Your house is too small. Your house is too big. It’s in the city and you want to live in the country, or it’s in the country and you want to live in the city. Whatever reason there is, you want a ‘for sale’ sign in your front yard. You probably will never sell anything more valuable than your home. This means you’ll want to get the most from your long-term investment.
PREPARING TO LIST YOUR HOME
TIME TO START DECLUTTERING: INTERIOR
PLUMBING & FIXTURES
Check all fixtures to make sure they turn easy and that faucets do not leak. The fixtures should look as shiny and new as possible.
- Closets are great places for accumulating “stuff”. Extra clothes, shoes and accessories that may not have seen daylight for sometime can all be boxed and placed in storage.
- Cleaning this space out also makes your closets look bigger – a huge item on any buyer’s list.
WINDOWS & DOORS
- Check all windows and doors to make sure they open easily and without noise.
- Invest in a can of WD-40 and spray all the hinges to ensure that each opens smoothly.
- Check your windows for cracked or broken windowpanes.
- Of course, cleaning your windows will also help bring more light into each room.
CARPET & FLOORING
- Unless your carpet appears old and worn, or is definitely an outdated style, hiring a good carpet cleaner may be all you need.
- If you choose to replace the carpet, find something inexpensive in a fairly neutral color.
CEILINGS, WALLS, & PAINT
- Check your walls and ceilings for water stains. Sometimes old leaks leave stains, even after the leak has been repaired. If you should find a leak, of course have it repaired.
- Painting can be your best investment when selling your house. A neutral color – beige, cream, ivory or standard off-white will allow your buyers to picture your house with their color schemes. It also adds brightness to the rooms and makes them appear more spacious.
- These are favorite places for “stuff” to gather. Like magnets, basements, garages, attics and sheds attract whatever doesn’t go into the living room, bedrooms, closets or kitchen. This might be the perfect time to have that garage sale you’ve been putting off. Cleaning up and cleaning out will dramatically enhance your selling efforts.
- A room can look overcrowded if you have it full of furniture. That big over-stuffed sofa or your favorite worn, but comfortable recliner may need to find a temporary home when showing your house to prospective buyers. Again, remember, the buyer wants to envision his or her own favorite pieces in the house.
- You may want to tour some builder’s models to see how they place furniture in the model homes. You can then get an idea of how to place your own furniture to provide the maximum effect – getting an offer.
DECLUTTERING YOUR HOME EXTERIOR
- Is your landscaping at least average for the neighborhood? If not, buy a few bushes and plant them.
- If you have an area for flowers, buy mature colorful flowers and plant them. Flowers add a splash of vibrancy and color, creating a favorable first impression.
- Your lawn should be evenly cut, freshly edged, well watered and free of brown spots. If there are problems with your lawn, you should probably take care of them before working on the inside of your home. This is because certain areas may need to be re-sod, and you want to give it a chance to grow so that re-sod areas are not immediately apparent.
- Always rake up loose leaves and grass cuttings.
- The big decision is whether to paint or not paint. When you look at your house from across the street, does it look tired and faded? If so, a paint job may be in order. It’s often a great investment and really spruces up the appearance of a house, adding dollars to offers from potential homebuyers
- As for the roof, if you know your house has an old leaky roof, replace it. If you do not replace a leaky roof, you are going to have to disclose it and the buyer will want a new roof, anyway. Otherwise, wait and see what the home inspector says. Why spend money unnecessarily?
- The back yard should be clean and neat. If you have a pool or spa, keep it freshly maintained and always clean.
- Dog owners – be sure to consistently keep the area clear of “debris.”
- If you have extra storage or unused furniture that is cluttering up your back porch – clear it out and freshen up the space.
- Adding flowers or plants can help liven up your backyard for potential buyers
FRONT DOOR & ENTRYWAY
- Your front door should be especially nice, since it is the entryway into the house. Polish the door fixture so it gleams. If the door needs refinishing or repainting, make sure to get that done.
- Remove anything with a personal nature, plaques, doormats, name plates, etc. The idea is again, to let your potential buyer visualize the home as theirs.
- Make sure the lock works easily and the key fits properly. When a homebuyer comes to visit your home, the agent uses the key from the lock box to unlock the door. A sticky lock can cause a ‘sticky situation’.
PEt OWNER? TRY THESE TIPS
WHY yOU SHOULD HIRE A REAL ESTATE AGENT
Since you will be working closely with an agent, choose an agent with whom you feel comfortable. One who is responsive to your needs and the needs of your family, one who compliments your personality, and one who is prepared to be with you throughout each step of the home-selling process:
- Get referrals from trustworthy family and friends.
- Seek an experienced agent with a known reputation – look at credentials, track records and awards received.
- Select someone who is a member of the Board of Realtors®.
- Interview at least three agents.
- Find someone who is continuing his/her education – a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), Certified Residential Broker (CRB) or a Graduate of the Realtors Institute (GRI) – this shows the Realtor has a long-term interest in the business and is willing to invest in his/her career
These questions, asked of family and friends who have dealt with a specific real estate agent, will help you learn what you need to know about agents:
- What were they like to deal with?
- How hard did they work for you?
- Did they get you a good price?
- Were there any complications?
- Did they always tell the truth?
- Were they always looking out for you or just interested in getting paid?
- Would you use their services again?
- After interviewing a few agents, ask yourself the following questions to narrow your choice:
- Which one returned your phone calls?
- Which one was most enthusiastic about selling your house?
- Which one provided a competitive market analysis – an in-depth discussion on how the selling price was determined?
- Which one provided a detailed marketing plan?
- Which one provided a time frame on how long it may take to sell your house?
- Which one explained things most clearly?
- Which one made you feel most comfortable?
To be treated as a respectable client, not as a transaction.
- To have your best interests represented.
- To be served selflessly – your agent shouldn’t be eyeing your wallet.
- Your agent to work as hard for you as he/she would for himself/herself.
- The highest skills available.
- To have calls returned promptly and to be kept up to date.
- Your agent to go above and beyond what’s expected when dealing with problems that may arise.
- Your agent to be a trusted advisor that you can consult even when the transaction is complete.
Rely on instinct to determine which agent is right. The right person will have suitable credentials, a marketing plan you agree with and will make you feel comfortable.
Important Advice To Remember:
HOW TO SET YOUR HOME'S ASKING PRICE
Be cautious of either overpricing or under pricing if you rely on less-than-solid information. Know your competition. Learn the offering and selling prices of similar properties. Find out how long each took to sell.
Compare your home to others close in age, style, size, condition and location. Timing is all-important. If market demand is high, you should be able to increase the price. Sales prices of homes are published in local or regional sections of newspapers.
QUICK TIP: APPRAISALs
Setting up an appraisal before listing your home can be beneficial for helping you get an estimate for what your home is currently valued at. While this may help you set your asking price, you will still have another appraisal later in the process. When a buyer is interested in your home and applies for their mortgage loan – the lender will generally order an appraisal themselves to ensure the house is valued correctly.
PREPARE TO BEGIN SHOWING YOUR HOME
HOME SHOWING TIPS TO REMEMBER
Showing your home is hard work and requires some active participation on your part. While your real estate agent will handle a large portion of marketing your home, finding buyers, and scheduling showings – you still need to make your home look, smell, and feel like a place a buyer would want to live. Following these suggestions can help you get more potential buyers that will meet your asking price faster.
LEAVe THE HOUSE
Potential homebuyers may feel like intruders if you are home when they visit, and they might not be quite as receptive toward viewing your home.
Visit the local coffee house, yogurt shop or take the kids to the local park. If you absolutely cannot leave, try to remain in an out of they way area of the house and not move from room to room. Allow your agent to do all the talking – but do answer any questions the agent may ask.
Do not use scented sprays to prepare for visitors. For a pleasant aroma in your house, use a potpourri pot or turn on a stove burner for a moment with a drop of vanilla extract on it. It will smell like vanilla cookies and who can resist a house with fresh baked cookies.
If you have a diffuser for essential oils or natural fragrances – those can also be good for showings as long as they are not overpowering to the potential buyers.
CLEAN & NEAT HOUSE
A nicely made bed, some fresh flowers on the nightstand will make your bedroom seem very inviting. Walk around your house just before your buyers come by and pick up any newspapers, empty glasses or other clutter that may have made its way into your rooms. Keep everything freshly dusted and vacuumed. Try your best to have it look like a model home – a home with furniture but nobody really lives there.
OFFERS & NEGOTIATIONS
The counteroffer process can go back and forth indefinitely until an agreement is reached or one party ends the negotiations. If you receive an offer that is too low or is unreasonable – you can either turn it down or ignore it completely. However, while offers may come in at your asking price – it’s important to look at the full picture when considering an offer. Things to evaluate when considering an offer include:
You can easily handle multiple incoming offers and find a buyer that fits your specific criteria by evaluating the buyer as a whole – using the offer elements listed above.
MORE ABOUT THE PURCHASE AGREEMENT
A purchase agreement is usually drawn up by the buyer’s agent when they submit an offer on your home. This contract is one of the most important documents in the entire real estate transaction as it lays out important details about the sale moving forward. Some of the key details in the purchase agreement include the following:
If a low offer comes your way, remain cool until you’ve examined the terms. Nothing evokes a more emotional response than a low bid. Be realistic and objective because many properties don’t bring full price. Don’t use price alone as a reason not to counter or negotiate. A first offer may reveal what’s most important – price or terms – to this particular buyer, giving you the key to begin bargaining.
Contingencies are conditions that must be met before the sale is final. Common types of contingencies include financing, appraisals, who will provide and pay for the owner’s title policy and property survey, and much more. It’s important to evaluate the various contingencies before accepting the offer.
The purchaser should have your home inspected for soundness of construction and state of repair. Include all mandatory and voluntary disclosure statements concerning the property’s condition, such as known defects in the contract. Be careful what you guarantee. You cannot be sure the roof won’t leak, the heating system won’t go out or any other number of such assurances. Once the property is sold, you are no longer responsible for it.
Anything that is included with the house after the sale is complete, such as kitchen appliances, laundry machines, fixtures, and other items.
You’ll be asked to respond to an offer within a specified timeframe. Try to get as long a response time as possible. Other offers may come up and you’ll want to buy time to review them and perhaps use one offer to increase another.
If you have another home under contract, ask for a settlement date that will enable you to take your sales profits to the next closing. Be realistic; the buyer of your home probably will need at least 30 to 50 days to arrange financing and close.
Everything in the offering contract is negotiable. When everyone has agreed to the terms, initialed the changes and signed the contracts, you’ve got an agreement binding on all parties. All that remains is removing contingency clauses, arranging financing and clearing the title.
PREPARING FOR CLOSING
As the seller, you have relatively little to do at this point. Avoid common glitches by keeping abreast of progress on both sides.
Be aware if the buyer is having trouble getting a loan on the terms specified in the contract. If he/she is turned down, it could jeopardize the whole deal and your house could be put back on the market. A day or so before closing, make sure all the necessary papers and documents have been gathered and are in the hands of the right parties.
Things can go wrong. Documents can be misplaced, delayed or lost. However, common last-minute difficulties can be avoided. Parties who should be present at closing need to be informed of any change in the date, time or place. They should be reminded a week before closing and again the day before.
Everyone named on the deed under which you hold title must sign the new deed by which you grant title. Know when and how you will be paid. Don’t expect to walk away from the settlement table with a check in hand. If you are buying another property, consider having both closings at the same office scheduled back-to-back. That way, the timing of the disbursement is not a problem. You sign a paper authorizing the title company or attorney to assign the funds from sale to purchase.
final step: closing
Before going to closing, it’s important to cross any t’s and dot any i’s so there are no unexpected hiccups at closing. For example, having the right documentation together is crucial to having a smooth closing. Some of the documents you should bring with you on closing day include: