Sell Smart!

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 or 714-317-0664.  Realtor Maggie Etheridge-Ureno of The Etheridge Team contributed to this column.




Posted on September 25, 2013 at 3:27 PM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Advice Column, Real Estate News, Sellers

Home Inspection, what to expect.

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.

Posted on September 25, 2013 at 1:05 PM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Advice Column, Buyers, Real Estate News, Sellers

Keeping the House Tidy and Neat

Not everyone makes his or her bed every day, but when selling a home it is recommended that you develop the habit. Pick up papers, do not leave empty glasses in the family room, keep everything freshly dusted and vacuumed. Try your best to have it look like a model home – a home with furniture but nobody really lives there.

More home seller tips and advice

Posted on September 2, 2011 at 10:35 AM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Sellers

Lighting, Fragrances, Pet Control and More


When you know someone is coming by to tour your home, turn on all the indoor and outdoor lights – even during the day. At night, a lit house gives a “homey” impression when viewed from the street. During the daytime, turning on the lights prevents harsh shadows from sunlight and it brightens up any dim areas. Your house looks more homey and cheerful with the lights on.



Do not use scented sprays to prepare for visitors. It is too obvious and many people find the smells of those sprays offensive, not to mention that some may be allergic. If you want to have a pleasant aroma in your house, have a potpourri pot or something natural. Or turn on a stove burner for a moment and put a drop of vanilla extract on it. It will smell like you have been cooking.


Pet Control 

If you have pets, make sure your listing agent puts a notice with your listing in the multiple listing service. The last thing you want is to have your pet running out the front door and getting lost. If you know someone is coming, it would be best to try to take the pets with you while the homebuyers tour your home. If you cannot do that, It is best to keep dogs in a penned area in the back yard. Try to keep indoor cats in a specific room when you expect visitors, and put a sign on the door. Most of the time, an indoor cat will hide when buyers come to view your property, but they may panic and try to escape.


The Kitchen Trash 

Especially if your kitchen trash can does not have a lid, make sure you empty it every time someone comes to look at your home – even if your trash can is kept under the kitchen sink. Remember that you want to send a positive image about every aspect of your home. Kitchen trash does not send a positive message. You may go through more plastic bags than usual, but it will be worth it.
More home seller tips and advice

Posted on September 2, 2011 at 10:30 AM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Sellers

Why You Should Not Be Home

Homebuyers will feel like intruders if you are home when they visit, and they might not be as receptive toward viewing your home. Visit the local coffee house, yogurt shop, or take the kids to the local park. If you absolutely cannot leave, try to remain in an out of the way area of the house and do not move from room to room. Do not volunteer any information, but answer any questions the agent may ask.

More home seller tips and advice

Posted on September 2, 2011 at 10:27 AM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Sellers

Convenience and Availability

Your house should always be available for show, even though it may occasionally be inconvenient for you. Let your listing agent put a lock box in a convenient place, to make it easy for other agents to show your home to homebuyers. Otherwise, agents will have to schedule appointments, which is an inconvenience. Most will just skip your home to show the house of someone else who is more cooperative.

Most agents will call and give you at least a couple of hours notice before showing your property. If you refuse to let them show it at that time, they will just skip your house. Even if they come back another time, it will probably be with different buyers and you may have just lost a chance to sell your home.

More home seller tips and advice

Posted on September 2, 2011 at 10:26 AM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Sellers

Open Houses

An open house when your property is first placed on the market can be very important, but not for the reasons most homeowners think. Just like with advertising, most visitors to open houses rarely buy the house they come to look at. They may not even know the price of your home when they stop by to visit – they probably just followed an “Open House” sign to your door.

An open house performs a similar function to the neighborhood announcements – it lets all of your neighbors know that your house is for sale, and it practically invites them to come “take a look.” Being generally nosy, a lot of your neighbors will take advantage of the invitation.

And they may tell their friends about your house, creating more “word of mouth” advertising.

Of course, there are other reasons for holding open houses, too. Listing agents who “farm” a particular neighborhood use them as an opportunity to meet with other local homeowners who will someday be selling their home. Your agent may hope to list their homes in the future.

Open houses held after your home has been on the market awhile do not usually serve a useful purpose in selling your home. Most of the neighbors already know your house is for sale and open house visitors rarely buy the homes they visit.

However, if you really want more open houses, your listing agent may allow other agents to hold it open. Open houses attract prospective homebuyers and agents hope to convince some of those homebuyers to become their clients.

More home seller tips and advice

Posted on September 2, 2011 at 10:25 AM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Sellers

Neighborhood Announcements

When you first list your home many agents send “announcements” to all of the other houses in your neighborhood. This can be done in the form of postcards, a letter, or flyers left hanging on the front door. These are important because your neighbors might have friends who are looking to buy a house.

The announcements create “word of mouth” advertising, which is the best kind.

More home seller tips and advice

Posted on September 2, 2011 at 10:24 AM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Sellers

Individual Agent Advertising

Individual agents may advertise your home for the same reasons as companies do. They usually advertise in classified ads or in specialty magazines featuring houses available for sale

As in other types of advertising, these ads rarely sell your home. Once again, the main goals of advertising are to accumulate homebuyers as clients, and to impress you and future home sellers with how well they market their listings. Some agents actually do sell their own listings, but not that often.

It is much more productive and beneficial if your listing agent directs most of his or her marketing efforts toward other agents. Since this is “behind the scenes” marketing that you don’t actually see, it is often difficult for you to measure how hard the agent is working for you.

It is a mistake to measure your agent’s effectiveness solely by counting the number of newspaper and magazine ads featuring your property.

More home seller tips and advice

Posted on September 2, 2011 at 10:23 AM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Sellers

Real Estate Office Advertising

As mentioned previously, advertising your home in newspapers and magazines rarely sells your home directly. More likely than not, the buyer who eventually purchases your home will have called on a totally different house. The same thing happens with buyers who call on your house. They will probably buy something else.

You still want to be certain the real estate company selling your house runs ads in the local and major newspapers, whether they feature your house or not. The ads generate phone calls to the real estate office, and if those agents viewed your house on the office preview, they will be familiar with it. This is how your property is sold.

Or you could be one of the lucky ones – someone calling on your house may actually end up buying it.

You should also realize that when a company advertises the homes they have for sale, there is more than one objective. Sure, the real estate office wants to generate phone calls and sell houses, but the advertising also shows home sellers how effectively they market properties. This impresses not only you, but others who may be thinking of selling their home.

The advertising brings in more listings, which generate more ad calls, which produces more buyers….and that is how real estate advertising really works.

More home seller tips and advice

Posted on September 2, 2011 at 10:22 AM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Sellers