Information for Sellers
Entire books have been written on how to maximize the sale of your home. Even the most casual search will turn up an overwhelming number of helpful tips and lists. All of these have some validity, but long experience has shown me that every situation is unique. Potential sellers will always benefit from some professional help with working through all of the options. This starts with sorting them into some logical (and manageable) “Must Do”, “Good to Do” and “Don’t Bother” categories that make sense for your individual needs and resources.
I hope that the information I’m providing here will help orient you to the process, but it is necessarily general in nature. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions, however casual, or to request a personal consultation. I will never try to “sell” you on a course of action. My job is to provide you with the best information I have at my disposal so that you can make your own, fully informed, decisions.
Making the Decision to Sell
This can seem pretty obvious if the sale of your home has become a necessity, but if you are waiting for the right time in your lives or the right market conditions you need better information than what you heard the neighbors’ house sold for or what you see on Zillow. Let me do a thorough, professional market analysis for you that will give you insights into market trends, time on market, the differences between asking prices and the actual sale price and an examination of comparable properties that will let you come to your own conclusion about the comparative value of your home.
There may be very valid reasons not to sell at all or to wait for a period of time for your situation or the market to change. It’s my job to provide you with the information you need to help you make those decisions.
Here’s the truth. No one knows exactly what a house is worth, and it will be worth different amounts to different buyers. A home’s value always exists in a range, and to be a successful seller, you need to price your property as close to buyers’ expectations as possible. A market analysis or a formal appraisal are incredibly valuable tools and I can assist you with either of those options and help you interpret the results.
Overpricing a house is a common mistake and I think it is disingenuous for a realtor to encourage that – especially if it’s a means to obtain a listing. An overpriced property may not even be seen in buyers searches that are typically made within a specific price range. There is substantial market data that indicates an overpriced property will linger on the market longer and eventually be subject to price reductions that will ultimately reduce its sale price below what it would have obtained had it been property priced to begin with. Remember, you can only sell your home for the value determined by the appraisal performed by the buyer’s lender. I always work with the buyer’s appraiser to make sure that elements of your home’s value receive full consideration, but the appraiser is constrained by conventional rules and practices. Your pool is not valued at what it cost to install – ditto for your new kitchen. The affect on price of a nice view or a noisy roadway is very subjective. In the end, it is paramount that you price your home with an eye toward it’s appraised value. I will never tell you what price you should choose, but let my experience and factual information guide you toward the most sensible choice you can make under the circumstances. If we both do our jobs, you will price it right and I will sell it for that price.
Don’t be misled by proffers that are some variation on “I have a 45-point marketing plan!”. I’ve worked professionally in marketing at many levels and I can say with absolute certainty that it all comes down to fundamentals. Price it right. Present it well – physically and photographically. Follow up with buyers and be responsive to the market. This is what I excel at, and this is what will sell your house. The rest is hype.
I’m not trying to oversimplify. Yes, there are dozens of details, but it’s my job to manage those, keep sight of the fundamentals and make sure that you are not overwhelmed.
Here is where all of those “How to Sell Your Home” lists with their black-and-white rules start to fall apart. They aren’t necessarily wrong, they may just not be appropriate for you. Common sense and a realistic assessment of the market’s expectations and your ability is essential. A superheated sellers’ market will overlook a lot in terms of a property’s condition. A competitive buyers’ market may require some exceptional effort to make your home stand out from the rest. There’s always some assessment and prioritization required, and I’m here to help you with that. Together we will work out a plan to get your home market-ready that is within your means.
Repair and Replace
Your highest priority, before you worry about enhancing or upgrading your property, is to first, eliminate the problems. My experience in construction and inspections will help eliminate the snags – those items that will attract negative attention from the buyers and give the inspector something to pounce on to justify the fee. Most of these are relatively minor. Typically it’s something you’re aware of and have been living with for years, but put yourself in a buyer’s mindset and it makes the property seem flawed. If it’s something major that you just can’t tackle, get a bid from a contractor and head off the buyer’s speculation with a fixed price, maybe even offer a concession at closing. That’s preferable to having the buyer use it as an excuse for a significantly lower offer.
It may be in your best interest to replace perfectly functional items (for example – light fixtures), simply because they are dated and will keep your house from being competitive with more contemporary, upgraded homes on the market. Painting also falls into this category. The decorator color that you love could be wildly inappropriate for someone else. There are few hard and fast rules here and everything should be evaluated with an eye toward potential return, either in a faster sale or higher sale price (or both). Here again, let my experience help you make those decisions before committing your time and money.
Clean Clean Clean
The most cost-effective activity for preparing your home for sale is a thorough cleaning. Windows are often overlooked here, and make a big difference in presenting the exterior views and the quality of the interior light. This cleanup includes the exterior. The first impression your home makes is from the road. My previous remark about eliminating the snags applies here. The yard, plants and walkways don’t have to be exceptional, but they must be neat and appear well-maintained.
The real estate industry pays a lot of attention to staging, and for good reason. A well-staged home shows off each room to good effect and invites the buyer to imagine themselves living in these attractive spaces. Some homes are practically showroom-ready. More often, the home would benefit from some significant reconfiguration. Usually, the culprit is too much stuff, arranged in a way that accommodates your lifestyle but does little to show off the home.
My advice to clients in these situations is to “Move out before you move”. You intend to move anyway, so start disentangling yourself from the house now. Pack up collections, personal photos, out-of-season clothes. Remove pieces of furniture that simply fill up a room. The garage is a handy “free zone” for storing boxes and items removed from the interior. Buyers will assume you’re moving and won’t judge the clutter in the garage. Be willing to move furniture and art around in a way that shows off the space rather than accommodate how you would prefer to live in it. The mindset is to make yourselves temporary residents in your own home. If you do this, it will truly be temporary, as your home will sell much faster – and you’ll already have a lot of the packing done.
If the solutions aren’t obvious, I will frequently bring in an interior decorator, at my own expense, to consult. A trained eye will often see possibilities that can pull the whole house together aesthetically. The results are usually impressive and well worth the effort. There is nothing more important than photos in marketing a home. I take photography very seriously and a well-staged home will transform those photographs into a compelling invitation to prospective buyers.
If you’re still living in the home while it’s being sold, you must be prepared to accommodate showings for prospective buyers. You probably already know that it’s preferable that you not be there during the showing so that buyers and their agents can freely discuss what they like and don’t like. This can be a real inconvenience, but it’s for your benefit, so try to be as flexible as possible. I will handle setting up the appointments and confirm them with you before an agent comes over.
It has become something of a local custom to have the buyer’s realtor call the homeowner directly to set an appointment. I have never understood or approved of this “hands-off” approach by listing realtors. Not only is the seller asked to do what I consider the agent’s job, but it circumvents an important opportunity to talk to the buyer’s realtor, provide key information about the property and initiate a relationship for critical follow-up and feedback after the showing. This personal involvement is simply my job – part of my commitment to providing you with the best service possible.