Selling? Attract more buyers with Feng Shui
Feng shui literally translates to “wind and water.” It basically means living in harmony with the environment. In the real estate industry it’s become a verb, so that many people feng shui their homes to create a feeling of harmony, relaxation and abundance. The concept of living in harmony with the environment has been honored in the East for thousands of years.
By rearranging your furniture or hanging wind chimes you can affect the universal force called ch’i the energy that attracts luck and prosperity.
Richard Webster is the author of “Feng Shui for Beginners,” a tool I use in my real estate practice. Certain buyers believe everything in the world belongs to one of five elements: fire, earth, wood, water or metal. You may attract a flow of buyer traffic to your home if you incorporate the five elements when selling.
These are issues that can impact buyer interest:
- The direction of the house, some buyers will purchase a house based on their individual, auspicious direction.
- Negative energy is created when the street ends directly in front of the house, otherwise known as a T street.
- The interior staircase faces the front door. This allows the ch’i to escape.
- The center of the house is the best location for the kitchen.
- The bathroom should be private and not visible from the front door.
- Dried flowers should be avoided, silk are acceptable but live are best.
- Exposed beams create negative ch’i. Sleeping under an exposed beam is especially bad and can lead to headaches, dishonesty and bad luck. For these reasons it is also bad feng shui to place a desk or chair directly below an exposed beam.
Steps you can take to create good ch’i:
- A large mirror in a dining room reflects the food on the table and is very beneficial, in effect, it doubles the amount of food available.
- Place a large red potted plant at the front door along with a black doormat.
- Books represent education and should be displayed along with healthy green or colorful blooming plants.
- A water feature in the foyer such as a fountain or aquarium.
- Only use pairs in the master bedroom, two candles, two vases, etc.
- Exterior flower gardens symbolize progress, happiness and longevity; plant an array of color.
- Open all blinds and curtains. Light attracts good ch’i.
- If the house is in good condition, an abundance of good ch’I will be present.
Pricing your house with feng shui:
In the Asian culture and the practice of feng shui numbers are very important. People throughout the United States often look for certain house numbers and avoid properties if the house numbers are considered unlucky. The number eight is auspicious in the Chinese community. If you remember the Beijing Olympics were held on 8/8/08. The number nine is auspicious in the Vietnamese community. Some real estate agents know that the listing price of a home made up of lucky numbers will most likely sell quicker. Proper pricing is the single most important detail when selling your home.
Other agents always ask me how I get so many potential buyers through my open houses. Feng shui pricing is just one of my now-exposed secrets.
Susan Saurastri is a Realtor with Star Real Estate. Contact her at SusanSellsOCHomes.com or 714-317-0664
This Fountain Valley seller asked for my assistance: “My house has been on the market for 89 days. We had a couple of offers right away and our agent advised us to counter offer but we figured we’d wait to see if we’d get better ones. The offers have stopped coming. What are my options now?” It would be a breach of ethics for me to respond directly to this particular seller as he is already represented by an agent, instead my responses are provided for any sellers facing these issues.
Your house will receive the most attention from realtors and buyers during the first two weeks on the market. Usually your best offers will come during that period. It is always better to negotiate with an offer that is already on the table than to fantasize about what might come in the future. The buyer is motivated to deal or she would not have written the offer.
It’s always about location, condition and price. If a house is in pristine condition when it hits the Multiple Listing Service and the professional photographs reflect that condition, buyers will flock to the house. The only deterrent would be if the house is overpriced. The buyers are examining the same comparable sales that the appraiser will be using to assess the value for the lender. Sellers are wise to price the house correctly according to the comparable sales within the last three to four months. Use comparatives that have the same number of bedrooms and baths, square footage, same housing tract or within a mile of the subject property. If your house backs or sides to a busy street, or is near the freeway, the appraiser will deduct eight to ten percent for that location. Consider that fact when choosing your price.
Prepare a house prior to putting it on the market. If your kitchen and baths are in original or in dated condition solicit estimates for new countertops and appliances. After reviewing the comparable sales decide if the upgrades will garner you a better return on your investment. Buyers want a house that reflects beauty and value. They will deduct for imperfections. Scrape the ceilings, paint throughout, replace worn carpet; have the house professionally cleaned. Remove excess furniture, dried flower arrangements and wall paper. Have the house professionally staged. I can refer you to two local stagers that I use for all my listings.
Place a lock box on the front door or gate to provide easy access for agents to show your home.
Schedule open houses. The more perspective buyers through the house the more likely you are to receive offers within the first two weeks on the market. Exit the house during showings and do not converse with the buyer’s agent or the clients. Refer questions to your agent. Deals are broken by erroneous he said, she said comments.
When marketing in Fountain Valley an agent may strike up a conversation with a homeowner and infer that you should list with them because it is members of their race who are the predominate buyers in the community.
In most instances the buyer will be represented by their own agent. Their ethnicity or that of their agent has no bearing on the negotiations for the sale of your house. Don’t be fooled by agents who say they have a buyer for your property or agree to overprice your home just to acquire the listing. It’s referred to in the industry as “buying the listing”. Soon the same agent will be appealing to you to lower the price every two weeks until you are within the range of comparable sales. When choosing an agent to market your property, be careful not to be swayed by aggressive tactics. Good realtors come in all colors, sizes and ethnic backgrounds.
Agent reputation is paramount in real estate transactions. This is not only important in that other agents like and respect your realtor, but it means we colleagues are always eager to preview their listings and look forward to being in transactions with him or her. I am not alone in admitting I would go out of my way to show a client the home represented by a local agent with a sterling reputation in the off chance my buyer might like it, knowing the transaction will be positive: smooth and equitable. This can mean a faster sale and more competitive buying environment for Fountain Valley sellers. Happy selling!
Susan Saurastri, is a Fountain Valley resident and a realtor with Star Real Estate. Contact her at FountainValleyLiving.com or 714-317-0664. Realtor Maggie Etheridge-Ureno of The Etheridge Team contributed to this column.
Now that the seller has accepted your offer you have a contractually agreed upon timeline to remove your home inspection and other contingencies. The California Residential Purchase Agreement stipulates that the house you bought is sold in “AS IS” condition.
In other words you accept the house in its current condition at the time of purchase. The California Civil Code does require sellers install smoke detectors in each sleeping quarter. They may be battery operated. Confirm that the batteries are working. The newest law mandates all homeowners, whether or not you are selling, must install one carbon monoxide detector on each level of the house.
It is never a good idea to waive your right to a home inspection. The average cost of a home inspection is $300-$500 depending on the living square footage. The seller is not obligated to make any repairs recommended in the inspection report but many sellers will negotiate to do some or all repairs or issue monetary compensation through the close of escrow.
An inspector may recommend you contact a professional in a field for a particular repair such as the furnace or air conditioner. Think of it as your primary care physician referring you to a gastroenterologist specialist. Major issues of contention that could be deal breakers include structural damage, mold, excessive moisture, major roof damage or considerable soil expansion that might compromise the foundation.
Yesterday, I spoke with a woman whose home I will be putting on the market next month. She voiced concern about the possibility of the home inspection revealing some unknown issue. A seller may be wise to have a home inspection prior to listing her home for sale. It’s a proactive method to address any potential buyer objections.
Some of the minor items most often noted in the report are: no spark arrestor on the chimney, no C-clamp to keep the fireplace flute open, no GFCI (grounded electrical)
near water sources such as kitchen, baths, laundry sinks, exterior pool and spa equipment. Remove any extension cords used in place of hard wiring particularly in the garage.
An automatic reverse mode is required on all motorized garage doors so that if an obstacle was preventing the garage door from closing it would reverse to the open position. The door from the garage into the house should have an automatic closure. Check for moisture under the sinks. Do the sink and bath tub stoppers work properly? Does water drain effectively from the sinks, showers and bathtub? Are all the appliances operational? Do all the circuit breakers work? Are their tripping hazards in or outside the house? Does the roof have loose tiles or shingles?
Finally, sellers may want to consider a home warranty during the time the house is on the market. It will cover all unknown pre-existing conditions. The approximate cost is sixty cents per day. My friend, Patricia Vidal of Realty One Group has shared stories with me of a water heater exploding three days prior to close of escrow. Another time she was representing a seller on a tenant occupied property with a leak behind the shower wall.
The repairs would have cost several hundred dollars rather than the sixty dollar home warranty service fee. Buying or selling a home doesn’t have to be a nerve wracking experience if you have savvy professional representation.
It’s a mad, mad world in the Orange County real estate market right now, particularly if you are attempting to purchase a home. A lack of inventory has produced a spike in multiple offers. How can you possibly differentiate your offer from the other bids the seller will be considering? First, have your Realtor contact the listing agent to determine the seller’s most important considerations. If the seller’s sale is contingent on the successful purchase of their next home the closing timelines may be of primary importance.
I represented a family who was selling their home in the Pheasant Run tract, north of Ellis Avenue and west of Ward Street. They received three offers on their house. Each of the three buyers had accepted all the terms of the seller’s counter offer. Just as the sellers were on the brink of making a decision the door bell rang. Mom and dad buyer with two baby buyers expressed how much they loved the house. They said it was important for them to raise their children in that neighborhood on a cul de sac with excellent schools. The sellers had reared their five children in the house and felt a kinship with the family. They sold them the house. It’s often helpful for buyers to write a letter to the sellers stating what features they love about the house and why their house/neighborhood won out over other possibilities. Enclose a photo with the family pets. Many sellers want to ensure that their home will be loved and appreciated. A letter and photo humanizes your offer.
If you are in competition with other buyers, consider removing the appraisal contingency. Be advised that once you remove that contingency, if the home’s appraised value comes in lower than the purchase price, you will pay the difference. All indications are the bottom of the market is behind us. Prices will appreciate this year and historically low interest rates will remain in effect throughout 2013 and possibility through 2014. Are you willing to remove the inspection contingency in ten or twelve days rather than the contractually defined timeline of seventeen days? Most lenders require a minimum of twenty-five to thirty days to complete a purchase loan. Obtain full underwriting approval prior to submitting your offer to the seller. It may tip the scale in your favor.
Many buyers are offering twenty percent or more down payments, that fact makes it particularly difficult for FHA (with 3.5% down payment) or VA loans (sellers pay some costs) to get accepted, however it happens so don’t get discouraged. Don’t let the fact that the seller has cash bids on the table intimidate you. I’ve seen some sellers toss out the cash offers in favor of loans if the other terms are appealing.
Are you willing to waive the termite clearance? Put it in writing in the contract, that may save the seller anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000. Check with your lender as some require termite clearance prior to close of escrow. Instead of requesting that the seller pay for a one-year home warranty, pay for it yourself. It will cost approximately $365-$550 depending on whether or not you include pool, spa, refrigerator and/or washer and dryer. The seller may reject the offer outright, accept your offer or issue a counter offer. The counter offer may not contest the price but may address other terms of the contract.
If you find the house you want, do not complicate your offer by asking for extras such as the flat screen televisions, the refrigerator etc. You can negotiate those items with the seller during the escrow period. Remember when sellers paid all or some of the buyer’s closing costs? Those days are in the past.
The buyer and seller each pay their own escrow fees. The seller normally pays for the title policy which indicates whether there are liens, judgments or encumbrances on the property. These are referred to as “clouds on the title”. The transfer of property should never take place with clouds on the title.
The buyer normally pays for the appraisal, credit reports, lender fees and any home inspections. I have indicated the most common disbursements however there are areas on the purchase agreement where other terms can be stipulated. Your dream home does exist but it may take more give than take to make your purchase a reality in 2013.
Susan Saurastri is a Fountain Valley resident and a Realtor with Star Real Estate. Contact her at 714-317-0664 or SusanSellsOCHomes@gmail.com
Last week I wrote about my clients in the Classic Fountain Valley tract, north of Warner Avenue and east of Newhope Street, who received seven offers on their home. It sold for $8,100 over the list price of $569,900 within the first week on the market. The victorious buyers agreed to remove the appraisal contingency.
This past week, my seller in the Meadow Homes tract, south of Talbert Avenue and west of Bushard Street, received four offers on her home. John and Linh attended the open house. They wanted to buy it. The asked, and I agreed to represent them. I disclosed that the seller had received three other offers. When an agent represents both the buyer and the seller, dual agency is established in which the Realtor cannot disclose to the buyer, the seller’s bottom line, nor can she reveal home much the buyers are willing to pay. The seller was out of town. I emailed her the four offers. She decided to issue a counteroffer to each of the buyers, containing the following stipulations: 1) buyers to provide their best and final offer, and 2) buyers agree to remove the appraisal contingency. When the buyer removes his appraisal contingency, he is agreeing to pay the contractually agreed upon purchase price, despite the possibility of a lower appraised value.
To achieve a fair and equitable result for all the principles involved, I asked the agents and my buyers to place their counteroffers in a sealed envelope and deliver it to my office. On Wednesday morning, the seller opened the envelopes. John and Linh’s best and final offer was $2,000 more than the next highest offer. All the buyers agreed to remove the appraisal as a contingency of the contract.
The seller accepted John and Linh’s offer. John is a manager at Hyundai in Fountain Valley and Linh works for Orange County. They have two young children. Grandma lives nearby and will baby-sit the kids. The house is in escrow for $18,000 over the list price. Note to Fountain Valley homesellers: Condition your house to sell and price it according to the comparable sales, and you too, will receive multiple offers.
Susan Saurastri is a Realtor with Star Real Estate in Fountain Valley. She write a weekly real estate column for the OC Register’s Fountain Valley VIEW. Contact her at 714-317-0664 or Susan@FountainValleyLiving.com or www.FountainValleyLiving.com
Remodel or Move?
That question is often parlayed into further family discussions. Today’s column will offer some suggestions on answering the question. Before you can determine whether to move or remodel there are many factors to consider:
Do you truly love your home’s floor plan?
Does your home offer you the space your family needs?
Do you plan to live in the house for at least the next five years?
How’s the neighborhood? Can you envision living there for years to come?
Will the current room remodel provide you with the home you want or will you need more remodeling in the future?
Last month our eight-week master bathroom remodel was completed. The walls and interior doors were removed to open up the space. It consists of 200 square feet and houses his and her mirrored wardrobe closets, an 8-foot by 4-foot shower with dual showerheads, a travertine shower surround and a travertine floor. The custom cherry cabinets on Queen Anne legs contain dual sinks and a center vanity with marble countertops. A lighted wall cabinet for towels, lotions and potions was also installed. Recessed cans provide the lighting. The ceiling was raised to 9 feet and a remote controlled skylight was installed. We’re thrilled with the result. We bought the house 2 years ago and plan to retire here.
Choosing the contractor will be your primary priority. Quality Builders of Fountain Valley was a no-brainer for us. Many of our neighbors and friends had their homes remodeled by this company within the last few years. Referrals are imperative. Licensed contractors with good track records will provide the contact information of their previous clients.
Questions to ask the references:
Did the contractor complete the job within the timeline and the budget?
Were the workers on time to the job each day; did they perform as directed?
Did they clean up before leaving?
How responsive was the contractor? Did he return calls promptly?
Was the contractor on the job site regularly?
Did you have any problems? How were they resolved?
Would you use the same contractor again?
Would you mind if we came to see your remodel?
If the homeowners are happy with the job, most will invite you to see the finished product. Kitchen and bathroom remodels garner the highest return when selling your home. You’ll spend anywhere from $25,000 to over $100,000 depending on the project, that’s why it’s so important to consider the first three questions. If your current house doesn’t provide the room you need, consult a trustworthy lender to determine how much house you can afford in today’s market. Take a ride with your local Realtor and view some homes for sale. Doing your homework, will result in making the right decision for your particular needs.
As always three factors govern a sale: location, condition and price. If you are a seller in Fountain Valley and your home has been on the market for more than 30 days without an offer, it’s time to examine the reasons why and take action. If your house has an interior location in the tract and does not back or side to a busy street, then you have a good location. A cul de sac is a premium location.
Do you wonder why some homes sell and others don’t? In the last nine months I have listed and sold three homes within 45 days that had languished on the market for 9 months, 8 months and 6 months respectively with other agents. The houses had been priced correctly and each had an excellent location. In each case the condition of the homes was a negative factor. It wasn’t that the homes were in bad repair or needed paint or new flooring, oftentimes it was just a matter of removing clutter, re-arranging furniture, removing wallpaper and de-personalizing the home. By depersonalizing the house the buyer can then focus on the amount of space available for their furnishings. There is a difference between livability and marketability. When you place your house on the market, it becomes a product. It’s important that you divorce yourself from the emotions connected to the house and focus on the business of selling it.
Sellers must employ the 6 “p’s” in this slower market. Proper prior planning prevents poor presentation. I educate my seller clients about the importance of seeing the house through the eyes of the buyer. Staging a house prior to putting it on the market will generate more agent and buyers showings. The end result is that the house will sell faster, for a higher price and oftentimes with multiple offers. I will happily share my list of staging companies and tips for preparing your home for sale. Once the house is in escrow, it’s the appraiser’s estimated value that will determine the amount the lender will provide the buyer for the purchase.
The criteria the appraiser will use to assess your home’s value will include homes that have sold within a mile of the subject property. He or she will also compare square footage, usually using properties that are within 200 square feet of the home for sale and he will compare those homes that have sold within the last six months. The appraiser will also factor in upgrades to the property. It’s always a good idea to keep your receipts and provide a list of any major upgrades or remodeling to the appraiser.
So you found the house of your dreams, or is it? The only way to know for sure is to have a professional home inspection. A home inspection is NOT mandatory but definitely advised. What is mandatory is that home sellers disclose anything that is wrong with the house prior to selling it. It is referred to as “disclosing all know material facts” that affect the value of the property. The California Purchase contract has a clause that warns, the home is sold in its present “As Is” physical condition. A standard home inspection involves a visual, non-invasive examination of the home from top to bottom. The inspector will inspect and evaluate the foundation, drainage, plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems, visible insulation, fireplaces, chimneys, walls, windows, doors and so forth. Only those items that are visible and accessible by normal means are included in the report. The average home inspection takes between two and a half and three hours and costs anywhere from $200. to $500 depending on the size of the house. The inspector will indicate items that may require specialized follow-up by other professionals. Think of it as your primary care physician referring you to a specilaist. The buyer, seller and agents are provided a copy of the report. Repairs are a negotiable between the buyer and the seller.
Susan Saurastri is a Realtor with Star Real Estate. Submit your questions to her at SusanSellsOCHomes@gmail.com or 714-317-0664.
Fifty-five agents left their business cards at my client’s home between Friday, March 23th and Monday, March 26th. The house is in the Classic Fountain Valley tract, north ofWarner Avenue and east ofNewhope Street. The house was professionally staged and photographed.
I hosted the first open house on Sunday 3/25. Potential buyers came in droves. One agent brought an offer to the open house. Another agent dropped an offer at my office on Monday. The sellers are moving toSan Clementewhere they purchased a house a few years ago. Mr. Seller has worked for the same company for forty-six years and is just about to sign his final paycheck. I believe real estate is as much about relationships as it is about the numbers. After consulting with my clients I invited agents to present their buyer’s offers in person.
Each of the five agents that accepted was given twenty minutes to convince the sellers that their clients were the most deserving. Some buyers wrote letters to the sellers and others sent family photos. This was reminiscent of the 2003-2006 real estate market. As my clients and I reviewed the offers, we also ascertained that the buyers’ had included their bank statements to show proof of funds to close escrow, FICO scores, pre-approval letters from their respective lenders and copies of their $15,000 deposit checks. The house is listed for $569,900. The seven offers ranged from $540,000 to $578,100. One was an all cash offer for full price. The sellers could have rejected all the offers, accepted one offer or they could issue a counter offer to one or more of the buyers. On Wednesday the sellers issued a counter offer to two of the prospective buyers. It contained five conditions the most significant of which was the sellers request that the buyers remove the appraisal contingency. If the buyers opt to do that, they are purchasing the house at $578,000 regardless of the appraised value. One of the offers stipulates a fifty percent down-payment and the other has a twenty-five percent down payment.
The result? Both sets of buyers accepted the seller’s terms. The sellers sold to Gino, Sarah and their 7 year old daughter, Emma. Suddenly, the Fountain Valleyhousing market is sizzling hot. It’s a matter of supply and demand. There are only 49 single family homes and 18 condos available in Fountain Valleythis week. The seller on my newest listing in the Meadow Homes tract, south of Talbert Avenueand west of Bushard Streetis in receipt of four offers since the first open house on April 1st. The buyers are comprised of a dentist who works inNorco, an engineer with Hundai inFountain Valley, a CEO of a rehabilitation facility and a PhD Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at aLos Angeles college. The offers range from full price to eleven thousand over full price. I had only uploaded the listing in the Multiple Listing Service on Wednesday. It too had been professionally staged and shows like a model home. Some may consider the fact that it backs toBushard Street a negative but in this tight market it doesn’t seem to be a factor. Multiple offers are back folks. Spring is always the best time to list a home for sale and this spring seems to be no exception.
If your Fountain Valley house is going to be on the market during the holiday season, your chances of selling it will be better if you make it festive and welcoming. Remember though, less is more. Here are some suggestions for holiday decorating.
- Start at the curb: String lights on the shrubs or trees. Place a lighted lantern with a red bow at the walkway.
- Put a poinsettia plant at the entrance to the house and/or a wreath on the front door.
- Dont string your holiday cards. They will distract the buyers who will read them instead of focusing on the house.
- If you have a fireplace, decorate it with garlands and lights. Hang stockings by the chimney with care or place your Menorah on the mantle.
- Put a holiday runner on the dining table with a festive centerpiece. If you use candles do not light them if you are not going to be home and dont be home during buyer showings.
- If you are displaying a Christmas tree you can leave the lights on if you are returning home shortly after the buyer showing.
- Put on a CD with holiday tunes playing softly.
- Don’t decorate your end tables. Leave them uncluttered with just a lamp.
- You will enjoy the festive atmosphere you created and so will the prospective buyers.
Last week I mentioned that I was visiting Mary, a Fountain Valley resident who will be putting her home on the market in the Spring. She wanted my input on what if anything she should do to prepare the house for sale. Mary was considering purchasing plantation shutters for her windows. She had gotten a bid for $4500. I followed up with a thank you note for inviting me to tour her home. In the note I suggested to Mary that her money would be better spent on changing out the original tile countertops to granite in the kitchen first and the baths secondly, if resources allow. Home sellers will garner a much larger return on their investment with an updated kitchen than on other upgrades.
Kitchens and baths are the primary focus of buyers. A buyer will usually calculate higher than the actual costs to upgrade and deduct that amount from the list price when making an offer. The goal should be proper prior planning to eliminate the negatives so that buyers have no reason to offer you anything but top dollar for your home. College State Park Blvd. in Anaheim offers warehouse after warehouse with an array of granite slabs. When we remodeled our kitchen this past June I negotiated the price of the fabrication and installation of the stone. It costs us $3,000 for the stone and $2,900 for the installation. I had negotiated $1,000 off the initial quote. The granite covered a two-tier wrap-around island and the countertops. I will happily refer you to the company and the installer we used. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you want feedback on what changes your house may need prior to marketing it. I also have a list of local vendors on my website for everything from painting, electrical, plumbing, remodeling and decorating.
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