The ‘Art of War’ for Homesellers

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‘Peace through Strength’ Can Apply to Real Estate Transactions, Too

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

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The ‘Home Front’
Without being overly dramatic, it’s helpful to realize that as a homeseller, you are in a ‘war’ of sorts. Outright battle? Definitely not. And for anyone selling a home, it clearly helps to maintain a sense of politeness and grace when dealing with potential homebuyers. But we’re about to look at the process of homeselling using the metaphor of homeselling as ‘war.’

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Why would the concept of ‘war’ be appropriate for homeselling? To start, homesellers and homebuyers do not have identical goals. In fact, similar to armed conflict, they frequently have goals at direct odds with one another. You can call such business interaction ‘give and take,’ or ‘financial combat,’ or real estate ‘tug-o-war.’ Rather than use swords or heavy artillery, the tools used can be more subtle. Here, metaphorical weapons might include home inspectors, attorneys and a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude. The point is that there is sometimes conflict in a home sale. But as with any good book or movie, sometimes it’s conflict that keeps things interesting and moves the plot forward, while underscoring the value of what is being contested.

So on many levels, the process of homeselling includes engagement with buyers who are naturally at odds with some of your desires as a homeseller. Acknowledging this fact will help you to maintain reasonable expectations throughout the transaction. If that becomes difficult, then simply remember that you were once a homebuyer, too.

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Agility, Leverage and Balance Matter

A Martial Arts Comparison
One such metaphoric view of homeselling is akin to defensive forms of Judo, a time-tested martial art where an opponent’s weight can be used to advantage. A comparison of Judo with homeselling suggests deftness on the part of a homeseller doesn’t have to mean abrasive confrontation, or offensive aggressiveness. Instead, it’s primarily defensive. So we’re therefore talking agility, leverage and balance in order to yield a winning result. Namely, if not to vanquish an attacker, then to simply remain financially safe. 

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The Tedious Work of Minesweeping is Worthwhile

“When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. Do not press a desperate foe too hard.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Make War No More
In the ‘heat of battle,’ there are some practical real estate applications for homesellers to ‘sue for peace,’ de-escalate tensions and maximize results of ‘peace talks.’ Let’s look at a specific real estate situation. For example, in the heat of an ‘offer-counteroffer’ scenario where a buyer and/or seller becomes testy or emotional over a key issue, a constructive approach might involve tactics of (1). taking a ‘time-out’ of sorts by mutually agreeing to longer response timeframes for time-sensitive documents, (2). deflecting an argumentative conversation to other, more fruitful forms, (3). working on other more readily resolvable issues first, and/or (4). ultimately and simply agreeing to disagree.

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Secret Agents Specialize in Spy Tactics

Spy vs. Spy
The metaphor of ‘armed conflict’ in the real estate environment is also relevant in a ‘Cold War’ sense, where parties warily share information as necessary, especially when it suits their own best interests. This might be illustrated as ‘spy’ tactics between two less-than-trusting powers, similar to ‘Cold War’ political terms of entente’ (a French term meaning a diplomatic “understanding”)  or detente’ (“the easing of hostility or strained relations”). For example, homesellers may not enjoy completing a multi-page property disclosure statement to highlight their home’s flaws, yet they realize the significant downsides if they don’t accurately complete the document, so they comply. Such less-than-enthusiastic engagements definitely don’t resemble a ‘hot’ or ‘shooting war’ which could otherwise usher in the military acronym of MAD (mutual assured destruction), where ‘the plug is pulled’ on a home transaction and ostensibly everyone loses. “Scorched earth” is rarely good policy.  Such alternative approaches incorporate thoughtful caution imbued with hope, which seems to describe most real estate transactions.

“The greatest victory is that which requires no battle.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Trust, but Verify
What the term ‘trust, but verify’ can mean is that given often high financial stakes, buyers and sellers are sometimes wary as they ‘size each other up.’ From there, it’s largely up to each party involved to determine whether they attempt to maneuver and take tactical advantage, or ‘play nice’ and get along well throughout a home sale. Practical application of this in a real estate context may include finding common ground wherever possible, but for example, hiring your own home inspector or licensed contractor if a buyer’s inspector seems ‘heavy handed.’

Land Battles of Different Sorts Can Cause the Fog of War

‘Land Battles’ Can Cause the ‘Fog of War’

The Fog of War

“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”
― Sun Tzu

Military veterans have long talked about the ‘fog of war,’ which is defined as  the uncertainty in ‘situational awareness’ (what is going on around you) experienced by soldiers in the heat of battle. The word “fog” in reference to uncertainty in war was introduced by the Prussian military analyst Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831).  If the ‘fog’ of war is defined as uncertainty in what’s going on around you, this certainly applies to real estate transactions. For example, people you don’t know are walking through your home, viewing your possessions, all the while assessing an opinion of value. 

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Don’t Let This Happen to Your Next Real Estate Transaction

‘Fog’ is an apt description of some home selling processes, which can be both confusing and uncertain. Think about it. Interest rates fluctuate. Loan underwriters, home inspectors and appraisers all need to come together in agreement that the buyer and property both ‘pass muster.’ Unless and until they do, uncertainty. Some home sales fail because the buyer made a major purchase before the home sale closes. Or their credit score dropped.  Or the appraisal came in low. You get the idea. In the end, more than a few home sales are just one ‘thumbs down’ from someone in the property transaction ‘chain’ blowing it sky high.

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Opposing  Civil War Generals, U.S. Grant & Robert E. Lee

Wars of the Roses
Interestingly, the historic ‘War of Roses’ was a different kind of ‘real estate battle’ between two royal ‘houses,’ the White Rose of York and the Red Rose of Lancaster. But thankfully as a homeseller, you aren’t marshaling troops to wound and destroy. Instead, we’re talking in essence about a ‘civil’ war between parties who can do business. As a homeseller, your ‘battle’ includes navigating a minefield of easily avoided homeselling missteps, while engaging  homebuyers who might be alternatively friendly, hostile or ‘hard-to-read,’ yet always potentially adversarial.

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An Impossible Mission?
A major goal of homebuyers may at first seem like “Mission Impossible.” Namely, getting you, the homeseller, to accept the lowest possible price for a prized possession, your home. This doesn’t mean you have to be fearful, intimidated or worried. With an experienced Realtor at your side, you’re a ‘well-armed’ team ready to ‘do battle.’ It also helps to know that the more buyers want your house, often the nicer they will be.

War Games
Given these dynamics and with tongue planted firmly in cheek, it makes sense to modify a few homeselling cues from successful battle strategists. You might consider this approach as a ‘tip sheet’ to lay your ‘battle plan’ for what lies ahead.

  1. Declare War. Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  2. Never Surrender. Winston Churchill
  3. Declare Victory. Harry S. Truman
  4. Win the Peace. George C. Marshall
  5. Go home. To your new home, that is

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1. Declare War
This step mainly involves understanding that buyers generally have opposing interests than sellers, but you can usually do business with most of them. Such realistic expectations will help you to understand, for example, why it’s usually a good idea to let your Realtor do much of the talking and not share many specifics about your motivations for selling. Otherwise, opportunistic buyers may sense desperation and take advantage by offering you significantly less than your asking price.

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2. Never Surrender
When the going gets tough, stick with your plan. This includes following through on your thoughtful, well-defined strategies. ‘Keep your powder dry’ by not obsessing over factors you can’t change and ‘choose your shots wisely’ by considering those factors you can change. Conserving firepower is fundamental to strategic homeselling.

For example, adjustments in the home-selling process are sometimes necessary. It’s entirely possible that if your home hasn’t sold for some time, a case can be made for a price adjustment. That’s not a defeat, unless you stop moving thoughtfully forward. But before making substantial ‘course corrections,’ first make sure to review the situation and your options.

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3. Declare Victory
Realize when you’ve won. This doesn’t mean chest beating. Just make sure to remind yourself of your goals once you’ve reached them. For example, your home selling goals may have included receiving a timely offer at full selling price and/or retaining a few extra days of delayed possession after the closing date to more comfortably move out along with other factors important to you. Cherish the win.

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4. Win the Peace
Remain as gracious as possible throughout the transaction. Be charitable to your buyers. For example, this could include your being flexible if they ask about allowing contractors to visit your home before closing in order to provide bids for later remodeling. Leaving a vase of flowers in the house with a note for when the buyers move in is a nice touch, too.

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5. Go Home: To Your New Home, That Is
Mission Accomplished!

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Thinking about selling your Oregon home? Contact experienced Realtor Roy Widing using the convenient form below for a free consultation. And please thank a veteran today for their service.

What’s An Oregon Acre Worth?

One frequent Oregon real estate question buyers and sellers ask is ‘What’s an acre worth?’  When you think about it, this question is not so different than ‘What’s a car worth?’ That’s because each situation has significant variables.

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With a car, the mileage and condition are both very important to arrive at an accurate value. Land, too has unique variables. What are these variables that affect the value of an acre and as an Oregon property buyer or seller, what is it that you may need to know?

Oregon Real EstateWhat follows in not an exhaustive study of determining the value of an acre, but a summary of 6 key factors that affect the market value of Oregon acreage property. Spoiler alert: The actual answer to the value of an Oregon acre is ‘it depends.’

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Research is Fundamental
There are plenty of places to find estimates on land values, including for Oregon acreages
. But unless some specific and fundamental research is performed, such estimates can be meaningless, beyond providing a broad yardstick for comparison between states. Yet, even that can be a misleading endeavor. 

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California Dreaming
For example, many think California land is more expensive than Oregon land. Yet an acre of land in Oregon could be worth considerably more than a California acre. How? Select one acre in Canby, Oregon (with a current population of more than 16,000)  and the other acre in tiny Canby, California, (with a current population of less than 500). The simple laws of supply and demand apply, even across state lines. So to begin, demand is a function of value. The larger a population surrounding a given acre, usually the greater the demand and hence the higher the price per acre. 

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How Big Is An Acre? 
Sources suggest an acre was first defined back in the Middle Ages as the amount of land that could be ploughed in one day with a yoke of oxen. An acre can now be specifically defined as an area comprising 43,560 square feet. For example, this would equal a parcel of 66 feet (1 chain, also known as 22 yards) by 660 feet (1 furlong, also known as 1/8 mile, or 220 yards).

6 Factors of Separation
The following six factors provide insights into some key components that help determine the value of an Oregon acre of land.

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Factor 1: Location, Location, Location
To help determine the value of an Oregon acre, chief among the variables is the immutable characteristic of location. Why? For example, prime farmland located in distant locales can be worth less than somewhat lower grade farmland if the distant location requires significant fuel and related expense in order to transport crops to market. Location explains why waterfront property usually sells for more than property located some distance from a river or lake. Location also explains why view properties can command a premium.

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Factor 2: Zoning & Allowed Uses

In Oregon, also high among the factors that impact the value per acre is zoning. Zoning can be influenced by federal, state, county, regional (like Oregon’s Metro government) and city regulations. For example, don’t expect to generate much income from a parcel of land designated as a wetland. There are fewer activities that can be performed on such a property and as a result, fewer buyers and therefore lower demand. This typically means a lower market value. Generally speaking, in many parts of Oregon, property zoned to allow residential, commercial or industrial use frequently commands a higher price than agricultural land. 

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Factor 3: Volume Discount

With some limitations, the larger the parcel, generally speaking the lower the market value per acre. This is true for several reasons. As a property’s price gets up into the higher ranges, particularly if we’re talking multiples of a region’s average selling price, there are simply fewer qualified buyers. As an example, consider how many buyers in a given area who may be able to afford a $100,000 property. This is a sizable percentage of the ‘buyer pool.’ 
Now consider how many buyers who may be able to afford a 3 or 4 million dollar property. Far fewer as the price increases. So while there are buyers for each price category, the price per acre is typically reduced with the increase in land size and purchase price.
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Factor 4: Soil Types
There is a plethora of soil types, with various metrics to determine their characteristics and use. According to Oregon State University, we have nearly 1,000 different soils in Oregon. One broad method of grouping and evaluating soil types is known as the ‘class system.’ Broad groups of soils can therefore be denoted as Class I, Class II, Class III, and the like. As you might expect, Class I soils are considered the best and typically have very good fertility, superior drainage and are typically located in mostly level areas, often with slopes of no more than 3%. Examples of Oregon Class I and Class II soil types are Willamette Silt Loam and Woodburn Silt Loam.  

Also as you might expect, Oregon’s Class VI and Class VII soils are considered less useful for agricultural purposes. One example of these is called Whetstone soil. While having low fertility, Whetstone is suited to to growing timber, but not cultivated crops. Erosion of poorer soils can also be severe. One of Oregon’s least productive soils is not even technically considered soil. Called Terrace Escarpments, this alluvium is typically located in steep areas which makes cultivating it so difficult.   

Some crops grow significantly better with certain soils. Other crops, such as grapes, can be more forgiving and can actually thrive under a diversity of soil types, even if they ‘struggle,’ which is said to provide certain favorable wine characteristics.

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     Examples of Different Soil Surveys Published for Each Oregon County

While soils information on a given property can now be located online for a specific property according to each Oregon county, for many years the primary method of researching soil types was to either speak with an extension agent or view the ‘soil survey’ book issued for each Oregon county. These books were published by the US Department of Agriculture. As a result, they became the ‘bible’ for determining soil type and related information. 

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Factor 5: Water Rights
In addition to the above factors, access and legal ability to use water is a very significant element in determining the value of an Oregon acre. The Oregon Water Resources Department has a regional watermaster system, where each watermaster has a range of state-mandated duties. As a general rule, land with water rights is worth significantly more than ‘dry land.’ One reason is because irrigable land allows for more-and potentially more profitable-crops.

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Factor 6: Improvements
Another important factor in determining the value of an acre are improvements. Key among these can be a home. However, even if a home is not present but a well and/or septic system is, and the property is zoned to allow a home, this can be the ‘dream scenario’ that some buyers who wish to have a new home built actually want. That’s because the zoning is already in place, as are some of the most expensive utilities like water and septic. As a result, the presence of absence of improvements is another element in helping to determine the value of an acre.

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In Summary
There are many components to evaluating the worth of an acre. To most accurately do this, it’s important that your Realtor review comparable properties in your area. This means utilizing information among truly similar properties sharing related characteristics, especially those which may have recently sold. An experienced Oregon acreage real estate specialist is conversant with the multiple factors necessary to most accurately gather, analyse and interpret such data.

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Questions? Call a Professional!
Do you have questions about buying or selling Oregon property? Contact veteran Oregon Realtor Roy Widing for a free consultation using the convenient form below.