The Selling Process
After much contemplation, you’ve decided to sell your house. Great! You’re about to find out that selling a house can be a daunting process, especially if you’ve never done it before. Things will go more smoothly for you if you don’t let it overwhelm you, breaking the process down to a few manageable steps. Follow these tips and selling your house should go smoothly for you.
Get a realistic estimate of what your house is worth. This is probably the most important step in the selling process; price your home too high and it may not get much attention from potential buyers, staying on the market for a long time. Set a low asking price and while you could end up selling it more quickly, in the end you’ll leave thousands of dollars on the table. To come up with a selling price for your house, you’ll want to develop what are called comps (short for comparables), a term which refers to properties that are similar to your house. You can use websites like Zillow.com and Realtor.com, along with listings in your local newspaper of recent and pending sales, to come up with comps. Remember, you want to track actual sales prices, not asking prices.
If you partner with a real estate agent, they’ll use their knowledge of the market in your area to ascertain a market value for your house, performing a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). A CMA provides relevant data about recent home sales, such as price, size and number of days on the market, along with information about houses that are on the market but haven’t sold yet. This gives your realtor a “big picture” look at trends and other important information that will let you set a realistic, competitive price. Remember, no matter how beautiful your home is, potential buyers will compare it to other properties on the market – that’s just human nature.
Have your home professionally inspected. The average cost of a basic inspection is around $315, with smaller properties (under 1,000 square feet) costing as little as $200. Inspections for larger houses can run as much as $400. While some say an inspection is unnecessary because a buyer will opt for one before closing on a house, an inspection gives sellers a valuable “heads up” on any needed repairs.
Get the word out about your house. This is when the investment of hiring a realtor can really pay off: a seasoned, knowledgeable realtor can develop and implement a winning marketing plan that will target active, interested and qualified buyers who are searching for homes in your area, both online and in person. A realtor will place your home in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which reaches millions of buyers around the world. The MLS also lets participating brokers share commission on the sale of houses. For instance, if you list your house with one broker and another broker actually sells it, they share the commission. This is good for you, because more brokers have an interest in selling your house. This is also a great time to gather any paperwork you’ll need to speed the closing process, once you’ve accepted an offer. Your realtor can help you with this.
Prepare your house to be shown. Outside, raise your home’s curb appeal by making sure your front yard is mowed or raked, and consider planting seasonal flowers and trim hedges, trees or bushes in both the front and back yards. Inside, clear out clutter to make your home more appealing to potential buyers. Throw items out and, if you need to, move some stuff to a storage locker or ship it to your new home. Remember that would-be buyers want to envision a home they could see themselves living in, so make sure your walk-in closets live up to their name and people don’t feel like they’re looking at a home that should be featured on a reality show about hoarders. Buyers are looking for space and light, and a house they can maneuver through comfortably.
Staging your house involves more than just making sure things look nice and tidy. Well-placed furniture can open up your rooms, making them appear larger and more inviting. Something as simple as opening drapes and blinds and turning on lights can really make your home seem more livable. There are other inexpensive ways to make your home shine when you show it, such as cleaning or painting walls and ceilings; cleaning all carpets and flooring as well as fixtures such as lights and fans and repairing plumbing leaks. Remember, you want to create a perception of value and a sense of urgency; ideally, people will want to make an offer as soon as possible, before someone else beats them to it.
Be patient! The average listing time for a home can vary from 14 to 90 days, depending on a variety of factors, some of which are out of your control. The greatest number of showings will happen when your house is first put on the market; that’s when people who have been pre-qualified for financing, are knowledgeable about the market and have been working with their realtor for a while to find the right home at the right price, are looking. By the time you’ve entered the third week of marketing your house, the number of showings has typically dropped off, as potential buyers are just learning about your property and probably won’t be ready to pull the trigger on buying a house for several weeks. The longer a house is on the market, the more likely buyers are to think sellers are anxious and willing to negotiate a lower price.
Since buyer perceptions of value tend to decrease every day a home is on the market, obviously, you’ll want to make sure all your ducks are in a row before you begin showing your home. The best opportunity for getting the price you want for your house is when it’s initially put on the market because that’s when you’ll have exposure to the largest pool of potential buyers and when properties sell at their highest price.
Prepare to negotiate a sale. Review all offers from prospective buyers. If you’re working with a realtor, get their input on which buyers would be best for you. Consider creative and flexible ways to meet the needs of your buyer, such as offering a home warranty, appliances or assistance with closing costs. If you offer a short escrow, you’ll attract buyers who are ready to move in immediately; cash incentives will entice first-time buyers who need assistance with a down payment.
This is another instance when a realtor can make a difference: they’re probably aware of negotiating techniques and tips you’ve never thought of that could literally help you seal the deal to get the best price for your house. Once you’ve found the right buyer and accept an offer, your real estate agent will keep you in the loop on the closing process and ensure things go smoothly.
Selling a house can be one of the most exciting and rewarding things you’ll ever do. We hope these tips will make it a smooth process for you!