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Contents: Selling | For Sale by owner (FSBO) | Roofs: | Realtors: | "Buyer's Market" OR "Seller's Market" | Somerset County Real Estate Market | Best Time to Sell | Sales Process

I recently sold my first home in 38 years. What a pain.

The last time we sold a house was 38 years ago in 1978. We hired a realtor, hid the dirty laundry and dishes and put it on the market.
In the mean time we built a new $350,000 house in Somerset Co. NJ (at the time the county with the highest median income in the country) which is worth about $750,000 now.

I talked to multiple realtors and got all kinds of conflicting advice.

I started with a couple of people I knew at my church. I wanted to get advice on what repairs I needed (e.g. replace 25 year old roof shingles), but all they could see was my clutter and wouldn't recommend anything but decluttering.
I decided this could be a contentious process and decided it was best not to use someone in my circle of friends.

I finally figured out that realtors didn't have my best interest in mind.
They wanted to get the house on the market and sold quickly to collect their commission and move on.
My late wife and I had spent a lot of time designing a custom home and developing the landscaping over 30 years. I didn't want to let it go for a song. That being said it can be a problem to get too emotional about the process.
A quick sale is probably OK for most people who have to move in a short time for a new job opportunity, but I was retired and had no time constraints, other than getting out before next fall so I wouldn't have to rake the leaves in my yard again with a dozen big oak and maple trees. :-)

I know how to take pictures and build a web page to advertise my house, so I was thinking I would sell it myself and save the $40,000 real estate commission.

I hired a stager.
I should have done that first. What she told me (of course she's promoting her services), was that if your house is staged before you bring in a realtor, they will get a better impression of the house so they will be more likely to promote it and set a higher listing price.

I've got to declutter, declutter, declutter (including the garage and basement) repaint, inside and out, replace old light fixtures in the bathrooms. Remove all the shelves that are not built in, remove half the books on the other bookshelves. Remove the TV, extra tables and chairs. Replace the formica kitchen counters with granite.

See Picture tips and my pictures vs a professional.

For Sale by owner (FSBO):
About 10% of home sales are FSBO.

Studies have shown that the typical house sold by the homeowner sells for $184,000 while the typical house sold by an agent sells for $230,000. This doesn't mean that an agent can get $46,000 more for your home, studies have shown that people are more likely to FSBO in markets with lower price points.

At For sale by owner: More homeowners ditching real estate brokers - Oct. 11, 2013 they say,
"Real estate agents are willing to take a lower price to make a quick sale, but that would cost me a lot of money,"
A study by Stanford University economists Douglas Bernheim and Jonathan Meer supports that concern. They found that homes on campus using real estate brokers sold for 5.9% to 7.7% less than homes sold without brokers.

A study, "The Relative Performance of Real Estate Marketing Platforms: MLS versus FSBO" at the U. Wisconsin Madison, found "There was no gain in price in selling a home through MLS vs. by owner."
- See more at: Study Offers Provocative Comparison of Selling a Home

For Sale By Owner Services Inc., based in Overland Park, Kansas. It charges $695 for a package that includes a three-hour seminar, ads in its FSBO magazine and Web site, a real-estate lawyer's services, necessary documents, yard signs, and other aids. According to my Realestate Agent

Popular FSBO web sites:
Most charge a fee around $300.
Real Estate and Homes for Sale - Search, Buy, Sell |
Hometown Residential Realty Flat fee plus low commissions pdf

Costs of FSBO:

Flat fee MLS service : $400-800
Flyers: $50
Open house : $360 (3 OH's at 4 hours each at what your time is worth $30/hr)
Your time showing the house: $300 (20 visitors at 1/2 hour each at $30/hr)
Newspaper advertising of open house: $200-$300 each time
Contract negotiations and follow up: $450 (15 hours at $30/hr)
Time spent waiting for buyers to show who don't: $150
Total: $1860 to $2360 (and there's more I left out)
Source: Home Selling: What is the best FSBO site to use? - Trulia Voices

Advantages of using an Agent:

  • A Realtor has access to market data about recent sales and other homes on the market that can be used to price your home appropriately. Studies show that homes priced right when they're first listed sell more quickly and for a higher price than those that linger on the market.
  • A Realtor can show your home when you aren't available, can respond to inquiries from potential buyers and their agents, and can get valuable feedback from visitors - all things that save you time.
  • A Realtor can look at your home objectively and suggest ways to improve its appearance - by staging and minor repairs - so it appeals to more buyers.
  • Buyers typically prefer to look at a home without the seller present so they can feel more comfortable exploring the rooms and visualizing themselves in the property. At an FSBO sale, the seller must be present.
  • A Realtor can screen visitors to your home, which provides a measure of safety that FSBO sellers don't have. In addition, by checking to see if the buyers are legitimate and can afford to purchase your home, a Realtor can help you avoid wasting time showing your home to unrealistic buyers.
  • Realtors have professional marketing expertise, contacts with other Realtors who work with buyers, and the support of a brokerage that can market your home more widely than you can as an individual.
  • A Realtor can help you negotiate a contract that not only garners you an appropriate price for your home, but that meets your needs for a settlement date and perhaps includes a period when you rent back your home from your buyer. In addition, a Realtor can make sure your contract is in compliance with all local regulations.
Source: Why For-Sale-by-Owner Sales Fail - Sell -

Zillow and See:
For sale by owner - Wikipedia
Real Estate Homes For Sale By Owner |
Real Estate Listings: Buy or Sell a House | ForSaleByOwner   8 Easy Home Selling Tips |
  Home Seller's Checklist -
Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Own Home - WSJ
5 Reasons You Shouldn't For Sale by Owner | Keeping Current Matters

How to List it yourself:
Broker Feeds FAQ - Zillow
Trulia Feed Development Guidelines
Zillow Listings Feed Guide - Microsoft Word
They need a listings .xml file.

How do Buyers Find Homes 2017

10 Ways To Turn Off A Homebuyer |
Home Buyers: Search Online For A Home, Close With An Agent ( - 2016
10 Things to Do Before You List Your House | HowStuffWorks
Home staging

Typical signs are 24x18"
Real Estate Signs, Open House Signs, For Sale Signs by Dee Sign®

Smaller replacement projects, particularly those that enhance curb appeal, remain the most cost effective way for sellers to improve value.

Cost vs. Value 2015 | National | Remodeling

Should you replace an old roof?
At Should You Repair Your Roof or Sell As-Is? | Redfin they quote return on investment at Remodeling Magazine , which says you'll get 57% return.
They go on to say,
"There is one reason you might choose to spend money on your roof: to sell your home faster. Well-maintained homes have the potential to sell faster because they show better when people tour them in-person, and that's one less concern for the buyer to take into account. "
"Similarly, selling as-is and pricing your home lower to compensate could work in your favor to attract multiple buyers in a bidding war."

Does a new roof add any value to a home? | Zillow says,
"You will recoup 71.6% of the cost."

An old roof could affect the ability of the buyer to get a mortgage depending on the market and how far they are stretching to qualify.

Realtors responding to the question at generally say yes.

Another issue is cost. I got estimates from $11,000 - $27,000 to replace my roof, both with lifetime guarantees. A buyer will usually

Top 10 Largest Real Estate Brokerage Firms in The US -
KellerWilliams, Weichert, Century 21, Re/Max

Top in Warren and Bridgewater NJ GSMLS & CJMLS (number of listings for $650-$800K)
Realtor Listings
Caldwell Banker 11
Berkshire Hathaway (BHHS) 11
Keller Williams 10
Weichert 10
Re/Max 8
Van Syckel 3
Realmart 2
Weidel 2
Southerbys 2
Century 21 1
Golden key 1
Burgdorff 1
See Also:
Sink or Swim: How to Choose the Right Real Estate Team

"Buyer's Market" OR "Seller's Market"
Features of a Seller's Market:

Fewer properties on the market than in past periods
3 months or less of inventory on the market (MSI (Months to sell Inventory) ≤ 3))
Listed properties spending less time on the market

Features of a Buyer's Market:

More properties on the market than in past periods
6 months or more of inventory on the market MSI ≥ 6)
Listed properties spending more time on the market
Somerset County Real Estate Market
Inventory Months
Aug 17 427 1,561 3.7 Neutral-Seller
Jul 17 387 1,673 4.3 Neutral
Jun 17 480 1,696 3.5 Neutral-Seller
May 17 472 1,655 3.5 Neutral-Seller
Apr 17 412 1,540 3.7 Neutral-Seller
Mar 17 417 1,399 3.4 Neutral-Seller
Feb 17 351 1,295 3.7 Neutral-Seller
Jan 17 232 1,234 5.3 Neutral
Dec 16 247 1,258 5.1 Neutral
Nov 16 305 1,462 4.8 Neutral
Oct 16 344 1,652 4.8 Neutral
Sep 16 346 1,804 5.2 Neutral
Aug 16 367 1,785 4.9 Neutral
Jul 16 406 1,911 4.7 Neutral
Jun 16 466 1,951 4.2 Neutral
May 16 449 1,927 4.3 Neutral
Apr 16 423 1,840 4.3 Neutral

Somerset Countys Real Estate Market Conditions - as of September of 2017 | Joe Peters
The chart below shows that for the county Dec and Jan under contract (Pended) is about 58% of March and April, so it's not dead as some realtors would have you believe. May and June are still

Somerset County Market
per Somerset County's Real Estate Market Conditions - as of September of 2017 | Joe Peters

By price - Somerset Co, NJ - August 2017
Type New Listings Under Contract Active
Town Houses"
128 136 380 2.8 Seller
Over 55 Communities 9 19 156 8.2 Buyer
$200-$299 99 109 263 2.4 Seller
$300-$399 66 94 197 2.1 Seller
$400-$499 51 47 152 3.2 Neutral-Seller
$500-$599 45 49 160 3.3 Neutral-Seller
$600-$699 24 25 116 4.6 Neutral
$700-$799 18 16 102 6.4 Buyer
$800-$899 15 10 105 10.5 Buyer
$900-$999 14 15 85 5.7 Neutral-Seller
$1M and up 43 11 278 25.3 Buyer

Somerset Co Municipalities Aug. 2017
Municipality Active
Under Contract
in Last Month
Bedminster Twp 69 15 4.6 Neutral
Bernards Twp 165 43 3.8 Neutral
Bernardsville 87 7 12.4 Buyer
Bound Brook 26 5 5.2 Neutral
Branchburg Twp 74 21 3.5 Neutral-Seller
Bridgewater Twp 156 57 2.7 Seller
Far Hills Boro 11 0
Franklin Twp 242 78 3.1 Neutral-seller
Green Brook 41 11 3.7 Neutral-seller
Hillsborough 124 53 2.3 Seller
Manville Boro 36 17 2.1 Seler
Millstone Boro 3 1 3.0 Seller
Montgomery Twp 153 26 5.9 Neutral
North Plainfield 78 33 2.4 Seller
Peapack Gladstone 29 3 9.7 Buyer
Raritan Boro 15 5 3.0 Seller
Rocky Hill Boro 3 1 3.0 Seler
Somerville Boro 36 15 2.4 Seller
South Bound Brook 14 10 1.4 Seller
Warren Twp 141 19 7.4 Buyer
Watchung Boro 58 7 8.3 Buyer
Total 1561 427 3.7 Neutral-Seller

08836 Home Prices & Home Values | Zillow

Note: Because of the small volume these stats are not the best indicator. There may have been only 1 house sold in some of these months.

Source: Real Estate Market Trends for Bridgewater, NJ 08807 - Trulia


When is the best time to sell:
In a 2016 study, researchers at Zillow found that homes listed between May 1 through May 15 sold, on average, around 18.5 days faster than homes that weren’t listed during that timeframe. Homes that sold in the first half of May were also purchased for about 1 percent more than the average listing, which translates to a premium of about $1,700.

Houses in popular cities like Seattle, Portland, and Denver sold for 1.5 to 2.5 percent more in early May. 2017 Home Light survey
Realtor survey nationwide says Mar, Apr, May is the best time to sell.

San Francisco  - Feb Mar Sept
Walnut Creek CA - Jan
Sacramento - Nov.
New York - Aug 
Toms River NJ -July
Norwalk CT - Feb
Best time for Bridgewater NJ changes from year to year.
The Sales Process
How the price negotiation typically goes.
There are all kinds of things that determine how the selling price relates to the listing price.
6% is an average for an offer with the sale price ending up 3-5% below list.
If the house has been on the market for some time an offer of 8-10% below list may be ok. See Home Pricing for more.

Try to get a buyer that is pre-approved rather than just pre-qualified.
Pre-Qualified just means someone has asked for your income over the phone to see if it will cover loan payments.
Pre-Approved means the buyer has completed a mortgage application (usually with a fee) and their financial background and current credit rating have been checked to get approved for a given mortgage amount.
The bank will still have to have an appraisal to finalize the loan.

The first offer is the best offer:
This a standard mantra from real estate agents.
In the article below they say it may well be true and list some cases where that may be true, but they say they have also seen many cases where the buyer held out and got a better price. Source: Your First Offer Is Your Best Offer - Fact Or Fiction? - Getting Real

DOM - Days on Market
FOR-90 - Forced -Air Furnace with 90% efficiency rating
HVAC - Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning
MLS - Multiple Listing Service
MSI - Months to Sell Inventory
TBT - Tile Bath with Tub
  Total Baths See:
Multiple Listing Service Abbreviations

Selling your House: Nolo's Essential Guide 2nd edition 2017

5 Myths and 5 Truths About Selling Your Home - Zillow Porchlight
6 Things Your Home Inspector Is Looking For
Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your Own Home - WSJ - Building & Indoor Environment Problem Diagnosis & Repair
Trulia's Home Buying Checklist - Trulia's Blog - Real Estate 101
Most Popular Real Estate Websites | May 2017
1. Zillow, 2. Trulia, 3., 4. Yahoo Homes, 5.Redfin

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last updated 19 Sep 2017