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Ralph DiBugnara of Home Qualified On How To Get The Absolute Best Price When You Sell Your Home

Find out what you can do to your house to get the best value. When people come see your house, they want to see key things that portray its value. Focus on things such as curb appeal, landscaping and affordable upgrades in key focal point rooms such as the bathrooms and the kitchen. These can be anything from new knobs, a new coat of paint, refaced cabinets, or new lightbulbs. The right adds to your property can go a long way on the selling market.

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 Ralph DiBugnara, President of Home Qualified.

Ralph DiBugnara is a nationally recognized real estate expert who serves as President of Home Qualified — the digital resource for buyers, sellers and real estate agents driving today’s millennial market; and Vice President at Cardinal Financial, a nationally recognized mortgage loan company behind $28 billion of closed loans.

Ralph grew up in Brooklyn, New York among humble surroundings, and his experience growing up in a blue-collar background, learning from a father working multiple jobs to put food on the table, built his foundational belief that hard work can overcome any obstacle. Through his experiences in work and life, Ralph believes the most important tool anyone can have is their mindset.

An entrepreneur at heart and one of the most successful personalities in the highly competitive real estate industry, Ralph builds businesses and advises individuals to create wealth through real estate, personal branding and their own business ventures by applying his story to help others achieve their own success.

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

I’ve been in the real estate and mortgage business for over 20 years now, and the mortgage business was something that I found shortly after college. When I graduated college with a degree in finance, I realized I wasn’t sure what I wanted my next step to be. After graduating, I was going door-to-door selling copiers for a large copier company, and that ultimately led me to look for another sales job.

In 2001, the dot com bubble burst and it led to a crash in the market at the time. Because of this, the job search was a bit harder, but I had a friend in the mortgage business who was forming a new public company in Manhattan. This was my first introduction to the industry. By working hard and putting time into the craft, my career in this industry grew and I became a Vice President for Deutsch Bank, running a lucrative division. When the market crashed in 2007, I lost everything, leading me to have to start from scratch, essentially. That is what further propelled me into the real estate industry and to where I am today.

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 think my answer is more of a time frame than an actual amusing story. Around 2008–2009 when the market crashed, I was trying to stay in the job field and find another job. At the time, I got an interview with what was a pretty large company back then. I did a phone interview that went well, and then I had to go to Philadelphia to do an aptitude test.

On the way down, I blew my tire out 30 minutes before the interview, so I had to get out of my car in the summer, in a suit, to change my tire. While doing this, the jack slipped and caught my hand, fracturing it — but I still finished the job and got to the interview on time, despite it beginning to hail during the rest of my drive. I left the interview with a great offer, and went straight to the emergency room, but I didn’t even care about my hand at that point. It turns out that before I could even start the job, the company closed. This made me realize just how tough the job market would be around this time period, and the three years following this wild story, I worked even harder to find stable ground and forge my career path.

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?

Yes, I do. My favorite quote is by a philosopher named William Ward, and the quote says, “Adversity causes some men to break, and others to break records.”

This was very prevalent to me throughout my life because I’ve failed a lot, and even while I’m doing really well right now, there are still bumps in the road every single day. What I take from this quote is that whatever doesn’t break me is going to make me better. As mentioned earlier, adversity like the type I faced in the 2008 recession was a lot to deal with at the time. I lost everything and went from living in a penthouse to a 400 sq. ft. studio with my girlfriend who is now my wife. All of that adversity — losing my job, my money, even my 401K and houses, leading to a lot of debt — propelled me to work myself back up in the business and climb to a higher level. This adversity taught me lessons that I utilize every single day, and what it taught me most was: no matter what happens, I can rebuild.

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

There are a couple really exciting projects in the works. The first is my class about investing in short-term rentals. This is something I’ve gotten heavily involved with over the last two years, and I’ve found it to be a very lucrative market for profiting. In this course, called “The Next Real Estate Gold Rush,” I’ll be teaching people how to get involved in the short-term rental investing space and what strategies I’ve found in my own experience to be successful. This sector of real estate is promising as people continue to work remotely and travel to short-term spaces. I also plan on giving free seminars once a month to discuss these strategies, because I feel that as a real estate investor, regardless of level, it’s something we should know about.

I also have a book coming out this summer called “The Growth Trap.” The key message within my book is about how our growth shifts as we progress throughout life. When we are born until the age of 18, we grow and are sculpted both physically and mentally, and growth comes rather easily. However, we get to a point in life where, to avoid falling into growth traps, we have to take growth into our own hands and continue to pursue the things we feel most passionately about. This book is based on my own experience and the experiences of several other people who have felt this throughout their lives.

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

Home Qualified and its culture are sources of growth for other people. I like to be transparent about what I’m doing, where I’m doing it and how I’m doing it, and I really want to impact everybody around me to be successful, too. I made this company because I genuinely want everybody around me to succeed.

The culture at Home Qualified is one of sharing successes, and as a result, people have grown their careers, their lives and have become better people. For example, during 2019 and 2020, the pandemic and traumatic events were in the country’s spotlight. I felt stuck, but I knew I wanted to do something to help others. So, we started a scholarship program called Generation Disruptor. This program was built to help people who might not have equal access to the real estate industry get access. This program was made to help underserved youth, and recipients are able to meet with top real estate executives to learn real-life career skills. By the end of the scholarship’s three-month duration, recipients are ready to be licensed in real estate. The first class of scholarship recipients started with four people, all of which I have employed. Developing this program has been a learning experience, and we are always growing it and looking for ways to bring continued success to recipients.

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?

My family has given me a really strong support system, between my mother, father and older brother. They’ve all impacted me in different ways to help get me to where I am today. My father had the biggest work-related impact on me growing up, as we grew up in Brooklyn and he worked as a teacher, sometimes with 3–4 jobs at a time, just to provide for us. My father always did his best to support us and always led by example, and his work ethic throughout my younger years has impacted my growth both personally and within my career. My father received a doctorate degree recently, and still continues to teach at 70 years old because he is so passionate about his job.

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

Throughout my time in the real estate and finance industries, I’ve personally learned lessons through both my successes and failures, and they’ve all taught me along the way. I always strive to share the lessons I’ve learned with others as they navigate the industry, their investments and when selling their homes. Over the last 20 years as an investor, I’ve bought and sold a lot of properties during different market cycles, and I’ve picked up a lot of tips along the way that I’m determined to give out to others.

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.

What’s most exciting to me is that I believe real estate is the most stable investment you can have today. Stocks, crypto and NFTs are all pretty volatile right now, but real estate still proves stable. Additionally, the growth of the short-term rental space is exciting and will likely continue to be popular. The ability to replace income by investing in short-term rental is something that many people can take advantage of when they have the right strategy and right location. This is something people should be looking forward to. Lastly, the access we have to technology, digital meetings and social media is exciting to me as they greatly propel our reach to a wider audience of people looking to buy, sell, or become investors in the industry. Our capacities are really expanded, and I can personally do a lot more in the real estate industry by utilizing these tools.

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.

The first is access to the real estate industry. Giving more young students and aspiring entrepreneurs better access to be licensed and educated at a younger age is one of my main concerns. In some cases, the entry point to real estate and mortgage is clouded by older professionals with bad habits or no time to train new people to succeed the right way. They are then put into jobs that are commission-based with no real means of earning money because of lack of guidance. To improve this, we started the Generation Disruptor scholarship to address this need and to help train new professionals who can share my contacts and start their career the right way

Secondly, interest rates are changing and mortgage rates are in flux. Even though we are in a time of rising inflation, interest rates and home prices, I believe it’s still an amazing time to buy into a stable real estate market. Even though the housing market is at a higher price, it still represents the most secure and least volatile asset that is available today, in my opinion. I am consistently trying to spread this message and educate others through my free courses and seminars, on how to do this, as well as give them the tools to do so.

Lastly, there is a housing shortage, and the industry is lacking both homes and materials to keep up with demand. We’ve also been seeing a spike in real estate agents over the course of the pandemic, but not enough houses to go around. If I could improve this situation, I would set up a mentoring program so more seasoned agents could show newer agents how to learn the craft. In a market when it’s harder than ever for buyers agents, which is generally where you start when you are newly licensed, they need to learn and understand the business better to succeed. Without that type of help, I believe there will be a large failure rate for this newly licensed class.

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?

While it’s hard to make a mistake as a seller because it’s a sellers’ market and the advantages are in their favor, the biggest mistake I’ve seen people make is not having a solid plan of what to do with their money or where to go once they sell. While the knee-jerk reaction right now is to sell, sell, sell and get a high price for your property, people are overlooking the need for a proper exit strategy. I’ve made this mistake plenty of times, and I’ve learned that sellers need to determine if they plan to sell their home, refinance, or repurpose. Sellers can ask themselves the following questions:

  • What am I going to do with the money?
  • Is where I’m moving going to have a better value than where I am now?

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.

Absolutely. Selling your home on your own is going to end up costing you more time and money, even if it might sound like a better option initially. Even though the market shows it might be easy to sell a property right now, it’s more important now than ever to work with an experienced professional on getting the most for your home. Experienced realtors can help you develop the right process. What we’re seeing a lot right now is that most sellers do not want to have to make repairs after inspection, and because the market is moving so fast, houses are being under-appraised. These are key negotiation points that experienced realtors can help you handle, as they have experience doing so. Experienced realtors are worth the money, and they will support you through the entire selling process from start to finish.

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 in order to get the absolute best price when you sell your home? If you can, please give a story or an example for each.

  1. Know your market. Ask the questions, “What are the properties around me selling for? What do they look like?” This data is accessible to everyone now through websites like realtor.com and Zillow, and it will help you get a realistic range on what your house is worth.
  2. Find out what you can do to your house to get the best value. When people come see your house, they want to see key things that portray its value. Focus on things such as curb appeal, landscaping and affordable upgrades in key focal point rooms such as the bathrooms and the kitchen. These can be anything from new knobs, a new coat of paint, refaced cabinets, or new lightbulbs. The right adds to your property can go a long way on the selling market.
  3. Price your home correctly. A lot of sellers are inclined to price their properties too high, and what’s happening is that the overpriced houses are just sitting there. However, if your house is priced competitively, where it’s realistic to the values around you, you’ll see bidding wars. These bidding wars will ultimately land you at a higher selling price in the end because people will overbid for the home.
  4. Have an exit plan. As mentioned earlier, knowing what to do with your money once you sell your home is something you should strategize beforehand. You should figure out where you want to go and what you want to do. Ask yourself if your plan is a solid one for the value you’re getting once you sell your house.
  5. Hire a professional. Let them help you get the house on the market with a strategic listing and professional photos, as this will help you get more money for your property. By having a professional list your home in the right way, you will get your value back in the sale of the home.

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. 🙂

The movement I’m trying to inspire is training people for the real estate business. I want to inspire new people to gain long-term wealth, assets, and licenses through this business and take advantage of new opportunities and networks. I am mainly trying to do this through my scholarship program by licensing more people and propelling them toward success.

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