What to Do When: Preparing to Sell Your Home
So, you want to sell your home?
Have you have been offered a job of a lifetime, or are you just ready to retire? When finally deciding to sell, homeowners have a lot of paperwork, research, and legwork to contend with before sitting down at the closing table to trade the home’s title and keys for a big fat check.
A homeowner needs to answer the following questions for themselves but also understand how the answers impact a home’s marketability, i.e., the time and effort it will take to sell the house.
- Is the property ready to be put on the market?
- Does the homeowner know of repairs that have yet to be fixed?
- Is the property ready for a real estate agent to hold a full-blown open house?
- Are the property and the owner’s family ready for the impending barrage (hopefully) of buyer traffic?
When it comes to selling a home, organization skills, and time management abilities are essential for success.
- Organizational experts speak about the benefits of living a more basic, minimalistic lifestyle. But, remember all sellers are egos, and egos have an innate fondness for collecting stuff.
Many sellers find it challenging to part ways with their stuff, which for most, is just a representation of a meaningful moment or event collected along life’s journey. So, for those sellers who cannot part with their stuff – and many sellers proudly fit this category – their stuff must be organized, packed, and eventually moved when a seller is preparing their home for sale.
Hopefully, sellers will recognize the opportunity to donate those items that are no longer needed or wanted to those in need – and, at the same time, lower the cost of moving all the seller’s stuff to their new home.
- Time management skills are required when selling real estate. This is because of the many moving parts (that make up a real estate transaction) that must be coordinated with precision if the purchase is to close as planned.
Begin with the Right Real Estate Professional
Trying to sell your home without the guidance and expertise of a licensed real estate professional is like trying to cut the hair in the back of your head without a mirror. The reality is you will likely cut some hair, but without a mirror, the result will simply be absurd, and the process might even be dangerous.
The irony of choosing to go it alone when selling your home is that it is highly unlikely the owner – who is doing all the work – will save any meaningful amount of money. And, the potential consequences for making a simple rookie mistake – you know, those errors hidden around corners an uninformed seller doesn’t even know exists – can be quite steep financially.
Putting the task of selling your home in the hands of a licensed professional with significantly more experience (and state-recognized knowledge) offers a valuable peace of mind that is nearly impossible to quantify. A real estate agent’s fee is earned by the transfering as much of the paperwork and decision-making burden from the seller that is allowed by law, and mutually agreed upon in the agency relationship agreement.
Making the decision as to which real estate licensee to use is critical as the real estate agent will be executing the seller’s instructions and representing the seller throughout the home sale process. The wrong choice only makes the home selling process harder.
Last century, the most common (and pretty much the only reasonable) way to find a quality real estate professional was to ask around for a reference from trusted friends and associates. These digital days, there are many online algorithms – disguised as home guidance apps – that offer to match home sellers with a local real estate agent based on the client’s defined agent criteria. It should be mentioned that these services are generally provided at no cost, so there is little to lose by trying them out.
However, a simple algorithmic match should not preclude a seller from asking pertinent questions regarding the real estate licensee. This individual is being chosen to represent the seller in the sale of their home.
And when you think about it, the real estate agent is interviewing for a job as your listing agent.
Be Smart, Set the Price Right – Out of the Gate
One of the most fundamental issues to consider when selling one’s home is to figure out the initial listing price. Licensed real estate professionals work with sellers to mutually agree upon the right price for the seller’s unique real property.
The seller has the final say as to what the listing price might be, but generally, the sales price of a home should –
- Be sufficient to pay off the existing mortgage balance.
- Attract enough of a cross-section of buyers in the area.
- Be reasonable enough to sell the home in a reasonable timeframe.
- Meet all other seller requirements.
Sellers can begin to determine the right listing price for their home by asking a licensed real estate professional to prepare a CMA – a Comparative Market Analysis which will suggest a listing price based on pertinent market data. CMA’s are usually offered free of charge by real estate licensees.
Research Your Own Comparable Market Data
The internet has opened up an enormous database of market data that can help a seller gain insight into the value of their home based on recent sales and online open listings.
Sellers researching comparable sales should select comparable sales that have closed within the last 3 to 6 months and–
- Is the comparable home located in a similar or the same neighborhood as the subject property?
- Is the comparable home similar in size to the subject property.
- Is the comparable home a similar type of home – i.e., condo, one-family, townhouse, etc. as the subject property.
- Is the comparable home have similar upgrades and condition, as the subject property.
The Dangers of Overpricing
- An overpriced home can deter qualified buyers whose maximum purchase price falls below the home’s listed price.
- An overpriced home generally remains on the market longer than no poorly priced home. Longer marketing times eliminate typically any sense of buyer urgency.
If the overpriced listing goes stale, the home might sell for less than an appropriately priced home. If a home is listed for several weeks, and there have been little or no offers, it is time to revisit the listed price choice with your real estate agent.
Hiring Professionals for the Work
Preparing a home to be put on the market takes a great deal of organization and the ability to maximize the time preparing the house for sale. And for most, preparing a home for the market is more than a one-person job when one considers the number and challenge of juggling the many moving parts coordinated during the sale of real estate. Consider these professionals.
- For the home to be viewed in its best light, hire a professional home stager or interior decorator before taking photographs – hopefully by a professional photographer – or listing the home. The impact of this simple maneuver can be quite remarkable.
- For the home to be spotless and dust-free, hire a home cleaning service. Home cleaning service companies charge less than a few hundred dollars, depending on the square footage of the home.
- For the home to have no needed repairs that are easily noticed by buyers, hire a professional home inspector before listing the subject property for sale.
Gather the Paperwork Needed to Sell the Property
Even in the digital age, the reality is, real estate transactions remain paper-intensive processes. Sellers are required to provide enormous amounts of paperwork related to the property, the property’s title, the property’s real estate taxes, and other documents to facilitate the sale of a home.
Other documents that may be requested from the seller during a home sale include –
- The Original deed
- Original and updates to Title Insurance and Reports
- The Loan Pay off statement for existing liens on the subject property
- Trust documents, if applicable
- The Bill of Sale for items remaining in the subject property
- Evidence that real estate taxes are paid up to date
- Lead paint disclosure, for homes built prior to 1978
- Appliance and electronic manuals
- Materials related to any homeowner association business for PUD’s, condominiums, and cooperative apartments.
- Plus, any other document requested by the real estate agent, attorney, title company, or lender.
Use Curb Appeal to the Max
First impressions in the digital age generally happen online; however, this fact should not mislead a seller into believing that true curb appeal – the appeal of driving up to a home – is a very impactful selling strategy and motivator.
There are simple and cost-effective ways to optimize a home’s exterior and improve each buyer’s first impression when driving up to view the home.
- The front door acts as the home’s welcome mat and should be inviting and have a safety lock. Most real estate experts agree that a quick sale quickly recoups the investment in a new front door.
- The lawn should be well-manicured and welcoming.
- The exterior should look freshly painted.
- Walkways must be safe and well maintained.
- Seasonal tasks must be done on time,
- If there is a porch, it should be swept and without clutter.
Managing Furry Family Members During the Sale
Some pets are friendly and love a good belly rub from a stranger. But most people would wisely never assume a pet is friendly; it is just not a good idea.
Keeping your pets in the home while the home is being shown typically causes more commotion and disruption than it is worth. If it is at all possible, make a playdate for your dog or take him or hier to the dog park.
Dogs are natural protectors, so it would be futile to believe a natural barking dog will behave when strangers are milling about a home. Be sure the yard is without dog refuse in case children or buyers decide to wander across the yard.
Cats are great personal caretakers and hide when their peace is disturbed by strangers and noise. And for those who prefer reptiles and other scaly creatures, remember that most people do not share in a love of a snake or iguana.
However, all pet lovers must be vigilant to ensure their home does not smell like their pet. Sachets, Febreeze and Ozium help eliminate malodors. Be sure the home being viewed is vacuumed and without pet hair that attaches to a buyer’s black sweater.