Get Your Home Ready To Sell
In preparing your house to sell, ask yourself over and over if your house looks like someone else's dream house. Houses in move-in condition tend to be inviting to buyers; houses that are like new typically sell the fastest and procure the best price.
With that in mind, here are a few things to consider when getting ready to sell:
Remember the 60-second rule: that's all the time you have to create a good first impression! Mow the lawn, rake leaves, trim trees and shrubs that keep light out of the house and remove dead plants. Pick up tools, garbage cans, hoses, toys, and building materials and store them neatly in a storage area. Replace broken or missing roof shingles and straighten and clean the gutters and downspouts. Clean all windows and mend torn screens. Painting your house helps improve curb appeal more than any other fix-up! If you decide against painting the entire house, consider painting the front door, window frames and shutters. Seal or resurface the driveway and repair broken steps and walkways. Paint or replace your mailbox and post. Dress up the front yard with some simple landscaping.
Clean, Clean, Clean
Step back for a moment and look at your home as if you were seeing it for the first time. Every room should be spotlessly clean, dusted and uncluttered. Steam clean the carpets and wax the floors. Wash the walls, windows and light fixtures. Tighten loose stair railings and clean all woodwork. In the event that you feel a project of this magnitude is better left to a professional, ask your real estate agent to recommend a cleaning service.
Use bright light bulbs in the foyer and throughout the house. Fill the house with a pleasant aroma, such as berries in the summer or cinnamon in the winter.
Replace the carpet if it's worn. It costs money, but you may find that you will more than recoup that cost when the home sells. Patch cracks and nail holes in the walls, and repaint walls in neutral colors, such as white or ivory. Nail down creaking boards and stair treads. Lubricate any sticking or squeaking doors. Open all curtains, and replace them if they are getting old. Add lamps and lighting if the house is dark. Set out fresh flowers.
Rearrange or remove furniture to make your rooms look more spacious. Too much furniture and too many knick-knacks make rooms look cluttered and small. One or two decorative items per surface are plenty, so pack the rest away.
Kitchen and Baths
These rooms should sparkle! Clear off counters, and clean all appliances and fixtures. Scrub the floors and walls. Re-caulk tubs and showers. Clean these rooms thoroughly, and be sure they smell fresh.
Take those things to Goodwill that you'll have to discard anyway when you move. Organize shelves and straighten shoes. Be sure that sliding doors operate smoothly and knobs on drawers are secure.
Dust and wash the washer, dryer and water heater.
Light and Bright
Do everything you can to brighten the interior. Replace wallpaper with white or off-white paint, and repaint shabby or dark walls. Open the blinds, and replace broken windows and window seals. Always maintain a comfortable temperature inside the house, even if you are away for an extended period of time.
10 Questions to Ask Your Realtor about Selling a House
1. Are you a full-time professional real estate agent? How long have you worked full time in real estate? How long have you been representing buyers? What professional designations do you have?
Knowing whether or not your agent practices full time can help you determine potential scheduling conflicts and his or her commitment to your transaction. As with any profession, the number of years a person has been in the business does not necessarily reflect the level of service you can expect, but it is a good starting point for your discussion. The same issue can apply to professional designations.
2. Do you have a personal assistant, team or staff to handle different parts of the purchase? What are their names and how will each of them help me in my transaction? How do I communicate with them?
It is not uncommon for agents who sell a lot of houses to hire people to work with them. As their businesses grow, they must be able to deliver the same or higher quality service to more people.
You may want to know who on the team will take part in your transaction, and what role each person will play. You may even want to meet the other team members before you decide to work with the team. If you have a question about fees on your closing statement, who would handle that? Who will show up to your closing?
3. Do you have a Website that will list my home? Can I have your URL address? Who responds to emails and how quickly? What’s your email address?
Many buyers prefer to search online for homes because it’s available 24 hours a day and can be done at home. So you want to make sure your home is listed online, either on the agent’s Website or on their company’s site. By searching your agent's Website you will get a clear picture of how much information is available online.
4. How will you keep in contact with me during the selling process, and how often?
Some agents may email, fax or call you daily to tell you that visitors have toured your home, while others will keep in touch weekly. Asking this question can help you to reconcile your needs with your agent's systems.
Top 10 Signs That It's Time to Sell Your Home
1. When you bought your house, you lived in the country. Now you're surrounded by high rises.
2. You can't get any appliances repaired because "they stopped making those parts years ago."
3. The swing set in the backyard has sprouted roots.
4. The plumber's phone number is on your speed dial.
5. Your phone number is on your plumber's speed dial.
6. All the children's rooms are now guest bedrooms.
7. You haven't visited the other half of the house in six months.
8. You have to move the furniture to see the carpet's original color.
9. Your bathroom is a lovely shade of avocado green -- from the first time it was in style.
10. You can't make any improvements to the exterior of your home without getting approval from the Board of Historic Monuments.
Why you want to sell your house and have you thought it through? Here are some questions to help you better answer this for yourself.
STEP 1 - DEFINE NEEDS
Write down all the reasons for selling your home. Ask yourself, "Why do I want to sell and what do I expect to accomplish with the sale?" For example, reasons for selling include: a growing business that needs more space or a job opportunity that necessitates a move to another city. Things you want to accomplish with the sale may include the time frame in which you'd like to sell or a particular profit margin. Work with your real estate agent to map out the best path to achieve your objectives and set a realistic time frame for the sale.
STEP 2 - PRICING STRATEGY
Your next objective should be to determine the best possible selling price for your house. You will need to take into account the state of the local market, the condition of your home and sales of comparable homes in your neighborhood. It is often hard to maintain a non-biased view of your property, so you will want to gather the necessary information in the most objective way possible. If you want a truly objective opinion about the price of your home you could have an appraisal done. This may cost between $300 and $500.
Be reasonable about the price you set. You will always be better off setting a fair market value price than setting your price too high. If your home stays on the market too long because it is overpriced, potential buyers may think that something is wrong with it and you may end up selling it for less than what you could have gotten if you had started out with a realistic asking price
STEP 3 - PREPARE YOUR HOME
It's time to get your home in "showing and selling" condition. Most of us don't keep our homes in the condition they need to be in to be sold. Piles of boxes in the garage, a broken porch light and even an overgrown garden just seem normal after awhile. It's time to break out of that owner's mindset and get your house in tip-top shape. How your home looks will impact how quickly it sells and the price the buyer is willing to offer.
First impressions are the most important. Work with your real estate agent to help you take a fresh look at your home. Do the shrubs need pruning? Do you need to repaint? What's normal for you may be unacceptable to the buyer.
- Make your interior appear more spacious by removing appliances from countertops, and clearing knickknacks off coffee tables and shelves.
- Organize your closets and kitchen cabinets.
- Make sure items stored in the attic or basement are tidy.
- Open the curtains or blinds during the day to maximize the natural light.
- Turn on the lights at night to create a welcoming environment for prospective buyers.
- A home with too much "personality" is harder to sell. Consider painting walls white and removing clutter. This will help the buyer to visualize the home as theirs.
STEP 4 - MARKETING STRATEGY
Now that your home is ready, it's time to put it up for sale and market it. Establishing a marketing strategy with your real estate agent is a must. Your agent will expose your home to the greatest number of potential buyers possible. He or she will use a marketing plan that will bring not only the most buyers, but also the most qualified buyers to your doorstep. There are many different ways to get the word out that your home is for sale. A yard sign, flyers, and direct marketing are just a few of the many options available. If you are in a buyer's market you will have to be extra careful when choosing a plan. You don't want your property to sit unnoticed. You and your agent should structure your marketing strategy so that the first 3-6 weeks that your house is on the market will be the busiest.
STEP 5 - RECEIVE AN OFFER
When a buyer decides they like your home, they will make you a written offer. Your real estate agent will advise you as to whether or not the prospective buyer is qualified to purchase your home. After all, who needs to review an offer from a buyer that is unable to buy it?
After determining the buyer's qualifications, you and your agent will review the written contract, taking care to understand what is required of both parties to execute the transaction. The contract should protect the interests of all parties.
After you accept the offer, it may be too late to make any changes. The contract, though not limited to this list, should include the following:
- Legal description of the property
- Offer price
- Down payment
- Financing arrangements
- List of fees and who will pay them
- Deposit amount
- Inspection rights and possible repair allowances
- Method of conveying the title and who will handle the closing
- Appliances and furnishings that will stay with the home
- Settlement date
Remember that the legalities of this phase are very important. If you have any questions or concerns, be certain to address them with your real estate agent right away.
STEP 6 - NEGOTIATE TO SELL
Most offers to purchase your home will require some negotiating to come to a win-win agreement. You real estate agent is well versed on the intricacies of the contracts used in your area and will protect your best interest throughout the bargaining. Your agent also knows what each contract clause means, what you will net from the sale and what areas are easiest to negotiate. Your agent will review the written offer with you to make sure you thoroughly understand what the buyers are offering and what they are asking you for in return.
Some negotiable items:
- Closing costs
- Appliances and fixtures
- Occupancy time frame
Once both parties have agreed on the terms of the sale, your agent will prepare a contract. Remember…bargaining is not a winner-take-all deal. It is a business process that involves compromise and mutual respect.
STEP 7 - SELLING SERVICE PROVIDERS
Once you accept an offer to sell your house you will need to make a list of all the things you and your buyer must do before closing. The property may need to be formally appraised, surveyed, inspected or repaired. Depending on the specifics reached during the negotiations, you may pay for all, some or none of these items. If each procedure returns acceptable results as defined by the contract, then the sale may continue. If there are problems with the home, the terms set forth in the contract will dictate your next step. Depending on the contract, you or the buyer may decide to walk away, open a new round of negotiations or close.
STEP 8 - PRE-CLOSE PREPARATION
A few days before the closing you will want to contact the entity that is closing the transaction and make sure the necessary documents are going to be ready to sign on the appropriate date. It would be a shame to get this close to selling and have the deal fall through because of a missing form. Begin to make arrangements for your upcoming move if you have not done so. Check out our Relocation Center to get started.
STEP 9 - CLOSING
"Closing" refers to the meeting where ownership of the property is legally transferred to the buyer. Your agent will be present during the closing to help explain the process and forms to you and make sure everything goes as planned. By being present during the closing, he or she can mediate any last minute issues that may arise. In some states, an attorney is required and you may wish to have one present.
As the seller, you will need to be prepared to hand over any necessary documentation regarding the property and, depending on the arrangements made during negotiations; you may be required to have done something specific in order to close.
Be sure to read all the documents and ask questions. It is important you understand every document you are signing.
STEP 10 - POST CLOSE
Congratulations on the successful sale of your home!
Now that you have closed, prepare to vacate your home in the time frame agreed upon. You should make a list of all the items you will need to do to turn the property over to the new owners. For example, make sure to cancel electricity, gas, lawn care, cable, etc., or if the new owner is going to retain some of the services, change the name on the account. The home and all items specified by the contract should be prepared appropriately for the new owners.
Should I Work With A Buyer's Agent? A Seller's Agent? A Dual Agent?
In the past, real estate agents always represented the seller, whether the agent helped a seller to market and sell a home or helped a buyer find and purchase a home. In other words, agents were at one time legally bound to represent the seller in a residential real estate transaction. In that scenario, the seller paid both the listing agent and the agent who brought the buyer.
Today, agents either represent the buyer, the seller, or both. If you want to sell your home, you can work with a "seller's agent." If you want to buy a home, you can work with a "buyer's agent." Most states require real estate agents to disclose to consumers who they represent. Sometimes an agent will represent the buyer and the seller. A buyer who elects this situation should receive full disclosure on representation. In some states, dual agency affects the real estate professional's fiduciary responsibilities to the seller. The real estate agent you choose should fully disclose how they work with individuals and the options available to you.
Keep in mind that real estate laws differ from state to state and even from locale to locale. For more in-depth answers, talk with a knowledgeable real estate professional and ask about local practices. Be sure you understand and are comfortable with the services of the real estate agent you engage.
How can a real estate agent help me?
Whether you're in the market for a primary residence, an investment property or a second home, purchasing real estate involves many important considerations and decisions. A real estate agent can provide the focus, due diligence and expertise needed to help you find the home of your dreams.
A real estate professional will:
- Assist in determining how much house you can afford and help you get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a loan.
- Simplify your search by helping you define home and neighborhood criteria.
- Screen new listings daily and alert you of homes that match your criteria.
- Keep you abreast of local market conditions, so you can make informed decisions.
- Gather in-depth detail on each home, schedule tours and point out the advantages and possible drawbacks of each property.
- Work with you in drafting an appropriate offer and serve as your representative when presenting it to the seller.
Negotiate a contract that considers your goals and leads to a successful closing.
- Personally refer you to proven service providers, such as inspectors, appraisers, title companies, warranty providers, insurance agencies, attorneys, carpenters, movers and more.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Real estate professionals can represent the buyer, the seller or both. When agents represent both parties, it is called dual agency. In some states, dual agency affects the real estate professional's fiduciary responsibilities to the seller. Keep in mind that real estate laws differ from state to state and even from locale to locale. For more in-depth answers, talk with a knowledgeable real estate professional and ask about local practices.
10 Biggest Selling Myths Uncovered
Selling a house can be a bit like having a baby -- everyone gives you advice that may or may not be true for you. Here are ten myths uncovered:
1. Myth: You should always price your home high and gradually lower it if it doesn’t sell.
Truth: Pricing too high can be as bad as pricing too low.
You may think by listing high you can always accept a lower offer, but if you do, you'll miss the buyers looking in the price range where your home should be. Offers may not even come in, because interested buyers are scared off by the price and won't bother to look. By the time the listing price is corrected, you will have lost a large group of potential buyers. Your real estate agent will offer you a comparable market analysis. This is a document that compares your home to other similar homes in your area, with the goal of helping you to accurately assess your home's true market value.
2. Myth: Minor repairs can wait until later. There are more important things to be done.
Truth: Minor repairs make your house more marketable, allowing you to maximize your return (or minimize loss) on the sale.
By and large, buyers are looking for an inviting home in move-in condition. Buyers who are willing to tackle the repairs after moving in automatically subtract the cost of needed fix-ups from the price they offer. You save nothing by putting off these items, and you may likely slow the sale of your home.
3. Myth: Once potential buyers see the inside of your home, curb appeal won't matter.
Truth: Buyers probably won't make it to the inside of the home if the outside of your home does not appeal to them.
Many buyers drive by a home before deciding whether or not to look inside. Your home's exterior will have less than a minute to make a good first impression. Spruce up the lawn, trim shrubs and trees, and weed the garden. Clear the walkways and driveways of leaves and other debris. Repair gutters and eaves, touch up the exterior paint and repair or resurface cracked driveways and sidewalks. Place potted flowers out front, hang a wreath on the door and put out a pleasing welcome mat for added curb appeal.
4. Myth: Once potential buyers fall in love with the exterior look of your home, you put interior improvements on the back burner.
Truth: Buyers have no qualms about walking right out the front door within 60 seconds if the house doesn't look like it could be theirs.
Remember that most buyers are looking for an inviting home in move-in condition. Spending a few thousand dollars for the right work on your home before you sell it, usually translates into a higher selling price and shorter marketing time. Your real estate agent will consult with you about the repairs and replacements that will benefit you most.
5. Myth: Your home must be every homebuyer's dream home.
Truth: If you get carried away with repairs and replacements to your home, you may end up over-improving the house.
At some point, improvements that you make to your home can exceed what is customary for comparable homes in your area. For instance, there may not be another swimming pool in your entire subdivision. After spending $20,000 to install an in-ground swimming pool that you hope will lure buyers, you may find that it only raises the market value of your home by $10,000 because there are no other comparable properties to support the market value of the pool. As a rule of thumb, if your improvements push your home's value higher than 20% above average neighboring home values, don't expect to recoup the entire amount of improvements. Your real estate agent can advise you as to the scope of projects you might consider in preparing your house for sale.
6. Myth: Buyers are never swayed by sellers that offer creative financing options.
Truth: By offering flexibility in financing options, you may lure more prospective buyers.
You might consider offering seller financing, paying some of the buyer's closing costs, including a one-year home warranty, or other buyer incentives. Your real estate agent, who has professional knowledge of local market activity, can help you decide what incentives, if any, to offer.
7. Myth: You are better off selling your home on your own, thus saving the commission you would have paid to a real estate agent.
Truth: Statistically, many sellers who attempt to sell their homes on their own cannot complete the sale without the service of a professional real estate agent.
Sellers who sell their home without a real estate agent often net less from the sale than sellers who use one. You visit a doctor when you’re sick and take your car to a mechanic when it needs repairs. It makes sense to contact a real estate professional when you are preparing to sell your biggest asset!
8. Myth: Good sellers should be available to guide prospective buyers through the home, giving the whole process a more personal touch.
Truth: Prospective buyers will feel more like the house could be theirs if the current owners are not there.
The presence of homeowners during a viewing can make buyers feel like they are intruding. They need to be able to visualize your house as their home, which can be difficult to do when they are acutely aware that it is still your home. Your real estate agent will be happy to look out for your home during open houses or showings.
9. Myth: Successful sellers insist that the terms of the sale happen their way or no way.
Truth: If you approach the sale of your home as the buyer’s adversary, you risk losing a perfectly solid buyer for no good reason.
Both you and the buyer have the same goal: for you to sell your home and for the buyer to buy it. Work with your real estate agent to approach negotiations positively and with a win-win frame of mind.
10. Myth: When you receive an offer, you should make the buyer wait. This gives you a better negotiating position.
Truth: You should reply immediately to an offer!
When a buyer makes an offer, that buyer is, at that moment in time, ready to buy your home. Moods can change, and you don't want to lose the sale because you stalled in replying.