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Colleen Lawler

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What Not To Do When You are Selling Your House

by Colleen Lawler

These really and truly happened:

1.  Porn streaming on the desktop computer 

2.  Naked seller asleep in a bean bag chair in the family room

3.  Divorce papers left out on the counter in the kitchen

4.  Seller rear ended a parked car in the neighborhood while house was being shown

5.  All of these happened on the same appointment.  

So, if your house is on the market and you have a surprise showing and you forgot to make your bed, it's ok.  Really.  Realtors have seen worse!

My Favorite Closing 2016

by Colleen Lawler

I sell a lot of houses, but each one was a home to someone, and is going to be a home to someone else. Over the past 30 years, there is always a home or two every year that has extra special meaning to me.

This year, I listed an older home in Ballwin.  Mom had moved into a retirement home, and Dad had passed away several years ago.  All 3 children met me at their parent's home to discuss how to go about the sale. The proceeds would continue to support Mom in her new home.  

Sometimes when I meet a family like this, they give new meaning to the FUN in "Dysfunctional".  This family is NOT that way at all. They were respectful of each other and it was very clear that they loved this little home on a pretty piece of land in the heart of Ballwin.  They love each other, and they love their mom. Their sole focus was to do right for their mother, but they hoped that a family would purchase the home and love it as much as they knew their mom and dad had.

The middle of this story is sort of sad, with a buyer who was mean and greedy and reminded me a lot of the Grinch.  But the END of the story...let's just say that a lot of god happened.

The Gary Sinise Foundation purchased the property and will be building a home for retired Ballwin Police Officer Michael Flamion and his wife Sarah.  It will be a smart home and will accommodate his needs as he navigates life from a wheelchair after being shot during what should have been a routine traffic stop.  The house is about 1 minute from the Ballwin Police Department, so that even though he had to retire from the force to receive the benefits he needs, he will continue to be a part of the Ballwin Police Department.  The officers of the Ballwin Police Department do not want to lose touch with Officer Flamion and they intend to stay involved in his life.

The Fischer family is thrilled.  They really wanted to participate in something that would benefit this officer. Sitting in my office as we worked through the details, one of them said,  "The honorable Fischer Family wants more than anything to convey this home to the honorable Flamion Family"

There were lots of big and little things that happened as all this played out.  Like the day one of the Fischers got a magazine with Gary Sinise on the cover.  That Jim Schubert is on the Sinise Foundation Board, is from St Louis, happened to be at a board meeting when Officer Flamion was shot, and had big a hand in putting this together.  That the Ballwin Police Department is pretty amazing. That the Fischers met their goals, to see this home go to the right family for the right reasons, and to take good care of their mom.  

I am so moved by the spirit of the Fischers, and by the commitment the department has to their fellow officer, that organizations like the Sinise Foundation make such a difference. God Bless the Fischers, the wonderful people at the Sinise Foundation, the Ballwin Police, and Officer Michael Flamion.  Each and every one.

 

10 Easy TTD's as you prepare to list your home

by Colleen Lawler

When I show a home, little things can mean a lot.  Consider addressing these easy little things to make a great first impression:

Front porch - sweep it, clean it, and make sure the exterior lighting is shining inside and out.

Air Return Vents - use a vacuum attachment to clean these of dust bunnies.

Ceiling Fans - clean the tops of those fans! 

Window Sills - open the window and clean between the window and the screen

Inside plants - get rid of brown leaves and overgrowth - if they don't look great, give them a decent burial.

HVAC - have your furnace and a/c serviced, then use that vacuum attachment to clean the top of the appliance, and if you have something "gucky" where the condensation hose drains, clean it.  Purchase a pack of furnace filters and change every 30 days.  For the rest of your life.

Water Heater - clean the top of the hot water heater...it just sits there collecting dust for years.  

Linen Closets - PURGE!  get rid of all the mis-matched towels and linens.  Pull everything out, and put on your OCD to put it back together again.

Decks, sidewalks and patios -  Power wash all these surfaces, everything will look 5 years newer.  Guys love to power wash things so if you are woman, go find a man, hand him the power washer and let him have that fun.  

Basement - Go to the unfinished part of your basement and look up.  See cobwebs? Go on attack with your vacuum attachment.  

Some of these chores will take less than 15 minutes.  All of them will help your buyer see your home as cared for.  It's not like buyers are going to stare at the water heater and marvel that it's the cleanest one they have ever seen, but they will come away with an overall impression that is positive.  

Remember that you are in competition with other sellers,  Some of them will be tooth brushing the lint out of the dryer vents and replacing dirty light bulbs!

Holidays Can Be Moving!

by Colleen Lawler

I have lost count of how many folks have asked if it's a bad idea to try and sell a home during the holidays. If it was a bad time to sell, I would have all my Christmas shopping done, my taxes ready for my accountant, my office would be spotless and organized every December.  Sadly, that's not the case.  I've sold as much as 8 million in December, so believe me, people buy and sell  houses all year! 

Here are the benefits of selling in the last quarter of the year

1. Fewer showings but higher quality buyers.  The tire kickers and the "looky lou's" are busy with shopping and parties and decorating.  That means the people that are looking are VERY serious.  I wish I could figure out a way to make that happen year round!

2. Less competition. Those serious buyers have fewer homes to choose from.

3.  Your house looks really nice when it's decorated for the holidays.  It feels warm and homey.  That's what buyers are looking for.  Please clear a path, though...make it pretty, but don't make it crowded!

4.  It's a crazy, busy time in your life...might as well get all the craziness together at once.  Then you can pack up the decorations and enjoy the sold sign in the front yard, and breathe.

5.  Vendors are not booked 3 months in advance, so it's easier to book a painter, a cleaner, and a mover than in May or June...and you might be able to negotiate a better price.  

There is so much to stress about in life and in moving...don't add worrying about timing to that.  A good solid agent will be honest with you if there is an advantage to waiting, and be able to show how current supply and demand can affect your particular goals.  

 

It's Almost Setpember! Can I Still Sell This Year??

by Colleen Lawler

As school starts back up I often am asked if it's best to wait until next year to sell.  Truthfully, buyers buy and sellers sell all year long!  If they didn't I could take a few months off, but in 28 years THAT has NEVER happened!

Often, listing inventories start to fall, and sellers see fewer properties competing for their buyer.  This year, with a forecast that includes a tick up in interest rates over the next 6-9 months, buyers will want to beat the increase.  A 1% increase in interest rates will impact a buyer's borrowing power by about 11%, and that's a pretty good motivator. 

The third quarter often sees more relocation buyers than the 2nd quarter.  Those buyers may need to be in their new position by the start of the new year, and will want to move at the semester break if they have children.

Fall can be a really nice time to shop for homes.  The weather is not too hot or too cold, and the fall colors will make your home look appealing to buyers.  There simply isn't a reason NOT to list your home for sale, or to consider coming off the market this time of year.  

What Should You Expect When Your Home is Being Shown?

by Colleen Lawler

Here are 5 short insights into the inconveniences of having your home on the market:

1.  Sooner or later an agent will be on your doorstep, with buyers in tow, and you didn't know they were coming.  There are lots of reasons for this, and frankly lots of places that you may lay blame.  I positively and absolutely HATE it when that happens.  But it does.  If you can let them see the house, let them...they might be your buyer.  If it's so totally not a good time, remember you never ever HAVE to show your home, because it's your home.

2.  Sooner or later an agent will make an appointment and give you plenty of notice, thank you, but then fail to show for the appointment.  There are lots of reasons for this, and yes, lots of places to lay some blame.  But it will happen...a buyer cancels, the agent's key malfunctions, the buyer's kid starts barfing in the back seat.  I HATE it when this happens too.  Call your listing agent about this "no show" and they should be able to get the rest of the story, and hopefully reschedule the appointment.  

3.  Sooner or later, someone is going to use your bathroom.  It's kind of gross, especially if they don't flush.  And yes, I HATE it when that happens.  Grit your teeth, flush, and I apologize in advance for the inconvenience, on behalf of agents everywhere.

4.  Someone is going to leave a door unlocked, OR they are going to lock you out.  Get a spare key to the door between the garage and the house if you don't already have one and probably never lock that door.  Because someone, out of an abundance of caution, is going to lock it.  I keep a spare key for every listing I have, so that when an agent locks their keys in your house, or locks you out of the house, I can put on my super agent cape and fly to the rescue.  

5.  Some agents will never ever give you feedback about what their buyer thought of the house.  Even though you left your home at dinner time with kids and dogs and cats all piled into the car, and the house was as perfectly clean and well lit as it has ever been...I'm sorry for that behavior as well.  Not professional, not nice.  Luckily it won't happen often, but it's frustrating after all that effort, isn't it?!

 

Bottom line is that living in a house and selling a house are two totally different realities...in two totally different universes.  Keep reminding yourself that this too shall pass, and some day you can leave the house without all the beds made!

5 Ways to Stage, without breaking the Bank!

by Colleen Lawler

So...I just spent about 5 minutes looking for my notes for this post.  I think I need to stage my in basket!

Here are tried and true ways to get your home ready for market, but first, I want to reinforce that it's not easy, it takes time, and the best way to tackle this is to mentally cordon off a small area, tackle, it, make it perfect, pat yourself on the back, and then move on to the next area (even if it's the next corner of the same closet!!)

1.  Closets:

Box up the clutter, use matching hangers.  All the clothes should face the same direction, all the pants should be with pants, the shirts with shirts, skirts with skirts...no co-mingling!  Ideally I like to tell sellers that their clothes "shouldn't touch"  

Nothing should be on the floor, so get a shoe rack or store shoes in boxes on shelves.  Cute bins can hold purses and "stuff"  But pack up a lot of it, you are going to have to box it up sooner or later, so do it now!

2.  Bedrooms

Paint, change up pillows and bedding, try to make them "gender neutral".  Bedrooms are places to sleep in, so put away the laptops and the ironing boards, office furniture, and the tv.

3.  Living Room

Make sure  the shades open up, the paint is fresh, and the flooring is in good shape.  This space should have a focal point.  ONE. FOCAL. POINT.  (A TV in one corner and a fireplace on another all  = 2 FOCAL POINTS.  A TV is probably easier to locate than the fireplace :-)

4.  The Kitchen 

Clean it like you have never cleaned it before.  Toothbrushes and toothpicks, boxes of Mr. Clean Eraser bars, grout cleaner.  The sink and faucets should be sparkling (Bartender's Best Friend is great) Replace older cabinet hardware (aka "kitchen jewelry").  Target sells packs of 6 or ten knobs or pulls, and that's usually less expensive than Lowe's or Home Depot.  Remove rugs to make the space feel bigger, and organize your drawers and cabinets, because the buyers will be looking in them!  If you are feeling really inspired, new plumbing and light fixtures will more than pay for themselves!   

5.  Bathrooms

All that stuff you used to clean the kitchen?  March it straight into the bathroom!  Caulking and shower doors almost always need some attention.  That Mr Clean bar is just about miraculous in the the tub, shower, sink, tile surrounds...and invest in a squeegey to keep shower doors spotless.  Once you start you might not be able to stop.  Using Rainex after cleaning shower doors to minimize water spots if you like!

ps.  I know the title says "5 Ways" but here's tiny little p.s.  Grab the attachments to your vacuum cleaner and clean all light fixtures, all the cold air returns, vents, and even the exterior of your furnace, a/c and hot water heater.

 

The bottom line is clean, uncluttered, neutral.  Anything else will cost you time and money in the real estate market!

 

 

 

Moving is Never Easy, but St. Louis is a Great Choice!

by Jaron Clinton

Moving isn’t a simple task, and choosing where you want to live next can sometimes be the hardest part of the process. If you’re looking for a new city that offers good schools, well-groomed parks, noteworthy public institutions, a strong corporate presence and plenty of craft breweries, then moving to St. Louis is an excellent choice.

The first reason to consider St. Louis is that living here isn’t actually too expensive. According to the Cost of Living Index Calculator, in 2010 the greater St. Louis area has the lowest cost of living among the nation’s 20 largest metropolises. Next, the city is well-known for its academic excellence. Even if you’re not attending one of these schools or don’t have children, you will still benefit from the city’s good school programs because they increase the value of your new home to families. The nearby cities of Clayton and Ladue have two of the most reputable and well-funded public school systems in the U.S., and the several colleges, including Washington University which is often ranked in the top 10 nationally. Plus, if you’re a recent college graduate then St. Louis is great for you because it has common high starting salaries and Forbes ranked St. Louis as the happiest city for job-seeking college grads in 2012.

Besides the obvious go-to factors of education and cost of living, St. Louis offers a much more subtle gift, which is literally giving. St. Louis has garnered a quiet, but well-earned reputation as one of the most charitable cities for how it treats its residents and visitors alike. The city is consistently ranked as one of the most charitable cities in the country, coming in ninth last year, and nearly one third of residents volunteer. St. Louis has placed a Victorian emphasis on artistic and cultural institutions as a way to elevate society, which includes the city’s zoo and museums, and consequently most of these are free of charge.

Central Park in New York City gets all the attention, but it really shouldn’t. St. Louis’s Forest Park beats it by miles. Offering nearly 1,300 acres of land that is used for in-line skating, biking, walking, running, golf, tennis, and other sports and activities. Plus, the park is home to five of the region's major institutions: the St. Louis Art Museum, the St. Louis Zoo, the St. Louis Science Center, the Missouri History Museum, and the Muny amphitheater. 

Christmas Holiday events in St Louis, 2014

by Colleen Lawler

http://www.314area.com/christmas/

Here's a link to events over the next several weeks in and around St. Louis!

 

 

Remember the reason for your season!

How do you REALLY pick a great agent?

by Colleen Lawler

There are probably hundred of agents in the St Louis market who espouse to be NUMBER 1, just as there are in almost every market in the United States.

They could be #1 in their office, their company, their city...

They could be #1 in units, in written dollars, in closed dollars...

They could be #1 in their minds...

Rankings do not tell the whole story, certainly.  And they are confusing to the public, I think.  And they don't necessarily guarantee the best agent for the job of helping you buy or sell real estate.  So here's 10 tips to help you determine the best agent for you!  Does your agent have:

1. Experience

If you were having open hear surgery, would you choose a surgeon who performs 5 such surgeries a year, or one that performs several every day?  Practice makes perfect, and the more experience an agent has, the more problems they have solved, the more resources they probably have.

 

2.  Brains

An agent who is intelligent, and who is actively learning, no matter how long they have been an agent will be proactive, and will be aware of trending indicators in your market area.  A complete understanding of every term in your local real estate contract can make a world of difference.

3.  Honesty

It's not easy telling someone their house is ugly...a great agent will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear, and do so constructively (and hopefully with kindness!)

4.  Ethics

The Realtor Code of Ethics is based on the Golden Rule for a reason.  My personal version is "Karma...it will always come back and bite you, so always do the right thing in the first place!"

5.  A Sense of Humor

Selling or buying a house is serious business, but if I see something like this, I think at least a discreet chuckle is called for.It's fun looking at homes with an agent who can smile with you!

6.  A Professional Appearance

I am not saying that a pair of blue jeans and flip flops are awful.  Not at all!  But dressing the part of a competent professional isn't asking too much most days, is it?  (Maybe I am showing my age here...)

7.  A Heart

Moving is stressful.  Maybe your agent doesn't have to weep with you when you are feeling overwhelmed by the thought of packing up your life into literally 200 boxes.  But maybe your agent should at least have a good understanding of, and care about how much a move can disrupt every day life.

8.  A Strong Back Up Plan

Believe it or not, real estate agents breathe oxygen, have families, and occasionally have a life.  If your agent has a day off, or a vacation, who is going to be there to show you property, or negotiate an offer on your house.  One of the proven facts in real estate is that the minute your agent goes out of town, the perfect house comes on the market, or that offer finally comes in.  A great agent has you covered, even when they are not available.

9.  The Right Motivation

A very wise person once told me "Never want the deal more than your client does."  Having your best interest at heart first and foremost, all of the time, is critical.  Sometimes your best interest is hard for you to see.  A great agent can help you see the big picture, see the forest through the trees, and guide you through the emotions of the moment to your true best interest.  

 

10. Resources

A great real estate agent has a rolodex worth its weight in gold.  A walking and talking "Angie's List", you should be able to get recommendations not only for great lenders, title companies, and lawyers, but also plumbers and painters and handymen.  If you have a great agent, you have someone you can call any time for a recommendation.

Please interview more than one agent, ask lots of questions and get a great agent.  You deserve that when you are dealing with such a huge investment.

 

 

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 58

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