Behind the scenes: preparing a listing for the public

#515 in a series of true experiences in real estate
June 2006, Hills Newspapers

There are myriad agent endeavors for a new listing before it even goes on the market, many more than in years past. Quite a bit of advertising copy is needed, for instance, not simply one ad for the local newspaper as it used to be, but far more.

Several lines for the multiple listing must be considered and written. These same words will appear again on Internet homes-for-sale sites. A short, enticing line to agents for the broker tour sheet is needed.

Succinct, descriptive copy, limited to 80 characters, is written for an agent publication, the Ad Review. Also, a cover page is written for our own website, the section created just for the one property while it is for sale.

Good words for the flyer, too, the fullest detail of all. This is where I’ll tell the age and size of the house and land, recount the rooms and features and include information on inspections and reports made on the property. Photos and a floor plan will accompany the words.

We hand-carry a disk to the pre-print man, select the finished size and the ink color and paper the printer will be using, then wait impatiently until it is time to pick up 600 off-set printed flyers. They are mailed to about 250 agents ahead of the brokers tour. We have several mailing lists and we prepare our own mailings: stuff the envelopes, stick on the address labels and stamps and get them into the mail.

More writing is necessary for disclosures. I keep notes during conversations with the owners and during visits to the property. “Sump pump comes on during extended rains; works fine” I’ll write. Also recorded for later use: The washer is 2 years old; front right stove burner needs a match. Electrical main upgraded with city permit; laundry moved without permit.

I go back to these notes when it’s time to do disclosures. I remind the sellers of things they’ve told us, info that should be passed along to buyers. And I will include in our agent disclosure details that we have observed at the house.

It is important to have all disclosures complete and ready to provide to buyers and their agents before the house goes on the market. This includes inspections, too: at least a general physical inspection and a termite report, and sometimes other inspections such as for the furnace or fireplace. Receipts for major work done on the house – earthquake retrofit, for example – are also included.

Disclosure packages are typically 100 pages long, sometimes as many as 150 pages, even for houses in good shape. Anet assembles the pages, types up a cover sheet naming the contents, and scans it all, finally posting it on our website. Agents will call us to get a password so they can print out their own packages.

Before we enter a listing on the multiple listing service, we fill out a 3-page profile sheet with all the data we will need, everything from public or private sewer system at the house to the type of heating system. Also, terms of sale, designated hazard zones, if applicable, and how to access the house for showing. With our digital camera, Anet takes photos inside and out to be posted on the MLS and on websites. She tries to get pictures when cars are not in the way and when the front porches are clear of workmen’s tools and ladders, when rooms are clean and nicely furnished and back yards are clipped and attractive. This usually means shooting early in the morning just as the sun is coming up.

As we spend time in the house prior to marketing, almost always we see small improvements that we can make. Some switch plate covers should be replaced; kitchen sink drain needs a stopper; new toilet seat would look better. On a scrap of paper: Buy a doorstop for backdoor and a new pull cord for the basement light. Bring vacuum cleaner, dust cloths, Windex for mirrors.

Anet makes small signs to point out things visitors may miss seeing and to give instructions for showing. She laminates these signs and hangs them. Examples: Basement light. Use lower lock only. To unlock, flip lever to left and push.

Anet also prepares the lockbox, registering it with the lockbox provider online, making sure it is clean and padded so it won’t damage the paint when it is hung on a door. She may include a note inside the lockbox concerning a security alarm or about what lock the key works. Every day during marketing she will electronically collect info on who has used the lockbox and at what time.

In some cases, we arrange for services and workmen for our listings, including painting, hauling, floor refinishing, carpeting and all sorts of repairs and replacement. We’ve had new furnaces, water heaters and floors installed, porches built and awnings removed, doors replaced and many a light fixture hung. We also schedule overall cleaning, window washing, garden and lawn work..

We hire a sign company to put up a post and we hang our sign at the house with a rider at the bottom that gives the property website. Before the house is shown to anyone, everything is done, all is ready.

The stager has fabulously arranged flowers for beauty and enjoyment of all who see them. We’ve ordered luncheon food for the agent tour and made copies of MLS print-outs to hand out. Paper plates and such are at hand. A complete disclosure package is in a binder at the house.

Open house signs are in the car. We’re up early and are excited about showing and talking about the house. We love this job.

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