Moving season is approaching, and “For Sale” signs are going up in neighborhoods across America. If you’re among the would-be sellers this year, you could be up against some serious competition – a Craig’s List ad and a home-made sign probably won’t cut it. Here’s what you need to know and do in the weeks before you put your home on the market.
Preparation means taking care of all those niggling little annoyances that you’ve learned to live with, because they’re a major turn-off to buyers. Even things that aren’t a big deal to you – chipped paint in your laundry room or a broken lock on your home office door – can make potential buyers nervous because they wonder what else is wrong.
Richard Booth, a Certified Mortgage Banker in New Jersey, recommends getting a home inspection done before selling. “Know what issues you will face,” he says. Then “clean out clutter, paint and make repairs.”
Look at house hunting checklists like the one at Homes.com and see what buyers will be evaluating. Items of major concern include mold/mildew in kitchens and bathrooms, signs of structural damage (cracks in walls, sags in floors, etc.) and the condition of ceilings and roofs.
Jessica Fisher, blogger at Life as Mom, says, “Get rid of your stuff. Folks don't have the mental energy to see past your clutter. Have much less in your home than you would normally store. Theywill see open space and think you have a ton of storage.”
Deb Tomaro of RE/MAX Acclaimed Properties in Bloomington, Indiana agrees. “A seller's best return on investment is a storage unit,” she says, “Spending $500 on a storage unit will probably return at least ten times that. A well-staged house is a quickly sold house.”
No home, however perfect and beautiful, will sell for more than it’s worth unless you find a delusional cash buyer. Anyone else will be commissioning an appraisal.
Real estate writer Marcie Geffner recommends abandoning your point of view when you price your home. “Buyers don't care how much you paid for the home, how many memorable moments you and your family shared in the home, how much cash you need for the down payment on your next home or how much time and money you've invested in your home's hardwood floors, fresh paint, lush landscaping or other improvements.”
It’s important that you price your property correctly from the get-go. Eric Tan, a Redfin real estate agent, says, “Price your home right the first time. In the first week that alisting goes on the market, it receives nearly four times more visits on real estate websites than it does a month later.”
Enlist the help of professionals, but do your own homework, too. Check out open houses in your neighborhood. You’ll see what the competition is and which real estate agents are the leaders in your area, the ones who list and sell the most property right where you live.
“That’s so important,” says homeowner Jeffrey Marks of Reno, Nevada. “I bought a home that was severely underpriced. My agent spotted it immediately, called me out of a meeting to look at the house and we put in a full-price offer an hour later. The selling agent was from across town and didn’t realize his mistake until the appraisal came in almost $200,000 higher than the asking price.”
In addition to checking out the competition yourself, interview at least three real estate agents. Have them visit your house and give you a marketing plan and a "comparative market analysis" (CMA). It should include recent selling prices of homes similar to yours, current asking prices of homes like yours and the asking prices of homes that did not sell. Keep in mind that the agent giving you the highest value for your home isn’t necessarily the best one for you – some tell you what you want to hear to get the listing and then request a price reduction almost immediately.
Your house is now in good repair, you have an agent and you’ve got an asking price. Now it’s time to put your home on the market.
Katie McCartney, Real Estate Consultant & Photographer at Cam Taylor Company in Worthington, Ohio, suggests:
- Hire a stager to come in and arrange your stuff to make it the most appealing for the buyers.
- Get a quality photographer to come out and take pictures. If your Realtor® is a decent shot, great, but if not, professional photos bring traffic to your home.
- Help buyers remember your home...Have a video done and put a QRcode on the brochures.
David Odell of Park City Realty Group in Park City, Utah knows that professional visuals are crucial, especially for high-end homes. “Hire a professional architectural photographer to take two dozen images of your home for your MLS listing, flyers, website, etc.,” he says. “Ask to see sample photos from other listings - if you are not blown away by the quality of the images, then keep looking for the best architectural photographer possible. They are out there - buying a home is very emotional and you want the home to resonate with the buyer and create a lasting memory.”
Finally, your timing influences how much you get for your home and how quickly you sell it. Redfin’s Eric Tan says, “List your home on a Friday. Homes listed on a Friday sell faster for a price closer to their asking price than homes listedon any other day of the week. And list your home in the spring. Homes listed in April sell for closer to their original asking price than homes listed in December. The period of March through June has the largest percentage of homes that sell within 90 days of their debut.”