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Should I Offer an Agent Bonus to Increase Home Showings?

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

Should I Offer a Buyer's Agent Bonus on My Home Listing? You’re selling your Wilmington area home. It’s been on the market for a few months, but you aren’t getting the amount of showings that you want. You’ve heard about buyer’s agent bonuses, where you offer some kind of gift (a specific dollar amount, an extra percentage of commission, a gift card, etc.) to an agent that brings you a buyer, and you’re wondering if that’s something you should try.

It’s important for sellers to know that it is against the Realtor® Code of Ethics and Fair Housing laws to steer a buyer to or away from a specific listing. Realtors® are here to provide facts and experience so that their clients can make the best decisions for them. However, this hasn’t made the buyer’s agent bonus illegal, because choosing to show a property that fits a client’s search criteria doesn’t necessarily constitute steering, even if it has a bonus. The agent just can’t make any extra effort to convince the client to choose that property over others. If there is a buyer’s agent bonus, according to the Code of Ethics, the agent must reveal it to their client.

As a Realtor®, it is the buyer’s agent’s responsibility to find a home that best suits the needs of their clients. With that said, a buyer’s agent will show a listing if there is a bonus or not, as long as it suits the needed criteria, because they’re in the market to sell a home. Attaching an agent bonus to the listing won’t necessarily provide any additional showings.

Instead of offering an incentive to the buyer’s agent, it would probably better suit you to use that money to make needed repairs on the listing or provide an incentive for the buyers, like paid closing costs, a carpet allowance, painting allowance, home warranty, etc. After all, those sort of perks can be advertised online and in the MLS, and the buyers are the ones who have the final say on which properties they see.

If your Wilmington area home is not yet listed and you're interested in putting it on the market, give us a call or send us a message through our Contact page. We’d be happy to share our marketing plan and provide you insight into the fair market value of your home.  

Meghan Riley

Will My Neighbor’s Poorly Maintained Home Affect My Sale?

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

Will my neighbor’s poorly maintained home affect my sale?Q. “Will my neighbor’s poorly maintained home affect my sale?”

A. Unfortunately, yes. Neighbors can provide a whole slew of unsightly property issues – peeling paint, trashed yards, broken windows, unmowed lawns, overgrown bushes, and excess vehicles (often parked where they shouldn’t be), to name a few. If the home is out-of-sight, perhaps a few roads over, it might not be as big of an issues, but the closer the home is to yours, the larger the affect it will have on the sale of your Wilmington area home.

Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Unmaintained yards attract snakes, rats, and other pests that can eventually invade neighboring properties. No one wants to deal with an infestation.
  2. Peeling paint, broken windows, boarded windows, missing wood, etc. are attributed to neglect and buyers don’t usually want to be surrounded by the issues that accompany that.
  3. Excess vehicles give the impression that a lot of people will be going in and out of the house, and most buyers are looking for a quiet area.
  4. Metal cans, old vehicles, broken hardware, old furniture…if this type of stuff is piled up in the yard, buyers will start to question what they’ll be smelling (or tasting!) on a day-to-day basis.

One situation in particular comes to mind. A buyer had fallen in love with a historic home in Downtown Wilmington, but the home next-door was vacant with boarded windows. The owner had moved to a retirement community and claimed the home was in fine condition, but the buyer was afraid that the boarded windows would attract trespassers. She went back and forth on making an offer for weeks, and she eventually decided not to purchase the home due to safety issues. Buyers take into consideration the neighborhood when choosing a property, especially if a particular troublesome looking home is nearby. If your home looks out over a property in question, it will especially make your home harder to sell.

So, what can you do?

If the issue is a poorly maintained yard, it may be that they can’t afford to have it maintained or physically do it themselves. You may offer to cut it for them while your home is on the market. If that’s not the case and the grass has been allowed to grow high, it may be a violation of county code and an issue to be addressed by the local health department.

Other issues may be resolved with a polite conversation with the neighbor. You may want to point out that your home’s sale will directly affect the value of their own home. In most cases, you’ll have to do whatever you can to highlight your own property’s best features and that may involve making some changes, like adding a privacy fence.  

If you have concerns about your Wilmington area home not selling due to a neighboring property, feel free to give us a call or send us a message through our Contact page. We’d be happy to take a look and provide some insight from our 18+ years of experience selling homes.

Meghan Riley

Infographic: Horror Stories from Beyond the Move

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

Always do your due diligence before hiring a mover. Read reviews, ask for referrals, or, as Allied says in their latest infographic, you'll be facing...

Hire the Right Movers

Hire the Right Movers or Else...- An infographic by the team at Allied Van Lines

"Home" is in the Details

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

The Wilmington real estate market can be very competitive. Sometimes a good cleaning and well-thought-out price aren’t the only things needed to get a home sold. While the number of bedrooms and baths, square-footage, and lot size are factored into choosing a home to purchase, let’s be honest, they aren’t the deciding factors. There are plenty of houses that fit the general criteria a buyer is looking for (“3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a 2 car garage, etc.”). Most buyers are shopping for their next home and a home isn’t floor plan. It's the details that make a property a "home".

Features from 304 Whisper Park Dr - Home is in the DetailsPerhaps, the buyer likes the idea of being greeted by the gas lantern over the front door, curling up with a book in the reading nook, seeing the color of the bathroom tile every morning, or enjoying the feeling the transom windows incite in them whenever they enter the home. These little things are what make a buyer imagine themselves living in the home. It’s also what makes them decide they may not need a certain feature, because the one your home has is more appealing.

It goes without saying that one of the keys to getting a property sold is making it stand apart from other listings in the same neighborhood. That can be done by investing in unique details. Now, this doesn’t mean paying for expensive upgrades or adding odd features, like the indoor playhouse you saw on Pinterest. Matter-of-fact, that could make the home harder to sell. Instead, it means truly analyzing the features of the home, highlighting the best ones, and tweaking any that are outdated.

If your home is in need of some updating and you’re on a limited budget, sometimes it’s better to take one home project and do it really well than spread out your money all over the house. History has shown that you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck by focusing on the kitchen and bathrooms. If your home was built in the ‘90s and your kitchen hasn’t been updated at all, simply painting the cabinets and replacing the hardware with a newer finish may be all you need to do to make it stand out. Another example may be stained or broken bathroom tile. A bathroom in poor shape can be a kill-all for a sale, and it may be well worth the investment to replace or refinish the tile, depending on the price range of the property.

Prior to listing your home for sale, we suggest contacting a Wilmington Realtor to find out what’s been selling in the neighborhood. Pictures, virtual tours, and the Realtor’s own experiences will give you the best idea of what current features and potential features could give you a leg-up on other listings. It’s hard to make changes to a home and properly advertise it once the home is on the market, because a lot of systems rely on automated syndication that can take some time to update after they’ve already fed. So, it’s best to get your home shining prior to listing.

If you need help preparing your Wilmington area home for sale, give us a call or send us a message through our Contact page, and remember - “home” is in the details.

Meghan Riley

7 Improvements That You Think Add Value To Your Home - But Really Don't

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

When it comes time to make home improvements, most Wilmington home owners like to choose projects that increase the value of their home. But just because a feature costs a lot of money or seems cool, it doesn’t mean it will add value to a home. Matter of fact, it can be quite the opposite. Here are 7 things you may think add value to your home, but really don’t:

  1. Wall-to-wall Carpet Does Not Add ValueWall-to-Wall Carpet – You may think investing in all new carpet will raise the value of your home, but in reality the costs can be hard to recoup. Carpet can be expensive to install and it comes with the risk of choosing a style that buyers won’t like. Likewise, if a buyer is faced with the choice of hardwoods or carpet, they’ll usually choose hardwoods due to the look of it, as well as issues with allergens and pets. If carpet is a common feature in comparable properties and the current flooring has stains that won’t come out with a deep clean, you can consider replacing it, but try to do it on a room-by-room basis.
  2. Swimming Pools – The North Carolina climate is great for swimming pools, but the issue is that buyers either love them or hate them. While it’s fun to be able to use a swimming pool, the upkeep can be considered demanding for some people and above-ground pools (that can be easily removed compared to in-ground pools) can be a visual turn-off for buyers. If you are considering adding a pool to your home, make sure you’re doing it for purely your own enjoyment and not to add value.
  3. Replacement Projects – Spending hundreds to thousands of dollars to replace the HVAC, water heater, insulation, etc., you may think you should get money back, over and above the normal sale price. After all, that’s a lot of money out of pocket. However, don’t expect the investment to convert into a monetary payback…at least, not in the way you think. A new HVAC will improve the salability of your home and likely put it higher on a buyer’s list than other comparable homes, but you won’t recoup 100% of the cost for replacing features that should automatically be included in the home. One exception may be if the home was bought at auction for a steal and you’re flipping the home.
  4. High-Quality Materials – As is the case with many aspects of real estate, choices of upgrades should be made in relation to the community and style of home. Putting granite countertops in a $150,000 1970’s home is not going to raise the value of the house if the kitchen cabinets are the same flat-faced cabinets from the time of build and the bathrooms are still an avocado green. It also won’t pay off if the standard for the community is laminate counters. Buyers are likelier to spend money on more square-footage in the same neighborhood than fancier materials.
  5. Special Purpose Rooms – The idea of a home theater or dance studio may seem like a fun idea to some, but the inflexibility in use can be a turn-off for buyers. If they don’t share the need to have a special purpose room, they may see it as an extra investment – something they need to pay to fix, which they’ll likely factor into their offer price. If you see yourself staying in the home for years to come, then by all means add a special purpose room for your own enjoyment, but be ready to deal with the consequences when it’s time to sell.
  6. A New Roof – Buyers are less concerned with the visual appearance of a home’s roof than the fact that it may have leaks. So, as long as there are no physical issues with the roof, don’t put money into adding a new roof before you list it on the market.
  7. Extensive Landscaping Does Not Add ValueExtensive Landscaping – When upgrading your home’s landscape, it’s important to find a happy middle ground. No landscaping can be an absolute turn-off to buyers. However, garden beds overflowing with plants will only appeal to true hobby gardeners, which is only a fraction of buyers. Likewise, ponds, while relaxing to sit around, will turn off buyers who don’t want to deal with the upkeep (kind of like swimming pools). If you’re just sprucing up the yard to sell it, the best approach to landscaping is to keep it simple and work with what you have when you can. Seed missing patches of the yard, pressure wash the current walkway or add a new one, and trim the current bushes or plant some low-maintenance shrubs that provide a show of color in the spring. Remember, less is more, unless “less” is just dirt.

If you aren’t sure a project will add value to your Wilmington area home, give us a call or send us a message through our Contact page. We’d be happy to advise you on the best possible course of action.

Meghan Riley

How Accurate is Zillow’s Zestimate?

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

Zillow

To be honest, Zillow is often a point of contention with Realtors in the Greater Wilmington area. Why? Because the information isn’t always correct, listings are often left “For Sale” on the site when they’ve already sold, and they display values created by a computer that can give consumers the wrong impression about a property. It makes sellers and buyers unhappy, and we don’t blame them. It’s frustrating when we’re trying to accurately represent a home and buyers are calling with serious interest only to find out the home is no longer available. However, Zillow is a major player in the online real estate field, so we must do our best to work with them to provide the best service for our clients.

Zillow Zestimate

One of the features our clients complain about the most is Zillow’s Zestimate, their automated valuation of how much a home would be worth on the real estate market. Zillow provides a median value and a range that the home may fall into. They claim this is based on a daily update of public data (county records and listing feeds). However, anyone who deals with “fed” data knows that the receiving website doesn’t always translate the information correctly. That’s why 2.5 bathrooms may appear as 3 bathrooms (technically, there ARE 3 bedrooms, but they’re not all full sized) or why 1400 sq.ft. with a 500 sq.ft. addition may only show up as 1400 sq.ft. (the website only knows to read one field). Not saying Zillow is guilty of all of these, but that these are possible examples of how data may be lost or skewed between two websites OR, to complicate things even more, data may be fed from 1 website to another website and onto another website before a buyer sees it. Think of how often that data is translated!

Zillow Home Facts By Source

Furthermore, county websites aren’t always up-to-date as they have their own schedules for updating records. The most accurate source for information on a home for sale is the local multiple listing service, because the listing agent works hand-in-hand with the owner to provide buyers with detailed information about the property, including upgrades, renovations, etc.

What We Do to Help

As I stated before, we know how frustrating it can be when your property info doesn’t quite line up as it should. In a perfect world, each website would format and read information the exact same way…Then again, placing rules like that can prohibit growth and advancement. So, we do the best we can to make our listings accurate on Zillow.

When we list your home, we are given ownership of the listing on Zillow. We then edit the information to match our current records. Zillow isn’t as specific and it doesn’t have all the same fields as the MLS, nor do we have access to all the information displayed, but we do have the ability to edit the information Zillow has stated they use in determining the Zestimate. But, I will warn you, large data sites like Zillow are more computer than human. I’ve personally updated listings only to go back a week later and find something has been overwritten by an automated feed.

Owners can also provide their own Zestimate after they claim the property and provide proof that it’s theirs. This Zestimate is displayed separately from Zillow’s numbers.

Owner estimate on Zillow

Accuracy Rate

For the benefit of consumers, Zillow keeps track of how accurate their information is by county and state. You can see the accuracy for North Carolina here. You can see how close their initial estimate was to the end sale price and their rate of error. This data is computed every 3 months. In New Hanover County, 87.7% of listings that were sold fell within 20% of the sale price. Additionally, 76.1% of Pender County listings and 86.2% of Brunswick County listings were within 20% of the sale price. Remember, this only includes the listings that were sold.

Zillow Zestimate Accuracy

You can see Zillow’s Zestimate is not perfect, but even Zillow says the Zestimate is only a starting point and a Realtor should be contacted before any major financial decisions are made. If you have any questions about this, you are welcome to send us a message.  

Meghan Riley

Can I Leave Furniture for the Buyer?

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

It’s not uncommon for Wilmington home sellers moving across country or downsizing to be faced with having too much furniture to move. It’s customary to have a garage or estate sale, or arrange for a Garage Shelvingdonation place, like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, to pick up unneeded items prior to moving. However, sellers sometimes run into a situation where they are unable to easily discard of furniture, like garage shelving that is too large to move and must be taken apart, and ask if they can just leave it for the buyer.

Specific requirements differ by state, but when a home is sold in North Carolina, it is the responsibility of the home seller to empty and clean the property (bank owned properties are a different story as they often sell “as-is”). According to the North Carolina Offer to Purchase, the property needs to be in the same condition or better on the day of closing as it was when the offer was made. It’s expected that all personal belongings and debris are removed, this includes all furniture.

However, the buyer may be happy to have the extra furniture. It doesn’t hurt to request your Wilmington real estate agent to ask the buyer’s agent if they would be interested in the furniture. But this should be done selectively. You can’t make a request for every piece of furniture you “don’t feel like moving.” You also can’t leave the furniture unless you receive approval, and we suggest having that in writing (an email will do). Otherwise, you’ll end up having to pay to have the furniture or shelving removed after you’ve already vacated the property.

Have more specific questions about this? Send us a message!

Meghan Riley

Write A Love Letter to Your Home

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

Love Your HomeValentine’s Day is less than a week away and love is in the air! Well, more like the sounds of a highly commercialized holiday. But it does remind us we need to appreciate the special people in our lives more and, if the commercialization angers you, it’s a great reminder to make every day Valentine’s Day.

This week, we at The Cameron Team are feeling inspired and want to encourage you to spread that love a little bit further…to your home. We love helping people buy and sell their homes. We enjoy the excitement and hope we see in each owner’s face as they move on to a new stage of their life. It’s also our livelihood. We won’t sugarcoat that. It just adds weight to what I’m about to write…

Now may not be the time to buy or sell real estate.

Think back to when you first moved in to your current home, be it a rental or a purchase. Weren’t you excited thinking about decorating and making it a “home”? Perhaps, it was the perfect house or the almost perfect house for you or your family. Just the right size, location, and monthly payment to fit your lifestyle. Fast forward to today. Your life has expanded. Maybe you’ve gotten married, your family has grown, or you’ve changed jobs and your home is starting to feel like an inconvenience. You’re ready to move on!

Sometimes your desires move a little quicker than reality will allow. It could be your finances aren’t quite right or there is some uncertainty with your job. Maybe you’re waiting for your child to finish up at their current school. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t make moving feasible right now.

So, what do you do? Write a love letter to your home!

Write a love letter to your homeNot a REAL love letter, but think back to when you first moved in and remember what you loved. Maybe it was the view, the garden, or the location. Write that down on a piece of paper. Then, think about perks you’ve gained since your life expanded, like a nearby favorite restaurant or friendly neighbors. Write it down. Next, think about the benefits you’re getting for living there rather than buying, like a lower mortgage payment or the proximity to area schools. Write that down too. Post this list where you’ll see it every day.

Now, return to your original reasons for moving into your home. Make time to work in the garden or have a cup of coffee while you reflect on the view. Be thankful you had the opportunity to make new friends and discover that restaurant since moving in. While you’re doing all that, start preparing to move, even if it’s a few years off. A few years just means you have plenty of time to do your research and get yourself into a good financial position.

Every life change brings a new set of struggles. When things get stressful, it’s hard to see the positive side. Sometimes, you just need to be reminded and writing it down can help.

When you’re ready to buy or sell your Wilmington area home, The Cameron Team will be right here to help. Even if your move is a few years out, we can still help you to prepare. Our home value reports can keep you updated monthly on the market value of your home. If credit is an issue, we can refer you to a lender who will look at your report and advise you on the best steps to improve it to help you qualify for a mortgage or better rate. You can also sign-up for our MLS listing alerts so you can narrow down which Wilmington area neighborhoods you may be interested in.

Have questions? Let us know!

Meghan Riley

Should I List My Wilmington Home Now?

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage has a real estate agent meeting twice a month – a sales meeting that is company-wide and an office meeting for each office location. At the end of each meeting, Realtors present their new listings to other agents in the company. Property pictures are projected onto a big screen and the listing agent of each property shares its best selling points in an effort to catch the attention of agents with buyers looking for similar properties. It’s a great way to attract contracts.

Home SoldBut, you know what I noticed at our meeting this week? Almost a THIRD of the listings displayed were already under contract! So, between the time that the home went on the market and the Sea Coast staff were able to make the meeting presentation, homes were already getting offers. Isn’t that great news?!

At every sales meeting, our V.P. of Business Development Brian Moxey shares the number of listings sold, pending, and active. Consistently, every month for the past year (or longer), listings sold and pending have exceeded new listings. That’s been great, because we’ve had so many foreclosures, short sales, and homes listed due to the recession. The market needed some cleaning out. However, we’re now seeing an inventory shortage and some of our buyers aren’t finding what they need.  

If you have been thinking about listing your home, now is a great time to do so. Homes that are priced competitively and prepared to show are selling. Want a better idea of what’s happening in your particular neighborhood? Visit www.WilmingtonHomeValuesOnline.com for an instant look at homes selling in your area or give us a call at 910.202.2546, and we’ll prepare a comparative market analysis for your home.

Meghan Riley

How Do You Know What is Included in a Home Sale?

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

Mounted TelevisionWhen viewing Wilmington area homes for sale, it can be difficult to tell what exactly is included with the home. We’ve seen buyers put offers in on homes, go through the whole closing process, and discover when they move into the home that fixtures have been removed. That’s when people get sued and both parties enter arbitration. Ugly, ugly times.

We want you to avoid a bad situation, so here is a good rule-of-thumb:

If it’s bolted (nailed, screwed, glued, cemented, etc.) down, it stays.

That includes the 55” mounted television in the living room, stained glass chandelier in the dining room, blinds in the master bedroom, and surround sound speakers hanging in the media room. It does not include the island in the kitchen if it’s the portable type with legs that you can buy from Sears or Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It needs to be screwed to the floor to be included.

Another good rule-of-thumb is:

If it’s buried or planted, it stays.

That includes all shrubbery, bulbs, plants, trees, etc. If you’re a seller and want to take it with you, make sure you dig it up before the house goes on the market. This rule also includes buried propane tanks that are not rented from the gas company. You can find out if a tank is owned or rented, by asking the owners or verifying it with the local gas companies.

Now, where it can really get confusing is with appliances. Most people think that the refrigerator is automatically included in the sale of the home. After all, if it’s removed, there’s a big gaping hole where it should be. However, the fact is you can unplug it and take it with you. It’s not bolted down. Many sellers will include the refrigerator in the sale of the home, but it does need to be specified in the contract. It’s best to verify which appliances stay with the home before making an offer.

If you see something in a house that you’re interested in and you aren’t sure it’s included, it’s always best to ask. You may find that the sellers are willing to negotiate certain features that aren’t automatically included, like that portable kitchen island. If you do extra negotiating, make sure those items are agreed upon in writing to prevent future disagreements.

When you’re ready to buy or sell, give us a call (910.202.2547) or send us a message through our Contact page. We’re ready to help!

Meghan Riley

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Contact Information

The Cameron Team
Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage
1001 Military Cutoff Suite 101
Wilmington NC 28405
Office: 910.202.2546
Toll Free: 800.522.9624
Fax: 910.202.2875

The Cameron Team - Wilmington North Carolina Real Estate

The Cameron Team
Coldwell Banker
Sea Coast Advantage
1001 Military Cutoff, Suite 101
Wilmington, NC  28405
Office: 910.202.2546

Toll Free: 800.522.9624
Fax: 910.202.2875

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