Get Creative


We lost IT. We use to have IT and now we lost IT and now you can get it on ebay! This IT is that huge chunk of our commission that used to come from being the gatekeeper to the multiple. At a listing presentation our competition was only another agent that charged the same fee (there were a few reduced fee offices but it wasn’t a trend).

But they don’t need us anymore for that. They can get it on ebay. And they can get listed for under $400! Of course, taking and uploading the listing in the multiple is just the beginning, but if we’re going to separate out tasks like the actual listing going into the multiple, why not separate out all the tasks and see what they’re really worth. I agree that uploading the listing is a pretty simple task and a lot of agents just fax it in so it probably is only worth $400 (you have to be registered with the mls for this, plus it involves contracts and accuracy of the listing information)….. if that’s all the service a seller wants.

So, last summer I decided to address all of the things that agents do by breaking up the tasks and establishing a monetary value to each. It’s the ala carte menu of listing services and I googled and googled but couldn’t find anyone with anything complete enough online. I even took the coursework to get licensed as a consutant from the National Association of Real Estate Consultants (NAREC) so I could see if someone had already done all that work.

I separated out the tasks ranging from $20/hr for real estate data input, filling flyer boxes, dropping off keys, etc. (a high school kid couldn’t do all of this) to $300/hr for negotiation and problem solving. Wow, I was surprised at how often I worked for $20/hr. I tried to figure out what I’d be charged by different people doing different levels of work and then added a profit margin.

The $300 work i assumed would be done by the senior agent taking the listing and running the team but personally doing tasks that take a lot of experience and skill like price opinions, market timing, the totally important negotiations with both buyers and the buyer’s agents and solving all those problems (I had a list of 88 things that can go wrong with a transaction). Personally, this is where I’d prefer to spend my time.

The results are on the website if you want to see how it works. My slick computer tech even built it to automatically compute based on different packages and house price.

What got me thinking about this was today’s Inman article on bloated commissions and how much I agree with it. The article suggests, “consumers would benefit most from fee-for-service real estate companies that base compensation on flat fees, hourly fees and other specific payments for services rather than relying on a commission rate that is based on a percentage of the sale price of a home.

114 thoughts on “Get Creative

  1. If they pick 10 Open Houses for $100 bucks apiece, would they have to pay you $1,000 whether the house sells or not? Does “Just Pay for What You Get” mean pay at time of choosing, instead of IF the house sells? What happens if they decide to take the property off the market and not sell it at all?

  2. If the listing costs go over $1500 9though I’m considering 2000) then the remainder of what they want to have done will come out of closing. It would never go higher than 3%, so they’d be risking only the $1500-2000.

  3. I just took over an mls only listing, actually it just closed ten minutes ago, and they had to pay the company before me for something that held them up for 6 weeks. If what they choose to buy isn’t what they really need, it doesn’t work very well.

    I say try it and good luck with it for sure. But asking all of us to copy it? I’ve seen a la carte companies before. I loved one in Florida. Didn’t work. They went out of business, and people hated paying for unsuccessful efforts.

    Given the choice of paying only if successful, and paying whether it is successful or not, the public generally opts for paying only when it is successful. Except for home inspectors and appraisers 🙂 They get paid whether the sale closes or not…but they are pretty much the only ones.

  4. Eileen,

    How did you come up with your hourly rates. For example, $300 per hour for negotiation? That seems quite steep considering that is (in Seattle) what you would pay a very skilled and tenured attorney at the higher end of the scale.


  5. I think determining pricing on a fee for service model might be tricky early on. If you’re charging $300 per hour for negotiation and the service starts to catch on, another agent will likely come along and charge $275.

    If you’re breaking services down so that they can be quantified, you’ll eventually be left competing on price and convenience – at some point you’re going to get into a race to the bottom with others. Not necessarily a bad thing, once it all sorts itself out – but things could get ugly early on.

  6. What about a fee for results model? Based on client “satisfaction?” A fee not based on just doing but on actually accomplishing. Based on criteria that you actually figure out with your client.

    You transcend the time/money barrier (which means you only get paid more when you work more) AND you change the tone of the conversation.

    By going that direction, you change the conversation from, “What do you charge?” into “How will this work?”

    You’ve turned a take it or leave it proposition and turned it into a “choice of yeses” for your prospective client.

  7. Ardell,

    I agree with your thoughts here:

    “Given the choice of paying only if successful, and paying whether it is successful or not, the public generally opts for paying only when it is successful.”

    But then again I also agree with Eileen…

    That is why I charge hourly for my time and a smaller percent when it closes. This puts me in a great position to move those numbers around when a deal looks like it is priced reasonably. But if a crazy seller wants me to market their over priced piece of junk half floodplain lot on a busy street…. Welll… they better be getting out their checkbook.

    So I guess what I am saying is that I see this debate ending somewhere in between the two models.


  8. We all need to realize that real estate, as we know it today, we be something entirely different in 2-5 years.

    I think we’ll have “Google Real Estate” (easily achieved if we lose the rights to our MLS data) aggregating all national listings, just as RE/MAX is now doing at If RE/MAX can do it, does anyone doubt that Google could do it ~ and do it better?

    That site could also include FSBOs and offer a matching service for buyers and sellers.

    It would be easy for Google to monetize what is now our MLS data with an entry fee and then sell leads to Realtors as now occurs with other lead generation websites.

    If this comes to be, there will be no more MLS and the role of Realtors will be drastically marginalized.

    As Realtors, we need to prepare for innovative, more efficient business models than we are presently using.

    For example, I noticed this morning that Greg Swann in Phoenix (BloodHound Realty) is now putting up separate blogs (private listings) and offering the buyer the selling end commission to use as they please.

    We are in for some BIG changes in the near future.

  9. Ardell, I agree that some of the public will chose the paying only if close model, but there are sellers out there that want to do their own open houses, happy to make flyers, willing and able to be there for the inspector, appraiser, etc etc and only need negotiation and maybe consulting to help them understand what they can and can’t do by themselves. Maybe they only need help with the paperwork, of, possibly they have a buyer and don’t know how to close. How do you help them? In the transaction you stated, probably the company that originally listed the house didn’t have enough ability and enough services to get them through the whole transaction.

  10. I expected that comment when I assigned $300/hr to that job. But, if a seller doesn’t feel that an agent experienced in thousands of actual sales (lawyers don’t go to inspections, don’t show houses, don’t deal with value, etc.just like agents don’t represent someone in court and don’t know the legal codes) then they can pay an attorney if they want. They’re always at choice. Whether or not I’m worth $300/hr will all be in the eyes of the seller.

  11. Tyler, I agree, you’d end up competing on fees, but that’s what we do now. A seller could easily pay for only 4-5 hours at that high level. The $300/hr consulting would be probably less than 4-5 hours per deal

  12. Jason, that would definitely work. How do attorneys do it? They certainly get paid whether they win or not. How much competition do they have for business.

    Russ, also, let’s not forget, at the current commission for listings, I personally know over 30 agents that earn more than the average attorney, so someone thinks we’re worth it!

  13. Eileen – Attorneys who earn a lot do so in spite of significant competition. RE agents earn a lot only somewhat they are good salespeople (which is fine), but mostly because of collusion and monopolistic behavior of the RE industry. This anti-consumer behavior has largely successfully kept commission rates at an unreasonably high level and as the only acceptable form of payment. Look at the Detroit MLS case.

    If the various RE agencies and MLS systems weren’t so involved in trying to shut out discounters or Internet companies, I bet you’d see the average transaction cost for a RE transaction drop quite a bit, and probably most agent’s salaries along with it. I’m sure the best agents would still find a way to thrive, but the per transaction profit would (and should) significantly decrease.

    Buying or selling a property isn’t like buying a book or a car, but it’s significantly more standardized and less complex than your average legal case. In most cases the consumer can do a lot of the leg work themselves, as evidenced by the increasing number of discount RE firms who can and do make money on each transaction. You can do your own legal research, but the system isn’t set up to make that efficient or wise. Plus it requires significantly less training to be an agent, as evidenced by the difference between what it takes to pass the bar and what it takes to become an agent or REALTOR.

    All this leads to the inevitable conclusion that RE transaction costs are ripe for significant decreases in the next 5-15 years, so be ready for it.

  14. I just read an interview with an allegedly successful ‘fee for service’ agent in a real estate marketing paper. Here’s what he said:

    “Fee for service is tied to the value of the services rendered; commission is tied to the price of the house. Commission says the vendor takes no risk, the salesperson takes all the risk and may never see a dollar, but when the vendor pays, they pay a lot. With commission, the vendor is paying for a sale if it happens, and the salesperson is entitled to a high commission as a reward for the risk taken – that’s the same thing that happens if you’re selling jet airplanes instead of houses. The difference is, when a Realtor sells a $500,000 listing in three days, the vendor doesn’t always take kindly to paying that Realtor a commission.
    Fee for service says, you pay me for my work, not for a risky potential outcome. With fee for service, you are buying the services necessary to make a sale happen. It’s a fundamentally different thing.”

    He calls himself a ‘consultant’, because “a consultant is paid for their time and expertise.”

  15. Eileen,

    You said “…at the current commission for listings, I personally know over 30 agents that earn more than the average attorney, so someone thinks we’re worth it!”

    What does that have to do with whether you (or those 30 agents) are worth $300 per hour TO NEGOTIATE a deal.

    You also compare attorneys to agents involved in “thousands of sales”. Simple math tells me those agents have grossed over $10 Million in commissions. Exactly how many of the MILLION or so agents in the US have grossed over $10 Million in commissions? If you have, I commend you on being a very, very unique agent.

    If I were your prospective client and you were asking me to pay you $300, I would ask you what qualifications you had that warranted that fee. What qualifies you as an expert negotiater worth $300 for an hour of your time? It certainly can’t be because you have done a bunch of deals.

    I have to defend my hourly rate all of the time and I don’t think that will sell. Then again, as you said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.


  16. To Eileen’s main point – I think a “transparent package” for RE transactions is good. I went to her web site and think she breaks them out too far (too confusing for customers). I agree with Russ, that if you go “fee for service” and then expect to make $300/hour, you’re smokin’ something.

    Given the rise in housing costs, I think RE will end up settling on two price points: something that ends up around $5k at the low-end (around 1% for median house) and something that ends up around $10k at the high-end (around 2%). There’s just nothing in 80-90% of RE transactions that justifies 3% anymore.

  17. jcricket and Russ
    Agent and attorneys can not be compared so why compare the hourly rate. How much do you think an hour of Donald Trumps time is worth for a person wanting to get rich in real estate. If you say more/hour than you make Russ, then you would have to agree that experience and success have worth with no relation to what an attorney charges. What’s a newly licensed agent worth? maybe $75/hr? Somewhere on that scale between Donald Trump and a newbie lie all other agents. An agents hourly wage should definitely be a function of experience and a demonstration of success. Is a commercial agent more valuable than a residential agent in a commercial transaction? Of course, due to experience and training. And vice versa. So, there is a price an agent can charge for the ability to save the seller thousands of dollars with good negotiations, or due to an understand of Roth IRA and 1031 investing, deep understand of loan programs, knowing how to buy in path of progress, how to do fix and flips correctly, how to solve those really sticky inspection items that kill deals, etc etc It should be up to the client to decide which agent is worth hiring and which is not and how much to pay them. At this point, the sellers don’t generally even know the questions to ask. If we used a model with all the services broken down as to value, then wouldn’t sellers finally be fully informed of what and who they’re hiring?

  18. Eileen,

    I agree with you in substance and I like the fee for service model. My only comment here is that many/most of the items you reference are also done by good transactional real estate attorneys. Since most of the attorney’s time is spent actually “on” deals as opposed to “chasing” deals, you cannot even begin to compare the amount of deal experience that a 10 year lawyer will have vs. a ten year agent. Its not close. What’s more, the lawyer can actually advise the client on legal issues and legally draft language that may be important to the negotiated agreement.

    I am not saying that the attorney is better suited to handling all aspects of the residential real estate transaction. Clearly, they are not. I just took exception with the rate you were quoting on the “negotiation” piece because that IS a part that can be handled by transactional real estate attorneys and the minute you start charging by the hour, you engage those folks (including me) as your competitors.


  19. Russ, just to answer your question regarding
    commissions and thousands of sales.Let me give one or two examples. Agent in southern Cal earns $250,000/mo. Prominent Bellevue agent earned over 1.5 mil, 5 years ago in one year and earning more each year. Takes thousands of deals over the years to do that. I may have done thousands having been licensed since 78, I never counted.A personal friend is over $500 and over 80 transactions so far this year alone and she’s been practicing 25 years.
    I understand that a good real estate attorney can be a valuable asset to the team. However, they live with the legal consequences of their actions. An agent lives with the physical conditions, market value, disclosure issues, financing, possession problems, insurance issues, just to name a few and we are liable for fallout from any mistakes in any of these areas, right? Just look at what happened to a very fine agent in the JL Scott chain from a supposed lack of disclosure.We’re responsible if there’s a non disclosed well on a piece of property that we were “supposed to know about”!
    I just wouldn’t want even the best real estate attorney negotiating about whether or not to call in an engineer on a basement with a crack, or understand how much it might cost to repair a deck and then find the people to do it. Does a furnace in a plenium under a house need to be removed, how do you get the health department to test the well water in a timely manner and not kill the deal. I’m just saying that real estate negotiations are part legal, part market information, part therapist, part constuction, part great inter agent communication and hand holding, etc.
    My attorney has been about as close to being a business partner as any, but when I did commercial and syndication, and now development and complicated real estate deals, we do use an excellent RE attorney and an excellent tax attorney and CPA and we definitely have them draft the contracts and review all terms, but they take our direction as to what the contract says, not the other way around. They cover out butts and tell us when something doesn’t work taxwise but they never were involved in settling on a price, possession date,phsical and accounting due diligence, appraisal assumptions, cash flow analysis, IRR, etc etc
    Anyway, glad you agree in substance. I wish we could get even some agents on board and get some information to the sellers that they deserve to have. I have about 20 listing presentations from various companies, and they all say the same thing because we all basically do the same thing. I just wish we could serve the seller better and let them pick out fairly what services they really want. I had hoped with this post to hear from a bunch of fee for service agents and see how they’re doing.

  20. Eileen,

    Unfortunately, you have dealt with lawyers who choose not to give business advice to their clients and that suits you fine. There is another group of real estate lawyers out here who don’t mind providing business advice to their clients. Our world is not limited to the legalease. It is helping clients solve problems and putting deals together. Similar to you. Please don’t think that helping clients solve the myriad of problems that may arise in a real estate transaction as the exclusive domain of the real estate agent.

    My point remains that once you start charging by the hour, we compete. If you can get $300 per hour for your negotiation skills, more power to you.


  21. Eileen,

    I think you’ve got this 100% right. There is a gathering storm in the way agents are paid and there’s a lot of discussion and experimentation going on right now as to what this business will look like in a few years. Our little Austin real estate company is experimenting with buyer rebates with some success. We’ve not targeted much on the other side, but if we do, it will be some flavor of the discount model.

    Best of luck!

  22. How do you price a piece of advice that can save your clients thousands of dollars? It’s like the mechanic who charges $99 for knowing which screw to tighten and $1 for actually tightening it.

    In real estate, you either do everything or you do nothing, because it’s not like with lawyers, where it’s easy to break the job down into visible chunks that take a certain amount of time.

  23. Russ,
    You’re right. I haven’t used attoreys to give me business advice except when it’s business advice in a lawsuit. I believe that my attorney is also very savvy about my business decisions, but I guess I take the self education route way too much and then just run ideas by him for the legal consequences. By the way, I’ve spent over 100,000 on attorneys in my 40 years in a work career.
    Comes with the price of having what someone else wants.

  24. I believe the real estate world would be better served if all the part-time and no-time agents simply let their licenses expire. The attrition would restore the value of representation. The truth is, the real bubble is in the bloated agent inventory. The NAR statistic page proves that most aren’t making a handsome living and most real estate communities throw you a parade for doing 3 million in annual volume. I came into this business to be a top-tiered producer and an advocate for my clients whether they are buying or selling. And using an attorney to negotiate a deal? Good luck with the whole concept of offer and acceptance. You’ll need an attorney review period before the attornewy review period to agree on an attorney review period. At least in downtown Chicago.

  25. thanks for the thoughtful response, Geno and I couldn’t agree with you more, though I had never drawn that conclusion myself. it’s an interesting connection to the bubble.It’s hard for attorneys to understand why we stay away from them for exactly the reasons you said. Personally, I’m tryng to weed out agents that aren’t working full time, too much liability, etc.

    When I started back into real estate after a 15 year career change at JLScott in 93, I started midyear and was #1 that year, just off floor. I was appalled because I couldn’t believe that with my measly income I was still 1st out of 65 agents. Most were working full time but spent it all in the office yacking. So there’s that type, too, maybe get rid of the part timers, no timers, and have an income threshold or your out.

  26. Hi,
    What is the appropriate forum to ask questions about the exact level of detail required, in my remodeling efforts, to prepare a 3 bedroom crawler in Shoreline for sale in the spring

  27. Martin,

    Eileen can chime in here, but from what I can see your net return before debt considerations after cost of sale would be about $300,000. Given the problems the house up the block had, I’d have a home inspector look at it and fix anything that comes up in a home inspection first. I never recommend that, by the way. But am in this particular case.

    If you have hardwood floors, have them refinished and not covered with carpet. Hardwood is in…carpet is out, especially in the main living areas.

    The primary issue is that the asking price will likely be in the $330,000 to $350,000 range when you are done. So don’t put so much money into it that you want to ask $425,000 for it 🙂

    The fireplace, the kitchen and the bathroom are your biggest cost factors, unless the inspector says you need a roof or a new heating system. The house up the street had a “new gas furnace”, “new hot water tank”, “new copper plumbing” and some renovations to the kitchen and baths. Unfortunately no photos, but by tax records it was identical to yours with the same assessed value and particulars.

    Without totally revealing where you are, the last two numbers of the house number are 66 on the house that sold. Looks like the seller paid the buyer’s closing costs at that price of $334,000 in July, and it fell out of escrow at least once. Not an easy sale from what I can see, which is why I recommend a pre-inspection

    Dressing up the fireplace goes a long way. Wood mantle. I can send you some photos of others with the right “look” if you like. A lot of it has to do with paint colors for the walls. With total square footage of 1.020 sf, you likely want light “pottery barn” colors and off white doors and trim.

    I have shown a lot of ramblers and splits in the $350,000 to $425,000 range in the last 60 days. I can tell you that stainless steel appliances and newer cabinets would go a long way. Granite counters would be overkill and might cause your costs to be higher than needed, but tile granite counters might be worth it. A nice looking kitchen is a deal sealer on a small house, unless you put so much into it that you price yourself too high for the area.

    Depends on whether you want to treat it like a “flip” or just spruce it up for sale. Just keep that $300,000 net proceeds as a conservative expectation, and don’t let your costs exceed the point where you feel comfortable listing it at $349,950.

    If you can get more for it, great. But plan your costs based on those figures and you shouldn’t be disappointed in the end.

    My $.02

  28. To add to Ardell’s analysis, I’d put money into the exterior, too. sometimes a little rambler can really be dressed up with a arbor type roof over the front door, like an A frame. Or an arbor along the front or possibly shutters and definitely fresh paint and plants. trim the yard, prune or remove overgrown shrubbery. People get so attached to their plants but they can often make a home look ‘unkempt”
    Also, try putting some cheap 12″ tile on the bathroom floor. It lays nicely over vinyl floors. Just put it up next to the floor tiles.
    If the woodwork isn’t painted out, paint it. Same with the doors.Agree about the fireplace mantle and granite tiles. Home Depot has some really inexpensive granite tiles. Do the entire backsplash under the cabinets. All of this I’ve suggested is under $500 if you do the work.
    Ardell, please email me those mantle pictures. I need to pick one out, too and was just going to go online to find some. Thanks.

    Good Luck, Martin. I’m sure Ardell and I would be glad to talk with you further.

  29. Eileen,

    I’ll send you the pics of the ones I liked. They are just from the mls, as I don’t do remodel projects. Just sell the ones that have been remodeled.

    Have a question. I was just looking at a house that was updated that really could have used shutters, in my opinion. Where I’m from, Philadelphia area and Bucks County, a house looks pretty naked without shutters. It’s more of a thing there, where we call most houses “Colonials” vs. “Craftsman Homes” 🙂

    Is there a reason why shutters aren’t used here more? Something to do with the rain getting trapped behind the shutters and rotting the wood siding perhaps?

  30. Funny, I normally think shutters are too old fashioned, but we just flipped a home in Portland and put on Black (of all things) shutters on a white house and it really made it. I said no and they did it anyway and it was great.
    We don’t really go Colonial here and our Craftsman is ala Kirkland Builders, not quite how they looked in the 30’s so you’re more likely to find pillars or posts than shutters.
    Martin, check out this url for cosmetic exterior looks,

  31. hmmm, shouldn’t take more than 3 days, maybe 1000 or so? Have to ask my husband. That’s pretty simple though. Other things to do are L shaped arbor where street meets driveaway. We built one about 4.5 feet tall and planted arborvitae under it and it really set the house off.
    Cheap fixes and they make a huge difference.

  32. Thank you for all the responses. My first question is how do you know where my house is located not that I need to remain totaly anonomous but I am just curious.
    We have owned the house for about 10 years so this is not a flip. I wanted to get some advice as to the best way to present the house without becoming obligated to a realtor as we would like to sell the house ourselves. My wife has good decorating ideas which I am able to execute being a carpenter by trade. The fee for services model you write about is something that seems attractive since I dont think we need someone to handle the whole sale for us, but there are things that we cant know fully since this is not our field.
    What has been done so far is this:
    I made an oak mantle to match the hard wood floors when we first moved in.
    All the doors and trim are painted with Benjamin Moore Impervo White Dove.
    The walls are restoration hardware light colors.
    The hardwood floors need refinishing the carpet in the bedrooms is ok but could be removed and the floors refinished under it. This is an example of something I didnt think of but is it worth 3or 4 %of the selling cost for this advice.
    I have to go and stuff the turkey and will continue this post later this afternoon.

  33. “How do you know where my house is located?” We have an owner name search function in the tax record component of the mls. We can see where you live, what you paid for it, when you bought it, and how you financed it or refinanced it since you’ve owned it. We knew you weren’t “flipping it” in the traditional sense, as we can see your purchase date. But didn’t know if you wanted to treat it the same as someone buying it now to flip it, given your price range.

    These “tools” have always been available to agents and useful in assisting our clients.. Once I had a man call me to sell his house. I checked the tax record and there was a woman on title. Turns out she was an old girlfriend. Her signature was needed to close. Worked out OK because I discovered it early on, rather than at the last minute, as it took some time to find her.

    Seeing the amount financed came in very handy in market dowturns, so we could predict if a seller was upside down and the sale couldn’t close, unless the seller had money to make up for the shortfall. Or we negotiated with the lienholders (shortsale) prior to close.

    As to “selling it yourself”, I’ll write a separate post after I stuff my turkey, on the best ways to approach that. In your price range, it’s a viable alternative.

    As to how much you should spend on getting your house ready for sale. Not counting what you spent while you lived in it, my rule of thumb is 1/2 of 1% of the value and not more than 1% of the value, for the average homeowner who is just moving and not trying to squeeze every time of possible equity out of it, like an investor.

    I don’t think changing the facade by building a portico is a normal thing to do to get a house ready for market. But you seem to have talents in that area and wouldn’t need to hire someone. Ramblers can lack curb appeal, but in your price range I don’t think it will matter much.

    You have to watch your price tiers and keep your improvements in line. If the push you past a tier-mark, then they may be doing more harm than good. $325,000-$350,000-$375,000-$399,950 are the “preferred” asking prices.Houses sell best when they are at the top of a tier. Killer numbers are 59, as in $359,950 vs. $350,000. Or 09 as in $409,950. A house will often sell faster and higher at $399,950 than $409,950.

    Reason is people stretch up, and they look on the internet. Those looking from $325,000 to $350,000 can’t see $359,950 unless they switch the search to $350,000 to $375,000. If they find something up to $350,000, they won’t bother going past the price tier limit. Someone wanting to spend $330,000 will stretch up to $350,000. They will move up to $350,000 to $375,000 ONLY if they don’t find a house they like up to $350,000.

    People are very impressed with hardwood floors these days in the main living areas. Bedrooms not so much. The kitchen is the key though. Doesn’t have to be new, just not too old looking. Common buyer complaint in your price range “It feels like my grandmother’s house. No doilies, no cherubs, no roosters LOL. When decorating, try to think Pottery Barn, Pier One. Watch out for old fashioned tablecloths, grandma’s heirloom dishes and Irish linens. Collector t-spoons hanging on the wall, Norman Rockewell plates, religious symbols, too many photos of family covering every wall, and of course….”clutter”.

  34. Martin,

    I did a quick check of the 18 properties in Shoreline fitting your general description. Many, if not most, sold in the $300,000 give or take range. $289,950, $299,950, $302,000. One listed at $359,950 did sell. One listed at $305,000 didn’t sell until it was reduced to $299,950.

    I’d still use beating the price of the one on your street as the goal with $350,000 being the max point if you have one bathroom. Tax records are sometimes wrong as to bathrooms. 3 bedroom; 1 bath?

  35. I agree with Ardell re: pricing brackets. Hate to price a house at the lower end of bracket as buyers tend to buy at the higher end of their bracket. That is, 410,000 is harder than 399950 and 424950. Of course it all depends on what else is on the market in your bracket. You need to be the best house available in your price range because that’s what buyers buy..
    As to how much to spend on improvements to sell, it all depends on the current condition. The listing appointment I went on on Wednesday in Burien, the seller wanted 770,000 and I said, sure, but you need to put 150-200,000 into it to get that. Did that mean it was worth 520,000 to 570,000? No, because there has to be some reason for a buyer to go to all that work. In this case, he’s better off selling for the lower price since he’s not around to do the remodel. With you, like my husband and myself, I’d definitely do whatever is necessary to make it worth the higher range of the market place since you’ll literally be paying yourself through equity buildup, which, by the way, will then be non taxable since it will be part of your residence exception of 500,000 per couple.
    PS. the fee for service model is specific to my company, LTD and I’d be glad to tell you all about it, but will probably be on a turkey od tonight.. I’ll let Ardell fill you in on the selling choices as I’m getting ready to walk out the door to Grandmother’s house, which, of course is over the river and thru the woods.

  36. Martin
    You can go to under seller services. Just put your house price in and it will compute the different packages and what they cost. It’s best to take a whole package i., marketing, negotiations, transactions, etc, but you can pick out individual services, too. Let me know how it works for you.

  37. Hi,
    Thanks again for all the information, although the amount of words you all can put out is somewhat intimidating for a guy who can’t type very fast. I keep thinking I need to keep up with the quantity of words and thoughts in order to hold up my end of this exchange.
    The tax records are correct as to the size. Our objective is to do what is necessary within reason to squeeze the last possible dime out of it. We will have to spend more than 1% to get the house ready to sell since the kitchen is very unattractive, the floors need refinishing, some carpet may need to be replaced.
    Every surface in the kitchen was covered with greenish plastic laminate from the 70’s walls, ceiling, and cabinet boxes. It is off the walls and ceiling for the most part but the kitchen is so ugly it has to have new cabinets and a floor. We found shaker style maple cabinets at Parr cabinet outlet and new stainless appliances for about 4000 dollars.
    1. The cabinets are not custom and won’t go all the way to the ceiling is that an important factor.
    The kitchen area is 8 x 16 ft divided in the center at by a full height wing wall on one side and a half height wing wall on the other making the kitchen proper 8 x8. With one wall having a window and the sink in 8 ft and the other wall having the stove and refrigerator in 8 ft., the stove side has or will have (we think) an 18-inch cab on either side of the stove and refrigerator tucked up against the full height wing wall. This is pretty small but it will be affordable to remodel.
    2. In this price range is it worth the work and money to expand the counter top and cabinet area buy removing the wing wall to make more room. Its not something I really want to do but if this is the best thing to do to maximize profit I would consider it.
    3. The facade idea would not work on this house as the front door is under an inside corner not in the middle of a straight wall facing the side of the property not the street.
    So now I have to go to Grandmas house but not through the woods.

  38. Martin,

    I don’t know about Eileen, but I was a typist long before there were computers. I take one of those typing tests now and again to check my speed. With no spellchecker…given the volume of stuff I write, it’s amazing even to me that there aren’t more typos.

    At least I know if I go blind (something I’ve always been concerned about since I’m blind in one eye) I can still blog! I don’t need to see the screen or the keys.

    I’ve got two birds in the oven, one brined and one not, both stuffed, so I’m “free” for a bit. I just made two more pumpkin pies, just in case.

    I love staging the tops of cabinets, so space between the cabinet and ceiling is good, unless the space is like 4 inches. Too small to stage. I have tall cabinets that don’t reach the ceiling with about six inches. We have a crown molding at the top of the cabinets to “dress up” the space a bit. I can take a photo for you and post it on my blog later. I’ll do an array of photos with staged tops and unstaged tops.

    You don’t have to “keep up” your end by typing a lot. Just ask questions or acknowledge that you are still “there”. This stuff rolls out of our brains so fast, it’s no trouble at all. Just a smoke break 🙂 for me.

    If your door is on the side, I would definitely consider the shutters that Eileen suggested. Just saw one like that, and it definitely looked like a Plain Jane from the front. I love a shutters and window planter box look. Cheap enough. I’ve been using fake flowers and no one seems to notice. When I took them out from the townhome in Ballard to bring them over to Dustin’s, the buyer was amazaed that they weren’t real.

    I’m not following you about the “wing wall”. Maybe you can email some photos.

  39. 4. We would like to get the house ready for sale remove almost all of the furniture, stage it, and vacate the house for a week or two so that agents will have 24/7 access to the house. Then review offers and select the best one. The price would have to be set accordingly so it is not going to sit for more than two weeks.I am also in this scenario assuming a return to the sellers market of the last many years as Eileen was mentioning in her most recent post “residential sales volume up for October”. The ideal time to sell would be when the ornamental cherry trees in the back yard are in full bloom about mid march or so.
    5. I looked at the ltd web site for sellers and would have to go over it with someone to see what I am qualified to do and not to do. I am retireing so will have time to do a lot of the leg work associated with the sale.

    6. Here is a question about the kitchen flooring.
    The hardwwood in the dinning room is at the exact same level as the existing old linoleum which is in terirble shape. I have talked to several flooring guys at work and they have said that with proper prep a new floor could be laid over the old one. In this instance assuming that to be true there would there need to be a transtition strip where vinyl overlays the oak since it is presently flush but with the new flooring would be above the oak by the thickness of the new material. This transition strip could be avoided and the two floors made flush by removeing the existing plywood and reinstalling new plywood over the shiplap sublfloor at the corect elevation to make the new vinyl meet the oak.
    My question is if it is worth the trouble and extra expense to go to to make the new kitchen floor flush with the oak? It would definently look better but will it pay a divedend?
    Time to interact with relatives.

  40. The divideing walls are in the center of the 8×16 rectangular kitchen space, in the midde. So it is like two 8×8 squares put together to make the rectangular kitchen.Where the squares meet in the middle of the space is a ceiling hieght dividing wall that sticks out from the 16 ft wall about 2’6″, on the opposite 16′ wall there is another 2’6″ deep wall about 40″ high. This leaves a passage way 3′ wide between the front of the kitchen and the back.
    I will be called rude if I dont get back to the relatives and I would be rude if I dont.

  41. Yes there is a dinning room.
    Is the explanation about the kitchen understandable now?

    My wife would not allow a gold transition strip any where near the house let alone on the floor. Our question was about the relative levels of the two floors. I brought home a nice aluminum hinged strip left over from a job I was on which looks very space age in design but does not stand out when installed. Or I could make one from a piece of oak and rout out the space where the new vinyl goes.
    The bathroom was remodeled about three years ago with a new maple sink cabinent, two piece marble countertop and marble backsplash, new white porcelin sink,new toilet, new nice quality vinyl flooring and a new steel tub which has a chip in it allready, new built in medicine chest,nice new window surounds with a wide sill and a new tub suround. All it needs is to have the paint redone and it will look good.
    I looked at the web site that had the pictures of mantles around the fireplaces. Our fire place is not in the middle of a wall, the brick on the left side goes up against the adjoining wall so there is nowhere to put a wooden mantle leg on both sides like in the pictures I saw. I just have a top made now but it might be good to make a new top and put crown moulding on it and leg on at least the one side where it could be done and then paint it in White Dove.

    I would be happy to list it for 349 950

    Our house has all new copper supply pipe from the meter in, new vinyl windows about 5 years ago, a new roof about 3 years ago painted the exterior about 4 years ago, it has a functional sprinkler system , a nice cedar board and bat garden shed about 9×10, and a front lawn improved by Scotts Lawn Service.
    Granite tiles on the countertops sounds good
    Would it make any difference in this house wheather we put in vinyl flooring in the kitchen or actual real linoleum?
    The crown moulding is something I sugested to my wife as I installed some on cabinets in an assisted living facility I worked on a few years ago. In that case the cieling was at least a foot above the to of cabinents in our case it will be more like 8 inches

  42. Hi Martin
    Sorry I’ve been away from the computer but I’m waiting for clients, now, so just a quick response to let you know I’m still here.
    Re:transition strip. I’d router out the oak and make sure the stain matches. If you’re using 3/4″ hardwood hopefully that won’t be too noticable, but if you can find a prefinished thinner product, that would be the best then the transition won’t be so noticable.
    re: Fireplace. I wouldn’t do a one legger. In a situation light that, I put on just a heavy mantel (4X6) and stained it (or paint). If you’re good with tile, a slate bought from Home Depot will really dress up the front of the fireplace if it’s normal brick. Those fireplace walls are really dated. We painted one chalk black (same house as the black shutters) and it looked really sharp, tough I was sure it was a dumb idea. Personally I prefer slate, but that’s probably overkill. However, do beef up the mantle. If you’re going modern, black would be cool, not shiny black but a dull black. Another cool thing to do with a fireplace wall it to build shelves right on top of the bricks and put a plywood back on them. However, again, I tend to overdo. I actually sold my first fix and flip without a fireplace a couple years ago. I was shocked as I always thought of the fireplace as a major focal point, but it wasn’t missed in this house at all. Did you mention that you were replacing cabinets? Let me know. I can refer you to a good cabinet source and she’ll measure. She came close to those Home Depot make it yourself cabinets, but they were far better and she has cherry stained and they look great.
    Re:vinyl. What’s the difference between ‘actual real linoleum and vinyl? I sure through down some prefinished wood before I’d do vinyl. Tile isn’t real popular here.They’re here, so gotta go.

  43. Eileen,

    Have you noticed that a lot of people seem to prefer gas fireplaces that you can turn on with a switch? I’ve noticed that from the “showing property” side of things. Used to be, if you couldn’t burn real wood in them, people didn’t like them. Now I find everyone looking for “the light switch that turns the fireplace on”.

    I had one listing with a “remote control” for the fireplace. It had so many options, I had the seller write out instructions for how to test it, for the home inspector.

  44. Hi,
    The kitchen floor is right against the oak floor in the dining room so would prefinished wood look good right up against the oak?
    As far as vinyl vs. linoleum I mean natural linoleum made from linseed oil or flax.

  45. Martin,

    I don’t agree on that one. I think one wood butting up to another is not good. I’d go for a high quality one piece floor that goes well with whatever countertop you choose and appliances. Avoid “color” vs neutral tones. Stone look is good, though I’m partial to lighter colors in smaller houses. Given your total square footage of the house is just over 1,000 square feet, I’d stay away from darker stone looks that diminish space.

    If you do cover the brick on the fireplace, as was suggested, I’d match it to the kitchen counter for continuity, again, given the small square footage overall. A large house can mix and match better than a smaller one.

    I have original wood in my living room which I like. But when I do the whole first floor it will just have to go, because I can’t see butting and older wood floor against a newer one. The old one looks great! Until you put a new one up against it. Dangerous combination.

  46. Ardell, Yes, I think most everyone has switched to gas, at least in the city. There are too many burn bans, plus wood is so messy and alot of work. (I used to burn and cut down and split dozens of cords of wood. I know, more than you needed to know!)
    I have to light mine right at the logs and it’s a pain, so I like the switch, but it has to be built in before the sheetrock otherwise it’s hard to retrofit. In fact, we have a fireplace in the bedroom and it had a gas fireplace and we couldn’t get a gas line to it, so removed the box and installed the new electric ones that slipped right in, and you can’t even tell the difference. I’m seeing more and more of the electric ones in condos that are spec because they are so simple and cheaper to install. This one works with a remote on my bedstand.

  47. Martin, I agree with the butting of woods that Ardell suggests is a bad idea, but I have vinyl floors and not too nuts about stone either, so my vote is to match the oak as well as you can and do that, in which case you’ll probably need the skinnier wood. Does your oak floor now need refinishing? if it does, match the stain of the prefinished.
    I prefer tile counters and backsplash too and the biggest bang for the buck is to do a full backsplash, i.e. if you can do it yourself. The granite squares at home depot are only 1.79/ft so it’s pretty cheap and looks good.
    Hate the week after TDay cuz now I have to starve to get rid of all those calories!

  48. Things are changing very fast in Real estate industry because of some public limited company. Like homegain, and some others. Search engine are slowly thinking about dynamic content rather than static. The commission or RE agent is already dropping very fast and it will be par with all other parts of world which 1.5% per side. In a recent study commission is dropped from traditional 6.0% to 5.25% in last 4-5 years and majorly bog brokers are finding it difficult to defent their status. Actually this broker stuff will go away very soon because they are of no need at all. I guess they are a useless entity in this new real estate world.

  49. I think the real estate commissions will drop enormously. Our company offers a 2% buyer rebate as we think that most of our customers search for their homes online anyway. It is only a matter of time before the middle men will be reduced or their commissions slashed.

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