Some agents/agencies are really good about leaving a notebook behind for buyers with info about the house, maybe something about the schools and local attractions, etc.
Great agents (and smart sellers) go a step further and encourage their sellers to compile a complete dossier of items to include in a notebook as well. Things that seem insignificant to the owners, but can really answer a lot of buyer questions and create a new level of confidence.
There are certainly no set items that should go into a Seller’s Notebook. Part of the contents will rely on the seller’s attention to detail and keeping great records over time. (So that means starting anew for your NEXT property!).
A large, 3-inch, 3-ring binder is ideal. A see-through cover on the front is a nice touch, with a great shot of the property, address, and a place to hold the agent’s card. Putting everything into plastic sheets make the pages easier to turn, prevents wear and tear, and makes it more professional looking, without having to 3-hole punch original documents. (Make copies of anything that’s a one-of-a-kind document and keep those in a separate place).
So what goes inside? To help you get started, here’s a robust list of things to consider including:
1) Marketing Brochure/Flyer: Typically provided by the agent, it’s a no-brainer. Ideally, there are a small stack of these that a buyer and agent can walk-away with after a showing.
2) Plot Plan: A mortgage survey from the purchase by the sellers, or a tax map from the city are ideal, giving buyers a sense of boundaries, space, neighbors and other landmarks. Many town and cities have these online.
3) Google Earth Picture: Google Earth is a free, down-loadable program that will show a parcel of land from any elevation, give newcomers to an area a lay of the land, relationship and distances to other homes and major attractions, etc. Simply type in the address, and print a picture.
4) Architectural Drawings or Blueprints: If you designed your home, or have the original builder plans, buyers love these. They make adding additions easier for future building and modifications.
5) Subdivision Plan: Newer developments often have these and they are great for judging distances to community amenities like pools, trails, etc.
6) Seller’s Disclosure: Most states require some sort of property disclosure to potential buyers. Having it in the notebook is a great way to fulfill the obligation to share, and eliminates the need for the buyer-agent to ask for it.
7) Deed: A copy of the current deed shows buyers that the home is owned by the sellers, and some agents/agencies want the seller and buyer to initial for acknowledgment. It’s public information anyway, so it makes sense to include.
8) Lead Paint Disclosure: Most single-family homes built before 1978 require the sellers to complete a Lead paint Disclosure. This is nation-wide.
9) Zoning Details: Showing the zoning details for your home or neighborhood can give buyers a better idea of what to expect.
10) Property Tax Card: Many town and cities have these on line and are easy to download…they show the property details, improvements, tax assessment, tax exemptions, pictures, and a variety of other details.
11) Tax-Exempt Status Letters: Most municipalities have some sort of property tax relief for primary residencies, the blind, land in conservation status, etc. If you are claiming a tax exemption, include this fact, so that potential owners can see that their tax burden may be different.
12) HOA or Condo Documents: Getting these often involves time and expense and serious buyer will always want to look at them before taking the next step…order them early from the association, be sure you’re getting the most updated version, and have them available.
13) Mitigation Reports: If you have had lead removal done, a radon removal system installed, a well-water filtration system put in, or any other kind of problem-correcting work done, including the test results, paid receipt and info for the company doing the work is a real help. And if warranties or guarantees are still in effect, buyers will want to know that.
14) Maintenance/Improvements: Paid receipts, estimates, business cards, and anything else that shows that you had work done, or got estimates for work to be done, show that you’ve cared for your home, corrected past issues and provide a sense of pride of ownership to potential buyers.
15) Warranties/Guarantees: If you have any of these that are transferable to new owners, include statements to that effect. This could be for new or recently repaired appliances, etc.
16) Off-season Photos: If you’re selling mid-winter and your yard is under 5 feet of snow, it can be helpful to show buyers how great your yard and gardens look in spring, summer and fall. It’s hard to imagine with just descriptions…pictures tell it all.
17) Utility Bills: More buyers are buying on efficiency as well as location, condition, etc., Showing recent utility bills, especially if you have energy-smart updates like new windows and doors, extra insulation, low-flow toilets and shower heads, installed a newer, efficient heating and/or cooling system…anything that improves the energy-use of your home, can be just the boost to show that owning your home will be cheaper in the long run than the competition.
18) List of current service providers: If you have a lawn guy, a favorite plumber, someone who snow-plows your driveway, does window-washing, chimney/gutter cleaning, etc., and they’re people you can recommend, provide their contact info…it’s great for peace-of-mind for new owners by eliminating one more thing they need to arrange and seek out.
19) School District Details: Most school districts provide on-line fact sheets. Print the ones that pertain to schools who area you are located, so that buyers with families see immediately what they can expect.
20) Voting/District Details: These are also available from most state website, which identify state and local representatives, where and how to vote, etc.
Seller notebooks won’t close the deal on an over-priced listing, but they can sway on-the-fence buyers who are looking for easy answers and a reason to have additional confidence before writing up a contract. Spending the time to answer questions buyers didn’t know they had is good salesmanship and may provide just the boost a buyer needs.