Top 10 Questions
Owner/Broker Wayne Crawford answers your top 10 questions
And a few more...
1. Why is it important to be in the MLS®?
The MLS® is, bar none, the most important tool in marketing your home for two very important reasons. The MLS®, which stands for "Multiple Listing Service," is a central database where nearly all listed homes are available for viewing. There are many MLS®'s across the country, but here in the Birmingham metropolitan area we use the Birmingham Multiple Listing Service, which covers Jefferson, Shelby, Walker, Blount, St. Clair, Calhoun, and Cullman counties.
Once you are in the MLS®, agents can see your listing in real time and pass it along to the clients they have. When you call an agent and tell them you are looking for a house, the first thing they will do is log into the MLS®, and do a search based on your wants and needs. The MLS® gives them many tools like being able to search in certain areas, with certain price ranges, in certain school districts, etc. They can even look up the history of a home to see who bought or sold it last. Only licensed Real Estate Agents can log onto their local MLS®, and they have to pay a monthly fee for the access.
What a lot of people don't know about the MLS® is that is also a direct feed to most real estate sites commonly visited by Buyers researching their own next home purchase. The listings appear automatically on sites such as Realtor.com® and all brokerage and agents websites such as realtysouth.com, crawfordrealty.net, remax.com, century21.com, lah.com, etc.
This is all great news because no matter who you list your home with it will show up on the sites just listed. It's also very positive because nearly ALL buyers research and view pictures of the homes they are interested in prior to seeing the property in person.
***As a side note- you can't just be on the MLS®. You have to look stunning. Your pictures must be flawless. Take your pictures with a digital camera, on a sunny day with an overly clean, pristine, and de-cluttered home. Crawford Realty will be happy to assist you with your photographs.
2. Why does the Crawford Realty Plan work?
Crawford Realty works because we help the public see through the smoke and mirrors that has been the real estate industry.
For Sellers: The first thing we do is help change your perspective. We encourage all of our sellers to stop thinking like sellers and start thinking like buyers. First, if you were selling your home, where would you search? Chances are Crawford Realty is going to put you there and more.
Also, who is your target buyer? Is it an investor or a retail end user? How much do they make? What would make them choose your home over others? Crawford Realty can help you sell your home through our understanding of who the buyer is most likely to be and how they are going to find you.
Once the buyers locate you, do you look good? Crawford Realty will help you stage your home and advise you on how to show your home to be the most attractive to the widest range of buyers within your given price range and geographical area. We can cover everything from your curb appeal to how your home smells. We remind you what it was like to be a buyer and what you found attractive when you purchased your home.
Once we receive an offer, we skillfully help you negotiate the contract fully with the other agent or with the buyers themselves. We handle all the paperwork and make sure you have everything you need for a seamless transaction.
We also handle all the closing paperwork. Crawford Realty will set up your closing attorney, schedule the closing appointment, make sure the new title insurance policy is ordered, and coordinate with the buyer's agent and the attorney's closing coordinator to assure that all the terms of your contract are complied with so you can actually close on schedule and collect your cash.
*Crawford Realty works with reputable closing attorneys, mortgage lenders and title insurance companies all around town, and we will help you find the ones most convenient, helpful, and suitable to your situation. We think it's important to note that Crawford Realty does not have a financial interest in any title company, closing attorney's office or mortgage lender, and our selection is purely based on their consistently stellar performance. If you are referred to a closing company, title company or mortgage lender for any reason, make certain your agent or agent's broker doesn't own the company or isn't receiving a financial incentive for their referral.
Last, but surely not least, our fee structure is great. We ask our seller to pay only for the services they use. Charging you only for the services you use when you use them allows us to keep our prices low and our clients' bank account balances high.
For Buyers: Because we cover buyers extensively in another topic, I will be brief for this one. Click here to be transferred to my How do Buyer's Shop section.
Although this may seem simplistic, we have had hundreds and hundreds of listings over the last 2 years, virtually all handled by one agent. Because we work so much with sellers, we take our knowledge and apply it to getting what the buyer feels is most important to them. We then guide you through the sales process and bring the sale to a close.
3. How do Buyer's Really Shop in Today's Market?
Buyers do much of their own research with three criteria in mind. First: Location. Second: Price. Third: Beds and Bath Combinations & square footage. They can search and search using one of any combination of these ways to search: Internet (Realtor.com®, other brokers' websites, public MLS® sites); Realtors®; Drive-bys; Word of Mouth; and Print Advertising (primarily newspaper ads) and many more.
Most buyers use a combination of their own research and using a Realtor® for access. They spend countless hours online looking for the perfect home and usually end up narrowing down to about 10 properties. The buyers then forward their choices to their Realtor® of choice. The Realtor® then schedules the appointments to show the homes to the prospective buyer.
The next step is undisputed magic. When the buyer walks in the door they will make their decision to purchase one of the largest investments of their life in 30-60 seconds. The buyer will then submit an offer to the seller and the two parties will then negotiate the contract, go through the inspection process and close on the home.
There are many other variables in this process like financing, the inspection, but the purchase is largely emotional for the Buyers. The buyers of your house are most likely going to find the home in the same way you did. Remember what it took for you to replicate that feeling and apply it to either the purchase of your new home or the sale of your current one.
4. Do you show my house if I am not there?
We absolutely can. As Broker and Owner of Crawford Realty, I feel it is absolutely essential for us to show the home to unrepresented buyers if you are not available. If you or we cannot show the home immediately, we will find a mutually agreeable time with the buyer to show your home.
5. I hear discount agencies just put you in the MLS® and leave you alone, is this true?
That is true for some agencies, not for Crawford Realty. First, we aren't a discount agency -- we are a hybrid, which means we take the best of the best of the best from every angle of real estate. We give you all the marketing power (usually more) you need, and the essential guidance and advice of full commission agencies; the pricing of the discount brokerages; and the ability to sell your home by yourself without paying a buyer's agency commission.
The State of Alabama requires that all agents/brokers who list properties in an MLS® be available to accept delivery of and present you with all offers, counteroffers and addenda; to assist you in negotiating offers, counteroffers and addenda; and to answer your questions relating to the transaction. Crawford Realty does all that and much more. Anyone who offers to list your home in MLS® without providing these services is doing so illegally in Alabama.
Since I own the company and am involved in nearly every single transaction here, there is no way I am going to see a client make a mistake and just let them make it because we have charged less for our services than other full price agencies. I have serious ethical objections with that and my company won't be taking that direction.
6. What if I sell my house to a friend or neighbor?
Congrats! You don't have to pay a buyer's agency commission. We will help you negotiate the contract and bring it to a close for just our 1/2 % of the selling price.
Full commission agents would charge you the full 6% REGARDLESS of who procures the buyer- even if it was you. That's not fair and if you go that route, it's going to cost you 5.5% more, less the $500 listing fee. Ouch!
7. Can I use you as a Buyer's Agent for my next house?
Yes! The personal relationship we have with you when selling your home will help us to find just the right home for you as a buyer. We can help find a home for you and setup seamless closing dates so you only have to move once.
Even better, if you use us we will refund your listing fee and, if you participate in the process of finding your new home by doing a lot of your own research and legwork so that we don't have to, you can earn back a portion of the commission we receive as your buyer's agent when you use us to purchase your home. Click here for more information on our Buyers' Incentive Program.
8. How important are open houses?
Open Houses are responsible for less than 2% of home sales, which is not a very good return on the time, expense and security risk that they pose to the homeowner. Why are they pushed so much by real estate agents? Well, they are a large source of income for many real estate professionals, because agents use your house to scout unrepresented buyers looking for a home.
If you think about who attends open houses, they tend to be buyers interested in purchasing a home. Most likely, these potential buyers aren't working with a real estate agent and that is the perfect time for the agent conducting the open house to pick them up as a client. Think about the last time you were at an open house. Did the agent ask you if you were working with an agent? Check out this attached article to learn more about how effective open houses really are. Click to Read more...
Open houses can be more effective, though still accounting for a very small percentage of sales, during weekday evenings when serious buyers are looking for homes and when you have a large subdivision with a lot of homes for sale. This way, buyers can jump from home to home in a very short period of time.
9. So what about agent open houses? Don't they work?
No. They have even a less effective rate than traditional open houses. Buyers now search online and have nearly comparable access as agents, the open houses become even less effective because most of the weeding out happens online. If an out of town or unavailable buyer likes a home, chances are the agent will schedule a private preview to make sure it fits their buyer's specific criteria.
A funny story I tell about agent open houses comes from an agent who wanted to work with our company. At the interview, she told me if I ever wanted a free lunch to go to agent open houses on Tuesdays. (We didn't hire her, by the way.) Basically, what it comes down to is if you are a successful agent working with enough buyers and sellers, you don't have the time to snipe free lunches.
I did have clients who desperately wanted an agent open house so I decided to do one for them. The first thing the agents said when they walked in was, "Is this catered or what?"
10. What don't you do that a full commission agent would do?
We don't call you everyday to tell you why your house didn't sell because it was sunny and everyone was out playing or that it was raining and no one was showing homes. We give you the advice and tools you need when you need it. We are always available for you if you need us and will only contact you if we have an offer, problem, question or showing request. But to really answer the question, the only thing we don't do that most full commission agents do is attend the actual closing. I will have personally worked with the attorney's closing coordinator, reviewed your settlement statements, and made sure everything will be perfectly planned out for your scheduled closing. The main reason full commission agents attend the closing is because that's when they get their big check.
11. Will your program work on expensive houses, too?
I absolutely love this question. Yes! It does, and the more expensive the home, the more the seller can save in commissions paid. It's important to understand that at the root of all home purchases, buyers want to have the best home they can find in their desired location, in the price range they feel the most financially comfortable with, and in the bed, bath and square footage combinations that fit their lifestyles. Everyone, no matter how much or how little money they have is still trying to afford the best they can for themselves- it's just that someone's obtainable dream might be $2 million instead of $200,000.
I have to tell a story about some personal friends. They had a 2 million dollar home they were trying to sell (WELL before I was in town). It was a big decision for them to make of what brokerage they were going to use to sell their home. They chose a local firm and negotiated a 5% rate. (3% to the Listing agent and 2% to the Buyer's Agent) They chose this firm because they were touted as networking with a lot of high-end buyers and they "knew the million dollar market."
The agent hosted an agent open house and networked within her office about my friend's home. About 75 days later the new president of a large corporation was being transferred to Birmingham and he needed to find a home in the three days he was in town. His agent ended up looking in the MLS®, showing it to the buyers and scheduling the showing. It took about 30-60 seconds for the buyers to decide that was their home. They put an offer on the home and my friend did the majority of the negotiations himself- not because the agent wasn't capable but because that's just what he does.
The agent who sold the home did NOT go to the agent open house and only found it because it was on the MLS®. My friends ended up paying $92,500 in commissions for MLS® access. If Crawford Realty was around at the time, they could have spent $43,290 for the same meaningful service and the same results.
This is not the only time that happens. Here is an article written for Realtor.com®. This author writes a column every month about the agent who sold the most expensive home in the MLS® area. This agent happened to be in St. Louis. Read this article because she discloses all the things she did alternatively to market the home (Ladue news, company website, office networking) versus what actually sold the home (MLS® and sign in the yard).
This article proves the rule rather than the exception that nearly all homes sold are as the result of MLS® exposure and typical advertising and NOT through what agency you use and the "networking" they claim to bring. When buyers look and purchase a place to live, they purchase the property and NOT the Listing Agent.
But to answer the question "Does Crawford Realty's concept work on expensive homes?" the answer is an emphatic, "YES!"
12. Do you have a certain territory?
We list and sell homes throughout the Birmingham Metropolitan area, which covers Jefferson, Shelby, Walker, Blount, St. Clair, Calhoun, and Cullman counties. We have listed properties from SmokeRise (way North of Town) to Thorsby (way South of Town) and from Hueytown (West of Town) to Anniston (East of Town)
13. What if my house is vacant?
Right now there are a lot of vacant homes in the area since so many people have been forced into foreclosure, or they have bought a new house without selling their current one. Of course this is usually a catch 22 for everyone, since you can't buy without selling, and if you sell too fast, you might not find the home of your dreams.
A vacant home can be a plus or a minus, depending on the buyer. If your house is vacant, it shows the buyer that you are probably in a position to close quickly, and the new homeowner can move in soon. On the flip side, a vacant home might give the buyer the idea that you need to sell the house because you are paying two mortgages, so you might get a lower offer.
Either way, we sell a lot of vacant homes, and I think most of our clients appreciate Crawford Realty because we will show your home to prospective buyers when you are unavailable. If your home is vacant, it is even more critical than ever to have a lockbox on it, so that agents can show it at the convenience of their clients. In this market, sellers can't afford to miss a single showing. You still only need one buyer, and they might have been "the one that got away" if your home wasn't easy and convenient to show. The next best thing you can do is to go for the emotional appeal of your home to the buyer, and that could mean staging. Staged homes frequently sell faster than completely vacant homes because the potential buyers could envision the scale of the rooms with furniture in them, and were able to see themselves in the house, and at the end of the day, that's what you want.
14. How did you come up with this concept?
I wish I could tell you that it was all my idea! However, when my wife, Emily, and I were living in Atlanta, with a second home in Birmingham, I was introduced by a personal friend to Frank and Rhonda Duffy, owners of Duffy Realty of Atlanta. After only 3 years, they had become one of the most effective and successful Real Estate brokerages in the state of Georgia. Many of their sellers had become so fascinated with their business model that they wanted to take it to other cities, and when I met Frank and Rhonda, they had "licensed" eight other metropolitan areas to both new and experienced brokers and agents, providing extensive training and support to each of them. For years I had felt that there had to be "A Better Way" to make buying and selling homes a fairer deal for the public, and it was clear to me that this was it. Having my Georgia real estate license, I put my own home on the market in Atlanta using Duffy Realty. Of course it sold, and I personally saved over $11,000 in the listing commission. I procured their license for Birmingham, becoming their 9th licensee, then happily settled here full-time, and opened Crawford Realty of Alabama. I was certain that what had worked so marvelously for homebuyers and sellers in Atlanta would work just as well for people in my new hometown, and.It has! (By the way, Duffy has now licensed brokerages in about 60 cities, and, together, we have saved homeowners OVER A BILLION DOLLARS in listing fees.)