:  Realtors do the screening for your showings and visits.  If you are selling, they will make sure and keep the “lookers” at bay and encourage the serious buyers to make an offer.

3. Price Guidance:  A Realtor will help guide clients on the selecting prices for sellers and buyers.  They are experts in the local market.  Based on market supply, demand and the conditions, the Realtor will devise a negotiation strategy.

4. Negotiation Skills & Confidentiality: Top producing Realtors negotiate well because, unlike most buyers and sellers, they can remove themselves from the emotional aspects of the transaction and because they are skilled.

5. Handling Volumes of Paperwork:  Purchase agreements run 10+ pages.  That does not include the federal, state and local disclosures.  Most real estate files average thicknesses from one to three inches of paper. One tiny mistake or omission could land you in court or cost you thousands.

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