TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL ESTATE OR YARD SALE

 by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

It is that time of year again – ideal time for spring cleaning and yard sales.  As many of you know, my area of expertise is estate sales – not hosting the sale of personal possessions, but selling estate homes when a family member has passed.  In that role, I have helped many a client clear out the home of a lifetime of possessions.  So I would like to share my tips with you here.  If you are selling an estate home, my team helps you arrange all this, so contact me if you would like to chat about that.

CONSIDER HIRING PROFESSIONALS

I can’t stress enough that if  you are clearing out an estate that has a lot of valuable items, consider hiring a professional company who is licensed, bonded, insured, collects and pays required sales tax, are experts in market values, appraising, pricing that generates maximum value, knows how to prep, staff, advertise, run a professional sale, and assist with after sale clean out.

 Also, it is difficult for a family to watch cherished items being sold off. Usually a professional will be able to sell quite a bit more than a family doing their own sale.

Professional estate sales companies do charge a commission, but it is a small price to pay to have a safe, legal and successful sale.   If you need names of reputable estate sale companies, we can provide that info.

However, if you feel you do not have enough valuable items to warrant a professional or just feel brave enough to go it on your own, below are tips to help you have a successful event.

PLANNING

  1. Line up a lot of Help – It takes a lot of people to pull off an estate or yard sale. The day will involve answering questions, taking money, making change, bagging up items, etc.  It is easy to get frazzled if someone is talking to you while another person is trying to buy something, and you are trying to bag up purchased items.  Imagine that multiplied by lots of questions / transactions going on at the same time.  You will also need to have people in all the rooms where there is stuff for sale.
  2. Give yourself enough time to get ready. For an estate sale, this could be weeks in advance.  You will need to inventory what you have, create a database for that inventory, write up price tags, get bagging supplies and plenty of change ready and more.
  3. Have plenty of Bags, newspaper, bubble wrap, tape, whatever you need to bag up purchased items. Start stockpiling or asking neighbors for their extras in advance.
  4. Call a Charity in advance to see if you can drop off whatever is leftover or have them pick up when the sale is over.
  5. Make special and unique SOLD or PAID tags so they cannot be duplicated. See the section on minimizing theft for more details on this.
  6. Put price tags on everything, with descriptions of the items if possible.
  7. If you have a lot to sell, create a database of the item and its price.

TO MAXIMIZE YOUR INCOME

  1. Check items that could be valuable online or pay a professional to come through and tell you what is valuable and what is a fair price. You don’t want to see your items on Antique Roadshow as the find of a lifetime for someone else. If you find valuable items in the mix, it may be better to sell on eBay, Facebook, Craigslist, at an auction or sell to an antique dealer to get top dollar.  People who come to estate and yard sales are looking for bargains.   
  2. Advertise on Estate Sale sites, Facebook, and other sites that make sense – well in advance.
  3. Last day is 50% off. Don’t give discounts before then.  If there is still a lot left halfway through the last day, consider lowering prices even more.  If you have a lot of small, low value items, consider $5 or $10 bags in the last hours.
  4. For Yard Sales, make signs that say prices are as marked until a certain time at the end of the sale so you don’t get into haggling – unless you like haggling.  But remember that takes your attention off watching your inventory.
  5. Price to sell. Don’t put the top price you see online.  Those are retail prices for people who don’t need to sell right away.
  6. Have items marked with some details such as what the jewelry is made of, dimensions and brands of furniture, provenance of art so that people know what they are buying and why it is priced where it is.
  7. Clean the higher priced items and show them in their best light.
  8. Just because it is old does not mean it is valuable. Let go emotionally of what your family paid for an item or the notion that because it belonged to grandma it is valuable.  Otherwise, you will overprice items and they will not sell.  Many things you think are valuable are not of interest to young buyers – things like China, Crystal, figurines are not of interest to the younger generation. 
  9. People will show up early and start lining up – sometimes an hour or two in advance if it is a big estate sale.  Get some enterprising person to sell coffee and snacks outside during this time!

TO PREVENT THEFT

It is a shame to have to say this, but there are professional Yard and Estate sale thieves.  They employ many tactics from swapping price tags, having one person distract staff by asking lots of questions or asking to see something while their partner(s) pocket small items, walking out the door with the items without paying, etc.  If you are not prepared for this, you will lose valuable items and you will be frazzled.  An once of prevention, as they say……

  1. Do not allow large bags or purses or even bulky coats. Advertise this in advance.  Should people show up with bags, ask them to lock in their car or have someone who can check bags.
  2. Do not leave any entrance or exit unattended – staff every door. If it is a Yard sale, have the ‘register’ at the end of the driveway or exit so no one passes without paying.
  3. Have one person in every room. Also have a person at every exit. 
  4. Keep Jewelry under lock and key or have staff wear the pieces!
  5. Don’t let people walk around with items in their hand. If they will be doing a lot of shopping, they should pay for each piece as they decide on it and one of the helpers can then bag up and hold for them.  You can have a table dedicated to this process.
  6. Make sure people do not roll things up in rugs – yes that has happened.
  7. Price switching is big at Yard and Estate sales. So, if possible, write both the item description and price on the tags to make them harder to switch.
  8. Special colored paper or tags to mark SOLD items… you’ll be amazed at how many try to say they paid for an item by putting their own “sold and paid” sign on it. People using their own post its to say SOLD on items they can’t physically move, iscommon. You’ll need specific PAID receipts that are not easy to fake.
  9. Don’t let people corner you or point to items to get you to turn your head or distract you. If everything is marked, you should be able to say the information / price is on it.  Professional thieves are experts at distracting you by pointing at items and asking questions while they or their partner pocket items.  Don’t let people look at more than one piece of jewelry at a time. And don’t think you know who will or will not do this.  Where I live, there is a band of sweet looking old ladies who have been doing this at yard sales for years.  Probably still at it now.

TO BE COURTEOUS TO BUYERS

  1. No early birds. Don’t let people in early or sell to them early.  For one, it will throw you off your game if you are busy trying to get ready.   It also angers the people who show up at the right time only to find that a lot of the good stuff is already sold.
  2. Have a lot of change available – you don’t want to be running around through the mayhem looking for small bills and change.
  3. Do not allow people to make piles of things they want to buy. They see something they want they should bring it to the check out table, pay for it and have it held for them.
  4. Make sure staff are easy to identify and find.

LOGISTICS

  1. Name tags for people working the sale. Identical T-shirts would be even better.  People working the sale should be easy to spot.
  2. Post notes on doors or cabinets that are not to be opened. Lock them if you can.
  3. Whenever possible, line items up around the perimeter of the rooms so you do not create bottlenecks.
  4. If someone buys something large and says they will come back with help to pick it up, get their contact info.
  5. Have checkout lines. That way you can equip those people with change and bags and it will keep things orderly.  Have ‘This Way to Checkout’ signs posted everywhere.  Have those lines at the exit, which ideally, is not the same as the entrance.
  6. Price tags!! People hate having to find someone to ask the price.  Worse is when they ask and the seller looks at it like they have never considered what they would sell it for and take up time trying to figure that out.
  7. If you are overwhelmed, give people numbers, like a deli counter, and only let in a limited number of people at a time. When one leaves and turns in their number, give it to the next in line.
  8. Consider using payment methods other than cash – Square Reader for credit cards, Venmo for phone to phone payments, etc. Less time counting change!
  9. Consider partnering with professional movers. Have them outside with a truck.  That way, anyone who buys big furniture pieces can immediately pay them to move them to their house rather than needing to come back with help and a truck.
  10. Have a plan for leftovers – call area donation centers ahead of time to find out what their policies are on large donations. If you have a lot of unsold items, you may be able to arrange a truck to come pick them up at the end of the sale, or you can assign someone to take them to a drop-off location.  You may also have to hire a dumpster or a junk removal company for the last of the stuff that a charity won’t take.

Again, if you need help or recommendations on any professionals, just contact me. Information is below.

 

Michelle J. Lane
MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

Median Price of Single Family Homes in Boston Area

by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

This map shows the median price of Single Family Homes in the Greater Boston area.  This is based on closed sales in March 2018.  While these numbers can and will change month-to-month and year-to-year, this gives you an indication of how one town’s median home price compares to another.  To see how these numbers compare to past years’ values, refer to our Chart of Home Values over the Years  I expect that these numbers will go up as the year progresses as there is no end in sight to the tightness of inventory.

Stay tuned as we will break down the median price of condos and single family homes in Boston in a future post.

 

Michelle J. Lane
MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

What are the Requirements to Call a Room a Bedroom?

by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

When listing properties, the question often comes up – can they call this room a bedroom?  The questions typically comes up for rooms without a closet or room in basements.  The legal requirements for a bedroom are listed below.   The surprising answer is that a closet is not required.  However, particularly with basement and attic rooms, the ceiling height and second form of egress become the issues.   Most basement and attic bedrooms do not meet the ceiling height requirement.  Basements also typically do not meet the requirements for window size.  As your agent, I need to follow these requirements when listing your home.   Beyond that, Buyers get annoyed when Sellers stretch the description, measurements or room count of their house.  

If you are a buyer, you can use this outline to determine if a listing is property advertising the number of bedrooms.  

  

Seven features that define a bedroom

  1. Minimum square footage:  In Massachusetts, 70 square feet is the acceptable minimum.
  2. Minimum horizontal footage:  A bedroom must also measure at least 7 feet in any horizontal direction.  So a 7×10 or 8×9 would work as a minimum size.
  3. Two means of egress: There must be two ways out of a bedroom. Traditionally, these would be a door and a window.
  4. Minimum ceiling height: At least half of the bedroom ceiling must be at least 7.5 feet tall.
  5. Minimum window size: The window opening must be a minimum size, usually 5.7 square feet. The bottom of the egress window opening cannot be any higher than 44” from the finished floor.  The minimum egress window opening height is 24” high. The minimum egress window opening is 20” wide.
  6. A heating and cooling element: We’re talking a heater (a space heater won’t qualify) as well as a way to cool it down, whether that’s by opening a window or good old AC.
  7. Electricity – Two separate wall-type convenience outlets, or one outlet and one electric light fixture. The outlets shall be placed in practical locations and shall insofar as practicable, be on different walls and at least ten feet apart.

Does a bedroom need a closet?

Legally, a bedroom does NOT need a closet to be considered official.  Closets are expected in newer homes.  But back in the day, people did not have nearly as much clothing as they do today so clothes were stored in chests or dressers, with maybe a couple of things being hung on a hook.  The hanger was not invented until 1869.  That’s why, if an older house does have closets, they are shallow and many still have the original hooks in them.  

If you have a room that does not meet these requirements, you could get away with calling it an office, nursery, playroom or bonus room.  Buyers will appreciate your honesty in not calling it a bedroom. 

Michelle J. Lane
MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

Buyer Testimonial – Newton

 

Michelle understood my needs and wants very quickly and was efficient in finding me the right properties.

She well negotiated for me and kept it real. She helped me with the hard conversations and issues very well and was on top of every detail to the very end!   – Kelli, Newton

Does Remodeling for a Home Sale make sense?

by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

I often get asked by clients what they shoud do to prepare their home for the market.  The answer, unless the property makes sense for a builder, for the most part, is clean up, do necessary repairs and sell the property you have.

While nice kitchens and baths do sell a home, spending the money to renovate these right before a sale will net you less in the end.   The Remodeling ROI report for 2018 outlines the average cost of remodeling projects and the return on those costs.  You can see from the chart below that the only renovation that gives you a 100% return is replacing the garage door.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t do renovations on your home, just that you should do them several years before you sell your house so that you can get some enjoyment out of them first.  After all, that is part of the ROI.

So where to expend your effort if you are getting ready for a sale?  

  • Clear out all the extra junk in attics, basements, closets, etc.  If it is not going with you to the next place, sell, donate, trash.
  • Fix things that are broken.  Seeing visibly broken things affects the buyer’s perception of value.  Look around your house for broken panes of glass, rotted wood, holes in the walls, light switches that don’t work, have your furnace cleaned, touch up paint, etc.  Those things are worth addressing.
  • Curb appeal  – have the yard cleaned up, edged, plant some nice flowers.
  • Have the house professionally cleaned.

I deal a lot in estate sales.  I would say that for most of those, it is also worthwhile to take up the wall-to-wall carpeting that is covering hardwood floors and, if necessary, refinish the floors.  The impact of how much it transforms the house is worth the expense.  This is fairly easy to do with estate homes as they can be cleared out.  Understandably tough to do this for a house you still occupy.

If selling your home is a few years away, it is worthwhile to have your Realtor come in and walk through the house with you to give you a checklist of those things you can do to prepare your home for sale.  That way you can take your time getting the work done and can enjoy the rewards of getting it done before you go to market.

If you want help with that, just ask!

Michelle J. Lane
MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

Brookline Stats – Week of Feb 12, 2018

Comparison of what is on the market in Brookline this year vs last year.  One less property.  Median price is down. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Michelle J. Lane
MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

Newton Stats – Week of February 12 2018

Comparison of what is on the market this week vs same time last year.  5 fewer properties and slightly lower median price.  We are trending lower inventory overall this year.

 

Michelle J. Lane

MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

State of the Market – February 2018

by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

I am writing this on the tail of my post of a couple of weeks ago.  I don’t typically give you updates so frequently, but given it is year end, I have just updated my market report on how the Greater Boston towns have fared over the past few years, through the last slump all the way back to the last peak.  The chart now includes the data for 2017 and can be found by clicking on the image below.

You will notice that most towns have faired well over the past few years, with most having surpassed their pre slump prices.  The towns north of Boston – Somerville, Everett, Malden, and the Boston neighborhoods that had the most room to climb – Mattapan, Dorcester, Chelsea, South Boston, Winthrop have seen the greatest growth. 

I would expect this growth to slow down as interest rates climb.   As I have mentioned in past updates, the real estate market goes in roughly 10 year cycles, where it will climb, level off, come down a bit, then go back up, usually not dipping below the past low.  The last dip we had was in 2012, so it’s been 5 years of growth.  We are due for a leveling off.   The recent increase in interest rates is the start of that.  They have been climbing for a few weeks now and came out today at 4.22% for a conventional 30 year mortgage.    If you want to chat about your home’s value and best time to sell, contact me.

This update is more for the benefit of sellers.  Because of tight inventory, I believe we will still have some growth this spring, but not what we have been seeing.  So, if you are an owner who is thinking of selling, this would be a good year to do so.

Michelle J. Lane

MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904

State of the Real Estate Market – Jan 2018

by Michelle J. Lane, Realtor

Housing Value

There are so many topics we can cover in talking about the state of the Real Estate market.  To be succinct, I will briefly cover these three topics.

  1. Tax Reform Bill
  2. Inventory
  3. Interest Rates

Tax Reform

There are many articles out there on the new tax reform bill and how it impacts homeowners.  I wrote one you can find here.  As you probably know, the key changes are that the Mortgage Interest Deduction has been capped to a $750,000 mortgage, down from $1m and that the maximum amount of real estate tax you can deduct is $10,000.  These changes will affect homeowners here in the Greater Boston area.  Today the median home price in Newton is $2,295,000, which would clearly require a mortgage over $750,000 for most people.  Moody’s is estimating that this will cause a 4% loss in home values from where they would have been if the Tax Reform Bill were not in place. 

Inventory

It is early in the year to be able to say where inventories will be for spring, but looking at a snapshot of today compared to the same day over the past 4 years, inventories are remaining low:

Newton Housing Inventory

Interest Rates

Given the Tax Reform Bill reduction in the Mortgage Interest Deduction only affects new mortgages (after Dec 15, 2017), it is possible that sellers will want to hang on to their existing mortgage and stay in their homes, which will further exacerbate inventory shortages.

Are now over 4%.  I expect they will stay there and possibly go up from there.  I say possibly only because rates have defied rate hikes by the Federal Reserve over the last couple of years.  The Fed does expect to make at least two more hikes in 2018. 

In Summary….

Because inventory is still low and people have not yet felt the impact of the Tax Reform Bill, I expect the spring market to still be brisk.  I suspect that the less desirable homes will feel the sting of the changes  by staying on the market longer.  By less desirable, I mean those that need a good deal of updating.  Buyers (who are not builders) are reluctant to buy these.  Once they make their downpayment, they don’t have money left over for updates.  If they have any money left over, they don’t have time to manage the projects, don’t want their children breathing in construction dust, and cannot find contractors to do the work.  

At the entry level prices (in Newton that is around $600K) you will find Buyers who are willing to take on projects in order to get into the city.  However, once you get to prices where they can buy a house  that does not need work, say $800K or more, they would rather get into a bidding war on an updated house than buy a project house.   If you want to know the value of your home, contact us here.

 

Spring Home Sale – Using the Winter Months to get Ready for a Spring Sale

Spring Home Sale

You will likely have seen a lot of good checklists on what to do to get your home ready for a spring home sale.  Most of those, however, focus on general cleanup and staging right before you go on the market. There is a lot to do before you even get to that phase. So below are action items you can start now while you are waiting for the spring selling season. 

Get Rid of Hazardous Waste and Junk in Basements, Attics, and Garages.  This is one of the top stressors sellers encounter as closing date approaches.  Movers won’t take them. And they are impossible to get rid of at the last minute unless you are willing to risk breaking the law and mother nature by tossing them in your regular trash.  Buyers do not want you to leave them behind, so don’t count on that.  If you visit my Seller’s Blog Page on www.michellelanerealtor.com or the www.newtonma.gov web page, you can find more information on how to dispose of hazardous waste and bulky trash items.

Get Rid of Furniture that You won’t be Keeping or Using for Staging. This is another stressor for sellers at the end of the sale process.  Charities who take used furniture will only take furniture in good condition and pickup needs to be planned weeks in advance. If you are not taking the furniture to your next home and your Realtor (me) tells you it is not worthy of being used for staging, then start planning now for it’s removal.  It is especially good to do this BEFORE you touch up paint on the walls.  My team can help you find the charities that will take your unwanted furniture and household items.

If  you are going to Need a Dumpster, Get it Now.  It doesn’t look appealing to buyers who are driving by your house before the first open house to see a dumpster in front of it.  Plus, it is too stressful to be doing all that at the last minute. So best to do this early. 

Inventory the Work that Needs to be Done around the House.  We all get used to the little flaws around our house – screens with holes in them, doors that don’t shut, locks that don’t work, cracks in the walls and windows.  We learn to live with them because they are a nuisance to fix.  The buyers also think they will be a nuisance to fix, so not only will they will call you out on these things, but it will impact their estimation of the value of the property.  

Get a pre-listing Home Inspection.  Clients often ask if they should have a presale inspection and my answer is – it depends.  If you are not going to fix anything the inspector finds, then you may want to get the inspection just so you know what you will have to negotiate post buyer inspection. But if you have no money to make any of the repairs that come from the inspection, knowing everything that’s wrong with your home will mean you are obliged to disclose all those problems to potential Buyers. If you can fix things like asbestos, mold, leaks, malfunctioning mechanicals before a spring home sale, then get an inspection and take care of those things before you put your house on the market.

Get a pre-listing Survey.  Maybe.  Surveys are not cheap – roughly $1,500.  But if you suspect a neighbor’s fence, shed, stone wall is encroaching on your property, better to find out and deal with it now rather than have your sale fall apart.  Plus, Buyers will be psyched to have that survey in case they want to put in a fence or such after moving in.

Look up Permits for Your Home. Once a client signs a contract with me, my team does this for you.  But if you want to get a head start, look up your home with the city to see if there are any open permits.  Buyers will insist that you have them closed out, which may mean bringing in the appropriate contractor.

Line up Contractors. Contractors are notoriously difficult to line up any time of the year, but nearly impossible to pin down in the spring when everyone wants work done.  So, once you have inventoried what needs to be done, start lining up the contractors now while they have the time to come out and give you quotes and get you on their calendar.

Figure Out How Much You Can Afford to Spend on Preparing the Property. And where you will spend it.  Aside from the repairs already mentioned, the biggest bang for the buck is spending the money on:

  1. Spackling and Painting in neutral, modern colors.
  2. Refinishing Floors or Replacing Carpet
  3. Changing Light Fixtures

Lighting makes an incredible difference to how a home looks to potential buyers. I can’t tell you how often people make commentary on lighting and light fixtures in homes on the market. 

Start Collecting Up Boxes.  You will never have enough boxes so start accumulating them now. You can get them from stores, on Facebook Yardsale groups or buy them at UHaul.

Donate Stuff to Charity.  If it is not going with you to the new home and not needed for staging, get it out of the house now.  My team can help you find charities that will take your donations.

Line Up Where You Will Store Extra Stuff While the House is On the Market. Perhaps you have things that you will take to the next house, but they are not necessary for selling this house – extra toys, books, clothes, dishes, etc.  Figure out now where that will be stored – relative’s house, storage unit, POD and line that up now so you are not stressed as the time to list your home approaches.   

Inventory Major Mechanicals and Improvements.  Buyers always ask these questions:

  1. How old is the furnace, hot water heater, roof, windows, etc. Look that up now.
  2. How old are the appliances? Are they under warranty?
  3. If you have an oil furnace, have it serviced. Buyers look for those service tags.
  4. If you made improvements, give your Realtor (me) information on when all those were done.

Dig up Your Paperwork on the House.  Your attorney, your agent and buyers are going to ask a lot of questions, so start digging out the paperwork now: utility bills, tax bills, mortgage details, survey and rental contracts.

Thin out Closets and Storage Areas. Buyers will open your closets.  So, they should look like IKEA closets – sparse and organized.  Same for the kitchen cabinets.  If they are crammed full of stuff, the buyer gets the subliminal message that there is not enough storage in the house.  Which means you will have some packing up to do.  If you have expensive shoes, coats, purses, those should be taken out of the house and stored someplace safe.  If you are still using them, do this as you get closer to listing the house.

Discuss Staging with Your Realtor (me).  An early discussion with your agent on staging will help you determine what to toss and what to keep.  My service is unique in that we offer partial to full staging of the home either free or at a reduced cost, depending on the extent of staging required.  An early discussion will help you know what I can stage for you and thus, what you can pack or toss.

Michelle J. Lane

MICHELLE J. LANE, Realtor
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904