Thursday, September 19, 2013

Who Cleans for the New Owner?

Whose responsibility is it to ensure a SOLD home is found in a clean and clear manner for a new Buyer?
As a Buyer of a new to you property, have you ever spent an extra day cleaning and scrubbing your home after all your belongings are moved out, leaving your SOLD home pristine for its new occupants, only to find you have two days of work and cost to clean your new purchase before you would ever consider moving in your belongings?

It happens – all too often.  REALTORS® try to protect their Buyer(s) by including a term in their Contract of Purchase and Sale “the seller agrees to have the home and carpets professionally cleaned prior to completion and will provide receipt of work done.  All personal belongings and garbage, inside and out are to be removed.”  

The seller may agree to the term at the time of the offer – and yet not get it done for completion. Perhaps they ran out of time, the moving truck was delayed, cancelled or they were not prepared for the amount of work to be done once their furniture was actually moved out of the way.  Perhaps they rented a steam cleaner from the grocery store and did it themselves at midnight the night before completion, leaving carpets soaking wet – delaying the Buyers ability to move in immediately when they take possession. 

It’s important to remember that everyone measures “satisfactory” levels of cleanliness differently.  It helps to have the work done by an independent professional who will have a consistent standard met.  If hiring out is not affordable, some Sellers may choose to do the work themselves. The Seller’s REALTOR® needs to provide them with the reasonable expectations of the industry – and not allow them to pass their own judgement on what is acceptable or not.

There is an expectation in our market area that the appliances will be cleaned, carpets vacuumed, floors washed, bathrooms and light fixtures cleaned (hopefully NOT stripped of all the light bulbs), windows clean, garbage gone (This is a big one). Most Buyers will still want to do a thorough vacuum ,wipe down of fixtures, switches, and cabinet interiors, to ensure they are not moving in with someone else’s germs, but they should not have to start from scratch.

Can REALTORS® do anything else other than inserting the ‘cleaning’ clause in the contract to ensure their buyers don’t walk into disaster?   YES!  REALTORS® need to educate their Sellers to the industry expectation.  Help the seller to realize how they will feel if they walk into a mess in their new purchase.  A listing REALTOR® should visit their sellers at the property regularly (not just phone them) throughout the two weeks prior to completion.  Most REALTORS® can recommend support services like Junk Removal companies, movers and cleaners. Some Sellers move out days or weeks prior to completion so a yard maintenance company may be necessary to keep the yard in proper condition prior to completion.  

The Buyer’s REALTOR® can certainly drive by the property periodically to see if there are signs of activity towards a move happening.  Check with the listing REALTOR® to express concern if garbage or items on the property don’t seem to be diminishing as completion day approaches.  Request a walk though the property with the Listing REALTOR®  a few days prior to completion.  A good REALTOR® knows their job is not done when the subjects come off.  The period of time between subject removal and completion is critical for both sides.

It’s sad how quickly all the hard work a Buyer’s Agent has done can be forgotten when their Buyer walks into a mess.  

Some of the circumstance we have had to deal with:  

  • Senior seller, not moved, not packed, and no plan for where she would go.  Our buyers had the anxiety of not only having to find temporary accommodations but were left with the feeling of putting a sweet old lady out on the street.  What an awful way to start a life in your new home.
  • Buyers bought a property where they fell in love with the yard. Sellers moved 6 weeks early in the heat of the summer.  What do you think the yard looked like with no care or water by the end of July?
  • Garbage left piled in the garage – rodents decided it was a great place to settle in. 
  • Seller moved and packed and gone but left unwanted furniture, broken appliances and other debris that mounted up to three “Got Junk” truck loads at $200 a load plus cleaning.
  • The contract included all the new stainless steel appliances.  The buyers moved in to find second hand mismatched units.
  • A winter close turned disaster as the seller moved out a month prior and turned off utilities (heat included) – Frozen pipes and water damage resulted.

REALTORS® can’t control what their sellers do but they can take an active part in walking them through the process...the expectations...get family members or outside services involved early if there appears to be issues of ability and relocation.

A Buyer’s REALTOR® can’t affect the seller’s actions but they can stay in communication with their colleague.  If there are any circumstances that they can anticipate ahead of time that will need special attention, the Buyer can be made aware and not blindsided on move-in day.  The Buyer’s REALTOR® can be ready with information on support services and try to negotiate costs with the Seller through the Seller’s REALTOR®.

In my opinion – a REALTOR® who responds to difficult possession issues with “Let the lawyers fight it out” is not doing their job.  A Buyer’s avenue of remedy when a Seller does not fulfill their obligations under the contract is small claims court – find the seller – serve them and try to collect.  As professional REALTORS®, anything you can do to avoid that path should be taken and often, paying attention, communication between REALTORS® and preparation of both Seller and Buyer is all that is needed.

There are always the Good stories too:

  • Our seller’s REALTOR® and the Buyer’s REALTOR® – packing boxes and cleaning until midnight the day prior to possession to help the senior with the last of the overwhelming task she had been faced with.
  • Day of possession the Buyer’s REALTOR® up on the counter, wiping out cupboards to be ready for her clients dishes – right after she ordered pizza to feed the friends that had come to help with the move in.
  • Seller’s REALTOR® sent their son over to give the yard that one last cut and tidy. 
  • Seller away prior to completion so they left funds for their REALTOR® to hire a cleaner.  REALTOR® stored the last of the personal belongs for her seller until she returned months later. 

Do you have some good (or bad) stories to share?  
What’s your opinion on who should be held accountable?

When the going gets "Tough"...just call me.
Susan Tough

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why I need a REALTOR® and How to Choose one?

This should speak to both you as a Buyer or Seller and the real estate Agents out there.

From time to time I search out feedback from the industry, like NAR (National Association of REALTORS®), CREA (The Canadian Real Estate Association), focus groups, consumer advocates and the like, asking what people are looking for in a REALTOR®, why they should use a REALTOR®. I also ask our REALTORS® what they do on a regular basis to ensure they continue to serve their clients successfully.  What is very interesting to me is how similar the lists are.
The Public's Wish List REALTOR® Routines
1. I want an agent that works full time. Full service means the agent is working for me. Full time agents are better prepared to resolve problems, ensure current market influences are considered and that influences from changes in the industry considered. 1. Get up and go to work every day- and be Seen! Stay on top of continued education statistical reviews and market changes. I need to budget time to work ON my business, not just IN it.
2. I want a tech-savvy agent. Most home transactions today begin on the Internet. 2. I regularly search my listings on the net to be sure search engines are finding my inventory. I send those results and ad copies out to the sellers and buyers looking for that type of property. I Ensure my Buyers wish lists are set up in automated searches so we have instant knowledge when new properties hit the market. In this day and age, people expect information the moment that it becomes available.
3. I want an agent with passion, enthusiasm and dedication. This is the agent, who goes the extra mile to get the best results, even when the going gets tough. Ask “how will you communicate with me?”. 3. I care enough to Communicate with the client in the manner they wish – through social media, phone, email or in person, on a regular basis. My clients want to be involved and informed. Regular communication can help me build a relationship and know their life goals, passions and needs so I can guide them towards the perfect home for their chosen life style.
4. Get an agent that is market savvy. I like getting sales in a given neighbourhood. They reveal geographic market smarts that can save me money. Knowledge is the key. 4. I consistently review CMA’s for the areas of my inventory. Open House Open House Open House – exposes the inventory but also ensures I’m up to date on Market values and neighbourhood trends.
5. Get an agent who is creative. Look for someone who can write purchase offers that excite a seller and satisfy the buyer. ASK How will you market my home? 5. I believe professional photos or videos are very important – On a regular basis I blog, tweet and facebook my inventory out to reach a wide demographic. I share industry newsletters and trends so my clients are well informed.
6. Get a team player. A real estate agent with a network of professionals at his disposal can take the screws out of finding a good handyman, insurance agent, mortgage broker, home inspector or a variety of other home buying and owning professionals I will need. Can they lead me through the whole process? 6. It’s important I share information on the process and community – not just sell a house. I have cultivated professionals in all the support services required for clients in order to help them have a smooth transition into their new neighbourhood.
7. Get a well-respected agent. Other agents make deals with agents they respect, trust and with whom they enjoy working. 7. I network with colleagues on a daily basis and enjoy being involved in community and charitable fund raising events.
8. Get the scoop on your agent. References! Ask to speak to past and present clients and ask to review multiple listing service® (MLS®) reports of his or her sales. 8. After every transaction, my office sends out a Customer Satisfaction Survey for my clients to complete – confidentially if they choose. It gives my Broker the opportunity, as well as me – to ensure I am providing the services to the caliber my clients require. The feedback is always helpful and appreciated. I share those reports from past clients with future ones.

9. Find an experienced agent – how many clients are they currently working with? An experienced Agent will know the right questions to ask regarding the home, neighbourhood, financing, etc.  They have strong relationships with lenders they trust. ASK how they get paid.

9. With every client I review Agency, my obligations and duties to them and the process of the transaction to come – We discuss my extended support services and my compensation so they understand how our relationships gets me paid.
10. I need an agent I can trust. Tell me the truth about my home – offer valued guidance and help me measure value, location and my affordability. 10. I’m not a salesman – I’m a trusted adviser and facilitator. Arming myself with constant inventory knowledge, community trends and economics all come into play as I build trusted relationships with my clients. I work toward earning their referred business of family and friends.

The following information is offered through CREA – the Canadian Real Estate Association.
Does your REALTOR® Have the answers to these in their  personal brochure or profile?
Here are 10 smart questions to ask. But remember, this is just a starting point. Your REALTOR® should be willing to answer any questions you have. After all, that's why you hire the pros.
1.    How long have you been in the business?
2.    What is your average list-to-sales-price ratio?
3.    How will your marketing plan meet my needs?
4.    Will you provide references?
5.    What separates you from your competition?
6.    May I review documents that I will be asked to sign?
7.    Can you help me find other professionals?
8.    How much do you charge?
9.    What if I'm unhappy with the service?
10.  What haven't I asked you that I need to know? 
Why should I hire a REALTOR®?
You trust a REALTOR® with your most valuable possession, your home. REALTORS® take this responsibility very seriously. Here's what they promise you:
1.   Your REALTOR® is a trained professional
REALTORS® take extensive pre-licensing courses in order to obtain credentials for practicing in real estate.
2.   Your REALTOR® is continuously trained
REALTORS® keep pace with the times by taking continuing education courses to upgrade their knowledge on a broad range of real estate related issues in order to be able to continue to provide consumers with current advice.
3.   Your REALTOR® does everything by the book
A REALTOR® must be registered under provincial laws that govern exactly how real estate can and cannot be traded. These regulations are your legal guarantee of professional behavior.
4.   Your REALTOR® is an ethical businessperson
REALTORS® must adhere to the extensive Code of Ethics of the Canadian Real Estate Association. Several provinces have additional codes of ethics governing real estate professionals. Your interests must always be put first.
5.   Opportunity for recourse
Should you have concerns about the professional behavior of a REALTOR®, provincial regulators and your local real estate board or association take these matters very seriously and work quickly to resolve any issues.
6.   Your REALTOR® has access to a local Board's MLS® System
A Board's MLS® system is the single most powerful tool for buying and selling a home. Your REALTOR® can provide you with exclusive features of the Board's MLS® System, such as immediate notification when new properties are listed. You don't have to wait for it to be posted on a web site.

When the going gets "Tough"...just call me.
Susan Tough