Remodeling that Makes Sense

I am often asked, what are the best remodeling investments when it comes time to sell? People want to know if they will get their money back (and more) if they re-carpet or paint, remodel the kitchen and so on. The answer varies because it depends on the specific house, the neighborhood and the type of buyer you are trying to attract. However, here are some basics:

1. Maintenance first. If the roof leaks and the carpet is worn, don’t expect a kitchen remodel to solve all of the problems. No matter how lovely your home is, any buyer will likely get a home inspection that will consider the condition of the major systems in the house. Things like heating system and air conditioning, plumbing, electrical systems, the roof, siding and foundation will be examined. Problems in these big system areas can change a buyer’s mind about a house quicker than you can say “Uh-oh.” If you have deferred maintenance, if there are things you know don’t work properly, take care of them first. Truth is, you probably won’t recoup much of your investment on these kinds of repairs, but you will make your home salable. In fact, a home in good condition will usually sell near the top of the range of market value, while one with lots of big ticket fix up items usually sits and sits . . . until the price is reduced drastically.

2. Exterior items. Your first task as a home seller is to get people in your front door. You can’t give them any reason to eliminate the property before they ever get out of the car. It’s true there’s not much you can do about the neighbor who seems to only cut the grass in a month with 5 Saturdays, but you can have your own yard looking great. It’s often worth the expense to hire a lawn and landscape maintenance company to bring your lawn into tip-top shape and add some blooming plants to the yard. The payoff will be more showings, more potential buyers and a better chance of getting a good offer. If you elect to hire professionals to handle the yard, start them a month or two before the house goes on the market. That will give their handiwork time to show results.

While we’re talking about curb appeal, take a look at exterior paint. Clearly if the house needs painting, paint it: that’s maintenance and is among the items covered in point 1. But, assuming the paint is generally in good shape, look for touch up tasks. One of my favorite touch up items is the front door. A fresh coat of paint there can make the whole house more appealing. Look at the windows. What do you see in them? Are they clean and are drapes and shades in good shape? Do you see stickers and signs? Time to remove them.

3.  The Kitchen. Most people, when they think of remodeling tasks that will make a difference when it comes time to sell, start here, in the kitchen. On my list it is number three because, frankly, if the house isn’t in good shape and if it doesn’t look good from the outside, not too many people will be paying attention to the kitchen. But if your kitchen does need remodeling you may be able to recoup some of your investment on sale. Some.

Think about it for a moment. Let’s say the range of value for houses like yours in your neighborhood is $500,000 – $600,000. Your home comes in right near the center of the range because, while it is in decent shape and looks good from the curb, the kitchen is 20 years old! You know you will be in the house for a few more years and you’re thinking a kitchen remodel might make that time more enjoyable. Your remodel costs $45,000, the kitchen is beautiful, the house is now at the top of the range, and for the next thee years, cooking is a delight.

It’s now time to sell. You’ve had three years of average appreciation (say 3% a year), so now the range of value in the neighborhood is roughly $550,000 – $655,000. Your remodel is still fresh and you’ve maintained the house in tip top shape so you can expect to sell at the top of the range: $655,000. That’s a $105,000 gain from the day before you did the remodel, but about $65,000 of that could be attributed to appreciation. So, you recouped all but about $5000 your remodel cost. But the remodel did more than add value and make your home more pleasant for the three final years you lived in it. It made your home salable. Without the remodel, you could expect it to take much longer to sell.

4. Bathrooms. The story here is much as it was with the kitchen remodel. An outdated bathroom can be a drag on value and can prolong selling time. But you probably won’t make your home hugely more valuable by remodeling it. Truly nothing is going to boost the value of your home above the range for the neighborhood. What a remodel will do is make the home more enjoyable while you are in it, make it more salable when it goes on the market, and boost it’s value up within the range of value.  Often bathrooms can be refreshed without a full remodel:  replace cabinet fronts, paint, replace faucets and fixtures.  But the most important thing about bathrooms, remodeled or not, is that they appear absolutely and spotlessly clean.

If you are considering a remodel and are curious about the possible impact on your home’s value and sale-ability,  we at Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties would be pleased to consult with you on this.  We’ll estimate the current value of your home, weigh the cost of the remodel against anticipated appreciation and help you decide if the project makes sense.

What % Do Real Estate Agents Charge?

I spend a little time each month to determine what search phrases real estate consumers use online to find real estate brokers. When I discover the phrases consumers are using, I sprinkle them throughout my websites (including this blog) and thus increase the number of times Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties shows up in search results.  In 2013, that’s just good marketing!

Most phrases are predictable:  ‘Hawaii Kai homes for sale’, ‘Mililani real estate’ and the like.  But sometimes I uncover something unexpected.  That’s what happened over the weekend.  Here is a Google search phrase that is being used a lot in one form or another:

“What Percentage Commission Do Real Estate Agents Charge?”

People want to know what they’ll have to pay a real estate professional to market their property — no surprise there.  But what jarred me this weekend was not the question, it was the word:  PERCENTAGE.

Seventy plus years of ‘that’s just the way we do it’ has trained the public to expect to pay a percentage of the sale price of their house to an agent when it sells . . . and that makes no sense whatsoever.

What does a percentage of you home’s value have to do with getting it sold? Nothing!

Think about it:

Here you are in your $525,000 house. Thankfully, you are not upside down. You have roughly $100,000 in equity. So you decide to sell, and list with XYZ Realty**, who charges you (and every seller with whom they work) 6%*. When your house sells (for full price), that’s a commission of $31,500!

I’ll give you a moment to catch your breath . . . before I point out that that may be 6% of the sales price, but it’s more than a 30% of your equity!

Meanwhile, your neighbor down the street also wants to sell, but his home is smaller. It’s only worth $450,000. He also lists with XYZ and agrees to pay the 6% Commission. When the house sells for full price, the homeowner is going to pay $27,000 — still high, but not nearly as high as your $31,500 commission.

Now, here’s the question of the day: What did YOU get for the extra $4,500 you paid to sell your house through ABC?

More Advertising?

More Open Houses?

A better Sign?

Oh, maybe your agent worked $4,500 harder! Right.

What you got for the extra $4,500 you paid is this:

Absolutely Nothing
In almost every case it takes no more time, effort, energy, money or marketing to sell a properly priced $525,000 house than it does a properly priced $450,000 house. There are some situations in some areas where a market niche, say, luxury homes, might take a little more time and might require additional or specialized marketing. But these situations are rare . . . and $4,500 extra dollars to sell your $525,000 house? That’s absurd.

It makes no sense today, made no sense yesterday, and will never make any sense at all.

At Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties, we charge home sellers a set fee. It’s logical. We’ve worked very hard to determine the hard costs of carrying a listing in Oahu.  We then add a reasonable profit to those costs, and . . . that’s it.

I hope next time you need to sell, you’ll do the right thing and call the set fee alternative, Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties. You’ll save a bundle (the set fee is usually thousands of dollars less than whatever percentage based commission you’re being quoted). And you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that, finally, for the first time in your real estate life, you haven’t been taken to the cleaners!

*Commissions, whether set fee or percentage based, are always negotiable. They are not set by law or REALTOR rule. They are set individually by office Brokers. Price fixing occurs when different Brokers get together and agree to charge the same thing. That’s highly illegal. Different Help-U-Sell offices charge different Set Fees, because the carrying costs of marketing a listing vary from market to market, as do the number of days it takes a properly priced listing to sell.

**The “XYZ Realty” referred to in this blog is fictitious and is used only for illustrative purposes. Any resemblance between it and any other “XYZ Realty”, is purely coincidental.

Preparation For Selling: Preparing YOU

You can find lots of information on the Internet about preparing your home for sale . . . in fact, just scroll down:  you’ll find one such article here!  But selling quickly for top dollar involves more than just spiffing up the house.  It also involves YOU, your mindset, your preparation, your choices and so on.

Make the Shift

If you’ve been living in your HOME for some time, you wear it like your favorite sweater.  You love almost everything about it.  Every blemish has a story. The few little defects have been in place so long you hardly notice them. Every corner of every room holds a pleasant memory.

And somewhere, deep inside, you expect everyone who comes into your HOME to recognize and experience all of that warm fuzzy stuff.  They won’t.

The day you decide to sell, your HOME becomes a HOUSE.  All of the sweater aspects evaporate (you were the only one who perceived them anyway).  It is now a PRODUCT, competing in the open market with other similar products.  And you must start to view it that way as well.

In my previous post, I drew a parallel between detailing your car and preparing your house for sale.  I think the analogy is good because we tend to become far less emotionally attached to our cars than our houses.  When it’s time to sell a vehicle, we prep it and GO.  You need the same mind-set when selling your HOUSE.

Open Up

Over and over I have seen home sellers create barriers between their HOUSE-product and potential buyers.  It’s usually subtle little things like NOT having a lock box (that makes access easier for REALTORS), like NOT having a for sale sign in the yard, like requiring 24 hours notice for a showing.  There are often good reasons for these little roadblocks – small children, ailing family members, day sleepers, valuables – but they still cut the pool of potential buyers AND make competing properties more attractive.

Before you insist that you can’t or you don’t want to or you’re not going to . . . ask yourself why.  Is there a temporary change you could make in your daily lifestyle that would allow you to remove the restriction?   Time on market right now on Oahu is very short.  Most properly priced homes sell in 30 days or less.  Most people can put up with even a drastic change for that short period of time, and it can make a big difference in sale-ability.

Do Your Homework

Ask your agent to walk you through the offer and acceptance process BEFORE you have an offer.  What can you expect?  What should you look out for? How will you work with your agent to sift through offers?  If you wait until you have an offer to start educating yourself, the process will drag and your comfort level will sag.

In addition to simply talking about the process, ask your agent to give you a blank copy of the standard real estate purchase agreement and the sellers’ net proceeds worksheet that will be used.  The time to become familiar with these important documents is NOW, before you’re having to make decisions based upon them!

Adjust the Bulls-eye

One of the biggest mistakes home sellers make is getting hung up on price.  It’s natural: we are born shoppers and when shopping we usually start with price.  But when it comes to selling your HOUSE, price is not the most important metric for judging success.  What really matters is your net proceeds or walk-away dollars.

When you list your home for sale, work with your agent to determine a target net for yourself.  Then when offers come in, you’ll be prepared to evaluate them properly.  Many times, in multiple offer situations, the BEST offer is not the highest.  If you stay focused on the right bulls-eye, you’ll be able to spot it.

Choose Carefully

If you are talking with real estate companies about what they can do for you, beware the marketing fluff.  It’s fine for your agent to tell you how wonderful he or she is and what a good job their company will do.  But where’s the proof?

Look for a tangible track record in a number of areas.  And the company or agent with the largest number of sales is not necessarily the best.  The kind of results that impact you, the seller, are:

  • Days on Market.  On average, how long does it take your prospective agent/company to sell a listing?  And how does that compare with the MLS average
  • Sale Price as a % of Listing Price.  On average, how far off list price do sellers listed with this agent/company have to budge to make a sale?  Do they have to come down 2%? or 5%?  And how does that compare with the MLS average.
  • Seller Savings. On average, how much do sellers listed with this agent/company save in real estate commissions over what they might pay any other agent/broker?  Ok, I know;  that’s a loaded question because Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties is the only real estate company in the area that has a better deal for sellers, that is focused on seller savings like no other company.  Our low set fee pricing and completely different business model delivers substantial savings to our seller clients again and again and again.  It is the track record we are most proud of!
  • Seller Satisfaction.  Does your prospective agent/company have raving fans?  Can they share testimonial letters from former sellers with you?  Are they willing to give you a list of references to check?  You know if you were hiring an unfamiliar babysitter you’d check references.  Why wouldn’t you check them when you’re dealing with your biggest asset, you home?  I am very proud of the testimonials we’ve received at Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties, and you can view some of them HERE.

Work through this little list and prepare yourself (as well as your home) for sale.  You’ll sell faster for more walk-away dollars, with less hassle if you do!

Buyers: How to Behave in Multiple Offer Situations

If you are trying to buy a home in Hawaii, chances are you’ll be bidding against other buyers, just like yourself.  Ours is a very competitive market where homes sell very close to asking price and do so in a very short time.  Clearly, if you are going to buy your dream home you must be prepared to deal with the rapid pace of this market.  Here are some tips:

Be Pre-APPROVED for a mortgage.  That doe not mean pre-qualified.  Pre-qualification simply means you’ve spoken to a lender and based on what you told that person, he or she thinks you’d probably qualify.  Probably.  Based on what you told that person.  To a home seller weighing one offer against another, that kind of qualification is meaningless.

To be Pre-Approved, you must actually complete a mortgage application and it must at least make it through automated underwriting.  A Pre-Approval letter strongly states that you are ABLE to make the purchase you are attempting.  It can  put your offer at the top of the stack with a seller who wants a smoothe transaction.

Don’t Dawdle.  This is not a market to think, hem and haw about a home.  Many buyers actually lose out on one or even two homes before they understand the importance of moving quickly when the right home comes along.  What does it take to move quickly?  First, it takes getting crystal clear about what you want in a home.  Which neighborhoods are acceptable?  What style(s) are right for you?  How big, how many bedrooms, what amenities and on and on.  I would urge you to go through a wants-and-needs discussion with your agent.  Having an knowledgeable outsider ask questions can help you become clear about what you want.

Make a Large Earnest Money Deposit.  If this is the home you want, show that to the seller by putting a sizeable deposit on it.  What is ‘sizeable?’ There is no rule of thumb, but your deposit is telling the seller, who may be weighing other offers, that you are serious.    If you were a home seller, evaluating two very similar offers, one with a $1,000 deposit, the other with a $10,000 deposit . . . which would you choose?

Keep Contingencies to a Minimum.  A contingency is a pass/fail situation and if the contingency is not met, the sale may collapse.  To a seller, a contingency is a reason for the sale to fail, so the fewer you load into your offer, the better.  I’m not suggesting you abandon all contingencies.  Surely, appraisal contingencies, home inspection contingencies and termite contingencies are important.  But let’s eliminate those along the lines of ‘This offer is contingent on the approval of Aunt Mini who will be in town to tour the property in two weeks.’

Pay Your Own Closing Costs.  If you can.  Everything you ask the sellers to pay on your behalf comes off their bottom line, and to a seller, the bottom line is almost everything.  If you need to ask the seller to pay certain items on your behalf, look for ways in the offer to offset that – which usually means adjusting the price upwards to accommodate the additional expense.

Be Personable.  While the sellers are focused on the bottom line, they are also human.  Chances are they’ve loved this house and would like too have the next owner love it too.  It can help to write a short personal letter to the sellers to accompany your offer, telling them a little about yourself and why you like their home.  I’ve seen it make the difference in multi-offer situations many times.

Don’t Low Ball.  Everyone would like to ‘steal’ the property.  But in this market, it’s just not going to happen.  In most neighborhoods, homes are selling at 99% of list price and in some they are 100%.  Click HERE to see a recent post about this.  Clearly, nobody is going to come down from a fair listing price by, say 10%.  So don’t start your conversation with the seller by making a ridiculous offer.  I really like my buyers to make their BEST offer first.  If it is close, there are often adjustments that can be made if we get a counter offer from the seller.

Listen to Your Agent.  At Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties, we’ve been in the business every day for YEARS.  We know how to negotiate a sale, what’s apt to work and what won’t.  Put that expertise to work for you.  Look at us as trusted advisers who can help you get the best property at the best possible price and terms.  It’s what we do.

Preparation for Selling: 10 Tips

Think for a moment:  you’re getting ready to sell your car; what do you do?  Have it detailed.  Why?  Because a car that is immaculately clean makes a statement:  I am well cared for, in excellent shape, and a joy to drive.

If you are getting ready to sell your home, the same logic applies and you should go after the home detailing task with the same fervor your auto detailer employs!

This is not an easy task.  If you’ve lived in your house for years, you’ve grown accustomed to its face, its scuffed, cluttered and worn face.  It may be difficult for you to see the small defects that will loom large in the eyes of a potential buyer.  That’s why I always do a careful and detailed walk through with my clients before they put their homes on the market; my fresh outsider eyes often see things theirs don’t.   Here is a list of the most common detailing tasks I ask my sellers to undertake:

  1. Have the home thoroughly and professionally cleaned. Many cleaning services offer a special package just for home sellers that includes a deep, deep cleaning.
  2. Declare war on odors.  Frequent use of Fabreze is a good thing when your home is on the market, but there’s more to it than that.  If you know a showing is about to occur, poor a little Lysol in kitchen and bath sinks and allow that aroma – the one that says fresh and clean like no other – to permeate the air.  Don’t forget to pull the drain before lookers arrive!  And that cat box?  Change the litter daily if necessary and keep an industrial sized box of Baking Soda close by.  If you’ve been smoking inside, you have a bigger problem, one that should be discussed with your cleaning service.
  3. If you don’t have an off-site storage unit, rent one.  You’re going to need a place to put so many things:  unnecessary furniture, closet contents, garage items.
  4. Eliminate clutter, especially on floors and in closets.  There should be nothing sitting on the floor except furniture, and I sometimes recommend that some furniture be removed.   Open, uncluttered floor space helps a potential buyer see the true size of a room.  Closets ,which are always too small, deserve special attention.  Everything that will not be worn in the next three months should be removed, packed up and taken to storage.  Hangers should all be of the same type and items hung neatly.
  5. Focus on the kitchen.  Organize your pantry.  Remove items that will not be used in the near future.  Clean out the refrigerator – trust me:  people will look and it will make an impression.  Make sure everything is fresh and appetizing.
  6. Walls need to be in perfect shape.  That means filling all of those old nail holes and touching up the paint.  It may mean painting some walls or the whole house.  Of course, neutral colors are best, but a whole house painted white or beige comes across a little institutional.  A tasteful accent color on a wall here and there is a good idea.  
  7. A lot of people will tell you to pack up all of your family photos and get them out of there.  While I agree that a wall of photos is a distraction that shrinks a room, a few nicely framed photos of happy people enjoying life communicates warmth.  Choose and place them carefully.
  8. If you have children, uncluttering can be a special challenge.  It’s ok to leave a few (that means two or three) favorite toys out, perhaps on a freshly made bed or table, but most need to be put away and out of sight.  I sometimes recommend that families purchase a special hamper or laundry basket for kiddie clutter, fill it when a showing is imminent and take it with them in the car when they leave.
  9. Bathroom linens need to be fresh and new.  I usually recommend that new upscale towels be purchased and neatly arranged in the bathroom, and not used.  They are for show.
  10. Outdoor living space is a topic unto itself, but the same mindset should apply:  detail your yard.  Make sure it is edged, neat and healthy.  And it is remarkable how a few pots of blooming perennials can make a yard and a house more appealing.

Some homes need more work than others and some benefit greatly from professional staging.  However, this basic list, if coupled with specific recommendations from your REALTOR, should be sufficient to have most homes looking, showing and selling their best.

Oahu Neighborhood Market Update: August 2013

A new real estate report from the Honolulu Board of REALTORS is out, this time focused on the month of August.  The Board, using MLS data, is providing great insight into the improving Hawaii real estate market by specific neighborhood.  The highlights are below but you can access a detailed report on any neighborhood by clicking the neighborhood name.  For the full report, including summaries, click HERE .

Neighborhood 2013 Sales Price Increase Over 2012 Sale Price as a % of Listing Price

Average Days on Market

Aina Haina – Kuliouou  
Single Family Homes 55 7% 100.0% 13
Condos 4 30% 98.8% 25
Ala Moana – Kakaako  
Single Family Homes 2  * *  *
Condos 286 10% 101.2% 30
Downtown – Nuuanu  
Single Family Homes 62 1% 95.1% 31
Condos 244 20% 95.3% 31
Ewa Plain  
Single Family Homes 385 12% 99.0% 17
Condos 225 5% 97.6% 15
Hawaii Kai  
Single Family Homes 122 12% 99.5% 22
Condos 141 8% 100.4% 14
Kailua – Waimanalo  
Single Family Homes 211 12% 97.8% 15
Condos 63 8% 101.9% 9
Kalihi – Palama  
Single Family Homes 60 -2% 95.7% 25
Condos 64 16% 100.0% 18
Single Family Homes 139 3% 98.6% 25
Condos 125 3% 99.5% 14
Kapahulu – Diamond Head  
Single Family Homes 134 6% 101.2% 14
Condos 79 9% 97.9% 28
Makaha – Nanakuli  
Single Family Homes 114 5% 94.0% 42
Condos 84 13% 89.6% 33
Single Family Homes 101 0% 100.0% 20
Condos 62 4% 96.1% 16
Makiki – Moilili  
Single Family Homes 68 7% 100.8% 31
Condos 372 6% 98.5% 20
Single Family Homes 162 4% 100.0% 15
Condos 174 4% 99.5% 16
Moanalua – Salt Lake  
Single Family Homes 41 9% 101.5% 29
Condos 117 8% 98.7% 17
North Shore  
Single Family Homes 65 -4% 94.9% 37
Condos 30 30% 98.8% 53
Pearl City – Aiea  
Single Family Homes 157 4% 96.4% 23
Condos 193 6% 100.0% 15
Single Family Homes 49 6% 92.2% 11
Condos 9 29% 93.5% 40
Waialae – Kahala  
Single Family Homes 68 13% 102.6% 24
Condos 31 7% 95.8% 40
Single Family Homes 1  * * *
Condos 747 -7% 95.4% 32
Single Family Homes 134 9% 98.3% 21
Condos 147 6% 101.9% 12
Windward Coast  
Single Family Homes 27 27% 86.5% 49
Condos 12 4 95.3% 51

*The number of transactions in some neighborhoods is so small that information about increases in price and so on is not meaningful.

What Is Full Service Real Estate?

Consumers intuitively know what ‘Full Service’ in real estate means:

  • Expertise/Consultation (preparation for sale, pricing, planning, staging)
  • Marketing (which might include MLS, Internet, Open Houses, advertising, signs, flyers, etc)
  • Representation/Negotiation (weighing offers, avoiding mistakes, anticipating next steps)
  • Transaction Processing/Problem Resolution (making sure everything is done properly, handling problems as they arise)

The problem is that almost everyone in the business – traditional percentage-based brokers, discount brokers, flat fee brokers, fee for service brokers and so on – claims to do all of those things!

With so many different kinds of brokers laying claim to  ’Full Service,’ the term becomes almost meaningless . . . except that consumers don’t realize this.

With no clear distinction between different kinds of real estate companies, consumers have come to believe that ‘Full Service’‘Full Commission.’

>>>(and therefore, ‘less than full commission’ = ‘less than full service’)<<<

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties is a full service real estate company.  We:

  • Help you set a good asking price
  • Calculate your estimated net proceeds
  • Evaluate the marketability of your property
  • Make recommendations for showing and staging
  • Market the property in a wide range of media
  • Manage signage and flyers
  • Answer the phone when it rings and provide information to potential buyers and to their agents
  • Facilitate open houses
  • Show the property
  • Help you analyse offers so that you can make an informed decision before committing
  • Arrange for inspections and help you meet contract deadlines
  • Anticipate problems and deal with them before they arise
  • Shepherd your transaction from contract to closing
  • Thank you sincerely for the opportunity to serve you
  • And more

Our business model is different from more traditional companies, from discount brokers and from limited service brokers.  It enables us to offer great savings to consumers along with that wonderful level of service.  This is one place where

‘Less than Full Commission’ ≠ ‘Less than Full Service’

Instead, Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties is a place where,

‘Sell Fast’ + ‘Achieve Your Real Estate Goals’ + ‘Save Thousands in Commission Expense’ = ‘Full Service’ + ‘Happy Clients’

We’d love for you to be part of our equation!

How We Market Homes

Home sellers often ask about our marketing plan. Of course, they want to know what we’re going to do to get their home sold.  What we’ve discovered is that there is a lot of misinformation about what constitutes good real estate marketing today, so we often spend time educating consumers.

Our number one goal in marketing is to generate leads. We want as many prospective buyers as possible to contact the office so that we have an opportunity to expose them to our inventory of homes for sale.  To this end much of our marketing includes pictures and descriptions of homes for sale; that’s what causes buyers to contact any real estate office.

But we also market for prospective sellers . . . and this is beneficial to our listed sellers as well.  You see, the more listings we have, the more signs we have in the market, the more houses we have for sale online, the more opportunities prospective buyers have to contact the office for more information. It’s simple math:  a few listings will generate a few leads;  a lot of listings will generate a lot of leads. We include information about our Low Set Fee and Seller Savings in our marketing because this appeals to prospective sellers.

That pretty much covers why we market:  to generate leads and develop an inventory of homes for sale (which will also generate leads).  Now let’s turn to how we market.

First rule of Marketing:  Be Visible! Which means to be seen . . . frequently.  At Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties we work every day to make sure our logo, our company name and our contact information is in front of as many Oahu residents as possible.  Much of this visibility is accomplished with signs:  For Sale Signs, directional signs, open house signs, office signage. Our goal, often accomplished, is to hear people say, ‘I see your signs everywhere.’

But visibility is not just about signs.  We have used magazines in racks at busy public places to generate leads for our listings.  And our weekly radio show has been running for almost 10 years, further establishing the Help-U-Sell name in Hawaii.

Today we live in an online world and we work hard to create useful, relevant online content about the local real estate market, the kind of content that is attractive to Google and the other search engines.  It’s not just about being on the Internet; we also want to be findable, visible.

Lead Generation is all about Target Marketing, Yes, we want everyone on the island to know that Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties is HERE and that we can save them money.  But we especially want to get that message to the people who have a need to buy or sell NOW and in the near future.  So we have to ask ourselves: where do prospective buyers and sellers go when they begin the process?  And now, more than ever, the answer is pretty obvious:  Trulia and Zillow.

These large national real estate portals do a somewhat flawed job of presenting information about housing in our local market. Their data tends to be inaccurate because they are not HERE.  However, they have done an excellent job of marketing their home search capabilities to buyers and sellers.  That’s why we have invested in Premiere Agent and Pro status on these portals.  As a result, we are contacted daily by people who find us on Zillow and Trulia.  One of the first things we do is to get them into a LOCAL search tool with the most accurate data, so that they can participate in the search process without the flaws of the national portals.

Client Base Development means we look backward as often as we look forward.  As we move contacts and leads to contracts and closings, we work hard to make sure the people come through the process delighted with the service they received.  We hope to earn their help in further developing our business by telling everyone they know about us. We are very grateful to have so many thoughtful and, frankly, glowing testimonials – most of which we never sought.  It tells me we are on the right track and haven’t forgotten that the consumer is at the heart of our operation.

But we’re just as grateful for the fact that a sizable portion of our closed transactions come from former clients returning to buy or sell again, and from the friends and neighbors they refer to us.  That’s how we grade the success of our company:  if the customers we work with are so pleased with the service and the value they received that they become lead generators for us. . . well, we know we’re doing something right! You can’t get better marketing than the testimony of a well satisfied client!

How Are Prices Faring in YOUR Neighborhood?

Some interesting information regarding Oahu housing prices is out this week from the Honolulu Board of REALTORS(r). They’ve broken down price increases – July 2013 over July 2012 – by individual neighborhood for condos and single family homes.

The news is generally very good, with double digit increases in median prices in many neighborhoods.  This is consistent with the national trend over the same period and underscores the solid recovery that is taking place.

Here are the numbers for single family homes by neighborhood (how are you doing?):

Median Price Increases, Single Family Homes by Neighborhood, Oahu 2013 vs 2012

Clearly, there havre been big increases on the Windward Coast, in Waialae-Kahala and Makaha-Nanakuli.  A couple of anomolies are evident as well.  Note the big decrease in median price in Ala Moana-Kakaako.  This is not significant because only 2 single family homes have sold and closed in the neighborhood this year.  And the $0 median price for Waikiki in July, 2013, is because . . . well, there were no single family home sales closed in Waikiki that month!  It was all condos! In the first seven months of 2012, only one single family home sold in the neighborhood.

Now let’s take a look at the same information for condominiums on Oahu:

Median Price Increases in Condominium sales by neighborhood on Oahu, HI July 2013 vs July 2012

Once again, the huge increases on the North Shore and in Aina Haina – Kuliouou are not really significant.  On the North Shore only 24 condos were sold through July 2013, 17 through July 2012; in Aina Haina – Kuliouou only 2 condos were sold during the first seven months of both 2012 and 2013.  However, the 26% increase in Makaha – Nanakuli is based on significant numbers of closed sales as is the 22% increase in Downtown – Nuuanu.

The data is certainly interesting, but much more information is needed to really understand what’s happened to the value of your own home.  When you contact Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties, we will do a thorough analysis of your home, your neighborhood, the local market and trends to give you an accurate idea of what your home might sell for in this great real estate market.

How To Spot A Good Real Estate Agent

Generally, real estate agents can rank pretty low in public opinion. Too often, they are seen as overpaid, unproductive, ineffective and so on. But that’s not the whole story. The good ones are really good. They are worth their weight in real estate paperwork. In fact, good real estate agents are heroes. Trouble is, there’s just not that many of them out there. Most are mediocre at best, hoping to make quick and easy money selling a very expensive commodity.

Agents usually come to the business as a second career. In other words: they start out to do something else . . . and then discover that their chosen profession is somehow inadequate. Maybe they left college to become teachers, but, after several years, discovered that the bureaucratic grind and low wages made the job undesirable. Maybe they climbed a corporate ladder to middle management and then suddenly got laid off.  These are the people who often look around for a plan B, and see real estate sales as an alternative.  Licensing is easy, start-up costs are minimal and there is potential to make very good money.

Unfortunately, many remember the commission they paid on the last house they sold and conclude that it must be easy money.  It is not.  That’s why the average agent makes so little.  Only the extraordinarily sharp and energetic do well in real estate sales.

So how do you tell if your real estate agent is good or mediocre? Start with production. The average agent in America today does about 7 deals a year. That’s very sad. Not just for the agent, who on average will make about $34,000 on that kind of production (that was the national average for 2012), but also for the consumer who gets stuck with an agent who does so little he or she can’t possibly be as sharp or up to date on the business – and particularly on how to solve transaction problems – as someone doing, say, twice as many deals. So ask your potential agent: ‘How many deals did you do last year?’ You should hear something in double digits and ideally, the first one should probably be a 2 or better.

But don’t fool yourself into thinking the one with the largest number of deals done in the previous year must be the best agent. Not always true. In fact, not usually true. You’re looking for the one who not only has decent production, but has clients raving about their buying or selling experience. Ask to see testimonial letters – good agents have plenty of them – or do what you’d do if your were hiring an unfamiliar babysitter: ask for references . . . and then call them.

The easiest way I know to find a great real estate agent is to call Help-U-Sell Honolulu Properties.  Our team of pros outperforms the local MLS every month.  We do so much more than put a sign in the yard and input the listing into MLS; we actually market our inventory.  We understand that job one is lead generation and that’s why we work so hard at making sure our marketing works.  And we get the job done while saving consumers thousands of dollars!