Rory S Coakley of Coakley Realty On How To Get The Absolute Best Price When You Sell Your Home

As seen in Authority Magazine

How can you get the best price possible when you are looking to sell your home? Sometimes it’s a matter of timing, the right upgrades, or simply the right negotiation. In this interview series called “How To Get The Best Price When You Sell Your Home” we are talking to successful real estate leaders, who can share stories, insights and lessons from their experience about how to get the best price when you want to sell your home.

As a particular part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Rory S. Coakley.

Rory S. Coakley, the President & Founder of Coakley Realty since 1989, is a licensed Real Estate Broker and Certified General Appraiser in the state of Maryland, Virginia and D.C. Rory has extensive experience and knowledge in residential and commercial real estate matters such as sales, leasing, property management, tax appeals, appraisals, land development, litigation support, consulting and property investment. He founded Coakley Realty in 1989 with the goal of providing a real estate company that can be the single source for both residential and commercial real estate services. He oversees over 40 real estate consultants, appraisers, property managers, tax appeal specialists and land developers. Rory owns and manages many types of commercial and residential properties, thereby providing the experience and expertise to assist with all real estate needs. The properties include: hotels, office buildings, self-storage facilities, warehouses and residential properties.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to your career?

Myfamily has been involved in construction and/or real estate in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area since 1925, when my grandfather emigrated here from Ireland and started his own plastering business. My father Neil and Fred Williams started Coakley & Williams, Inc. a full-service real estate development and construction firm, where I worked for ten years. That was a great learning experience for me because not only did it introduce me to the construction business but it exposed me to end-to-end development, real estate, property acquisition and property management services. I worked on developing and building hotels, office buildings and warehouses. It was the best training ground for a budding real estate entrepreneur that anyone could hope for. I worked at Coakley & Williams, Inc. from 1983–1992.

However, I always knew that I wanted to have my own company to control my life and my destiny. In 1989, I took a walk on the beach with my dad to tell him I wanted to go out on my own. He questioned my actions but then he became one of the biggest supporters of my real estate company. It was a very difficult decision to make, but as it has turned out it was meant to be.

Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away, you took out of that story?

I was working with a couple from Japan who were looking to buy a home. They were very focused on the Asian principle of Feng Shui. In this principle, you arrange pieces in the living spaces to create a balance with the natural world. One of the important aspects of Feng Shui is the direction the front door faces.

I spent month showing the couple different houses, and we would get out of the car with an old-fashioned compass to determine the direction the front door was facing. If it didn’t face the proper direction, the buyer wouldn’t even look inside the house. After showing them dozens of houses, we saw a house that the husband loved, however, the front door didn’t face the right direction. When I brought up this point, the husband said, “I’ll move the front door.” They bought the house, moved the door, and lived there for years.

What I learned was that you need to think outside the box. You have to look at every situation and client with an open mind to come to a solution that will make the client happy. Sometimes what is in a “non-negotiable” condition can be solved in a unique way.

Do you have a favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share a story or example of how that was relevant to you in your life?

My dad’s partner, Fred Williams, often used the phrase “Cash makes you careless.” His point was that if you are generating good cash flow, don’t get too loose with how you run your business. You need to stick with the disciplines and principles that got you in that positive position.

I was educated by the Jesuits both in high school at Georgetown Preparatory School, in Bethesda, Maryland, and in college at Georgetown University. The motto of Jesuit education, in the words of the order’s founder St. Ignatius Loyola, is “A Man for Others.” The question of “What does it mean to serve others?” was at the center of my education and it was lodged in the back, front, and side of my head. I have tried throughout my life to adhere to this philosophy with my family and company. I have endeavored to give back to non-profits, academic institutions, and my community.

Along with many of the agents at our firm I have been involved with countless local charities and non-profits, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of the National Capital Area, the Catholic Business Network, Stepping Stones Shelter, Potomac Community Resources, Community Reach of Montgomery County, Gaithersburg Sports Association, Positive Coaching Alliance and a variety of other organizations.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

As I’ve mentioned before, giving back to the community is important to us. My wife, my kids and I went to private Catholic schools and we recognize that those schools have been very helpful to us. A thank you in the way of creating scholarships shows we’re trying to give back. We’ve recently created three university scholarships and two high school scholarships, which are already funded. We’ve also been able to play a role in the renovation of a new fitness center at the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School. Our donation allowed the school to completely overhaul its fitness center. With feedback from the school’s physical education team, coaches, and students, Visitation designed the space so it accommodates the needs of athletes and non-athletes alike.

When I served on the board of Georgetown Preparatory School, I learned that the tuition they charge doesn’t cover all the expenses needed to educate a student. It’s important to my family that future generations of students are able to obtain the same quality education that we were able to enjoy.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

There are very few companies in the Washington, DC metropolitan area that offer commercial and residential real estate services like we do. What makes us stand out is our approach to providing hands-on and knowledgeable service to our clients. Whether selling, buying, leasing, or managing a property, our agents are experienced professionals who are involved in the community and who are determined to meet an individual’s or company’s real estate needs.

Tom Nalls, our sales manager, worked at another firm for ten years before he joined Coakley Realty. He felt that the people at his previous firm were treated like numbers. Tom says when he came to Coakley Realty one of the things that stood out for him was that the agents, who come from diverse backgrounds, support one another and get along and collaborate. The fact that our team is so collaborative is what truly makes our agents like working with each other. That camaraderie has resulted in us standing out and has had a positive impact for our clients.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

When I was working for my Dad I was in charge of developing hotels, office buildings and warehouses. I was very busy and my wife and I were raising three young children. In his office there was stacks of files — real estate tax appeal files. My Dad told me: “You take it over.” I was surprised and ended up walking away with two and a half feet of folders. That was thirty-three years ago. Because of him we are one of the very few real estate companies that also offer real estate tax appeals, which is now a big part of our business.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now jump to the core of our interview: For the benefit of our readers, can you please tell us why you are an authority on getting the best price when selling a home?

Having been in the business since 1983, I’ve seen several up and down markets. Fluctuating markets require careful pricing strategies. Unlike the vast majority of real estate agents, I am a Certified General appraiser in Maryland, DC and Virginia. The significant training that was required and my experience in appraising properties gives me an advantage in pricing a property.

In addition to my real estate experience, my background includes: construction management, land development and real estate tax appeals. These three disciplines provide insight into building materials, lot size and configuration, and property assessment review and analysis. Plus, I handle a variety of property types such as single family homes, townhouses, log homes, condominiums, lots and waterfront lots.

From my many years of experience I know that selling a home is more than just putting up a for sale sign to get the best price for a home you are selling. At Coakley Realty, we’ve come up with a formula we follow in making sure that sellers get the best price possible. The four points: Access, Exposure, Condition, and Price.

Access: Few people buy a property without looking at it. Sellers who understand the importance of access know that they must be flexible to open their property for buyers to see it at any time. When access is made easy, sellers see greater success with a shorter time on market.

Exposure: Photos and developing a listing is not enough. Agents must create a compelling description and drive maximum exposure to ensure the greatest visibility and awareness for the property. An agent should help you by taking an integrated approach when marketing the property. Use multiple listing sites, social media, direct mail, digital advertising as well as the agent’s network. Understand what channels target and deliver the right qualified buyers. A focused effort will increase the effectiveness of your exposure and return.

Condition: Well-maintained properties do not need major upgrades. In many cases small, inexpensive touches can have a high impact on returns. These include a fresh coat of neutral paint, cosmetic repairs, staging, and professional cleaning. These relatively small changes can greatly increase the perceived value of your property.

Price: Most properties sell if priced correctly. A real estate agent has access to and considers local market data and circumstances. They look at and compare recently closed sale prices, average days on market, current comparable listings, and the condition of your property to determine the listing price. This approach provides insights as to “the why” to price your property a certain way.

The bottom line is that although we are in a strong seller’s market, pricing is still critically important. Buyers and their agents are more informed than ever about what houses are selling for. An agent can help you with the initial pricing and monitor what is happening in the market.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Real Estate industry, as it is today? If you can please share a story or example

The Real Estate business is a people business. I enjoy that, working with all kinds of people from all walks of life, mostly in Montgomery County, Maryland but also in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. I love the variety of this business because every day I am doing something different.

In today’s competitive market, a realtor can really make a positive impact. An agent’s experience and extensive network can help his clients meet their real estate goals that they might not be able to meet on their own. Agents know when people either buy or sell their property it is often the most expensive transaction they have ever experienced in their lives; it’s stressful. A good realtor has to be part psychologist, part financial adviser, and often even a marriage counselor. We have to put on a lot of different hats. At the end of the day, when your clients feel they’ve done what they set out to do either buying or selling, you have helped them and you can feel good about what you do.

Finally, building life-long friendships is a result of my working in the Real Estate industry. You meet new clients, new agents, new lenders, and a wide array of people. Sometimes these meetings develop into long-lasting and close friendships.

One example of a long-term relationship developing outside of the real estate transaction comes to mind. I was working with newly married buyers who were shopping for their first home together. During our conversations, we realized both the husband and I share a great love of hot sauce. We discussed the different varieties of sauces, which peppers were used, and the best sauces for different foods. As a settlement gift, I presented the husband with a variety box of several different hot sauces. Years later we still get together to sample different hot sauces and determine the best foods to use them on.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry as it is today? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest? Please share stories or examples if possible.

CMBS (commercial mortgage-backed securities) loans are fixed mortgage products that are backed by numerous tranches of investors. This is where the customer doesn’t have to give a personal guarantee but money comes from different sources so you can’t call the loan officer or local bank executive and often you can’t get answers. I personally have had some major problems with these types of loans.

Government interference with the real estate bundle of rights — this happens when a property undergoes redistricting, rezoning, or school moratoriums — you have no control over these issues.

There should be a higher standard for people to get their real estate license. Agents in my firm meet numerous people on the other side who are far from qualified. Florida is an example of a state that has a high bar — they don’t allow just anyone to earn a license.

If I was in charge of the rules, I would have a graduated rate for the license renewal. All brand-new agents would have the same fee for licensing, but as your years in the business increase, the licensing fee would increase as well, up to a certain cap. This would raise the commitment level of agents as time went by and would “weed out” agents who are practicing real estate more as a hobby than a career. I think it would raise the level of competence and professionalism in our industry.

Based on your experience, what are a few of the biggest mistakes you have seen people make when they sell their homes? What must be done to avoid them?

1.By trying to sell their home without the benefit of an experienced agent, sellers often make missteps they live to regret. Selling one’s home is a complex process. An agent, with his expertise and support, can guide a seller through situations the agent has participated in many times before.

A few mistakes I have seen people make when they sell their homes by themselves start with not pricing their home competitively. An agent will help the seller understand the local market and the competition. I have seen sellers think a smart tactic is to price the home a little bit below the most recent sales of comparable homes in the area with the hope of receiving multiple offers and maybe creating a bidding war. The risk comes that if there aren’t multiple offers and receiving an offer actually below the most recent sales.

Another strategy homeowners can make is pricing a home too high. Some homeowners think it’s a good idea to compare their home to the most recent comparable sale and price their home slightly higher. This could work if prices continue to appreciate, but it could also result in alienating potential buyers.

2. Not doing a pre-inspection is another potential a misstep by sellers. The benefits of doing a pre-inspection ahead of the listing is that it enables the homeowner to uncover any issues and avoid any surprises once at the negotiation table. Unexpected obstacles to an immediate sale can have a great impact on the offer and in some cases take the offer off the table all together. In knowing any potential concerns in advance, the homeowner can then address them ahead of listing. It gives them the time to make the necessary updates to not only go to the market confidently but to avoid any issues with the property that could come up later.

3. A home seller might be tempted to jump at the first offer he receives and not consider how the offer is structured. Multiple offers can make the situation seem even more confusing. There are many things to take into account whether considering one offer or multiple offers on your home.

For instance, besides the offer price, is there an escalation clause? What type of financing is the buyer presenting with the offer? What contingencies are included with the offer and what are the time lines for these contingencies? Is the buyer’s agent well-known and reliable? Who is the lender and the settlement agent? Is the lender local? Does the proposed settlement date work for the seller? All these issues need to be weighed before accepting an offer.

I know from personal experience the dilemma of determining the right offer when there are multitudes to choose from. I put a property on the market recently that received twenty-three offers. Unless you are an agent yourself or a real estate attorney, processing this many contracts would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Remember, you don’t have a great deal of time. Buyer’s agents expect a quick response; they are entitled to have an answer within twenty-four hours. The contract the sellers ended up accepting was clearly the strongest, but it took hours of review to determine which proposal was the best for the seller.

4. Not having the input from an experienced agent regarding market preparation. I recently sold a home in Bethesda that received multiple offers. The couple who ultimately purchased the house appreciated the fact that they didn’t have to do anything to the home before moving in. This is because the owners, on my recommendation, made simple cosmetic upgrades of fresh paint and refinished floors before listing their home. Preparing a home so it shows in the best possible light before putting it on the market can be a deciding factor in selling it to today’s busy buyers.

I know this question has passionate opinions on both sides, but we would love to hear your opinion. Engaging a realtor is costly. Should people use a realtor when they sell their home? Please explain why you feel the way you do.

We can understand how, in today’s seller’s market, homeowners could be tempted to sell without an agent. However, here is what they need to consider:

Not working with a realtor and not understanding how to navigate the selling process may result in losing out on the most money possible for a property, thus becoming more costly than working with a realtor in the beginning.

Selling a home involves dozens of forms, reports, disclosures, and other technical documents. It involves knowing how to review a contract. The average contract is sixty pages long, and unless you are very familiar with its content it can be overwhelming. The best bid for a seller is not necessarily the one that offers the most money. You need someone on your side who can weed out the good contracts from the lesser ones.

An agent will determine if the offer is complete and ratifiable. If a buyer is unwilling to present some proof of the funds necessary to close, it is something to be concerned about. Also a seller’s agent can spot an incomplete or sloppy contract which shows a careless agent on the buyer’s side. It is a red flag that they may be difficult to work with going forward.

OK here is the main question of our interview. You are a “Real Estate Insider.” Can you please share five things you need to know to get the absolute best price when you sell your home? If you can, please give a story or an example for each.

In my experience these are the five things you need to know to get the absolute best price when you are ready to sell your home:

Work with an agent. He or she has the experience and knowledge about all the factors that go into selling your home at a premium price. Agents can guide you into taking the steps you need to maximize your chances of a sale, such as the importance of access, making your home available to possible buyers to see it at any time; how to make sure your home gets the most exposure by utilizing multiple marketing tools; agents know the importance the condition of a home is to attract buyers, and can advise home owners on how to present their home to its best advantage from curb appeal to its well-kept interior; and finally what the best asking price should be to assure the best price is attained.

Sellers should also arrange for a pre-inspection to avoid any surprises or issues to the buyer or even themselves. A pre-inspection also gives the seller the advantage of making upgrades when necessary before listing the property.

An experienced agent understands that not all properties are worth the same, even if they are identical in most aspects. For example, if your home is an historic home, working with a realtor with that experience can aid in getting the right price. An agent who is knowledgeable about historic homes understands there might be restrictions in being able to make upgrades and they may be dealing with older systems in the home such as HVAC, etc.

A big plus in working with a realtor is the deep network he/she has access to which can play an important role in getting the property in front of the right buyers. This can include other brokers, buyers and contractors.

Take advantage of the “Coming Soon” status in the MLS. A seller can expose their property to the market before they are ready to look at offers. As you prepare the home for the market, you can promote the soon approaching sale by having your agent enter the property under the “Coming Soon” status in the MLS. A property can be in this status for up to 21 days. So as you are putting the finishing touches on your home before the sale, buyers and their agents will know about your intentions to sell. Showings are not allowed during the Coming Soon period, but the word will get out. The price you receive is in direct proportion to the number of people that see your home. Setting the status to “Coming Soon” will get more eyes on your property, even before you are ready to go.

Because of your position, you are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Encourage people to be charitable and philanthropic. Eighteen years ago we gathered 12 people who worked with us and asked them to come up with a non-profit we could support. They decided on Stepping Stones Shelter, a homeless shelter for families in Rockville, Maryland which serves families who have become homeless due to job loss, death of a spouse, or other hardships. Since that time the Coakley Realty team has held numerous fundraisers that have brought in several hundred thousand dollars and we have contributed countless hours to Stepping Stones by painting, carpentry work, and landscaping projects.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Rory S. Coakley on LinkedIn —

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