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Condo Seller's Guide

While our general Seller's Guide applies to condo sellers, there are certain additional aspects when selling a condominium in Vermont to be aware of. They include:

State Law Requirements

• Condominiums in Vermont are governed by a State law known as the Vermont Common Interest Ownership Act.

• The law requires--among other things--that condo buyers be provided a set of the condominium's governing documents, typically referred to as the "Condo Docs."

• The law also requires that the seller provide a "Resale Certificate." The law states what must be included in the certificate, but most importantly for a buyer it must include whether the seller has any outstanding dues or liens from the Association and whether there are any ongoing lawsuits against the Association.

• The Resale Certificate should also have a copy of the Association's current budget, income and expense report, and reserve balance attached to it.

• The law allows a purchaser to terminate a contract within 5 days after receiving the resale certificate from the seller if the buyer is not satisfied with the information revealed in the documents.

• In addition to the distinct legal aspects of condominium purchases, sellers should also be aware of the practical differences.

Public Building Inspection Requirement

• Beginning in mid 2009, a new inspection requirement was imposed upon condo sellers.

• Sellers of condominiums in Vermont must now either produce a current Public Building Certificate of Occupancy or have their condo unit inspected by Fire Marshall.

• Most condo buildings lack current Public Building Certificates of Occupancy so in most cases, buyers will need to get a report of a Fire Marshall before closing.

• The Fire Marshall's inspection applies current safety standards even if the condo was built at a time when different safety standards applied.

• It is very possible that condo sellers will need to bring their unit into compliance with current standards if the standard has changed since the condo was built.

Closing Differences

• For the most part, the closing process described in our Seller's Guide will be the same for a condo in Vermont as it is for a single family home. However, there a couple of slight differences:

• The first difference is that the condominium dues must be prorated. Most condo dues are paid monthly on the 1st similar to rent.

• If, for instance, the closing is on the 15th of the month and you paid dues on the 1st, the buyer will need to reimburse you for the 15 days of dues you've paid in advance.

• Before prorating the dues, however, the closing attorney will want to make sure that the data on the resale certificate is still true as it usually takes more than 30 days from the contract signing to the closing. It is possible that the resale certificate says the dues have been paid but if a new month started since the resale certificate was first issued then you need to make sure to update the certificate.

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Pre Closing

Once the contract is signed, the buyer begins their due diligence of the property. The buyer will likely have the home professionally inspected. They will have their attorney begin searching your title to the property. Finally, they will pursue their financing for the property.

• Unfortunately for most sellers the buyer's due diligence period amounts to a "wait and see" for the seller. The seller is waiting to see if the inspection reveals any issues. They are waiting to see if the land records or municipal offices reveal any issues regarding title. And they are waiting to see if the property will appraise for the value of the purchase price and whether the buyer can qualify for their loan.

• Many sellers experience a helpless feeling during this period. There is little comfort to be provided other than to say most homes sell once the contract is signed. Issues seem to arise on every transaction, but for the most part the issues are minor and can be resolved rather easily by one or more of the parties involved in the transaction (buyer, seller, buyer's attorney, seller's attorney, real estate agents or the lender).

Here are some of the more common issues that arise between the signing of the contract and the closing:

  1. Inspection Items - This is the most common issue that arises after the contract is signed between a buyer and seller. The home inspector's report reveals either maintenance concerns, safety concerns, code violations or all three. For code violations, there is usually little dispute between the parties that these items will be rectified prior to closing. It is the other two areas where disagreements most often occur.

    Safety issues are items noted in the home inspector's report that the inspector believes to be hazardous but do not violate some regulation, law or code. The parties can usually determine by common sense whether the seller should be responsible for addressing safety items or if it is reasonable to expect the buyer to address them after the closing. However, there are times where neither party believes they should be responsible for addressing the issue. Obviously there are several ways to work things out. The parties could agree to split the cost of addressing the item. The seller could have their own inspection performed and if the seller's inspector thinks the issue should be the seller's responsibility then the seller could address it. The parties could agree to put money aside at the closing and should money be leftover after the issue is addressed then that money would be given to the seller. Finally, if no agreement can be reached then the parties could terminate the transaction and return the deposit to the buyer.

    Maintenance concerns in a home inspector's report are usually the most contentious issues between the parties. Unless the home is brand new, the buyer could not expect the home to be maintenance free. The real question is what level of maintenance is reasonable for the buyer to expect given the age of the home, purchase price and other terms of the transaction. This analysis will need to be done on a case by case basis as the issues that could arise are too extensive to address here. The most important thing to remember is that if the parties act reasonably they should be able to reach an agreement as to these issues.
  2. Financing Issues - The most common issue these days for financing is that the property does not appraise at the purchase price. Appraisers have become very conservative since the "mortgage meltdown" of 2007-2008. The best way to avoid having issues with the appraiser is to have your home in the best possible condition when they come. If possible meet with the appraiser and try to point out aspects of the home that you believe add value. Ultimately appraising is an art and not a science so leaving the appraiser with a positive impression can actually impact the final appraised value.
  3. Title Issues - In most cases when there are problems with the seller's title, the issues are minor and can be resolved quickly. However, if a more serious issue arises, the seller should look back to their closing documents. It is likely that an attorney issued a "title opinion" at the time the seller closed. It is also likely that the owner purchased "title insurance" when they purchased the home. The seller can look to either or both to help resolve the current issue.
  4. Repairs Not Complete - If an agreed upon repair is not completed at the time of closing, you can delay the closing. However, it is probably easier, depending upon the scope of the repair, to have the closing attorney withhold a reasonable amount of money from the seller until the repair is completed.

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Evaluating Offers from Buyers

While preparing your home for showings may seem like the most stressful part of selling your home, most sellers end up saying after the fact that it was the process of evaluating offers and negotiating the terms of the sale with the buyer.

• For many sellers, the process of evaluating offers is stressful because they are always concerned about regret. Most sellers fear "seller's remorse," which is the feeling after the sale that possibly you made a mistake and that you may have been able to sell your home for more.

• It's impossible to know what a future buyer might pay for your home. However, that sort of thinking will almost certainly hinder your ability to effectively evaluate current offers on your home. You need to put aside any feelings of possible regret or seller's remorse when evaluating offers from buyers.

• In Vermont an offer is typically presented to the seller by a buyer. The buyer typically prepares a written document known as a Purchase and Sale Contract (or P&S) for the seller's review. In Vermont for an agreement for the sale of property to be enforceable it must be: (1) in writing; (2) signed by the parties; (3) provide sufficient details to identify the property involved; and, (4) specify the essential terms of the transaction, such as price.

• If the seller is represented by a real estate agent, the offer will be sent to the agent. The agent will then present the offer to the seller. Even if the agent thinks the offer is too low, the agent has a duty under Vermont law to present all offers to the seller.

• There is no formality required when the agent presents the offer. The offer can be emailed or faxed if the seller so desires.

Once you receive the buyer's offer, you can do one of three things: You can accept it as it is, you can reject it, or you can make the buyer a counteroffer. A counteroffer is technically a rejection of the buyer's original offer and then a new offer made by you to the buyer. Thus, once the counteroffer is made, the buyer's initial offer is considered legally dead. You cannot change your mind after making a counteroffer and simply say you will accept their original offer. From a purely technical perspective the buyer would have to revive their original offer for you to accept it.

• In many cases, the legal requirements do not coincide with the practical realities of our technological age. Despite the legal requirement that all offers be in writing to be enforceable, from a practical perspective it is usually only the initial offer that is presented in writing. The parties or their agents usually then conduct negotiations by phone or email until an agreement is reached. Once the agreement is reached the parties then put the final agreement in writing and sign the documents.

• You will oftentimes see agents use the original documents and just have any changes that were made as a result of the negotiations initialed by the buyer and seller. This can be more efficient than writing up a new document. However, some prefer to have a new document drafted.

• While price is the most common area for negotiations, it is not the only area that is open to negotiation. You can use items such as contingencies to make your offer stronger.

The most common contract contingencies in Vermont are financing and inspection.

• The financing contingency typically says that the buyer has a set period of time from the day the contract is signed to obtain a written loan commitment from a bank. Most financing contingencies are 30-45 days and state the interest rate and amount of the downpayment of the buyer's desired loan program. The contingency allows the buyer to terminate if they cannot secure the written loan commitment within the allotted time period. The buyer must terminate the contract in writing and the dates are important. Obviously from your perspective, an offer that is not contingent upon financing will be preferred. However, there are very few buyers who can afford a home without a loan.

• Inspection contingencies vary depending upon the contract. Most buyers prefer an inspection contingency that is worded broadly to allow the buyer to terminate should they not be happy with any aspect of the inspection. Sellers, on the other hand, would like to limit the buyer's ability to terminate so they look for contingencies that allow the buyer to terminate only if there is a violation of some safety code or there are repairs that amount to $500 or more. Again these contingencies will vary, but from the seller's perspective it is better to have a narrowly worded contingency that only allows the buyer to terminate if there are real problems or concerns.

• Evaluating all of the terms will help decide the strategy as to price. If for instance, the offer does not contain any contingencies then you may consider accepting slightly less money than you would had the buyer made the offer contingent upon an inspection or obtaining a loan. There is less risk to you as the seller if the buyer does not have provisions in the offer such as these contingencies allowing them to terminate.

• In contrast, if the offer is contingent upon 100% financing from a bank then you are going to carry much greater risk so you may want to hold out for more money then you would from a buyer looking for only 75% financing.

• You should also look to the personal property included in the offer. Sometimes instead of rejecting an offer you might exclude items like the refrigerator or washer and dryer from the sale to help make up the difference in price.

• Ultimately, a buyer does not want to pay more than fair market value so that is going to drive their decision making. Also, for any buyer obtaining a loan, the bank will require an appraisal of the property and the appraisal will be based almost entirely on what comparable homes have sold for in the area.

• Your goal is to limit your risk of the buyer terminating down the road against the highest market value for the property. Balancing these interests is important. For instance, you might get a buyer to accept your asking price but if the asking price is not within the price of recent sales and the buyer's purchase is contingent upon financing, the transaction will likely fall apart prior to closing because the appraisal will be too low for the buyer to obtain their loan.

The old adage "a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush" can be used when selling property. You never know when the next offer is going to come so you want to keep this in mind when evaluating each offer.

• There is no one correct strategy for negotiating an offer with a buyer. In most cases the buyer will offer you less than your asking price. The initial offer is usually an indication of how high the buyer is likely to go with future offers. If the initial offer is considerably less than the asking price then it is less likely that you will ultimately get your asking price from this buyer. If, however, the initial offer is close to your asking price there is a much better chance that you can convince the buyer to pay your asking price on a subsequent offer or counteroffer.

• Some buyers will present you with a first and final offer. Buyers should only utilize this strategy if they are serious so you should assume that an offer that is presented as the "first and final" is just that.

• If you are able to come to an agreement with the buyer then you will need to sign the agreement. The buyer will provide a deposit check and your agent or your attorney will hold the check as the escrow agent until the closing. The deposit check will be credited towards the buyer's purchase price at closing.

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Showing Your Home

Tips to Sell Your Home Faster:

• Searching for a new home is an extremely emotional experience for a buyer. They tend to let that emotion drive their initial feelings towards a home. Most buyers have a visceral reaction when they enter a home. From your perspective, you want this initial reaction to be extremely positive. If a buyer's initial visceral reaction is negative then there is little likelihood of winning them over.

• Because buyers decide quickly on whether the home appeals to them, the first impression of the home is very important. While there are many ways to impress a buyer, the most important is to make sure the house is clean.

• Part of ensuring that the house is clean is making sure that the house does not appear cluttered or disorganized. "Declutter" as much of your personal belongings as you can before showing your home. If need be, hold that long overdue garage or lawn sale. Selling a home can also be a great excuse for finally making a donation of unneeded items to Goodwill or the Salvation Army.

• Once you have decluttered, make sure that the house is cleaned before every showing. Odor is very important during a showing. If you have pets, you may want to consider lighting a scented candle or spraying air freshener. Be mindful however not to overdo it because a buyer can be equally turned off if the candle or air freshener is overwhelming.

• Prior to showings, make sure that there are not clothes left on the floor and that all of the beds are made. You should also remove as much from your kitchen counters and bathroom counters as possible.

• Some agents recommend keeping all lights on. This is helpful particularly on gloomier days but for sunnier days this is not as important. Use your common sense to determine if it is worth keeping the lights on while you are at work.

• Many sellers ask for advice regarding improvements prior to showing the home. The issue is whether the improvement is cost effective. In almost every case you will never receive a "dollar for dollar return" on an improvement done to help in the showing of your home. However, some improvements may make the difference between a buyer choosing your home over another. Every improvement should be looked at in the context of the particular home. Consult your real estate agent to determine what repairs might be cost effective given your situation and your home.

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Listing Your Home

Whether you decide to hire an agent or sell it on your own, you will need to tell the public that your home is for sale. The most common way to do this is by listing the property for sale in the public domain.

• In today's technological age, there is really no need to advertise in print. Other than a sign on your lawn letting neighbors and passersby know that your house is for sale, you should focus your marketing efforts almost entirely online.

• If you have chosen to work with an agent, the real estate agent will take care of the online marketing for you. Firms vary as to their online marketing efforts so you will want to ask them what they do. We, like other firms, also post on Craigslist, Google Base, Realtor.com and other internet listing engines.

• The reason that online marketing is so important these days is that buyers are no longer perusing the newspaper to find their home. Buyers are searching websites like ours to find homes that meet their search criteria. Once the buyer finds a home online that meets their criteria they are not waiting for a weekend open house, they are scheduling an appointment with either the seller or their agent to see it.

• The more content you can provide online the more likely that a buyer will look at your listing. That is why we recommend for our clients that they have a video tour produced for their property. Videos cost about $150 and can be arranged through your agent. Along with photographs, a video gives a more accurate representation of your home.

• While agents take great care in entering listings into the MLS, it is important for you to review the listing to ensure accuracy.

If you do not hire an agent, you can still utilize online marketing resources by using our Listing Only Service to list in the MLS and Realtor.com.

• MLS stands for "Multiple Listing System." The MLS is a database of property listings. In Vermont the MLS is owned by the Northern New England Real Estate Network (aka NNEREN). Real estate agents in Vermont input data into the MLS. The data is then pushed out to real estate websites, like this one. Thus, our listings appear on other firms' sites and their listings appear on ours.

• The MLS allows listings to be emailed on a daily basis automatically to prospective buyers whose search criteria matches a new listing. However, for buyers that do not sign up for this service, it may take them a couple of days to find the new listing. Therefore, you should be patient even if you do not receive any inquiries in the first few days.

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List with An Agent or FSBO?

Once you have committed to selling your home, the next decision to make is whether to hire a real estate agent or to sell the property without professional assistance.

• Thanks to improvements in technology and MLS Listing Only Services that allow sellers to list their property in the MLS without having to hire an agent, some sellers are foregoing the traditional route and choosing to sell on their own.

• While we think that sellers who have the time and knowledge to sell on their own should, many sellers do not have the requisite time or knowledge to sell without professional assistance. Sellers who have previously sold a home are normally better equipped than those who have not sold a home before. However, even for sellers that have the knowledge, most do not have the time needed to arrange for midweek showings, draft contracts, arrange for inspections and the like. Ultimately the question is one of balancing the potential benefits of hiring an agent versus the costs.

When making the decision on whether to hire an agent it is important to understand the purpose of the agent:

• There is great misperception in the public that certain real estate agents can sell homes more quickly than others. There is no empirical data to support this proposition. Instead the data supports the proposition that homes that are priced appropriately sell quicker than those that are not priced appropriately.

• Instead of getting your home sold more quickly, the true role of a real estate agent is to be an advisor. The agent's role is to provide guidance to help you get your home sold more quickly and easily. The most essential guidance is being honest as to the appropriate price range of the home.

• Some agents will attempt to solicit your business by trying to "buy your listing." An agent that tries to buy your listing will tell you that your home is worth an unrealistically high price. The agent is pretty confident that they will likely be advising you to lower the price dramatically in the future. From the agent's perspective, if they can get their foot in the door then you will not switch agents down the road when they advise you to lower the price. While buying a listing is a violation of an agent's fiduciary duties to a seller, some agents still engage in this practice.

• Because some agents still engage in the process of buying listings, it is important to get price recommendations from more than one agent.

• In addition to guidance regarding price, a real estate agent's role is to guide you through the sale of the home. Look for an agent that has experience in areas other than real estate sales, such as agents in this firm who have experience in practicing law, providing investment advice, or in managing properties. These broader experiences will help provide insight and distinguish the services of one agent from another.

• Finally, you should ask agents about their fees. While most firms still charge a 5-6% commission, Flat Fee charges a simple flat fee and may save you considerable money in the long run.

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Do I Sell Now or Wait?

While there are some homeowners who decide to sell out of necessity (finances, divorce, tragedy), most homeowners still decide freely on whether to sell. This page only addresses sellers who have a choice in the decision and are not under duress or other circumstances requiring a quick sale.

• Moving from an existing a home to a new home is one the most exciting and stressful activities an individual, couple or family can undertake. As a result, the decision on whether or not to sell is often one of the most challenging and anxiety-riddled decisions a person will make during their lifetime.

• Before deciding to list your property for sale, a homeowner must first determine whether it is financially feasible to move out of their existing home and purchase a new home. This decision will likely hinge almost entirely on the amount of "equity" the homeowner has in the property. Equity is the difference between the value of the home (sales price) and the amount that the seller owes to the bank on its mortgage or other debt on the home.

• Prior to selling, you should also contact your lender and any other lien-holder to determine how much you would owe them should you pay off the existing loan(s) on the property.

• In order to determine the value of your home, you should either have your agent analyze recent comparable sales or--if you do not have an agent--conduct your own search of recently sold comparable properties. Comparable sales are homes that have sold recently (usually within the past 6 months or sooner) that are near yours and are similar in nature to your property. You can find these properties on the MLS' list of Sold Properties.

• While a real estate agent can be helpful in determining the price range of a home, the ultimate decision on whether it makes sense to sell rests with the seller. Real estate agents are not financial advisors so they have only limited insight into the factors that ultimately influence and dictate the decision on whether to sell.

• When you are creating your budget for selling, do not forget to add the fees and costs you will incur as the result of the sale to the existing mortgage. For instance, if you utilize the services of a real estate agent, you will need to factor these fees into your calculations. You should consult your attorney and your agent to determine what fees other than your mortgage you will need to pay at the time of the sale.

• Once you create your budget, the next question to ask is whether the timing of the sale makes sense. Your personal reasons for selling should be the ultimate factor in the decision. However, in Vermont there are better times than others to list your property. Historically, Spring and Summer are better times to list than Fall and Winter.

• In addition to better seasonal times for selling, the state of the market, tax advantages, etc... may help in your decision. In 2009, there was a tax credit available for first time homebuyers. This helped stimulate sales and when the tax credit expired we saw an immediate drop in activity. Discuss the market with your agent before listing.

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Seller's Guide

Selling a home in Vermont can at times seem unnecessarily confusing and complex.  This short guide is intended to help sellers establish a level of confidence and understanding before listing their home for sale in Vermont.

Table of Contents

 

 

Need more information?   Please feel free to call us at (802) 318-0833 or email us at info@flatfeevt.com at anytime.

 

 

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Seller Testimonials

"Flat Fee's market knowledge and attention to detail as it related to the sale of my apartment building was above and beyond the call of duty. They helped price the property appropriately and then were intimately involved in the negotiations for its sale. Because of Flat Fee, my partner and I received in excess of $70,000.00 more than we expected at the start of the listing process. We were 100% satisfied with Flat Fee’s work and the end result. We have bought and sold over 15 properties in the last 5 years and after using Flat Fee for this closing will be using Flat Fee exclusively in the future."

- Allen Nassif, Seller - SAVED $23,000 on the Sale

"Flat Fee Real Estate sold my house in one of the most challenging housing market conditions we may ever see at a higher price than I expected.  I don't know what else to say, results always speak for themselves, but as the real estate market conditions worsened, Flat Fee  worked harder, longer and more diligently to help me prepare my property, list it efficiently, and put in a huge amount of time and effort with what proved to be a difficult closing... I recommend Flat Fee's services and will use them again myself. Regardless of market conditions, they know how to get the job done and get results."

- James Brunger, Seller - SAVED $7,800 on the Sale

"Working with Flat Fee Real Estate was such a positive experience for me. They sold my condo within weeks of it being on the market and then helped me close on my new condo. They made the whole process very quick and smooth. Flat Fee Real Estate far exceeded all my prior real estate experiences."  

Shelley Fillion - Buyer and Seller, SAVED $4,014 on the Sale and REFUNDED $3,750 on the Purchase.

"Working with Flat Fee was terrific. We listed our condo with them in a very competitive market, and in ten days we had three competing full-price-plus offers. Flat Fee provided us with listing and pricing guidance, arranged for a listing video, and as we left Vermont before our closing, sheparded us through all of the final details leading to settlement. Although...they would earn considerably less when our property sold than they would have under a traditional percentage based arrangement, we never experienced any reduced commitment, professionalism, or service. I would highly recommend Flat Fee to anyone selling or buying real estate.."

Sandra Dombro- Seller, SAVED $7,722 on the Sale

"I would recommend Flat Fee Realty to my closest friends and family. Rob was very knowledgeable and worked diligently to help sell my home. There were no surprises and most importantly I saved thousands in commissions over what other realtors would have charged."

Todd Morris - Seller, SAVED $4,972 on the Sale


  "I had a great experience working with Erin Dupuis as a agent.  She was very knowledgeable about the market and gave me options as to how to price my condo.  Erin was also very prompt at returning my calls or emails, she very patiently dealt with all my questions during the contract and sales process.  I would highly recommend her to anyone interested in purchasing or selling a property.  I will certainly use her again in the future."

Jill St. George- Seller, SAVED $3,080 on the Sale

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Full Service includes:

  • Meeting with you at your home to discuss the features of your home;
  • Conducting a market analysis to help in pricing your home;
  • Listing your property in the MLS so that it is published on all of the local and national real estate websites, including Realtor.com;
  • Providing an electronic lockbox and lawnsign;
  • Showing your home to buyers without buyer agents and providing feedback of the showings;
  • Scheduling and coordinating showings for buyers with buyer agents;
  • Providing ongoing advice regarding market conditions and pricing;
  • Assisting in negotiating offers with buyers
  • Drafting and reviewing agreements, contracts and amendments to contracts;
  • Coordinating inspections, appraisals and walkthroughs;
  • Coordinating and attending closings;
  • For an additional charge, we will have a professional video production company create a video tour of your home; pricing is dictated by square footage, see below.         
                                       $175 for a condo
                                       $199 up to 3,000 sq/ft 
                                       $299 up to 5,000 sq/ft
                                       $399 over 5,000 sq/ft

 

Sound to good to be true.  It's not.  Just read these TESTIMONIALS.

To learn more about selling read our  SELLER'S GUIDE.

 

Our fee does not include compensation for buyer agents.  We require buyer agents be offered a 2.5% commission if the buyer has their own agent.

 State of Vermont Consumer Disclosure

 

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