3 Steps To An Oregon Home Sale

Hear the audio podcast presentation by clicking here or on the ‘play’ button

Selling an Oregon home can sometimes seem overwhelming and complicated. Yet there is a logical framework to the entire process. Once grasped, this knowledge makes the task less daunting. 

Easy As 1-2-3
There is a usually a linear progression to selling an Oregon home, making it as easy as ‘1-2-3.’  And since the process between buyers and sellers is routinely described as a kind of ‘dance,’ let the music begin.

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Fundamentals
To be fair, there are plenty of tasks associated with any real estate transaction, yet the key process that gets homesellers a workable offer can be simplified to three primary steps. Then, once a mutually accepted offer is in hand, the final march to closing the sale begins.

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The fundamentally crucial elements start very early. Curious? Away we go:

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1. Online Activity-More than 90% of homebuyers first look online before they even call a Realtor. Just as important, once buyers select an agent, they will continue to view properties online as they ‘winnow the field’ and decide with their agent which kind of homes to tour. Then, the power of the local multiple listing system provides a good selection of properties and enhanced information.

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2. Showing Activity-By the time buyers take their first home tour, they’re often pre-qualified.  Few homebuyers make an offer without this crucial step. If they do, it’s not unusual for sellers to request they get pre-qualified before their offer is considered.

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3. Offer Activity-
This is the final step in the 3 phase path to an offer. Once homesellers make it to this point, their property has likely been priced close to the actual market value. The 3-step process looks simple and in a way, it is. What follows are some extra helpful considerations.

Oregon Home-Selling by the Numbers
First, it’s helpful to realize that buyers generally behave in somewhat predictable phases. 
This means they routinely go to Step 1 first, before Step 2, or Step 3. There is very little skipping around. For example, it’s uncommon for a buyer to start at Step 2, or leave out any steps. 

Another important element to consider is when a homeseller’s efforts ‘stall’ at a certain step. Depending on a variety of factors, there is usually a good reason, which can be diagnosed by a Realtor experienced with intrinsic behaviors of buyer activity. 

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Even Batman Doesn’t Have This In His Utility Belt
Homesellers can have a very useful tool in their utility belt, since online buyer activity can be monitored to evaluate buyer response, or lack of it. That valuable tool is a report on buyer activity for your specific property. Some of these reports are released weekly (Realtor.com) and others (like regional multiple listing services) are compiled daily. Realtors who invest wisely in their business frequently subscribe to these proprietary services

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Realtor chart showing decreased buyer activity over time.

Step 1. Online Activity
Online reports are very valuable in analyzing market reaction to a seller’s property. And realize what market reaction is: The collective response of buyers in an area, or ‘market.’ As a result, your Realtor can provide you with regular updates with online buyer and Realtor activity for your home and from a variety of sources. Some of these key sources will provide hyper-local data very specific to your area. 

Online property activity data can help gauge if your property’s popularity is really ramping up, falling fast, or simply ‘so-so.’ Now let’s take a further look into these helpful tools.

A Medical Analogy
As with reading blood tests or an electrocardiogram (EKG), it’s especially helpful if the professional reading them has familiarity with interpreting specific signs under a variety of situations. Some ‘bumps’ can mean much, others little.

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      EKG reading. Notice that it somewhat resembles the multiple listing report image below.

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A multiple listing property chart with buyer views, Realtor views & email frequency to Realtor buyer clients

Since you wouldn’t expect a brain surgeon to be a heart expert, agents who only work with city properties may not analyze market reaction to a rural property quite the same way and vice-versa. It’s important that market responses for a seller’s property be analyzed by taking both the property type and location into account. As a result, it may not be realistic to expect identical market readings for a palatial suburban Portland, Oregon home when compared to a ‘fixer’ property in tiny Paisley, Oregon. Tracking your home’s online popularity can determine not only buyer response, but provide key insights. For example such buyer activity information can help sellers make adjustments before activity gets lackluster and a property becomes ‘shopworn.’  

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Step 2. Showing Activity
The ‘jump’ from online home searching to touring inside homes is a significant one. Since agents commit considerable time and effort and are usually paid only after a buyer purchases a home, this typically means real estate agents are selective with those they spend time with, so touring buyers are usually pre-qualified by a lender. In other words, we’re now working within the realm of a qualified home purchaser, who is ready, willing and able to buy. Studies show that the typical home buyer searches for 10 weeks and views 10 homes.

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Step 3. Offer Activity
A final leg in this three step journey is when an offer is written and submitted for the seller’s consideration. By writing an offer, this step also helps to confirm that the property is likely priced within a reasonably market-friendly range. There is still plenty to do after Step 3, but an acceptable offer places the process into the remaining phases of a real estate transaction. This can include elements like escrow, home inspections, preliminary title report, appraisal, loan documents and closing.

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Think of home prices like fishing at the right level. Homes priced where ‘the action is’ get more bites.

A Real Estate/Fishing Analogy
For example, wildly over-priced homes don’t usually get much more than ‘low-ball’ offers, if any. Think of the actual top market value of any property as a ‘waterline.’ Fish usually don’t jump in the boat, so if a home seller’s property is priced significantly above that level, expect little, if any action. As the ‘bait’ or price is lowered to the waterline, expect ‘nibbles.’ If no serious offers arrive within a reasonable amount of time, further lowering the price will typically provoke a ‘feeding frenzy,’ also known as a ‘bidding war’ for the property. 

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The End of the Beginning
An accepted offer is not the final step of the home selling process. But with an accepted offer in hand, home sellers and their Realtor can focus attention on remaining stages. 

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Thinking about Selling?
Call (503) 682-1083, or contact veteran Oregon Realtor Roy Widing with Certified Realty using the form below. Bring Roy your questions, or request a free consultation on what your property could sell for in today’s market.

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Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: Stigmatized Properties

‘…that long black cloud is comin’ down,
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door…’  Bob Dylan

Listen to the podcast version of this article by clicking on the ‘play’ button below.

Every experienced Realtor has them: Stories rarely shared with clients that involve particularly unnerving moments in an agent’s real estate career.  And, for purposes of this article, we aren’t talking about simple cases of a flea-infested house, or one with no water or electricity. The topic? Stigmatized properties. 

Not all stigmatized properties are obvious, especially at first

Not all stigmatized properties are obvious from the outside

Stories of stigmatized properties are often unforgettable to the real estate agent and their clients who experienced them. Also known as ‘tainted’ real estate and many other monikers, before we dive in, let’s get a quick grasp of what a stigmatized property is.

Definition of Stigmatize
‘Here’s a dictionary definition of the word stigmatize: 

Stigmatize verb
1. to set some mark of disgrace or infamy upon

While this definition may be readily grasped, state laws vary significantly in how they address stigmatized property. This is not a legal analysis, but in Oregon under the broadest sense of the term, it’s commonly understood that a stigmatized property can range from one where there are problems, like mold, to being a place where undesirable things have occurred, such as a crime. So it’s important to realize that there are degrees of stigma. And what may bother one person may not seem so bad to another.

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Meth houses are one category of stigmatized property

It’s important to understand that one of the classic examples of stigmatized property is a home where tragedy or other undesirable activity has occurred, such as if someone dies inside a house. Another example is a home where drugs like methamphetamine have been manufactured. Yet other example, though generally considered less worrisome to many buyers, is a foreclosed home where a former owner loses the property due to job loss.

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This Happened to Me: A Case Study
Here’s a true story that helps to illustrate the impact of stigmatized property. While at work one day, I received a phone call and quickly recognized the caller as a client I assisted with a home purchase months earlier. Listening further, I detected serious concern in his voice as I’d never observed from him before.

As the client talked, I listened while automatically running through a brief mental checklist of his closed transaction:

‘Paperwork completed correctly?’  Check.
‘Home inspection performed?’ Check.
‘All inspection issues addressed or negotiated?’  Check.
‘Building permits researched?’ Check.

‘Insurance, title report, loan and closing documents taken care of?’  Check.

I run through a few more items in my mind, then hear him say the word ‘Ghost.’ 

Oregon Real Estate Podcast

In ‘A Christmas Carol,’ Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his business partner, Jacob Marley

In the Beginning
After looking at many homes, this buyer and his wife ended up making an offer that had some ‘back and forth’ on the price, but it was ultimately accepted. Looking back at the transaction, there was never any indication to suggest this would be anything but a ‘normal’ home purchase. And everything was normal. Until after the transaction closed. Which is when things took a decidedly different turn.

Not very long after this buyer and his wife moved into their recently purchased home, they began to hear strange noises, usually in the middle of the night, like around 2 or 3 AM. But then things got much stranger.

The sounds they heard appeared to emanate from inside the house for no readily explainable reason. Sounds like dropped tableware, moving furniture, bells ringing. You get the idea. There was no reason for them to expect these sounds, yet they were apparently coming from inside the house and at odd hours.

After a while of having their sleep disturbed, the homebuyers grew concerned and began to ask around the neighborhood. “Do you hear strange sounds at night like we do?” After being told “No” by at least one neighbor, one neighbor asked if the homebuyers knew about the event that had occurred inside their home. The new owner said ‘No.’

Story specifics vary, but the neighbor apparently explained that a child had died inside the house and was then laid to rest on the property. Understandably, this distressed the home buyers, who thought they should have been told before buying the home.

After speaking with the home buyers, I next called the seller’s real estate agent for the transaction and simply asked: “Did you know that the property had a history of a death in the house? “Yes,” he quickly answered, then followed up with what I knew aligned with what Oregon real estate agents are instructed regarding state real estate law. “But my principal broker told me we didn’t have to disclose it.” And he was correct.

I also understood that particular Realtor’s fiduciary responsibility to his seller client; Because if the seller’s agent had openly revealed the situation while marketing it, there was a good chance the property would have sold for considerably less. Usually, the rule is ‘disclose, even if an item seems trivial.’ Yet in this instance, there was no state law requiring such disclosure and the seller had a vested interest in not bringing the issue up.

The Rest of the Story
As a result of the impact from their home purchase of the stigmatized home, the homebuyers moved and ultimately rented out the property. Witnessing this unpleasant situation had me researching to better determine what might have been done differently. At the time, there were no online resources solely dedicated to determining if a house is stigmatized. On top of that, repeated online searches eventually turned up one news story relating to the property. However, that was accomplished by a search using the specific house address and buried in a list of much other website information. It was virtually a ‘needle in a haystack.’

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Rules of Disclosure
Realtors are compelled to abide by real estate law. So what exactly is required by an Oregon real estate agent regarding stigmatized, or other ‘tainted’ property?  Oregon law states in Oregon Revised Statutes 93.275 the following excerpted incidents as among those considered not material to a real property transaction:

(a) The fact or suspicion that the real property or a neighboring property was the site of a death by violent crime, by suicide or by any other manner;

(b) The fact or suspicion that the real property or a neighboring property was the site of a crime, political activity, religious activity or any other act or occurrence that does not adversely affect the physical condition of or title to real property;

What’s Legal Vs. What’s Right
Was not disclosing such history the right thing to do, though? You be the judge. That’s where there is a divergence of opinion and it’s not always because someone is buying or selling a property. To some buyers, what has happened in the past within the four walls of a house, especially a death, matters. Other buyers may have a more practical perspective and and appear to be less bothered by property history.  Here is information on a court case where a buyer sued a homeseller who did not disclose stigmatizing details. As you will read there, there are two sides to the story of stigmatized properties.

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And in an odd twist, some reports suggest properties located near a cemetery actually sell for considerably more money. As a result, there are diverse opinions on certain kinds of stigma. Take for example houses considered ‘haunted.’ A Realtor survey found that most people are open to purchasing a haunted house.

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Why Stigmatized Properties Are Different
One reason stigmatized properties are different is because they don’t affect everyone the same way. Another reason is because factors that stigmatize a property vary. Some are undeniably gruesome, like violent death, while other, more common stigmatizing factors have limited psychological affect, like bank foreclosure. Yet other stigmas, such as a former meth lab, are doubly troublesome, since they carry both a market stigma plus can render a property unfinanceable.

Another reason why stigmatized properties are uniquely different than usual issues, like say dry rot or a leaky roof, is that they frequently involve very human emotions. And when we consider what makes a home, where children are raised, birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated and many cherished memories are created, common sense dictates that a house should comport with the real estate concept of ‘quiet enjoyment,’ least of all being awakened at 3 AM to later be surprised with what has occurred in your own home.

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There’s a Website for That

So important is the issue of certain real estate stigmas that there are even websites for consumers to research for them. For example, homebuyers concerned about a possible death in a particular home can now search at websites like DiedInHouse.com in an effort to determine such information. However, be aware that this kind of online search may provide an incomplete portrayal of what you’re seeking.

 

Oregon Real Estate Podcast

Latin for ‘let the buyer beware.’

Buyer Beware
Websites that purport to provide a report on stigmatized real estate typically charge a fee and they are certainly not foolproof. In fact, a recent test search of several confirmed ‘death houses’ in Oregon found no record in such a website dedicated to providing this kind of information. What these websites sometimes say in their results is that they ‘do not have any records’ of specific activity. Given my anecdotal ‘test searches’ of known locations where death, violent and otherwise did occur, yet where no records were located, appears to suggest such databases may be small, rarely updated, or otherwise inadequate.

What’s A Buyer to Do?
First, understand limitations of Oregon real estate law. Certain real estate factors simply do not need to be disclosed.

Second, realize that websites claiming to provide information on stigmatized properties can be severely lacking. So if more fully determining a property’s stigmatization status is important to you, you may need to address this on your own in a variety of ways explained below. There are certain reliable websites, depending on what you’re seeking. For example here is a link to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s meth lab registry.

Third, if your Realtor, family member or friend is more ‘computer savvy’ than your are, have them perform some research. Regardless, some homebuyers may wish to work on this themselves.

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Researching a Stigmatized Property
It’s important to realize that a great deal of data may not be on the Internet, or easily found there. Yet that’s generally a fast way to get started. So if you have concern about possibly purchasing a property and want to see if there is information to be found, here’s one possible research approach:

Perform Internet searches using different search engines (Google, Bing, among others). Each time you search, type in the property address several different ways. For example, if there are many different pages that turn up for a specific address, try enclosing the search address using closed quotes.

One example might look like this: “123 E. Main Street, Portland, OR” and also “123 East Main Street, Portland, OR” along with several other methods, including spelling out the state and possibly leaving the word ‘street’ out altogether. Try also typing in a possibly related word in your search, like “123 E. Main Street, Portland OR” followed by the word “police” or “arrest” or “murder” or “crime” or “death.” Also realize that in certain counties and towns, the street direction is used AFTER the street name. So in Salem, the address might be “123 Main Street East, Salem, OR” along with other variations.

You get the idea. What you’re trying to do is determine any especially untoward activity associated with that specific house you may purchase. Other potentially effective ways to help determine more about a specific property regarding possible stigmatization is to ask the neighbors, or your local police department. 

What’s A Seller to Do?
Usually the best advice for homesellers is to ‘Disclose, disclose, disclose.’ Yet there are exceptions. For example, in Oregon it is illegal to disclose certain facts about a property.

Under Oregon law, neither the seller nor their agent is allowed to disclose that an owner or occupant of the real property has or had human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

If you’re unsure about how disclosure requirements apply to your situation, it’s generally a good idea to consult your Realtor for more information and/or an attorney specializing in real estate law.

Do you have a real estate question? Contact Oregon Realtor Roy Widing using the convenient form below.

5 ‘Insider’ Oregon Real Estate Tips

There are ‘insider tips’ in Oregon real estate, just like many professions. Exactly what are these little-discussed pointers and how can they benefit non-Realtors? Find out in this information-packed podcast from veteran Oregon Realtor Roy Widing.

Click here or on the ‘play button’ above to hear the audio presentation of this article.

Oregon Real Estate Podcast

Can You Keep A Secret?

Real Estate Confidential
As with any occupation, there are ‘insider tips’ in real estate. Exactly what are these little-discussed pointers and how can they benefit non-Realtors?
Ask a dozen real estate agents and you’re likely to get a dozen different answers. Yet the following perspective can provide insight into what are often little-known facets of residential real estate, whether you’re buying or selling. We’ll first briefly note why this little-known information can be important, then we’ll get to these 5 little known ‘insider tips.’ And since most real estate agents are Realtors, both terms will be used interchangeably here. 

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Keep Your Quiver Well-Armed
Knowledge is power and in the hands of a trusted real estate professional, such power can be tremendously beneficial. For example, it’s helpful whether you need correct information to price your property right, or entrust transaction details to an agent while away when your home is for sale, or get solid recommendations for a truly good inspection, repair or mortgage firm. The ability to reliably depend upon a trusted Realtor to look out for your best interests regarding one of your most valued investments is a very good ‘arrow’ indeed to have in your ‘quiver.’ Having navigated ample real estate terrain, accomplished real estate agents are understandably ‘go to’ sources for good reason.

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On The Move
It’s difficult to be an expert on everything. As a result, consumers can feel vulnerable or even taken advantage of, given the sheer volume of knowledge needed to buy or sell real estate. Since Americans move on average about every half dozen years, it’s easy to get ‘rusty’ and not know what to be aware of when buying or selling a home. With that in mind, here are 5 ‘insider’ Realtor tips you may not have considered. 

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‘Double Agents’ Have Lots of Important Information

Oregon Real Estate Insider Tip #1.
Having A ‘Double Agent’ Can Be A Good Thing

Few buyers and sellers think much about what is sometimes called ‘dual agency.’ This is when the listing (seller’s) Realtor also represents the buyer. There are possible pitfalls, but also significant advantages to dual agency. But let us first be clear: Any potential benefits of dual agency go out the window if an agent is either dishonest, or doesn’t work within ethical boundaries.

Why would buyers want to work with a dual, or ‘double’ agent? First, no agent is likely to know a property better than the listing agent, (the seller’s Realtor). Second, the listing agent is also likely to have a relationship, or at least some rapport with the seller. While this isn’t typically enough to get a poor offer accepted, having an agent who knows the seller could help a buyer ‘put their best foot forward’ in a competitive offer situation. Third, because offers are routed specifically through the listing (seller’s) Realtor, no offers usually come in that the seller’s agent is unaware of. For buyers, having a ‘heads up’ of other offer activity can also be useful.

Sellers can also benefit from dual agency by having their agent represent property details directly to the buyer with one less person in the communication loop, while also possibly having a clear understanding with the Realtor of what is expected in a transaction. Because the listing (seller’s) agent understands the seller’s needs, those needs may sometimes be better communicated to buyers represented by the same agent. So while there are possible downsides to dual agency, there can also be real advantages.

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Oregon Real Estate Insider Tip #2.
Realtors Can Calculate Their Paycheck by Viewing a Property Listing Sheet

That’s right, virtually every property listed by a real estate agent in our region shows exactly what will be paid to the Realtor (and their real estate firm) whose buyer purchases it. So before an agent even shows a home, he or she can determine what they’ll be paid for selling it.

Commissions are typically ‘split’ between Realtors and their offices, so a buyer’s agent will usually get a portion of the commission shown in the multiple listing system. That figure is sometimes called the ‘buyer’s agent commission’ or BAC and can have dramatic implications.

That’s because real estate agents are salespeople and if they do not deem the promised commission as competitive, sellers may not see the same level of enthusiasm or showing response to their property. The point of a multiple listing system is to promote homes to buyers and their Realtors. Offering what’s considered a sub-standard commission to the buyer’s agent can tend to subvert the whole concept of attracting interest to sell it.

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Some Realtors ‘Jump Ship’ in Different Markets

Oregon Real Estate Insider Tip #3.
Be Aware of Inventory-Induced ‘Ship Jumping’ 

Just as Realtors will help clients gain perspective by encouraging sellers to ‘put on their buyer’s hat’ and ask buyers to ‘put on their seller’s hat,’ now let’s ‘put on our Realtor’s hat.’

Assume there are few buyers and lots and lots of homes for sale, so buyers are in demand. What do some savvy real estate agents do? If it is a ‘buyer’s market,’ they work with buyers, the ones having considerable power in the situation. If there are few homes for sale, this means ‘listings are hot’ and controlling more property inventory by having more listed homes may provide Realtors a better income. As a result, some focused Realtors ‘jump ship,’ from working with buyers to sellers, or vice-versa, depending on the market.

Given such changing market dynamics, expert agents also routinely educate their clients on what to expect, depending on the kind of market they’re in. For example, being a seller in buyer’s market, or a buyer in a seller’s market requires more patience than when you have the advantage of having the market ‘on your side.’ Here’s a helpful article and podcast on buyer’s and seller’s markets.

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Oregon Real Estate Insider Tip #4.
Research is Key & Sites Like Zillow Can Be Wildly Inaccurate
A recent news article illustrates just how inaccurate online home estimate websites can be. The head of Zillow recently sold his home for approximately 40% less than the Zillow estimate, or Zestimate. This is one reason why some real estate agents roll their eyes when online home value estimates are mentioned. In accurately setting a selling price, it’s important to let your Realtor research truly comparable properties. Would you really expect similarly accurate results from a doctor who physically examines you, compared to a computer-generated exam?

For sellers, this frequently means closely examining key differences between your property, competing homes for sale and those that have actually sold. Location matters, living space matters and so does condition. And especially if your home is a best suited to a more experienced ‘second’ or ‘third time buyer,’ expect they’ll do their research and haven’t just fallen off a turnip truck. If possible, drive by properties deemed truly comparable and ask your Realtor questions if you don’t understand why your home is valued differently than you expect.  

It’s normal for sellers to believe that their property is ‘the best,’ or worth the most in the area. Yet one problem is not only convincing buyers, but if a bank is involved, convincing the lender-required appraiser, too. As part of that, it’s especially helpful to compare key specifics on home sales that are recent, local and truly comparable. Then if there are any significant differences between your home and sold comparable properties, they can at least be be more accurately adjusted for.

Otherwise, if your property has not sold by the time you exceed the average market time for your area and home type, buyers may begin to wonder ‘What’s wrong with it?’ and ‘Why hasn’t it sold?’ For example, buyers may even wonder if there is a crime problem, when maybe your neighborhood is the safest one around. There’s one other reason to consider pricing correctly using truly comparable properties, as we next examine the concept of ‘property history.’

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Oregon Real Estate Insider Tip #5.
Every Property Has a History

Believe it or not, there is a viewable history for any property entered into local Realtor multiple listing systems. With the touch of a button, a Realtor can know how long the property has been on the market, if it has expired from the market unsold (suggesting it was overpriced), if there have been price adjustments and if listing data has been changed. 

Even among properties that have not been sold for some time, a resourceful agent can use tax records and other data to determine what was paid for the home, among other information. This too can raise questions. Was the shop built with permits? Is the current use compliant with zoning regulations? You get the idea.

So if your property has been on the market significantly longer than other similar homes that have sold, expect buyer reluctance. It’s difficult to fool an agent who does their research and expert Realtors commonly provide buyers with a property’s history even before touring it. What this underscores is that it’s usually best to price where buyers will buy and where appraisers can appraise. Otherwise, expect few offers or the dreaded ‘sale-fail.’  

If you have questions, need real estate information on your Oregon town or neighborhood, or would like to know what your property could sell for in today’s market, contact veteran Realtor Roy Widing using the convenient form below.