Making a living in residential real estate is a tough job these days. And it’s not just because the economy is bad and lending is strangled. It also has to do with a ton of competition among real estate agents and a rival amount of fear and misunderstanding among would-be buyers and sellers who simply do not understand what they’re up against.
A pair of upcoming events have been put together to demystify the home-buying/home-selling process and connect real estate agents and their clients to the cultural opportunities the Princeton region has to offer.
On Thursday, April 26, Madolyn Greve, an agent from Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s will host a free seminar aimed at teaching potential home sellers about the end-to-end process of listing their homes. The seminar begins at 10 a.m. at the Present Day Club, 72 Stockton Street.
Presenting will be Greve; accountant Rebecca Matchinga; Carla Cheifetz of Showhomes of Princeton; home inspector and architect Stanley Chow of Prime Building Inspections; home stager Stephanie D’Ambrosia; and Dan O’Kavage, a loan officer at Mortgage Masters. Call 609-462-2505.
On Monday, April 30, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., Princeton University Art Museum will host a free cocktail reception for Princeton-area real estate agents. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 609-258-3762.
Though the event is for real estate agents only (and is free to attend), the event’s coordinator, Jennifer Fekete-Donners, says it has the general public written all over it. The centerpoint to the art museum event is a “passport to the region’s premier arts and cultural destinations,” a welcome package of tickets and memberships that agents may purchase to give to new buyers and residents to help introduce them to the Princeton region’s arts scene.
The package includes two tickets to a show at McCarter Theater, two tickets to a performance by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra; two tickets to a non-holiday concert by the Westminster Choir College, and a one-year family membership at the Princeton University Art Museum.
Fekete-Donners says the value of the passport package is close to $400, but is being sold for $75. “We’re looking for ways to reach out better to new residents,” she says.
Fekete-Donners says the museum has been increasing its efforts to build collaborations with community arts outlets for years, but in the past 12 months has really cranked up its efforts. “People choose Princeton in part because of the access to so many arts and cultural organizations,” she says. “We wanted to build on that cachet.”
Meanwhile, Greve’s seminar is designed to educate the selling public and alleviate some of the fears she finds among baby boomers who want to downsize, but who don’t understand the scope of doing so.
Little things people never think about. People accumulate a lot of stuff in their homes, Greve says. So when it comes time to downsize, they are often surprised by just how much stuff they have. If downsizing comes because of medical issue, or if a house is put up for sale by the family of someone who has died, all that stuff now falls into the hands of the children.
Pets are another issue. “Baby boomers’ children have moved out, and the pets take the place of those children,” Greve says. But pets can disrupt a home sale in a number of ways. Some buyers simply do not like pets and don’t want to see them in a show house. Some are allergic, and if the idea of moving in comes with the necessity to tear out all the carpeting, it could quash a deal. Also, pets need to be looked after, and if someone has to watch a pet when a showing is set, it could throw things off.
What’s in the house? When it comes to showing a house, potential buyers like to project themselves and their lives in the house they’re viewing, Greve says. The trouble is, boomers like to control everything, and that means they often want to be home when a buyer comes to look.
But this is a bad idea, Greve says. Buyers have trouble seeing past the family and picturing themselves in the house. They also don’t feel free to talk about plans to redesign or redecorate the place with someone still in it.
And just as it is a good idea to show a house with no one in it, it also is a good idea to show a house without the old-school furniture. “My furniture is very traditional,” Greve says. There’s the dining table with the wings, the hutch, the high-back chairs. “This isn’t the decorating style of today.”
Greve advises sellers to update the furniture for a showing. This works particularly well when the sellers have a second home that will become their primary home — simply move the traditional furniture to the new place and let a stager decorate the one you’re trying to sell.
Heading off trouble. One of Greve’s favored approaches to selling a house is to have the seller do a home inspection before putting the property on the market. She refers to this as “keeping the ball in your court,” because it allows sellers to maintain control over the selling process once the formal process begins.
Inspections are part of any sale, but Greve has seen them disrupt the deal when an inspection performed while under contract unearths a problem. By conducting a pre-listing inspection on your own, you as the seller will address a situation and have proof that it was addressed before a buyer even sees your listing. “It shows that the seller really cares for the home,” Greve says. And it makes a buyer more likely to want to close a deal when there are no real issues or surprises pending.
Greve, a licensed realtor, earned her bachelor’s in textiles, retailing, and marketing from Adrian College in 1974 and has been in Princeton real estate since 1991, when she joined Coldwell Banker.
From 1999 to 2010 she worked as an agent at Gloria Nilson, then joined Callaway (now Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s).
In 2011, despite a wretched selling environment, Greve sold 100 percent of her listings. She has maintained that record in 2012.
“I rarely lose a listing,” she says. In fact, when she talks about the last one she lost, in Trenton in 2010, she still speaks of it with a marked tone of frustration. “That was a real heartbreaker,” she says.
As for the future, Greve says that though boomers are waiting for the market to get back to those artificial early-2000s highs, they won’t do it. Not for a while, anyway. By hosting the seminar she hopes to educate sellers that there are several steps to the selling process — and that there are experts at all levels who will help you stage and market your home and understand the financials that come with it. “Every realtor knows a lot of experts,” Greve says. “You don’t have to do it all yourself, we can help you.”