Archive for March, 2010

Caring For Your Heating And Cooling Systems

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Before each heating season you should make sure that your furnace is in good working order so that you can eliminate unexpected costly repairs or even replacement. 

Call a qualified heating and cooling technician to clean and evaluate you system at least every two years. While the heating contractor is there you should have him explain the operation of your furnace so you know how it operates and the needed maintenance required. This is a great way to be sure that you’ll have a relatively repair free heating season.

Chimneys, flues and vents should be inspected for leakage and for blockage by creosote or debris. Make sure they are not loose or disconnected to avoid carbon monoxide. Old or never cleaned furnaces are one of the most common causes of carbon monoxide leakage and deaths each year! Homeowners with mid-efficiency furnaces installed between 1987 and 1993 should have them inspected for cracking or separating.

Your furnace needs to be inspected to uncover leaks in the heat exchanger, soot, rust, corroded contacts and frayed wires. Heat pumps and oil-fired furnaces require yearly tune-ups. Manufacturers recommend having your gas-fired furnace cleaned every other year.

When contractors inspect the furnace they should do the following:

Check to see if the system is getting plenty of combustion and air and chimney draft.

Check the air for carbon monoxide.

Clean the burner and heat exchanger.

Adjust the burner flame to the right size and color.

Change the furnace filter.

Check the compressor and fan.

Check the thermostat for sticking and proper calibration.

Another small tip is to caulk the hole where the thermostat wires come through the wall as a draft could pick trick it into thinking the room is warmer or colder than it really is.

Unfortunately the heating industry has one of the worst reputation for consumer rip-offs and scams. So be sure you check out the contractor’s reputation with the Better Contractors Bureau, before you sign any contract! If you select a B.C.B. member you will have the peace of mind to know that members must subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics and be properly insured and if any member is found to take advantage of a customer they will be expelled!

Don’t be scared by the many phony tactics con artists use. Some of theses con artists take advantage of homeowners especially seniors giving them technical jargon that no one can understand. They often tell them that their house may blow up if a repair or new furnace isn’t installed immediately, while others have been known to actually damage the furnace themselves when the homeowner isn’t around. If it isn’t a true emergency then tell the contractor to give you a quote and you will get back to them. The R. G. & E. will be glad to come out and check any furnace for free, especially if you think that you smell gas. Ask if they are a member of the B.C.B., as it will forewarn them that you are aware of the bureau and not someone to be taken advantage of.

Pricing Message To The Seller

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Rhonda Childress is an Agent. She was frustrated that a Seller relisted with another Agent after she had worked on it conscientiously for six months. When I spoke to her, she said, “Rich, I just couldn’t get the Sellers to agree to my price.  Then they go and list with another Agent at my price and it sells in a week.”

I said, “Rhonda, the problem is you don’t have a price. You have a price recommendation. Only the Seller has a price.” With some Sellers when your price recommendation disagrees with their expectation they get edgy.  When you start talking about “your price” the Seller takes it as a competition over whose price is right. That makes your job a lot harder. Instead, you want to create a cooperative not a competitive relationship with your Client.

Consider the following language.

“Mr. and Ms. Seller, my main job is to market your property, to attract qualified Buyers and Agents that have qualified Buyers who will pay you the highest possible price.

Regarding the price, my job is to research all the possible information that affects your price, analyze that information, show it to you and make the best possible pricing recommendation. Then you can choose to take my recommendation or choose a different price. The price is always in your hands not mine. So, I’ll recommend a price based on the facts. At the same time it is up to you to set the initial asking price.  It is your decision to adjust the price should that be necessary. I’ll advise you, give you the best information and recommendation possible. The decision on pricing is always completely yours.  Does that make sense?

Whether you choose to put the house on the market at the price the market indicates or you choose something higher or lower I will put my entire marketing effort to work and as I said, no one will work harder, smarter or get you more money “

This is simply acknowledging the truth. The Seller has complete control over the price. When you put that responsibility where it belongs, in the Seller’s hands, you have much more control. Yes this can be counter intuitive; it may seem that you are giving up control. As you utilize this approach you will realize the effectiveness.

One note, this approach must accompany a clear and strong plan for marketing the property to get the highest possible price.

Your Value and Pricing Message to the Seller

You always choose the price

You decide whether or not to take an offered price

You decide whether, when, and how much to change or adjust the price

My job is to recommend, do extensive research and apply expertise to determine a price that a qualified Buyer is likely to pay in the current market

My job is to use my tools and skills to market the property and get qualified buyers in the house

My job is to represent you and to negotiate the highest price and best terms for you

My job is to represent you through the myriad of other negotiations and difficulties and ensure that all the parties do their jobs to get the sale closed.

Your Pricing Message to the Seller… Another Version

You say to the seller, “As we talk about price I want you to understand my job when it comes to pricing.

My main job, the thing you really hire me for is to market your house, attract buyers to your house, then to help you negotiate the best price.

Regarding pricing, my job is to research all the possible information that affects your price, analyze that information, show it to you and make the best possible pricing recommendation to you. Then you can choose to take my recommendation or choose a different price.

Bottom line you choose the price, not me. I believe you want me to advise you on price and make a recommendation don’t you? Or have you already made up your mind as to the price you want to ask?

So, I’ll recommend a price based on the facts. At the same time it is up to you to set the initial asking price. The decision on it is completely yours. Does that make sense?

Now whatever price you choose, I am completely confident. There is no question in my mind that between my efforts, the tools, experience and knowledge I bring, along with the support of my company we can get you the highest possible price. We can get you a higher price than any other Real Estate Agent in town.

Whether that highest price is $2,000,000, $2,500,000 or $3,000,000 (Choose prices below at and way above the market value.) we’ll find out when a buyer makes an offer. My job is to get that offer and help you negotiate it to the highest possible number.  And, in fact that is what I do best.

The initial asking price is entirely up to you.

In fact, whether you choose to put the house on the market at the price the market indicates or you choose something higher or lower, if we choose to work together, I will put my entire marketing effort to work and as I said, no one will work harder, smarter or get you more money.

Whether you use this specific language or any parts of it, you want to be sure to clearly communicate your recommendation on price.  Be sure to make a note of that recommendation on paper in front of them so that later, if the house does not sell, you can make reference to it.  No matter how they react they will hear your recommendation and if they choose a higher price you can still proceed, if you choose.  Your clear recommendation will serve you well for cooperation with later price reductions.

Rich Levin is a Master Coach and Real Estate Productivity Expert whose focus is teaching Agents to control and grow their measurable results as they achieve personal fulfillment. Take control of your business.  Register for your personal 2010 Strategy Session with Rich.   Also, Rich conducts free, live, daily 15 minute webinars that starts your day with focus and energy. Register at  1st Fifteen Webinars. Rich is President of Rich Levin’s Success Corps Inc.  Contact him at 585-244-2700 or

BCB Dehumidifying Tips

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Follow these tips to prevent rust, mildew, mold and odors caused by high humidity levels in your home.

High humidity levels in the home encourage rust, mildew, mold and odors; and the moisture can damage cameras, computers and furniture. The problem is easy to solve with a dehumidifier, which is rated by how many pints of water it can take out of the air every 24 hours. A 25 pint unit will serve bedrooms and living areas, but basements and areas with a laundry room or barthroom, consider a 35-40 or even 50 pint unit. These devices cost $175 to $250. Keep the following operation and maintenance tips in mind:

Be sure the dehumidifier outlet is protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFI) Avoid using extension cords; spilled water presents a shoch hazard. Place the unit at least 6 in. from any wall so air flows freely; shut all nearby windows and doors.

For the first few days of use, turn the humidi-stat to the extra dry setting, which will remove moisture from room furnishings. Run the unit only when the room temperature is above 70% F. Frost can form on the coils when it’s below 65% F. Look for a unit with an indicator light that signals when the pan or bucket is full. To reduce the chance of shock, unplug the device before emptying the water bucket. Each month, dust or vacuum off the grilles or louvers, and scrub the bucket with a mild bleach solution to discourage mold, mildew and bacteria. Once every three months remove dust from the coils with a soft brush. Be sure to NOT locate the dehumidifier close to a sump crock, as it will encourage the dehumidifier to constantly run. If you empty the unit by way of a drain hose into the crock make sure the unit is at least 10-12 ft. away! For larger extra damp or wet basements go online to find larger dehumidifiers than are normally not sold at home centers. Some can run as high as $1,500 but are well the investment.

Home Staging Is Not A Trend, It’s A Necessity

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Home staging is not a trend, it’s a necessity. National television has seen to that. Unfortunately, the homes seen on popular home decorating and staging shows are going to be what many buyers expect to walk in to.  I always stress to my real estate clients that a lot can be done for very little money through professional home staging and a little bit of elbow grease.

Staging a house before it goes on the market is critical. If you have already had your home on the market, you need to be objective and open minded to the feedback left from showings.  If you ever hear the words cluttered, dirty, small, or outdated, you need to either lower your asking price significantly or get to work.

The philosophy that a buyer can purchase and then make a house their home, don’t believe it. They need to be able to picture living in a house to give you a good purchase price.  Each time an uninformed buyer views a potential house; don’t count on them knowing the cost of cosmetic changes.

Today I am going to give some tips for kitchens and bathrooms.  The condition of these rooms can make or break a sale. Kitchens: Clear off all the countertops. If you must have items on the countertops for day to day use, have a plan for last minute storage for these items.  A large plastic bin works great.  I had a client with a great idea!  If you have a camper, use it for storage! Do you have pleasant smelling cleaning products?  Dollar General and The Dollar Tree are a great place to go for these! Purchase new dish towels and pot holders for display purposes only Replace your burner dripping A bowl of fresh fruit is a great way to add a splash of color to your kitchen Wipe down all kitchen cabinets. Buyers will look inside your cupboards….how do yours look? Clean off your kitchen table. If you have to use a tablecloth, don’t use a plastic one. Boil a glass of water with 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla and a teaspoon of cinnamon.  Walk around the kitchen with it for a great inviting smell. If your kitchen has any wallpaper or a distinct color, paint a new neutral color. Wallpaper and borders are almost always a personal style that may not be a buyer’s taste.

I’m going to focus on two rooms in the house that can make or break a sale.

Bathrooms: Buy a new set of white towels for display purposes only. Take a bathroom wipe and squeeze it in a spot that isn’t readily seen.  After that takes place, hide the wipe under a towel.  Your bathroom will smell great. If your grout is not bright white, either clean it thoroughly or put on a new layer of grout. Remove everything from the inside of the shower/bath. Have an empty garbage can for every showing This room has to be spotless. The sink vanity has to be empty except for smelly bath products and a candle. Take a good look at your shower curtain.  If it is not updated buy a new one.  An inexpensive way to have a new shower curtain look is to purchase a single curtain panel for looks.  Have a new clear shower liner for daily use.  Push both the liner and the curtain to one side of the tub for showings. Paint a neutral color.

Area Realtors® Support Neighborhood Community Programs

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Officials of the REALTORS® Charitable Foundation (RCF) announced its most recent grant award of $30,000 to NeighborWorks® Rochester, a non-profit organization that collaborates with people and partners to strengthen, sustain and promote city neighborhoods. The grant monies are used specifically to fund the organization’s targeted neighborhood initiative known as the Healthy Blocks Program, which has expanded to include the East Main/Atlantic area, known as the Pocket. Healthy Blocks works with residents in transitional neighborhoods to make exterior housing improvements, address quality of life issues, support business development, and assist with neighborhood marketing and branding.

Cindy B-Rosato, chair of the REALTORS® Charitable Foundation and Ryan Tucholski, CEO of the Greater Rochester Association of REALTORS® were both on hand on February 12 to present a ceremonial check to Kim Brumber, Chief Executive Officer of NeighborWorks® Rochester and Tom Emerson, a resident and leader in the Healthy Blocks neighborhood.

“Our support of programs like NeighborWorks® Rochester is a testimony to the generosity of area REALTORS®,” stated B-Rosato. “We believe that by taking an on-going, consistent, and synergetic approach toward philanthropy, we can make the biggest difference by helping to change lives.”

NeighborWorks® Rochester CEO Kim Brumber stated that the support they receive from the REALTORS® Charitable Foundation allows the organization to have greater impact than they could make on their own.

“This support is critical to our work in the community on many levels. First, because it is difficult to find support for community-building; second, because it allows the organization to build capacity; and third, not only is the funding critical, but it also comes with a core of enthusiastic and engaged REALTORS® that volunteer in the neighborhood on various projects,” Brumber remarked.

RCF officials estimate that individual REALTORS® have contributed more than 260 volunteer hours in neighborhood cleanup and beautification programs since 2008. The foundation has also supported many other local organizations over the years. Most recently, in 2009, the RCF awarded the following grants: The Center for Youth Services – $2,000; Dimitri House – $5,000; Pathstone Corporation – $2,500, Rochester Area Interfaith Network – $5,000, and NeighborWorks® Rochester -$22,500. Since 2004, RCF has contributed more than $400,000 to area non-profit organizations.

2009 Entrepreneur Of The Year

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Women’s Council of REALTORS® 2009 Entrepreneur of the year

Sandy Blonsky-RE/MAX Plus

The Woman’s Council of Realtors named Sandy Blonsky, Co-Broker of Re/Max Plus, the WCR 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year Presenting the award was last year’s recipient Terri Granger and Lorie Barnum, Executive Director Emeritus of the Susan B. Anthony House. In front of a packed house at Mario’s Italian Steakhouse, Sandy was recognized for her lifetime achievements and dedicated service to the real estate community.

Sandy started her real estate career in 1985. In May 2007, Sandy and seven other RE/MAX Brokers started their own real estate company, RE/MAX Plus, located at 2171 Monroe Avenue. Sandy has achieved many real estate awards. Sandy is a giver of time and of resources. She has mentored many real estate associates along the way- giving time, knowledge and experience to them. With a strong sense of community, She volunteers her time to the Susan B. Anthony House, Habitat for Humanity and the, Strong Memorial Hospital- Children’s Miracle Network

“This award is a great honor” Sandy says, “Women’s Council of REALTORS® is an organization that supports its membership with education and strong leadership training. I believe being part of this great organization changed the way I did business and helped make Real Estate my profession not just a job. I look forward to many more years serving my clients and continuing to grow as a REALTOR®

Top 10 Negotiating Rules for Realtors®

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Most Agents have little or no specific training in negotiating yet it is a major component to an Agent’s success. Negotiating is a skill like any other that is awkward at first and improves with practice. Some of these rules will take some time to implement effectively. Others you will be able to apply immediately. (Some of these rules refer to the situation where you are presenting and negotiation directly versus through the other Agent.)

Rule #1: Do not go back and forth between the Buyer and Seller more than twice or you make them crazy. At and after the third round your chance of making the sale drops dramatically. In the first round the buyer and seller are thinking about buying and selling the home. In the second round the buyer and seller stop thinking about buying and selling the home and start thinking about the money. At and after the third round they begin to resent each other. Both Buyer and Seller lose site of the home and money. They begin to make it personal and focus on the other party. Your buyers and sellers are not experienced negotiators. In fact most have only experienced the often negative negotiations when buying cars. So, they are predisposed to fear and discomfort in a negotiation. Others get caught up in the fight and just want to win no matter the cost or loss. Either way these predispositions make it a lot harder for you. And you can avoid it if you shorten the negotiation.

Rule #2: Don’t let the buyers and sellers come to dislike each other. You take responsibility for what you convey to all parties. The most frequent reason buyers and sellers come to dislike each other is because the Agent talks about one party to the other. So if you hear your client or yourself beginning to disparage the other client intercede and suggest that whatever the reasons for the Client’s behavior might be, let’s focus on putting together the sale and getting the move complete.

Rule #3: Stay focused on the goal of completing the sale. Never let interruptions, the other party’s emotions, emotional outburst, personality, position or anything else distract you from the issues and the concessions that lead to completing the sale. Stay calm. Listen. Empathize. Do not get involved in conversations about the party’s personalities. Do not get emotionally hooked by the emotions of the client. Be a professional. Whether your clients know it or not, they want and need that kind of focused objectivity from you.

Rule #4: People believe what is in writing. So, support your position in writing. If a comparative market analysis supports your position, prepare it. If certain comparables support your position, provide them. If a report supports your position, copy that portion and use it. And most of all put your offer in writing. Don’t negotiate verbally. I realize that it can work many times. I realize that some Agents will insist on it and there is little you can do at those times. Please for your sake and for your Client’s sake make those times rare. Verbal negotiations are fraught with potential problems, misunderstandings, misinterpretations, omissions, as well as simple changing of minds. Put every step of the negotiation in writing.

Rule #5: When you give a concession, ask for something in return. You may not get anything in return but asking dampens the motivation to ask for more. The seller wants another three thousand dollars in price and the buyer says if I accept that I want the kitchen appliances. The seller says ok and so the buyer says we have been thinking about it and we want the washer and dryer too. The seller says ok. So the buyer then asks for….You get the idea. If the seller says no the first time, even if they ultimately end up giving up the kitchen appliances to make the deal, asking for something in return dampens the buyer’s motivation to ask for more. Then at the structural inspection or at the pre-closing inspection the earlier dampening of the buyer’s motivation carries forward and dampens the buyer’s motivation to ask for too much later.

Rule #6: Never take the first offer too quickly or easily. It sends a message that may make your job more difficult later. When you have an offer accepted quickly wait a few hours to call the Buyer. Then don’t emphasize that it was easy. On this same topic, don’t tell the buyer they have bought the house or the seller they have sold the house just because they have an accepted offer…. because they haven’t. The house isn’t sold until there are attorney’s approvals, approved inspections, a mortgage commitment and all other contingencies are removed.  Instead of saying congratulations you got it. Say, “Congratulations you are on your way. We want to get the attorney’s blessing, get through the structural inspection and get through the bank process. I don’t expect any problems so I think you have a great home.”

Rule #7: Never gloat. I remember walking into a seller’s house with a full price offer, all cash, and only attorney’s approval as a contingency. It had the closing date the seller wanted, no personal property. I was proud and pleased. This one was going to be easy. So I strutted in with swagger and a smile. I said, “You guys are gonna love this offer.” Well, as you might expect. They questioned me and challenged me about everything from the legitimacy of my buyer to where their cash was coming from, all because I didn’t have the good sense and sensitivity to realize these people are moving their lives. I treated it like a game and they quickly reminded me of its importance to them. The next time I had the situation. I talked about how hard I worked to get them as much of what they wanted as I could. I couldn’t get it all but I hoped we were close enough to come to an agreement. They looked at the great offer and said, “Rich, you did great. We can accept this as it is.”  Lesson learned.

Rule #8: When you hit an impasse settle everything else first and return to it. As you present the offer to the seller and you reach an item they don’t accept, make a note to come back to it and get agreement on everything else first. Then, once you are through the offer completely, you will have isolated all the items, if there is more than one that requires negotiation. You will find that at that point the negotiation goes easier. There is nothing else on their mind and they know that this item or these items will complete the transaction. By doing this you create a momentum that carries you to success more easily.

Rule #9: Get the other party to negotiate with themselves. Never negotiate with yourself. This is a more aggressive rule. Above, in Rule # 4 I said to always get your negotiations in writing.  This is the exception that proves the rule. Watch. I am sitting with the seller reviewing a Buyer’s Agent’s offer. The seller is willing to accept it and doesn’t want to lose the buyer or the sale. I say to them, “Let’s see what I can do without risking the sale.”  I call the other Agent (Agent is another one we capitalize) and ask if the Agent can reach their buyer. They say yes.  I tell them that the sellers are in the room and they are really close to accepting the offer. If we could get another $1,500 it’s a done deal.  Could they check with the buyers and see if they would move at all?  And if they will, I want to get it wrapped up tonight while everyone is in agreement. Ten minutes later the Agent calls to tell me they’ll do it or they’ll do $500 or $1,000 or nothing. A vast majority of the time I’ll get more and make the seller very happy with me.  If the Buyers won’t move I call the Buyer’s Agent back in five minutes and to tell them that their offer was accepted as is and compliment them on their smart negotiation. You may or may not approve of this methodology. I am not condoning or condemning it. I am just using it as an example of, “Get the other party to negotiate with themselves. Never negotiate with yourself.

Rule #10: Do not use these rules and approaches carelessly. When these rules are applied or are done awkwardly or carelessly they cause your clients to distrust you.  Be careful. Done with care and confidence (and practice) you are going to have a lot more fun, be a lot more productive, preserve more time, and get the admiration and referrals from your clients because you will make them more comfortable in addition to getting them more money with your negotiating skills.

Rich specialize in moving Real Estate Agents and Brokers to their highest levels of production and performance in their business and in their life. Join our FREE Daily Real Estate Training Webinars every week day at Contact Rich directly or call 585.244.2700 or visit Rich Levin is President of Rich Levin’s Success Corps inc.