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Real Estate Agent Straight Talk: Answering Questions

April 7th, 2014

House hunters can be widely different: some ask thousands of questions, others don’t ask or don’t know what to ask. Agents are often called upon to be fonts of information or else mind readers in order to help their clients. Here are some tips for dealing with tough questions:

Some of the hardest questions for agents to answer are also some of the most common:
• Is this a good neighborhood?
• Are these the good schools?
• Which areas are best?

These questions are difficult because they are subjective, but also because they demand a preferential response. What makes a neighborhood “good” and what makes an area better than any other? How should a school’s quality be gauged? Making a determination for something automatically sets other options in a poorer light, and speaking against something can be downright problematic. Who wants to risk offending a client by telling them an area, neighborhood, or school is bad, only to hear how they have friends or family there, or worse, that they were thinking of buying there and now won’t? Many agents feel put on the spot, and resort to politically correct answers to protect possible sales or hurt feelings.

Questions are asked to get answers, and no client wants to hear “well, all areas have their good aspects” or some other empty statement that whitewashes over their concerns. While “good” or “best” are subjective, many of the elements that comprise them are quite concrete. Successful agents work to develop an arsenal of information so that they can answer the tough questions with clear, unbiased facts that help clients make their own determinations without giving offense or sidestepping.

The facts that make up an agent’s arsenal may include the following:
• Crime statistics
• Median income
• School ratings
• Public transportation
o Rail, subway, bus, or shuttle
o Main roads, highways, bike routes, or sidewalks
• Distance to public services
o Hospitals, police stations, fire stations, or post offices
• Distance to amenities
o parks, libraries, museums, or other attractions
• Property taxes
• Homeowner’s Associations
• Local utilities and services
o electric, gas, water and sewer
o waste pickup and recycling

These types of facts are public knowledge that anyone can find with time and effort, especially in the wired age, but then, anyone can find a house themselves too. An agent’s purpose is to make her client’s lives easier by taking the time and effort to gather the information and sort through the options.

Other crucial elements to an arsenal are less public, but just as important:
• religious or ethnic groupings
• neighborhood makeup
o ages, professions, parents of young children
• school specialties
o Champion sports teams, Mathletes, exceptional theater programs
• Growth, decline, and transition
• Reputation and satisfaction of residents

Knowing these types of details can give the facts of an area a crucial element: personality. While a neighborhood may have a historically higher crime rate, thanks to the new school nearby it may now be filling up with teachers and families, causing local growth and improvement. Likewise, an area that used to be in-demand could be in decline or simply transitioning as different types of people move in or out. If the local grocery store is prospering under new management or the nearby golf course was damaged by a recent flood, this type of information gives house hunters vital information to decipher the ‘fit’ of a place.

House hunters look to these facts and details to help them determine which areas suit them best. By providing information, agents can give their clients what they really need: the ability to make their own judgments. By building an arsenal of information, agents can remove themselves from the tricky subjective questioning and focus on helping clients discover their own “good” and “best” – and a helpful, informative agent will soon develop her own “best” reputation as well!

Want to find out if you have what it takes to be a Real Estate Agent or Broker?

About Tom DavidsonTom Davidson is Vice President of Express Schools, LLC. which operates online education providers Real Estate Express, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.

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8 Ways to Stage Your Home and Sell it Fast

March 28th, 2014

So you’re ready to sell your house, but you’re not sure where to begin. One thing’s for sure: it’s not enough to vacuum, dust, and make sure the kids have tidied their rooms before potential buyers come to call (though cleaning is certainly important). Whether you’re using a Realtor or for-sale-by-owner, you need to stage your house. Here are eight ways to do just that—and ultimately sell your house.

Tidy Landscaping
The first thing potential buyers will see when they drive up to your home is your front yard. Don’t neglect your landscaping when you’re trying to up-sell your house—first impressions can be everything. People’s expectations of your home begin in the front yard. If your grass is unkempt, your bushes and trees need trimming, and you have toys, tools, or debris cluttering the lawn, buyers’ perspectives will be jaded immediately.

A Clear, Inviting Front Porch
The second thing interested buyers will see is your front porch or stoop. As they approach your house, they’ll be forming opinions and judgments—you don’t want those opinions to be negative before they’ve even made it through the front door. Clear your front porch of clutter and debris, and make sure that you’ve sprayed it down, arranged any furniture nicely, and laid out a clean welcome mat. Ensure that the doorbell works and that windows are cleaned and paint is fresh. This will give them a taste of what to expect once they get inside.

Clean It Up
Yes, cleaning is the #1 important thing to do when you’re trying to sell your house. The first thing people will notice when they look around is whether or not you’ve vacuumed and mopped and if the toilets and showers are sparkling. But don’t stop at the basic Saturday morning cleaning list. Detail your house. Scrub the baseboards, the window tracks, and the insides of your kitchen cabinets. Not everyone will care if the little things are done or not, but you can never be too careful, especially with people who have expressed more than casual interest.

Clear Clutter
De-cluttering is part of making your house presentable, but it’s more than just picking up kids’ toys and straightening the bookshelf. Organize the garage, office space, and even the refrigerator. Bedrooms piled with “stuff,” even if it’s organized and put away, can make a potential buyer feel more at home. If you need to pack a few boxes of possessions away into a storage unit for a few weeks, do so. But do whatever it takes to let your home breathe.

An Inviting Atmosphere
Create an inviting atmosphere that will make people feel like they’re coming home. People know that they won’t be the first to own your house, of course, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to pretend the house already belongs to them. So do everything you can to help them forget that you live there. Put out new bars of soap and clean towels in the bathrooms. Tuck away any signs of extreme personality quirks, make the beds just right, and turn on some soft, soothing music.

Walk the Line between Personal and Neutral
You want people to feel at home in your house, but it’s a fine line between helping them forget that you live there and making the house seem sterile. Some agents advise taking all family photos off the walls, decorating in neutral colors, and even putting away exotic or unusual pieces of art or furniture.You don’t want to leave the house bare, however, and leaving a few family portraits up can make the house feel more like a home and less like a hotel room. Don’t eliminate your personality from your home, but if you have an unusual décor style, consider toning it down a little for the few weeks your house is on the market.

Eliminate Odors
There’s nothing quite as detrimental to a successful staging as unpleasant odors. If you have pets, consider steam-cleaning the carpet before your guests arrive. Rid the furniture and flooring of pet hair, and hide away pet toys and treats. Open the windows, spray a subtle air freshener (you don’t want the smell to be too overpowering), and take out all the garbage well in advance.

Open Closet Doors
People want to see inside things. They want to open cupboards and drawers, look inside closets, and visualize where they would store all of their stuff were they to purchase your house. Make this easier by cleaning and organizing your closets and throwing the doors open wide. Inviting them to make themselves more at home will help them better visualize their own possessions in their potential home.

Looking for a house isn’t easy, but make it as simple as you can for the people who are interested in your home. Whether you own real estate in London, Ontario, New York, or Houston, staging is the same—it’s a means to an end. It might be time-consuming and exhausting, but once your house sells, it will all be worth it.

Guest Contributor: Melanie Hargrave  and her family recently bought a new house with the help of Realocation. She learned a lot about how to stage a house in her hunt for a new home and wanted to share some of her findings. She loves spending time with her husband and daughters, being outdoors, and playing sports

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How to Gain a Competitive Edge as a Real Estate Agent

February 17th, 2014

What makes you stand out from other real estate agents? If you cannot formulate an answer to that question in under 5 seconds, your potential clients will not be able to answer it at all. In order to bring business to your door, you have to differentiate yourself from your competition.

1. Check out the competition. Go on competing agents’ websites and poke around. You may want to even fill out one of their information forms to see how they respond. Don’t spend your time trying to mimic what every other agent has, just pull the ideas you feel best fit your market niche then implement them on your site.

2. What services do you offer? More and more on real estate boards you hear talk of ‘one-stop shopping” for homebuyers and sellers. Check if your parent company has preferred partners your clients can use. At the very least do you have mortgage brokers, inspectors, movers, house cleaners and landscapers to whom you can confidently refer? Mention these services on your website under an “Additional Services” or “Moving A – Z tab” on your website.

3. Take a good, hard look at your signage. Most real estate signs are pretty basic – name, number and some sort of graphic. Drive around a few subdivisions to see what the norm is. Is there a small change you can make in shape or arrangement to make your sign stand out from the norm?

4. Add video. Add video to your website, to your listings, to anything you can. Even if you are not a pro, the newer smart phones have decent recording features that are easy to export. Link a walking tour of a neighborhood or a house to the listing. When homebuyers are looking through potentially hundreds of listings, a video will make you and your properties stand out from the rest.

5. Flaunt your expertise. Make sure your marketing materials show where you excel in a manner a potential buyer/seller understands. Don’t have an expertise yet? Check out the Specialization Designations on RealEstateExpress.com.

Catching two new clients’ eyes a month can make a huge difference in your bottom line. Make sure you are presenting yourself not as a real estate agent, but THE real estate agent.

Want to find out if you have what it takes to be a Real Estate Agent or Broker?

About Tom DavidsonTom Davidson is Vice President of Express Schools, LLC. which operates online education providers Real Estate Express, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.

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Is Online Education Right for Everyone?

February 14th, 2014

Now that the internet has effectively replaced the card catalog, phone book and encyclopedia, will the classroom be the next to succumb? Not likely. While more and more students are finding success with the flexibility of online learning, not every student is a good fit for all online programs. When considering an online course, students need to look at their personal learning style and lifestyle.

If a student is thrifty, online education is the better choice. The costs of online learning are usually lower than any traditional classroom. This is due to lower overhead. An online school can support 200 students for the same overhead as just 25. A classroom school has to adjust tuition to cover seat space, number of instructors and rent. Students also have to factor in the additional costs that might be associated with a classroom school – parking, additional gas or bus money, or childcare to name a few.

Another consideration is a student’s current schedule. Does he/she have the ability to consistently open large chunks of time to attend a classroom school? If a student is working full time, balancing children with a career or currently employed at job without set hours, making that type of commitment is not easy. With the online option, the course easily fits into the schedule the student already has. This is not to say that online does not require a time commitment, it does. But, with an online option, students determine when to commit the time rather than following a third-party schedule.

How a student learns is probably the best indicator of online success. Obviously those who learn well by reading are optimal online learners. But even those who learn other ways can be very successful with online courses. I prefer to hear the content. So, when I approach an online course, I read out loud to myself. I look a little crazy, but the information processes better this way. Students who need to write notes to master the content can easily take notes in both online or classroom settings.

Finally, the online format allows students to truly set their own pace. Online students are not distracted by other student questions nor have their time waylaid by that one student who always has an anecdote to share. Have a vacation coming up? Simply work a little more in the course before or after. Or, take the tablet with you and study while traveling. If, however, a student is not good with setting and meeting personal timelines and goals, the forced deadlines in a classroom setting may be better option.

Online learning is an ever-evolving education field so it is important to weigh the pros and the cons for each student. At RealEstateExpress.com our students have up to six months to complete their online real estate education; contact with live instructors for assistance; and the ability to set their own schedule. If at student is looking for flexibility to work at his/her own pace and to have the convenience of reviewing learning points as often as needed, online learning is the right choice.

Want to find out if you have what it takes to be a Real Estate Agent or Broker?

About Tom DavidsonTom Davidson is Vice President of Express Schools, LLC. which operates online education providers Real Estate Express, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.

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