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NEW JERSEY EDITION

3 Surefire Methods That Make For a PRODUCTIVE MEETING 7 Reasons Why Your Prospects Aren't TURNING INTO CLIENTS

FEATURED AGENT

CATHY KUT COVER STORY

MARK SLADE

THINKING OF LISTING? Nine Ways to Get Ready Are You a VALUE-ADDED AGENT? Things You Can Do to ANTICIPATE YOUR CLIENT’S NEEDS


NEW JERSEY EDITION

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MARK SLADE

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CATHY KUT

Top Agent Catherine Kut, B and Manager at Realty Exec Exceptional Realtors in S New Jersey has spent more three decades dominating th estate landscape in The G State. Possessing a wealt knowledge and a fierce de nation to provide the very b CATHY KUT client service to all her many buyers and sellers, Catherin true advocate for anyone needing real estate assistance.

While her success is indisputable, her start in the industr CONTENTS based – literally – on the luck of the draw. “I had three y children,” Catherine explains, “and I decided that I n more stimulation in my life. I attended a seminar where 18) 7 REASONS WHY YOUR 4) THINGS YOU CAN DO TO raffled off a class to become a real estate agent, and I w PROSPECTS AREN'T TURNING ANTICIPATE YOUR CLIENT’S NEEDS winner. There were about two hundred people there, INTO CLIENTS thought ‘well, this must be my destiny.’ So I went to the s 6) ARE YOU A VALUE-ADDED two nights a week for four months, and got licensed. I’ve AGENT? 22) this THINKING doing full-time OF everLISTING? since.” And doing it extremely NINE WAYS TO GET READY including the Re as her numerous awards demonstrate, 15) 3 SUREFIRE METHODS Choice Winner for 2017 and Gold Winner for 2018 Best R THAT MAKE FOR A in Sussex County. PRODUCTIVE MEETING

Nearly eighty percent of Catherine’s of business is bas repeat and referred clients, a solid indicator of the level o Phone 888-461-3930 | Fax 310-751-7068 she puts into every single transaction, whether working buyer or a seller. When asked to account for this level of mag@topagentmagazine.com | www.topagentmagazine.com loyalty, she points to her deep ties to the local commun believe that prior people want to do business with people who No portion of this issue may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without consent of the publisher. Top Agent Magazine is published by Feature Publications GA, Inc. Although precautions taken to ensure the accuracy of published back,” sheare says. And give back she does: her list of philanth materials, Top Agent Magazine cannot be held responsible for opinions expressed or facts supplied by its authors. and civic involvements would be far too numerous to lis To subscribe or change address, send inquiry to mag@topagentmagazine.com. in their entirety, but among her many efforts is her thirty Published in the U.S. membership on her local Board of Realtors, her standin committee member for a German Christmas Market th raised over $300,000 for charitable causes, membersh 2 Top Agent Magazine the board of Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and membership o Women’s Leadership Council for the United Way. She is


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Things You Can Do to Anticipate Your Cleint’s Needs First and foremost, the real estate industry is a customer service business. The key to any successful real estate business is one that can build a reputation by providing an unsurpassed level of care. That usually means a transaction that is seamless and stress-free as possible throughout the whole process. Your client’s experience is what keeps them not only coming back, but gets them to recommend you to their friend and family.

tise. By showing you can not only anticipate their needs, but have insight into any potential problems that might arise, they will have complete confidence in you. Achieving that level of trust is the key to a transaction that is as stress-free as possible.

The key to creating a great experience is anticipating your client’s needs. They are relying on your professionalism and exper-

From the moment, you meet a po-tential client, your goal should be to find out not only what they are looking for as far as their real estate

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GET TO KNOW YOUR CLIENTS ON A PERSONAL LEVEL

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goals, but who they are as a person. Listening and asking the right questions from the start is one of the most important aspects of the job. You almost have to become an amateur psychologist, really honing in on the emotional reasons behind their real estate transaction. Taking time upfront not only gives you valuable insight into your client, but it is the first impression your clients have that you truly care about them, and that this isn’t just another commission check for you. This goes miles in helping them feel comfortable enough to rely on your guidance. Knowing who your client is on a deep level will help you navigate the transition ups and downs, allowing you to anticipate the best way to handle it.

SPOT POTENTIAL PROBLEMS AND PROVIDE SOLUTIONS Having insight into your client’s per-sonality type will come in handy when you anticipate an upcoming snag in the transaction. Most people find the process to be stressful even under the best of circumstances. One of the best rules of thumb is to always provide the solutions to anticipated problems when you present them to the client. This should be the case even when the problem isn’t on you. Anything that can ruin a client’s overall experience can reflect poorly on you, whether you deserve it or not. This is a business philosophy called “zero risk”. You don’t want to take any chances with having an unsatisfied customer. This is where your experience in the business pays off. You’ve probably seen most things and can easily anticipate problems that are Top Agent Magazine

likely to delay the process. Remember you are in charge. You are the expert. And, remember, part of avoiding potential problems is making sure your client knows what to expect upfront, always communicate openly and honestly. Telling people what they want to hear and knowing you can’t deliver it, is destined to fail, and will always reflect poorly on you.

FIND WAYS TO EXCEED EXPECTATIONS Recognizing ways to exceed a cus-tomer’s needs is just as important as looking out for potential problems, when it comes to creating an exceptional experience. Have a vetted list of trusted service providers. Be hands on. There are Realtors® who are out there helping clients pack, mowing lawns, and picking kids up from school. They are there for a client in ways that are unexpected. Having one thing taken off your plate during a stressful period in your life can feel like a lifesaver and is not soon forgotten. It is those “little” things that will turn a client into a lifelong advocate for your business.

TAKE IN FEEDBACK A good service provider is always trying to do better. Many Realtors® have clients fill out surveys after the transaction is over. This serves two purposes. It helps you become better at your job and it shows your clients that you care about them and their opinions. You can also use social media to get feedback via analytics and interactions. All of this information can then be used to create better customer experiences in the future. After all, this is a customer service industry. Treat it like one and you’re bound to succeed. 5


Are You a Value-Added Agent?

I’ll bet if I asked ten real estate agents, all ten would answer ‘yes’ to that question. Yet, when I ask agents how they are value-added, they say things like: • I communicate regularly with my clients. • I have a written listing presentation. • I am honest. • I am trustworthy. Are these ‘value-added’ attributes? Or, does the client expect these attributes and services? 6

Are these exceptional services or average services? I’m writing this article at the beginning of a New Year. It’s a perfect time to re-assess your professionalism and master being that ‘value-added’ agent.

Client Expectations are Higher than Ever Unfortunately, too many real estate agents assume they are ‘value-added’ because they are providing the services they want to provide— Top Agent Magazine


the services they think the client values. However, there’s a real client out there, and the client has different expectations. How do I know that? Because so few agents regularly survey their clients. In fact, when I’m speaking to an audience, I survey them, and find that less than 25 percent gather after-sale surveys! So, the majority of agents don’t know if the services they are providing are average or exceptional.

Why Bother Being Exceptional? • Because you want to set yourself apart. • You want to create client loyalty. • You want to create at least 50 percent of your business from client referrals (the latest National Association of Realtors survey Profile of Members found that the average Realtor got only 18 percent of their business from referrals. That’s a hard and expensive way to run a real estate business! • Because you want to run a more pleasant, profitable business.

Four Actions Value-Added Agents Take How can you identify value-added agents? By their actions. Here are four actions I believe show agents that are above just ‘average’. The principle here is:

Watch the actions, not the words. If I were a manager, or a seller or a buyer, and I wanted to find a value-added agent, here’s what I would look for: Top Agent Magazine

1. Has a database and populates it This agent is committed long-term to his clients and to his business. He uses a contact management program (CRM) to manage ‘leads’, so none are lost — and clients do not feel neglected. After all, it takes much longer today to convert a ‘lead’ to a sale than it used to take. Actively using and maintaining a CRM means the agent is committed to forming long-term professional relationships over time. Other demonstrable actions concerning the agent’s CRM are: • Has a rapid-response method to deal with Internet inquiries and other inquiries via email. (The average client expects a response within eight hours—but a recent survey showed the average agent responded in 50 hours!). • Has a method to follow up on all leads until they ‘buy or die’. As a client, that means I won’t get lost. As a seller, it means my agent will follow up with all leads and give it 100 percent to sell my home. 2. Invests in the technology and follow-up pros have This agent makes every decision based on their vision of their career at least three to five years in the future. For example, instead of selling someone a house anywhere just to get a sale, my value-added agent sells only in an area they define as their ‘target area’. That way, they’ll get known, and can build on their reputation. The value-added agent has the ‘guts’ to turn down business! Because they care more about the well-being of the client than getting one grimy commission check, they learn to 7


‘tell the truth attractively’, and work harder to retain the client than to make one commission.

Adding those Client Benefits to your Dialogue

3. Works for referrals, not just sales I said the agent learns to ‘tell the truth attractively’, even if the buyer or seller may not want to hear it. For example, if it’s in the best interests of the seller to list their home at a lower price, the value-added agent has the strategies and the statistics to prove that the seller won’t be well served by pricing higher.

Of course, it’s not enough to actually take these actions. You need to explain to the client why these actions are in their best interests, and how you stand apart from most agents by employing them. Why? Because your client won’t know you run your business so professionally. And, the client probably doesn’t know most agents don’t run their businesses this way!

And, this value-added agent has the intestinal fortitude to walk away if they know the home will not sell at the client’s desired price (but doesn’t have to too many times because they create a stellar reputation amongst their clientele).

TIP: Always show your clients, don’t just tell them. You do have a Professional Portfolio and evidence on your website, don’t you?

4. Keeps the buyers and sellers’ best interests in mind Our value-added agent makes every decision to grow trust, not just to make a fast buck. For example, the agent sits down with a prospective couple and finds out they can’t purchase right away and creates a plan with them to save for their down payment. Then, the agent keeps in touch over a period of months, offering helpful information and market updates.

Put Yourself to the Test

How many of these actions P. S. Managers and team leaders—two tips do you exhibit? What do you want to work on to become a true 1. Call each of your agents’‘value-added’ phone mails. What’s the impre agent? Are they professional? Do they state the company n TIP: represent your culture and image? Managers, give your agents a 2. Create a quick class in phone messaging using the ‘test’ on these four points. In other words, this agent practices seller or buyHow many pass? this blog. er agency representation, not ‘agent agency’!

Copyright ©, 2016 Carla Cros

Carla Cross,CRB, CRB, MA, is theoffounder andSeminars, president Carla Cross & Carla Cross, MA, President Carla Cross Inc.,ofand Carla real management and sales. Herspecializing internationally s Crossestate Coaching, is an international speaker in realbest-selling estate management and Running business planning for all professionals. agents, Up and in 30 Days, is real nowestate going into its 5thHer edition sevenexperience internationallyas published books, including Up and Running in 30 Days , vast a top-selling agent and award-winning manage and 20 agent and management programs have helped thousands of real sales podium, blending her musical background with her proven estate professionals to the greater productivity and teaches profitability.someone Reach Carla strategies (she uses piano AND even to at play—f 425-392-6914 or www.carlacross.com. and practical). Find out more at www.carlacross.com. 8

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MARK SLADE Top Agent Magazine

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MARK SLADE Mark Slade had a long successful career as an Executive Vice President in the fashion industry. When that industry went through a downturn about ten years ago, he transitioned to the world of real estate, and has since closed over $200 million in business, representing over 500 seller and buyer transactions in over 40 towns in New Jersey. His college studies at Brandeis University in Economics, Fine Arts and Urban studies have proved to be great training for his career as a prolific real estate agent. “I use my Economics background for negotiating and pricing homes; I use my Fine Arts background to help me assist my clients so they can get the highest possible 10 Copyright Top Agent Magazine

selling prices for their homes when they are preparing to sell them,” he says. He also helps his buyers envision what a house might look like even when it isn’t readily apparent to the buyer(s) or simply isn’t perfectly staged for a sale. As a result of his expertise, his team closed $30 million in business last year, and this year is on a path to hit $40 million. Mark and his team primarily serve New Jersey residents who commute to New York City for their jobs. What sets Mark apart from other realtors in the area? As the technology coordinator for his Keller Williams office, he became an expert on Top Agent Magazine


cutting edge ways to market listings and keep in touch with clients, and he’s worked hard to educate his team associates as well as his fellow KW realtors. “I leveraged that position to accelerate my growth,” he says. Mark is a pioneer in deploying new technologies for the benefit of his clients. He was the first in the area to use retargeted marketing to promote his listings both on the web and via social media. That same technology helps his team find hundreds of new buyers every month—his team then gets to the business of searching for the perfect homes for these buyers. He has a well-recognized and respected brand, Top Agent Magazine

and a strong online presence, including seven websites (with a luxury site of special interest to luxury clients), 29 town-specific open house websites, a blog with almost 300,000 hits and a YouTube channel with almost 180,000 views. 11 Copyright Top Agent Magazine


He’s known throughout the area for listening to his clients, understanding what is important to them, and working with them to help them achieve their goals. Mark’s clients are often so pleased with his work that they refer Mark to friends and family. One recent seller referred three relatives in short order because he was so ecstatic that Mark sold his home quickly for over the asking price. As a result of this kind of enthusiasm from past clients, a high percentage of Mark’s business comes from repeat and referral clients. Mark stays in close touch with past clients, reaching out by phone, email, or social media. He tailors his outreach to past clients to match their interests and needs, sending Copyright Top Agent Magazine Copyright 12

engaging and fun articles or custom magazines. At the first year anniversary of a home purchase, he’ll often drop by with a card and a bottle of wine. To spread the word about listings, Mark starts with high quality professional photography and brochures with elegantly written descriptions and highlighted bullet points of the property’s features, maps of the location and floor plans. He creates Matterport 360-degree virtual tours for almost all of his listings. “Today’s buyers prefer to do a ‘point and click’ tour first,” he says. As a result of his thorough strategy, he sells three-quarters of his properties at or above Top Agent Magazine


the asking price. “Buying a house is the most significant investment anyone can make. And it’s not just that—it’s also an investment that you live in and raise your family in.” Nothing makes Mark happier than running into a past Top Agent Magazine

client who has started or added to their family in their new home. He is genuinely thrilled to be a part of the evolution of his clients’ families. “I sell a house to you and I care that you are there,” he says. Copyright Top Agent Magazine 13


Mark has a mission to give back to the communities his team serves. He sponsors over 15 area events including art shows, concerts, and music festivals. He’s a board member of the YMCA, and a donor to over a dozen charities including the Interfaith Hospitality Network, which helps the homeless to find temporary housing and get back on their feet. Annually he sponsors a PTA fundraiser fun run. Mark owns a 1950 Chevy pickup

truck that has become a brand icon for him—the truck makes an appearance at most of his community activities. Mark takes pride in the fact that his team reflects the diversity of the community they serve. For the future, Mark hopes to continue making a positive difference in the lives of his clients and his community and his team. With his enthusiasm, drive and expertise, he’s sure to make that dream a reality!

To find out more about Mark Slade, email sladehomes@gmail.com, call 917-797-5059, or visit goodhomesforgoodpeople.com www.

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3 Surefire Methods that Make for a Productive Meeting Sometimes a business meeting can achieve exactly what it sets out to do: communicate, assess actions, set goals, or otherwise. Other times, meetings can feel like a drain on your time and energy, and only advance your agenda in marginal ways. While meetings are an integral form of communication in the professional world, how can you ensure that they are both productive and worthwhile? Top Agent Magazine

The truth is, it takes intentioned planning to make a meeting a success. A well-curated meeting makes partners and employees feel unified as a team, excited about what’s to come, and motivated to achieve a collective goal. With that in mind, consider a few approaches below to maximize your next meeting and ensure that all parties involved leave with a renewed sense of direction and inspiration.

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1. Create a detailed agenda in advance Oftentimes meetings are scheduled with a loose goal in mind—to hash out the terms of a contract or to strategize a new marketing campaign, for example. To ensure your meeting is productive, time-efficient, and achieves its end, create a detailed agenda in advance. This means breaking down your overarching goal into pieces and outlining what’s required to complete each component. You might also consider making time blocks for each respective component, so there is a clear structure and hierarchy in place. Not only does this ensure that time is used wisely and evenly, but it also creates order and momentum for the greater task at hand. What’s more, you’ll want to distribute this detailed agenda in advance of your meeting, so that all attendees will be familiar with the format and delineated goals of your gathering. This will set a professional tone, while keeping team members and conversation on task.

2. Reserve off-topics ideas and comments for later Too many meetings are derailed when an off-topic question or comment is made and hijacks the attentions of attendees. While it’s natural that outlying issues may arise when all team members are gathered, you can ward off distractions by creating a so-called holding area for off-topic talking points. This holding area will serve as the receptacle for any off-topic or lower priority addendum, and you can create a chunk of time towards the end of your meeting to readdress those 16

points separately. Once you’ve achieved the highest priority goals of your meeting, you can then return to the items in your holding area. Note: be sure to familiarize your staff with this approach so that the expectation is already in place and interruptions won’t distract from your meeting’s true intent.

3. Conclude every meeting with a brief summary and action items The very last thing you should do before concluding your meeting is to reemphasize the main takeaways of your gathering and outline a specific list of action items. Again, successful meetings are clear and give attendees a sense of direction. That’s why reiterating action items—or next steps in need of completion—to each respective employee is an essential component of a productive meeting. Likewise, summarizing main takeaways unifies a team’s understanding of what’s important and why the meeting was called in the first place. Ending on a concrete yet proactive note helps launch team members toward the next event in their day and gives them a sense of confidence as they tackle their duties. Meetings don’t have to be a formality or a bore. When planned and executed with incisiveness, they can inspire your talent roster and streamline productivity in your office. Especially in the world of real estate, ensuring everyone is on the same page and doing their jobs effectively is key to success and longevity. Put a little planning into your next meeting, and you’ll save yourself valuable time and energy as you move forward.

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7 Reasons Why Your Prospects Aren’t Turning Into Clients Real estate experts suggest prospecting daily so that your sales pipeline never runs dry. But sometimes all that effort doesn’t translate into results. If your prospects aren’t becoming clients, there’s a reason, which is better than it sounds because that means you can fix the problem.

1. You’re Too Slow The Association of Real Estate License Law Officials estimates that there are about 2 million active real estate licensees in the United States alone. Of course, not all these individuals are working in the same markets. Nonetheless, that

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If your prospects aren’t becoming clients, there’s a reason, which is better than it sounds because that means you can fix the problem.

means that realtors face a lot of competition. If you are slow to respond to messages from prospective clients, someone else is sure to beat you to it. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to return calls and emails within 24 hours. If you’re too busy working with active clients to return the phone calls and emails of prospective clients, consider hiring a real estate assistant who can help take administrative or marketing tasks off your plate.

2. They Don’t Trust You There are different reasons why a client might not trust you, some of which overlap with others on this list. When a client asks you a question, do you answer it directly or do you sidestep it? Do you have testimonials and reviews from happy clients publicly available? Do you have an online presence? Social proof of your skills and knowledge is key.

3. You Don’t Seem Knowledgeable Enough Is your client constantly coming to you with new listings or marketing ideas rather than the Top Agent Magazine

other way around? Do they mention real estate and finance terms you’ve never heard of or ask you questions you’ve never thought to ask yourself? Every agent starts somewhere, but if this seems to be a pattern, it’s one clients will pick up on too. Your clients want to know that you will add value to their home buying or selling experience, and part of that value is your expertise and passion.

4. You Have No Web Presence It’s not enough to be on Zillow or have a Facebook page. There are clients who don’t use these platforms, and at the end of the day, you don’t own the content or your access to it. Both platforms could suddenly go out of business and any following you’ve gained could be lost. It doesn’t cost much to create and maintain a website today. If customization matters little to you, sometimes you can even get up and running for free. At the very least, it’s a good idea to invest in a domain name because yourwebsite. wordpress.com looks a lot less professional than yourwebsite.com.

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5. You Don’t Seem to Care When clients don’t think you care, it usually means they don’t feel like you are listening. You may have systems, processes, and a proven marketing strategy. You may like to get right down to business, but to your client, this isn’t just business—it’s their life and their family’s livelihood. When your client tells you what’s important to them, they want to make sure that you really hear them. Make sure your body language conveys that. Slow down. Shut your office door. Make eye contact, nod your head, and pause before you speak so that they understand that you’ve put thought into your words—that they aren’t simply lines from a script.

6. You Use Too Much Jargon Remember that your clients don’t speak real estate. At most, they might buy or sell a home once every few years. They hired you to be their advocate and may even expect you to be a bit of a teacher too. Use layman’s terms so that your

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client fully understands how the two of you will work together.

7. Your Target Audience Is Everyone Your clients are home buyers and sellers, yes, but who is your ideal client? Some specialties you might consider are college students and recent graduates, working professionals, military families, seniors, CEOs, or other high-profile clients. As a newer agent, your target audience might be anyone who will hire you, but over time, you might find that you click more with certain clients, that their lifestyle is similar to yours, or that their goals align with your mission. Whatever the reason, marketing your business to this “ideal client” rather than every potential client will make selling your services easier. Remember: It’s within your power to alleviate your client’s concerns, but understanding why your prospects aren’t turning into clients is a good start.

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CATHY KUT Top Agent Catherine Kut, Broker and Manager at Realty Executives Exceptional Realtors in Sparta, New Jersey has spent more than three decades dominating the real estate landscape in The Garden State. Possessing a wealth of knowledge and a fierce determination to provide the very best in client service to all her many buyers and sellers, Catherine is a true advocate for anyone needing real estate assistance. While her success is indisputable, her start in the industry was based – literally – on the luck of the draw. “I had three young children,” Catherine explains, “and I decided that I needed more stimulation in my life. I attended a seminar where they raffled off a class to become a real estate agent, and I was the winner. There were about two hundred people there, and I thought ‘well, this must be my destiny.’ So I went to the school two nights a week for four months, and got licensed. I’ve been doing this full-time ever since.” And doing it extremely well as her numerous awards demonstrate, including the Reader’s Choice Winner for 2017 and Gold Winner for 2018 Best Realtor in Sussex County. Nearly eighty percent of Catherine’s of business is based on repeat and referred clients, a solid indicator of the level of care she puts into every single transaction, whether working for a buyer or a seller. When asked to account for this level of client loyalty, she points to her deep ties to the local community. “I believe that people want to do business with people who give back,” she says. And give back she does: her list of philanthropic and civic involvements would be far too numerous to list here in their entirety, but among her many efforts is her thirty-year membership on her local Board of Realtors, her standing as a committee member for a German Christmas Market that has raised over $300,000 for charitable causes, membership on the board of Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and membership on the Women’s Leadership Council for the United Way. She is also a Trustee on the Sussex County Chamber of Commerce and won their Volunteer of the Year Award in 2014. The appreciation that Catherine feels for her clients is clearly reciprocated, as evidenced by the glowing reviews on her Zillow.com page, on which site she possesses a perfect fivestar rating. Among the testimonials to her abilities is this one: “Catherine goes above and beyond! She makes you feel like you are the only client she has. She follows up diligently and offers advice based on her expertise and market trends. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience and is very customerTop Agent Magazine

focused. I would not hesitate to do business with her again if I move back to the area.” Maintaining relationships with past clients is of particular importance to Catherine, and to that end she employs a multitude of methods to stay in touch with all of them. Handwritten notes – for many, a thing of the past – are among the many personal touches she uses to let each of them know that she values them. “I do everything handwritten,” she explains, “When I send out an actual birthday card, they will tell me it’s the only actual card they received, and that everyone else sent only e-cards or Facebook birthday wishes. Many past clients have become close, personal friends of mine.” Married for forty-four years to her high school sweetheart, Catherine enjoys spending time with their three grown sons and six grandchildren when she’s not working. “All three of my sons went to the Citadel Military Academy,” she says, “and I’m extremely proud of them.” As for the future, Catherine’s plans are fairly straightforward, and involve not only continuing to work with buyers and seller, but to continue mentoring as well. “As the Broker/Manager for Realty Executives in Sparta, I love taking agents and helping them get to the next level. I love the teaching aspect.” When asked what advice she might have for those new to the business, Catherine’s answer is a window into her overall approach: “I’ve always found that if you do the right thing by the client, the money will follow. If you don’t like working with people and don’t like what you do, you can’t be successful in this business. You just can’t.”

For more information about Catherine Kut, please call 973 - 729 - 7141 or email CathyKut@RealtyExecutives.com Copyright Top Agent Magazine 21


Thinking of Listing? Nine Ways to Get Ready The less time a home spends on the market, the more likely it is to sell at or above list price. That’s why our Top Agents recommend getting a property ready for marketing well before listing. Anyone who is even just starting to think about listing will benefit from some basic upkeep and pre-staging work. Even if you decide now is not the time to list, you’ll enjoy these simple improvements around the home. With the right local resources, most pre-listing preparations take less than a week and will make the formal staging process simpler for all involved. Ask Top Agents in your area for referrals of local pros to hire. Once you’ve selected your Top Agent, keep yourself open to his or her opinion on other TLC to help decrease your home’s market time. 1. Inspection: The last thing a seller or buyer wants is a surprise at

inspection. That’s why a complete inspection before listing is so valuable. Many necessary fixes, such as minor roof or appliance repairs, can be discovered and repaired in less than a week. If inspection uncovers a major issue, any Top Agent will tell you that this knowledge is power; disclosing and expecting to take responsibility will increase buyers’ trust without affecting market time. 2. De-Clutter: Take a little time to pack away surplus furniture items and

extra knick-knacks, papers, books or occasional-use items throughout your house. Remember this may require boxing away video game supplies or packing up comfy throw pillows and blankets. Move these items temporarily into closets, the garage or attic with the assumption of possibly renting a storage unit just before listing. 3. Paint: Whole-house painting is likely not necessary, but consider touching

up baseboard moldings and doorways and open wall spaces in high-use areas 22

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such as bathrooms, the office, family room and indoor recreation spaces. Also consider a little varnish on the front door or banister. 4. Artwork and Decor: Take a neutral look at your décor. Better yet, ask a

Top Agent to do so. Buyers should be able to picture themselves living in your home. While your Top Agent may not advise you to appear generic, you’ll likely need to thin out any shrine-like displays to family, hobbies or cultural interests.

5. Deep-Clean Housekeeping: After you’ve de-cluttered and touched up

the paint, request a deep cleaning from your housekeeping service and weekly cleanings thereafter. Make sure they pay attention to details like dusting or vacuuming window treatments and lampshades or wiping smudges off door jams and baseboard moldings. 6. Carpets and Rugs: Bring in the pros, but don’t just clean the carpets.

Because the cleaners will be moving furniture anyway, ask them stretch and tighten any buckled areas of carpeting. Doing so now saves the trouble of having to credit your buyer for this following final walk-through. Also consider removing small area rugs to let the beauty of your hardwood floors shine.

7. Look at the Loo: Buyers may not notice a brand-new toilet seat, but they

will turn up their noses at the one with the broken hinges. Freshly replaced toilet seats, faucets or doorknobs in heavily trafficked bathrooms can go a long way in first impressions.

8. “Mow & Blow”: Consider buyers as guests you want to feel welcome

as they ascend the front walk. If you don’t already have one, hire a weekly gardening service to keep up with the mowing, weeding, pruning and basic maintenance outside so you can focus on other things. 9. Staging: Once you’ve selected a staging professional for the finishing

touches, ask them and your Top Agent for final recommendations on day-today upkeep, storage options and what-to-do (or what not to do) while your house is on the market.

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