Home Ownership

A balanced home is easier to sell. Decorate with awareness.

By nature many home improvements are personal. That is why we can say, “This is my home.” However there is a balance between making your home personally comfortable and realizing one day you will sell your home.

Not all home improvement projects are equal. Certain projects add 100%+ value to your home- like adding additional livable square footage; while other home improvements may not be worth the expense of doing the project and the big bugaboo are those projects that will actually make your home sell for less.

The following is a short list of these projects, major and minor, that will devalue your home:


If you live in a 3 bedroom home never swallow the second or third bedroom to create a larger Master bedroom, this is a very costly mistake. A lower bedroom count is a true impediment for a home seller. Home buyers are more concerned about the total number of bedrooms a home offers and then the size of each room.


Have you ever heard a real estate agent say the home is complete with no garage? Probably not because a garage completes a home. Most homeowners (especially in the suburbs) have a car and want to secure their car indoors either in an attached or detached garage. The idea of commandeering garage space and converting it to livable space is foolhardy and not cost-effective. If you want to enlarge a home’s useable area consider finishing a basement or build additional square footage from scratch.


Never paint Betty Boop or a rich dark color on a wall or wall paper a room.  The easiest way to add accent to a room is to hang it- either a picture or a sculpture. Be aware- whatever you do to decorate a room make sure it can be easily undone before you sell.

Your home is your castle today, but tomorrow it will be somebody else’s. Create, design and decorate a balanced home. It will be easier to sell.

Why we like living in the Suburbs

Sure you have a little commute if you work in the City of Boston but living in the suburbs like Westford, MA, Chelmsford, MA or Littleton, MA you get so much more home for your money and a parking space. That’s right a parking space. Did you ever think your attached 2 car garage meant so much?

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, today, could you imagine paying $1 million for 50 square feet called a parking space. That’s about 4x the cost of an average single family home in the United States.

If you are reading this blog while on the train going to work or coming home from work, pat yourself on the back then read the below article for a good laugh.

CLICK HERE or click on the below picture. You will be glad you did.

Parking in Major Citites (2)

The Home Buyer is Now in Control

In the 1990’s the business of real estate home buyer sales representation was developed.

The advent of the real estate Buyer Agent provided a home buyer with the option to contract for representation. A Buyer Agent is a real estate broker that represents and works solely for the buyer in a real estate transaction. The buyer agent owes his/her obedience, loyalty, disclosure, confidentiality, accounting and reasonable care to the home buyer. But does a home buyer really care or need a buyer agent?

In 2005 there was another major real estate shift with the launch of Zillow. Real estate listing portals like Zillow and Trulia have forever changed the influence of the Buyer Agent. By making listings public facing Zillow has essentially stripped the Buyer Agent of any value to the home buyer. No longer does the Buyer Agent control the listing information. Home buyers are now in control. Using Zillow a home buyer can conveniently search on the internet for a home, on their own time and terms. In fact, a Buyer Agent is not needed at all. Thanks to Zillow most home buyers can find a home on their own.

In 2015 all a home buyer simply needs is a competent lender, an attorney to review documents, and a good home inspector.

Home For Sale in Chelmsford , MA 01824

(Click below picture of home and check out the video)


Updated and well maintained Ranch home in Chelmsford, MA. Perfect Starter or Empty Nester Home. Great Location private and secure, but close to commercial amenities and highway access. Call Today 978.250.3726 and schedule your showing with Donald @ 2Way Realty.


Don’t give your home equity away. Save 1,000’s of dollars and never compromise service.

Use a FIXED FEE, FULL SERVICE real estate agent.

To All Homeowners- Save Home Energy…Save Money

How many light bulbs do you have in your home?

Next Step Living is offering a no cost home energy assessment that will save you money by reducing the energy you use. The assessment takes just a few hours and includes improvements that an advisor can make on the spot, such as the no cost installation of energy efficient light bulbs. Installing just one new light bulb can save you $40 over the life of the bulb.

The home energy assessment is available to National Grid customers at no cost through the Mass Save program. Call and make your appointment today and start saving money.

Next Step Living Infographic-page0001


David Webb, an advisor at Next Step Living recently came to our home and completed an assessment. He inspected our home from top to bottom and provided us with the following:

  • FREE– A complete Assessment Summary of our Appliances, Lighting, Water Heating, Cooling, Heating, Mechanical Ventilation, and Refrigeration.
  • FREE– 47 flood LED light bulbs for recessed lighting (VALUED @ $604.45)
  • FREE– 8 LED light bulbs for lamps (VALUED @ $123.75)
  • FREE– 2 six outlet Smart Power Strips (VALUED @ $42.40)
  • FREE– Exterior Door Weather Stripping & Air Sealing (VALUED @ $995.51)

TOTAL “ON the SPOT” SAVINGS-  $1,776.11 (does not include the many years of ongoing energy efficiency savings)

  • David Webb’s Consultation (VALUED @ PRICELESS)


Zillow’s Formula for Success is a Balancing Act

Back in August of 2014, I wrote a blog highlighting the genius of Zillow and Spencer Rascoff. In that blog I described how Zillow had commandeered consumer eyeballs (website traffic) using their Zestimate tool and then pivoted to monetize the Zillow website with ad revenue from real estate brokers. As a business model catering to investors it is absolutely brilliant. However the consequence of this new model is that Zillow has forsaken the real estate home seller and home buyer. Zillow uses home buyers and sellers (eyeballs) to seduce real estate brokers to advertise and list on Zillow. Sadly, Zillow has morphed into a simple real estate listing website offering the very best consumer infotainment.

The internet is real estate’s amazing consumer tool. It is credited with unlocking the coveted information that home sellers and buyers demand- a public facing real estate listing service. In 2015 a home buyer will find any one home listed on multiple sites. Try it yourself— conduct a Google search and enter “homes for sale” and a zip code. For example, Homes For Sale 33138 returns organic results in ranking order from Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com and Redfin. The first three are listing services and Redfin is a real estate broker that seemingly scrapes listings from other brokers in hopes of engaging a home buyer to be their client.

Now Zillow, once again, is trying to rebalance their website as a more consumer friendly platform using a figuratively improved Zestimate. Last week  I overheard a city building inspector sharing why he thought Zillow had reengineered their Zestimate and what it actually means to the consumer. According to the building inspector, Zillow’s number one goal is to attract and increase the number of unique visitors on their website. In this effort they have announced a new Zestimate tool. It is now possible for any homeowner to modify their Zillow home listing and instantly recalculate their homes value or Zestimate. What Fun!

He then shared another alarming Zillow fact. Zillow is in bed with the federal government too. Zillow’s Chief Economist Stan Humphries helps the federal government by “unleashing vast troves of Zillow data in hopes of promoting better decision making.” (Andrea Brambila, Inman News, March 6, 2015). The building inspector says BEWARE: Municipal governments may also take notice of Zillow’s data, especially the revamped Zestimate. Throughout many communities it’s the Board of Assessors responsibility to maintain residential and commercial property valuations at full and fair cash values. Now Zillow’s Zestimate could make this taxing authority easier.


Imagine on a Saturday night a homeowner innocently visits the Zillow website. For entertainment he modifies his housing data with updated information that significantly increases his Zestimate value. Many months later (January) the same homeowner receives his yearly recalculated property tax assessment and remarkably his property value has increased. The taxpayer is confused and frustrated and does not understand why his local taxing authority now expects the homeowner to pay more in real estate property tax- What changed? He did not pull a building permit or improve his house in any way. Clearly the homeowner does not recall that particular Saturday night, so many months ago, when he revised his Zestimate for fun. When he willfully told Zillow (and the government) he had an unreported extra ½ bath and a bedroom.  Do you think the homeowner has a chance to win a tax abatement?  No way.

So what do you think, will Zillow still be a market leader in 5 years? That remains to be seen but clearly a revamped Zestimate is not the balance home buyers, home sellers or the market needs.

Trelora and REcolorado (formerly Metrolist): A Real Estate Market Model Paradox

The polar difference between Trelora and REcolorado, the Denver area Multiple Listing Service, is unmistakable. Trelora is a consumer centric model and REcolorado is a broker centric model. Trelora serves the real estate seller and buyer and REcolorado serves the real estate broker. The discord is that Trelora and REcolorado fully serve different audiences but with a same end result- To Sell a Home. Nothing more, nothing less.

REcolorado is a broker network- an exclusive membership club for real estate brokers to advertise and share commissions and Trelora is a Denver area flat fee real estate broker. The issue is Trelora advertised on their website the MLS commission fees and the significant savings a seller and buyer will recognize using Trelora and not a commissioned broker. So what’s the big deal? Most every home seller and home buyer knows that when using a commissioned real estate broker they will pay the going market rate of 5% or 6% (commission), as their cost to transact real estate.

So was REcolorado and its member brokers justified in issuing a “cease and desist”?

The simple answer is “YES”.

According to REcolorado, Trelora is “ ………. breaking IDX rules that prohibit manipulating listing content in a way that “produces a deceptive or misleading result” and by making parts of the MLS database available to people who are “not authorized” to see it by MLS rules and regulations.”

There is no dispute that is exactly what Trelora did. Trelora is guilty of showboating their competitive market model advantage much to the embarrassment of REcolorado and its members. The big deal is that Trelora is also an active member of REcolorado.

So does that make Trelora a whistleblower or a market agitator?

This spring when you interview a prospective real estate broker, make sure to ask how much and how they charge to list and sell your home.

Don’t give your home equity away. Put more money in your pocket. Save 1000’s of dollars and never compromise service.

Use a FIXED FEE, FULL SERVICE real estate broker.

No Multiple Listing Service (MLS) = NO COMMISSION : Advantage Consumer

Recently a Home Seller interviewing a potential Real Estate Listing Agent asked the following questions:

How important is the MLS to your success?

Can you sell my home without  posting it to MLS?

Can we try?

Let’s say Mr./Ms. Real Estate Listing Agent we try to sell my home directly to the Home Buyer and skip using the closed broker network system called the MLS. It is not that I’m opposed to MLS, I just think paying a commission of 5% -6% is too much.

In addition, I only want to pay you a fixed fee to sell my $400,000 home.  Yes, I realize using the traditional broker commission model I would pay $20,000, but is that really necessary? Why can’t you sell my home for a fixed fee and let me keep more of the profit instead of paying you?

Don’t you think my offer is more than fair? We can list my home on Zillow and I get to keep more of my home equity and you get paid a reasonable fee for your full service!

The best part is you still get to shine and use all your sales and marketing skills (outside of MLS) to sell my home and show me how good you really are.

So Mr./Ms. Real Estate Listing Agent can you do it, can you sell my home to a Buyer without posting it to MLS and requiring me to pay a commission?

Real Estate- Pricing a Home For Sale – OP: LP: SP- the True Cost of Paying a Commission

OP: (Original Price) the initial home price set by the homeowner and real estate agent and listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

LP: (List Price) the last publicly stated home price that attracted a Home Buyer to make an offer.

SP: (Sales Price) the accepted home price that SOLD the home.

If the seller and real estate agent price the home correctly from the beginning, to reflect current market conditions, the OP is the LP and also the SP. Far too often this is not the case.

The OP is always the LP until there is a noted price change. Most times a price change simply confirms the home was incorrectly priced.

The SP is truly the only price that matters to the home seller, home buyer and real estate professional.

Which brings me to my point-  One common statistic used by many real estate agents to market their service to a home seller is the ratio of Sales Price to List Price (SP: LP). For example, an agent will claim to sell homes at 97% to List Price. Sure that may sound convincing, but is it the truth? If there is a home price change then the appropriate ratio is SP: OP?

Further if the home home sells at a 3% discount that’s more money from the Seller’s pocket. Ouch a 3% discount + a 5% commission= 8% taken away from the Seller.

Home owners want to sell their home at the Original Price without a noted price change. Anything less than the OP the home owner is selling at a discount. Which means the listing real estate agent did not represent the Home Seller very well.

Something to consider when selling your next home…..

In review: A recent article outlined the following reasons to hire a real estate agent- Should you agree?

  1. Well educated and experienced with the sales process
  2. Act as  a negotiation buffer
  3. Insight to understand today’s home values
  4. Help with all disclosure, regulations and paperwork

Breaking down the facts:

FACT: As for being well educated- according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the National Center for Education- the average home owner is better educated- 33.5% of home owners have a bachelor’s degree whereas only 30% of real estate agents possess such a degree. Intellectually a home owner may better understand the essence of a contract. However, an experienced real estate sales agent will have a much greater understanding of the sales process.

FACT: Per points 2 & 3 unless you’re working with a cash buyer the sales price of the house must be confirmed by the buyer’s lender. More frequently a real estate agent will use the determination of a list price as a personal marketing tool. Have you ever received a postcard from a real estate agent introducing themselves and offering to meet with you to give you a free market analysis of your home’s value?  What’s this all about? Basically, it’s an opportunity for the real estate agent to get their foot into your door. Before inviting an agent over to evaluate your home ask, “What is your personal sales ratio between a home’s original price to sales price?” Anything less than 100% the agent is not serving your needs. The best practice in determining the list price of a home is to retain the service of a third party independent licensed appraiser to establish market value. This will address many of the negotiation  talking points and put both the home buyer and seller at ease.

FACT: Point 4 is the bookend mentioned in point 1. On average, the typical homeowner sells a house once every 10 years and consequently may not be cognizant of current regulations, requirements and sales and marketing methods.

Together point 1 and 4 create a convincing argument for a home seller to retain the expertise of a professional full time real estate sales agent. In contrast, points 2 & 3 are without merit.

Bottom line: consider hiring a licensed real estate agent but make sure to ask about their sales price history and what they charge for a commission. Good luck.


Copyright © 2013. All Rights Reserved.