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By David W. Myers
Managing Editor 


Real Estate Corner


October 11, 2018

Homeowners who want to sell quickly and for top-dollar should first clean up their house, a survey says. Other big turnoffs include uncontrolled animals and odors from last night’s dinner.

DEAR DAVE: We have been looking to buy our first home. Some of these homes are pig sties! We’ve been to open houses that had dirty dishes in the sink, dogs running loose inside the home and even a pile of soiled baby diapers. If these homeowners really want to sell, they should “clean up” their act!

ANSWER: I have toured literally thousands of homes over the past several decades, first as a professional real estate agent and then later as a homebuyer, investor and real estate journalist. So believe me, I’ve seen my share of properties that were in no shape to sell quickly or at the best price.

There’s really no excuse for a seller failing to have their home spruced-up for a formal “open house” or an individual viewing appointment that was scheduled several hours or even days in advance. But other times, you have to cut sellers some slack if, say, you drop in with just a few minutes’ notice and mom and dad are fixing dinner for their family after a long day of work.

Some time ago, the National Association of Realtors polled some of its to compile a list of what it calls the “Top 10 Worst Home-Showing Offenses.” No. 1 was sellers who hang around during the showing, including some who even take showers while a potential buyer is present or follow them around the house to see what is said to the buyer’s agent.

The second-most irksome problem is pets and their messes, a category that ranges from unchained dogs to overflowing kitty-litter boxes. Such troubles are closely related to others high-up on the list, which includes bad smells from cooking (garlic and fish are big offenders) and wild animals that roam about the property or even the attic.

Odd home-makeovers and wild color schemes made the list, too. So did dirt and clutter, as well as the inclination of some sellers to leave bank statements or other personal information in plain sight—a problem that not only distracts buyers but also leaves the seller a potential victim of identity-theft.

Dimly lit rooms are also big turnoffs, buyers and agents say, as are homes where keys are missing from the selling agent’s lockbox or otherwise difficult to obtain for a showing.

And finally, agents say that sellers should consider the photos or other art that’s on their walls. One salesperson who was surveyed recalled showing a family a home that had life-sized, nude photos throughout the house: Her clients went racing for the door while covering their eyes.


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REAL ESTATE TRIVIA: A record 77 percent of Americans believe that this is a good time to sell a house, a new survey by the National Association of Realtors says, but only 63 percent believe that it’s a good time to buy.

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DEAR DAVE: We recently applied for our first mortgage since 1993, and the lender insisted that both my wife and I supply a photocopy of both the front and back of our driver’s license as part of the application process. We never had to do this before, and it seems like it’s an invasion of our privacy. What gives?

ANSWER: The requirement is a byproduct of the federal Patriot Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2001 shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the East Coast. The law requires all lenders to collect a loan applicant’s name, address, date of birth and other identifying information to help weed-out potential terrorists, prevent mortgage fraud, and to help the government fight the funding of terrorist activities and money laundering.

Although lenders have no choice but to collect such information, they technically don’t have to do so by photocopying the borrower’s driver’s license or state-issued identification card—it’s just the easiest way to do it. Loan applicants must usually also provide a secondary piece of personal ID, such as an original Social Security card or an up-to-date passport.

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DEAR DAVE: We are moving to a new community that’s about 20 miles away from our current home. We also have two daughters, ages nine and six. How can we determine if there are any registered sex offenders in the area where we plan to purchase our next house?

ANSWER: Start by checking the Justice Department’s National Sex Offender Public Website, It’s a free “clearing house” for information about convicted sex offenders in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

The site lets you type in the ZIP code of the community you have targeted to see if there are convicted predators there, or enter a specified address (if you have already picked out a property) and see a list of offenders living within a three-mile radius.

Also call the local police or sheriff’s department in the new community because some local law-enforcement agencies have more detailed data than the federal website provides.

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Our most popular-selling booklet, “Straight Talk about Living Trusts,” provides the information readers need to determine whether forming an inexpensive trust would be a good idea based on their individual circumstances. For a copy, send $4 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to D. Myers/Trust, P.O. Box 4405, Culver City, CA 90231-4405. Net proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross to help victims of the recent hurricanes in the South and Southeast.


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