The Contract Is With Our Attorney, Tom Hawbecker

Posted on April 8, 2007
Filed under The Sales Process
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Our home is now in Attorney Review which means that it's time to bring the lawyers to the table.  Even more detrimental than choosing a part-time real estate agent, selecting the wrong real estate attorney can cause a lot of issues, too.

Tom Hawbecker of Hawbecker _ Garvey, LLC is my preferred real estate attorney and I am thrilled to bring him into the fray.  There are a few key traits that make Tom a good match for our family:

  • His practice concentrates on real estate matters
  • He is extremely responsive to phone calls and emails
  • He handles complex issues and manages to keep his clients calm (i.e. he has "bedside manner")
  • He is fluid in reviewing closing documents and can swiftly explain legal documents in plain English

There are plenty of attorneys that have the same qualifications, but Tom and I see eye-to-eye on a business level and I appreciate that. 

I may not have mentioned my full-time gig before on these pages, but I am a mortgage broker by trade.  Tom and I first met at the closing table for a mutual client and he impressed me with how deftly the loan package was covered.  His office staff was equally good during the loan approval process.

When my next home buying client went under contract, I referred Tom and he repeated his outstanding performance.  I was hooked.

Now, to take a step back.

My wife is an attorney and when we bought our first home, we used an experiences attorney at her law firm to represent us.  He was 20 years practicing, but had no experience with Real Estate law (except that he owned a home in the suburbs).  We used him because (a) we didn't know any better, and (b) he was free. 

Ugh.  Our closing lasted three hours because the experienced attorney had no business closing our loan for us.  He didn't understand what he was reading and ended up reading every boilerplate page, line-by-line. When a problem came up, he had no idea what to do, or how to handle it.  We'll never make that mistake again.

I recommend Tom to all my clients, but some just want to go their own way -- I am okay with that most of the time.  It's when they choose a family lawyer friend to help with the closing to save a few hundred dollars that I get nervous.  The "family friend" may know that law and may be free, but the few hundred dollars saved in service costs is nothing next to the savings that can come from negotiating the finer points of a contract (i.e. seller tax credits).

Anyway, back to Tom Hawbecker.

Tom and Mario have a remarkably similar work-style, so from here on out, we should all operate as a well-oiled machine.  As a part of countless purchase transactions year-over-year, I know that "the team" is more important to a successful closing than anything else and we've got a good one.

By surrounding ourselves with the best professionals that we know, we can sleep easier at night knowing that our home sale is in the best hands possible.

We Have A Signed Contract On Our Home

Posted on April 6, 2007
Filed under Home Seller's Notes , The Sales Process
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Shaking_handsOur home went under contract last night after 17 days on the market.

To me, this proves the following:

  1. A home that is fairly priced can attract buyers in any market
  2. A home that can be easily found on MLS is more likely to sell than a home that is listed in countless ALS (Alternative Listing Services)
  3. It pays to have your home "showing-ready" before listing it MLS

Our home did not go under contract because it's better than the other homes on the market.  It went under contract because it was ready to be sold.

Remember all those steps we took to prepare our home?

By doing these things, we give/gave the house the chance to stand on its own and -- based on the feedback we get from our showings -- it is.  People aren't talking about our personal effects, they're talking about the home.  That's the way it should be.

Anyway, we're under contract now and look forward to taking next steps with the buyers.  We have showings scheduled for the next week while in Attorney Review, of course, because anything can happen while in Attorney Review. 

I've been around real estate too long to not know that.

How Buyers Got Me Busted

Posted on April 5, 2007
Filed under Home Seller's Notes
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So, last night we had a 7:30 P.M. showing and we had to get the baby out of the house.  Never an easy thing to do.

Well, we got back home at 7:50 P.M. and the showing was still going on.  So, we parked across the street and waited for everyone to come out of the house.

When they did, it was the buyers and their agent, congregating outside of our home.  They were there for several minutes so I decided that I'd leave the car and act like a "random" waling down the street. 

I really wanted to hear what they were saying -- how often do you get to hear unfiltered talk from a prospect, anyway?  :-)

I got out of the car and walked past them once, feigning indifference.  After about 20 paces, I turned around and walked past them again.  I heard some terrific feedback like "there's nothing like this at this price", etc.

What I didn't notice, though, was that while my back was turned, our agent came out of the house, spotted my wife in the car, and asked her a question that the buyers had

The agent walked to the car and got the answer.

Then, random me, came back around the corner and got in the same car that the agent walked to.  I was totally busted!  The buyers and their agent figured out that I was spying on them.

Slick move, my wife said.  I made a jackass out of myself.

I guess I'm not too sneaky.  I'll make a better blogger than a secret agent someday...

My Mailbox Says: You Must Be Moving

Posted on April 4, 2007
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Junk_mailNow that our home is listed on MLS, the solicitations arrive by mail by the boatload.  Since last week, I have received:

  • 10+ "Moving and Storage" postcards, including two from the same company with different D/B/A
  • 3 letters from attorneys offering real estate services
  • 3 postcards from real estate agents about listing my home

Strangely, no letters or postcards from mortgage lenders.  I am surprised by that -- if I am selling my home, I am probably buying, too.  So, why haven't I received mortgage solicitation?

Lucky for me, I already know a terrific mortgage lender.

The mail will keep coming but I suspect that once we go under contract, Mario will hand me a list of companies that he trusts to help us with our sale/move and then we'll call them.  Better to work with a trusted referral than a random postcard.

The Power of Timely Feedback

Posted on March 24, 2007
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Blackberry_emailWe had six showings today, and another handful scheduled for tomorrow (including a second showing!).

Throughout the day, though, the best part of our real estate agent's service has been the "Showing Summary" we get via email within minutes of the appointment's end.

This is a major step-up in service from our last listing agent and it really caters to our personal need to "know what's going on". 

Here are some samples from four of the feedback emails today:

1010 - agent and expectant couple (due in 4 weeks) living on [address removed] now and looking to stay in the 'hood. Really liked the storage, rf deck, powder room on main level. Had no complaints and loved the location.

1020 - older single guy and agent. Buyer lives downtown now and looking to move north. Loves the location and roof deck/finishes. His main reqmt is powder room - and we meet it.

First one - couple from boston choosing a place by the end of the weekend. They're looking at 16 places today and tomorrow. Agent said "this is the one." I'll be in touch tomorrow.

2nd one - agent and girlfriend of buyer previewing for buyer who's been looking since october. This agent said "this is crazy good." They will call to bring beau in monday night. Front-runner as well.

Every agent worth their salt carries a Blackberry, Treo or other email device and it takes just a few minutes to tap out something helpful to clients.  Why don't more agents do this?

2502 N Sheffield Video Live On WellcomeMat Video

Posted on March 22, 2007
Filed under Technology and Real Estate
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Rob Sepulveda of RES Video Listings (312-402-5996) came by and did a video shoot of our home this week.

But, taking it a step further, he then uploaded the video to WellcomeMat, one of the coolest (and easiest) real estate Web 2.0 products available.

The video is embedded in this blog.  Just press play.

Why video and a virtual tour?  Impact.

Not that virtual tours aren't terrific, they are.  Virtual tours allow a buyer to see an entire room in 360 degree views.  My beef with virtual tours is that they are -- for lack of a better word -- static.  They're functional, but ordinary and plain nonetheless. 

Using live video, on the other hand, is just one more way to engage a buyers and their agents. 

My favorite WellcomeMat feature is the list of "chapters" that you see on the right.  By mousing over the text, you can jump from section to section instantaneously. 

Best of all, WellcomeMat is free.

Thank you, Rob, and thank you, WellcomeMat

More Photos, Virtual Tours, And Online Listing

Posted on March 21, 2007
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Kitchen_photo_mgIt's been a busy day online for 2502 North Sheffield.

Mario updated our Zillow listing, subbed us to Trulia, got our Virtual Tour going.

He also provided a whole new batch of photos.

It pays to have a professional.  We could have never done this on our own and made it look so pretty.

2502_n_sheffield_008_smallCheck out our photos and then look at Mario's photographer's version.  There's no comparison.

See the full version of everything on the Rubloff Web site

P.S.  We have a showing tonight.  It only takes one buyer, right?  ;-)

MLS Listing Sheet Is Full Of Shorthand

Posted on March 19, 2007
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Mario Greco listed our home MLS this morning.  The listing ID is 06444852.  I would link to it, but I don't have access to MLS.  Instead, here is the MLS listing sheet

What I always find funny is the "remarks" section.  It's the free-for-all where good copy can make a property stand out. 

Here is the remarks sections for 2502 N Sheffield:

AMAZINGLY BRIGHT/UPGRDED NE CORNER END-UNIT 3BD/2.1BA LINCLN PK TWNHME ON QUIET SIDE OF SHEFFIELD STEPS TO IT ALL; GRNITE/MPLE/ THERMADR/KTCHN AID SS EAT-IN ISLD KTCHN W/PANTRY _ DESK/OFFICE BLT-INS OPENS TO SEP DIN AREA/XTRA-WDE LR W/WBFP _ DECK;RARE POWDER RM ON MAIN LVL;MRBLE/LMSTNE BTHS W/SEP SHWR _ WHRLPL TUB IN MSTR;PROF WALNUT/CHERRY ELFA CLSTS,ZONED SND WRNG T/O;DUAL ZONED HVAC;W/D;300 SQFT PRIV RF DK;GRG PKG!

I suppose a real estate agent gets it on the first go-around.  It took me some time.

2502NSheffield.com Makes The News

Posted on March 16, 2007
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It looks like we made the news at CBS MarketWatch.  Thanks, Amy!

The Home Stretch Before MLS

Posted on March 16, 2007
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Stanley_steemerI remember when we came to this home three years ago during an Open House.  Among other things, the carpeting on the stairs was filthy!

We are clean people by nature in the Green household so every six months we have Stanley Steemer stop by to scrub and steam clean our the stairs. 

We're moving up the schedule by a few weeks, though, because we're listing Monday and there is no sense waiting to have the job done, obviously.  Stanley and his crew will be here Saturday morning to scrub out the winter dust.

The stairs are the only carpet that we have in the house so the cleaning staff gets in and out pretty quickly.

Chicago Homes Selling At Fastest Clip In 7 Months

Posted on March 15, 2007
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According to Chicago real estate agent Jeff Kerr and his blog, Chicago homes are selling like hotcakes.

Jeff's preferred comparison figures are the total number of homes on the market against the total number of homes under contract.  This shows Jeff (and the rest of us) how the market is faring. 

If the ratio is decreasing, homes sales are outpacing new home listings and home supply is decreasing. 

Right now, the published ratio is 1.99 -- there are 1.99 homes available for every one under contract.  This is a 7.5% improvement over February and a 27% improvement over January.

Looks like we're listing our home into a buyer's swoon.  May the momentum continue.

We're Signed for MLS with Mario Greco

Posted on March 10, 2007
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Mario_greco_headshot

This past week has been a whirlwind with work, life, and family and, as a result, we spent zero minutes preparing our home for sale.  This is why we had always planned to hire an agent.

Enter Mario Greco.

Mario is a real estate agent with Chicago-based Rubloff and we signed our MLS listing agreement with him this morning.  Our home will officially list Monday, March 19, 2007 at a listing price of $629,000. 

Selling real estate is a full-time job and we are thrilled to hand over the reigns to a capable agent.  Even selling part-time has been too much responsibility...

Postlets Is A Breeze To Use (But My Ads Aren't Yet Live)

Posted on March 4, 2007
Filed under Technology and Real Estate
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Postlets_adAs our original Craig's List ad expired, I read through the comments on the guest post I did for Real Estate Tomato last week.  Tampa Bay-area real estate agent Jonathan Green recommended the use of Postlets

I had never heard of Postlets but I went to their site, got myself an account, and had my listing live in about 3 minutes.

The service is pretty neat.  You upload your listing once, and Postlets drops your "Home for Sale" ad to a bevy of real estate engines including:

  • Google Base
  • Trulia
  • Oodle
  • PropSmart
  • Backpage
  • edgeio
  • Vast

It's been about 20 hours, though, and I don't see my home on any of the above.  Maybe there's a batching mechanism and it will be live sometime soon...?

Anyway, here's my live posting on Postlets.  That one seemed to work okay.

Photo of the Living Room

Posted on March 1, 2007
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2502_n_sheffield_005_small

This is a shot of our living room taken from the stairs.  What you can't see out the window is the giant tree that lets sunlight and natural color in.  This window faces east and our home is bathed in light all day long.

Yes, that's a Pack-n-Play for the little guy.

Three Interviews Down...

Posted on February 28, 2007
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PickleWe interviewed a third real estate agent tonight and it is surprising how different every presentation has been.

Last night's meeting with Agent #2 was very data-heavy.  We did a quick tour of the home, pointed out the improvements we've made, and then sat at the dinner table to review statistics about other homes in our area.  The agent was referred to us by a client of mine that I trust and I suspect that the agent was forewarned that I am somewhat of a data wonk.

However, the agent stressed many, many times that he is a full-service agent and that his job is to make sure that our home sells at the "best price, in the fastest amount of time, with the least amount of hassle".

Amen to that.

Tonight's presentation was a little different.  A little less formal, but still pretty enlightening.  The agents presented as a team and spent a lot of their time and effort describing how they market the home.  Traditional print ads go by the wayside in favor of Zillow, Trulia, Craig's List, Yahoo! and other digital outlets.  "All roads lead back the Web site" where the agents can create a personalized page for the home.

Considering my bias against print advertising as a primary means for reaching buyers, this really hit home.

Strangely, in recommending a pricing strategy for our homes, these agents' recommendations differed by $50,000.  That's a big difference and now we're in a pickle.

Which agent is right in their pricing strategy?  Honestly, we don't know and we don't want to get involved.  We just want a comprehensive plan that will bring potential buyers in, and we believe our home will speak for itself. 

No amount of selling in the world can convince a person to buy a home, but the marketing can at least bring them to the door.

Interview #4 is tomorrow.  We'll see what our final interview has to say.

Photos of the Kitchen and Dining Area

Posted on February 26, 2007
Filed under Kitchen
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2502_n_sheffield_008_small_1

Granite countertops, sizable island with deep storage drawers, bar stools (Louis Vuitton bag not included) and 42" cabinets.  There is a skylight up above and behind the blinds is our deck.  The grill is out there.

2502_n_sheffield_010_small

This is another look at the kitchen and shows how the area opens into the dining room.  Appliances are modern and in terrific condition.  I still can't figure out the clock on the oven, though.

2502_n_sheffield_006_small_1

This is the dining area looking back at the kitchen.  The table expands to hold 10 people comfortably.  That strange thing on the floor is Guss' dog bowl.  You may recognize Guss from his modeling efforts.  Yes, it's really him.

Live at Zillow and Craig's List

Posted on February 22, 2007
Filed under Technology and Real Estate
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Our home is now officially listed "For Sale" at both Zillow and Craig's List.  We also uploaded photos of the home (that will soon make their way to this blog).

Zillow: http://www.zillow.com/HomeDetails.htm?zprop=49918464

Craig's List: http://chicago.craigslist.org/chc/rfs/282635613.html

Any other "free" listing tools out there I should know about?

We're Starting To Interview Agents

Posted on February 21, 2007
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Talking_mouth About two weeks ago, we interviewed an agent about listing our home.  Next week, we have three interviews lined up -- Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening.

I am not so stupid to think that we can sell our home without an agent, but before we go MLS, we absolutely want to give it a try on our own for a month.  An agent commission in Chicago will range from 4-6% which, in the case of our home, equates to somewhere near $30,000.

$30,000 can help us quite a bit with a downpayment on a new home.

Our Word of Mouth / FSBO campaign starts with this blog, and will have a few other parts to it, too:

  • Craig's List
  • Emails to friends
  • Creating buzz in the blogging world
  • Zillow's Make Me Move
  • Other Web 2.0 "free" services

Again, I know that selling without an agent is a losing proposition but we're going to try.  If we save $30,000 in commissions, so much the better.  Hey, maybe the home buyer gets a better deal, too.

Home Appraisal Completed: $625,000

Posted on February 20, 2007
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Appraisal_1Pricing a home is an inexact science.  Who really knows what a home is worth, anyway?  If you ask me, it's only worth what somebody is willing to pay for it. 

There is no other answer that fits.

There have been thousands and thousands of articles written on this very topic but, no matter what, there is always some element of guesswork involved in valuing a home.

So, how does one arrive at an offering price?  Normally, we'd use our real estate agent, but we haven't hired one yet - -we're trying to move the home on our own, first.

We figured that the best first step we could take would be to schedule a home appraisal. 

The appraisal company we chose, DNS Appraisals, is very well-known in the Chicago market and they have an in-depth understanding of Lincoln Park townhomes.  It was very important that we chose a company that knows our market very, very well.

We also knew the risk this approach -- what if they knew the market so well that our value was determined to be much lower than what we expected?  The bigger risk, though, would be if we remained ignorant to the value and then set an unrealistically high sales price.

The appraiser thoroughly examined our home assessed a value of $625,000. 

This is a little higher than the value we expected and in our head, that's good for our family's piece of mind.  We'd rather have under-valued our home on paper than over-valued it.

So, $625,000.  We don't know if that's the price at which we will ultimately list it, but it's a nice starting point that will ultimately lead to a list price.

Getting Back In The Game

Posted on February 20, 2007
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The silence around here lately is only because we've been busy with other things in our life.  We have also been quietly preparing our home for the market.

Expect more regular posting from here on out.

Meanwhile, purchase activity has definitely picked up in the neighborhood.  I may not have mentioned that I am a mortgage planner, but the sheer volume of purchase contracts written in the past two weeks by my clients has been encouraging.

I guess all that stuff they say about "Post-Super Bowl" home buying has some truth to it after all!

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