You just need to know these things when you are selling a home.

307Ashburton105When I go to a listing appointment—an appointment where I am trying to get the business of someone who is getting ready to sell a home—I go over the process of selling a home. Of course, each home is different, each negotiation is different but there are some basic facts that everyone must know before putting their home on the market.

Get your home ready to sell.

This means de cluttering, painting in and out if need be, staging it (with your furniture or furniture you can rent), making the yard look fabulous and basically—making your home shine. Don’t put your home on the market if you have a toilet paper holder that has broken and it is sitting—screws and all—on the floor next to the toilet. (True Story!)

Know the forms you need to sign before listing.

Another day at the officeBefore listing a home, you will be filling out a few forms. Your Realtor should send you these forms before your house actually goes on the market. You should get a couple to review—one called “How To Protect Yourself When Selling a Home.”  You and your Realtor will also fill out a Listing Agreement together—basically protecting you both. The listing agreement sets the price for the home, sets how many days you agree to have it on the market with that Realtor’s firm, and spells out how you are to be represented by your Realtor and how much your Realtor makes on the transaction. A Realtor earns a commission based on the sales price of the home and receives that commission only after the transaction closes. This commission goes to both the seller’s Realtor and buyer’s Realtor—making the full commission in most cases 6%. The total commission is always paid by the seller at the settlement table, where the fee is subtracted from the proceeds of the home sale. This MUST be filled out for you (and your Realtor) to be protected before putting it on the market.

Yard of the MonthYou will also want to fill out a Sellers Disclosure; a form that lets you share known additions or defects about your property as well as the age of major appliances including HVAC, hot water heater, etc. You will want to fill this out as truthfully as you can. You obviously do not want to say that your hot water heater is brand new if someone can see a date on it that says 1999. (True Story!) If your home was built before 1978, you will also fill out a “Lead Based Paint Exhibit” acknowledging that your home was built before lead based paint was no longer used in constructing single family homes. Having these forms ready from the get go makes it easier when you have an offer in less than 48 hours and the buyers want those disclosures ASAP!

Know how scheduling works.

If you live in the home, you will want to make sure that the Realtor who is showing your home gives you plenty of notice to show it. You can have your own Realtor coordinate calls or you can receive calls from each Realtor wanting to see the home and work directly with them on timing. I always ask in the private remarks of a listing that a Realtor give my clients ample notice—sometimes 24 hours if they have dogs or kids—so that the home can be spotless and ready for the visit. A reminder that there will always be a Realtor who calls you while sitting in your driveway asking if they can get in immediately. (True Story!)

The Steps Once You Receive an Offer

Let’s say you receive an offer within 8 hours of your home being listed. Boom. You and your Realtor have done everything right…how exciting! You will want to go over the offer together—making sure you look at how much you are being offered for your home, how much the buyer may want you to provide in closing costs, how long their due diligence is, when they want to close, what type of loan they are getting, and don’t EVER forget about the special stipulation page where there may be more stips in the agreement—like asking you for a termite bond or asking you to provide a home warranty or asking you to leave the cat painting above the fireplace. (Not a true story)

Clients at the officeYour Realtor will want to make sure the buyers are pre-qualified and will certainly want to look at the bank they are using. (Many “big national banks” take much longer to close so always ask your Realtor for a good lender.)  Anyhoo, there will probably be negotiations—unless they offered like 20 grand above asking (True Story!)—and hopefully you can come to an agreement in price. Once you are in a binding agreement, the true time line starts. During due diligence the buyer gets an inspection. You may be asked to renegotiate the terms of the agreement if things are found that need fixing. You then will wait during the financial contingency for the lender to approve the buyer. All of this takes between 20-25 days (unless your buyer is buying your home in cash…that is a much quicker closing.) As a seller, before closing, you will send all your mortgage info to the attorney to get your loan paid off at closing. After about 30-45 days, you will all be sitting at the closing table at an attorney’s office and drinking champagne, giving the buyer the keys to the home and eating cupcakes. (True Story)!

My dog likes to sit in a chair…

Moby in office chairMy dog likes to sit in a chair. At my office. He does so pretty much every day that I am there. It makes me feel happy to have my dog sitting next to me in a regal way looking out the window as though he were pondering all the wonders of life. In reality, Moby is probably just watching for squirrels and people walking dogs. But it is a sight to see. I have people stopping and taking photos every now and again of me and my dog—sitting in chairs side by side looking at the computer screen or out the window.

I am a Realtor and I bring my dogs to work which is pretty special. I am lucky to have colleagues who allow it. Most people who walk through the doors love to be greeted by the pretty large pit bull type dogs lying on the floor soaking up sun. But, Moby is usually just in Travis’s chair and turns around to look at who comes in the office and he then decides if he too will greet them or if they are not worthy of a greet. Travis by the way is a colleague and when he is not around, Moby gets his chair. Otherwise, Moby fits his 80 pound body behind me in my own chair.

Ashley and Moby workingWhen Moby is not sitting in his chair at the office, he and our other dog, Little Girl are traveling around Atlanta making sure the homes I have on the market are all looking spiffy, waiting for me in the backseat of the car while I let clients in homes, and looking out the back windows waiting for me while I meet with a client at a coffee shop. They are truly my Real Estate sidekicks. Every Realtor needs one.

The Closing Table

At the Closing TableThe closing table is the last hurrah and it should never be a dramatic time for anyone. Seriously. Once you are at a closing table, all the stressful things that go into buying or selling a home should be in the past. Sitting and signing loads of documents should be kind of / sort of fun—and if everything has gone well during the binding period, it should be a good time for buyers and sellers to chat about the home, to eat all that damn candy in that big bowl in the center of the table of the attorney’s office, and to actually close the deal.

I have heard horror stories of closings lasting 4 or 5 hours or buyers and sellers sitting across a table getting ready to strangle one another. Thank GOD I have never had that happen to me or my clients and if I thought that there had been tension between the two parties, I would have asked one party to sign in advance. If a loan has not been cleared to close, you should regretfully postpone until later in the day or the next day.

Seriously though, at closing you will be signing your life over to the bank (just kidding here but not really) and the buyer is signing lots of documents—but if you have had a most awesome loan officer, you will have already given all your financials needed, been through underwriting, and you will be cleared to close. Last but not least, the closing package will have been sent to the attorney before the actual day of closing and we will indeed have something to sign. (Closing packages are put together by the lender and include the promissory note, security deed, truth and lending disclosure which you can read more about on the link above.)

Having a good lender on hand is key to closing your home and a competent and communicative lender who helps you go through the nitty gritty of your finances and the banking process makes this transaction happen. You do not want to be sitting 4 to 5 hours waiting for that package. It can get awkward after bags of candy have been eaten and you are still all around the table fiddling thumbs.

I always tell my clients to go with a local lender—someone who you will actually see and know and build a relationship with—not someone (or two or three people) you will just be talking to on the phone from Ohio.

lg-closingIn the coming weeks, we will be discussing the process of buying a home and what it takes to make that sale go through (for both the sellers and buyers) And just know that when people take selfies (or bring dogs or babies) to a closing, it has been a good day. If you would like names of awesome lenders, don’t hesitate to ask me!

Finding Your Inner MockingJay

Ashley at Adair ParkYou do know there are a load of movies and television shows that are filmed in Atlanta each year. With a massive tax write off the production companies get from our state, we are seeing more and more movies being filmed in and around town. I have even nicely accosted a couple movie stars at Whole Foods on Ponce. I did, though, tastefully decide not to take a selfie with them. Mainly because I looked awful.

I digress.

If you want to learn about some of the things being filmed in the city—and want to find out more about your city, you need to take a tour with Atlanta Movie Tours. Seriously. Not only learn really fabulous things about certain productions (like the famed Walking Dead series), but you also go to different neighborhoods you may have never been to before.

Alison and I went on the Victory Tour—well, mainly because I heart Jennifer Lawrence – but truly because we think it is pretty amazing that the Hunger Games movies (Catching Fire and MockingJay) were filmed in and around Atlanta. The tour takes you through parts of the west side of Atlanta including Adair Park where you can see the wall that boasts the words, “THE ODDS ARE NEVER IN OUR FAVOR.”—which if you have seen the movie, you will know Peeta and Katniss see from the train. (Yes, I am geeking out here in this photo.)

Marriot MarquisYou also go to the famed Goat Farm where much of District 12 outside scenes were filmed. And then there is the amazing Marriott Marquis—which if you have never been in—is impressive in and of itself without even thinking about the Hunger Games movies. (Parts of Catching Fire and MockingJay are filmed here including the training for the quarter quell and the rescue of Peeta). Designed by the world renowned architect, John Portman who was from South Carolina and attended GA Tech, the atrium was the largest in the world when completed in 1985. I’m telling you—it is just an amazing building we have here in Atlanta—and we forget about it!

Your last stop on the tour takes you to President Snow’s mansion—or as we know it, the gorgeous Swan House at the Atlanta History Museum in Buckhead. The home and property itself holds a great amount of Atlanta history and if I were writing a history report, I would write about it here. But alas, I am writing about a tour and the History Center has smartly kept the Presidential Office ‘as is’ in the actual home—and you can take a photo at President Snow’s desk. You get lots of behind the scenes information and get to see an amazing home to boot.

So, if you are interested in doing something different and cool and fun and learn about parts of Atlanta you may never have been to, do this tour! (Take a snack though—it is around 3 hours!)