When selling your home, there are no guarantees that a buyer will simply walk through the front door. There are steps that you need to take so that your property receives maximum exposure to attract a ready, willing and able buyer.
The appearance of your home, a buyer’s first impression, and other considerations can also affect the sale of your home. Have you considered that home prices in your neighborhood and the value of your property are also factors used for pricing your home? In many cases you may have to bring your home to the buyer. Effective marketing will help ensure that your home is sold in a timely manner at the best price.
Below are some articles that you might find useful in the home selling process. Please feel free to click on one the links to read more.
- Risks of Remodeling Without a Permit
- Traversing The Pitfalls of Home Inspections
- What is a CMA and Why Do You Need One?
- The Home Sale: Securing The Deal
- Common Selling Mistakes
- Secrets of Stagers
- Selling Your Home: Where to Begin?
- Surviving the Sale
- The Right Selling Price Affects Your Bottom Line
Most cities require that homeowners obtain a building permit before making modifications to their residence. Which modifications require a permit vary by city. Also, some cities are more vigilant than others in enforcing permit laws.
In order for the homeowner to receive a permit, the homeowner or his/her designee are required to file plans and pay fees to the city. In addition, the improvements are given a value. If they increase the value of the property, this may result in an increase in property taxes. Inspections are often required, and this means having to schedule and then wait for inspectors to approve the work to be done. This process can be time consuming and inconvenient in the short run. It is for this reason that some homeowners skip the permit process.
If a permit is needed and you fail to get one, the city may discover this at some time in the future and getting a permit retroactively can frequently be significantly more expensive and much more problematic than having obtained the permit before work commenced. If work is not done in accordance with city procedures or if the inspector is unable to determine if the work has been done properly, the homeowner could be required to open walls, tear up floors, so that the inspection may take place. In addition, by law, work not permitted where a permit was required must be disclosed to any prospective purchaser. This may cause the owner to discount their sale price or perform costly or time-consuming repairs before title can be transferred.
For prospective buyers of a property, save yourself the future hassle and loss of money by researching whether all work on the premises has been done according to code and with the proper permits. You may obtain these permits by going directly to Building & Safety in the municipality in which the property is located or by hiring a “permit puller” who will research the permits for you.
June and Fred Smith were diligent about getting their home ready for sale. They ordered a pre-sale termite inspection report. The report revealed that their large rear deck was dry-rot infested, so they replaced it before putting their home on the market.
The Smiths also called a reputable roofer to examine the roof and issue a report on its condition. The roofer felt that the roof was on its last legs and that it should be replaced. The Smith’s didn’t want buyers to be put off by a bad roof, so they had the roof replaced and the exterior painted before they marketed the home.
But the buyers’ inspection report indicated that the house was in serious need of drainage work. According to a drainage contractor, the job would cost in excess of $20,000. Fred Smith was particularly distraught because he’d paid to have corrective drainage work done several years ago.
First-Time Tip: If you get an alarming inspection report on a home you’re buying or selling, don’t panic. Until you see the whole picture clearly, you’re not in a position to determine whether you have a major problem to deal with or not.
What happened to the Smiths is typical of what can happen over time with older homes. The drainage work that was completed years ago was probably adequate at the time. But since then, there had been unprecedented rains in the area, which caused flooding in many basements. Drainage technology had advanced. New technology can be more expensive but often does a better job.
The Smiths considered calling in other drainage experts to see if the work could be done for less. After studying the buyers’ inspection report, the contractor’s proposal and the buyers’ offer to split the cost of the drainage work 50-50 with the sellers, the Smiths concluded that they had a fair deal.
The solution is not always this easy, especially when contractors can’t agree. Keep in mind that there is an element of subjectivity involved in the inspection process. For example, two contractors might disagree on the remedy for a dry-rotted window: one calling for repair and the other for replacement.
Recently, one roofer recommended a total roof replacement for a cost of $6,000. A second roofer disagreed. His report said that the roof should last another three to four years if the owner did $800 of maintenance work. Based on the two reports, the buyers and sellers were able to negotiate a satisfactory monetary solution to the problem for an amount that was between the two estimates.
It’s problematic when inspectors are wrong. But it happens. Inspectors are only human. Here is another example: A home inspector looked at a house and issued a report condemning the furnace, which he said needed to be replaced.
The buyers were unsure about the furnace, given the difference of opinions. The seller called in a representative from the local gas company. The buyers knew that the gas company representative would have to shut the furnace down if it was dangerous. He found nothing wrong with the furnace, and the buyers were satisfied.
The first thing an agent will need to do to provide you with a CMA is to inspect your property. Generally, this inspection won’t be overly detailed (she or he is not going to crawl under the house to examine the foundation), nor does the house need to be totally cleaned up and ready for an open house. It should be in such a condition that the agent will be able to make an accurate assessment of its condition and worth. If you plan to make changes before selling, inform the agent at this time.
The next step is for the agent to obtain data on comparable properties. This data is usually available through MLS (Multiple Listing Service), but a qualified agent will also know of properties that are on the market or have sold without being part of the MLS. This will give the agent an idea how much your property is worth in the current market. Please note that the CMA is not an appraisal. An appraisal must be performed by a licensed appraiser.
CMAs are not only for prospective sellers. Buyers should consider requesting a CMA for properties they are seriously looking at to determine whether the asking price is a true reflection of the current market. Owners who are upgrading or remodeling can benefit from a CMA when it’s used to see if the intended changes will “over-improve” their property compared to others in the neighborhood.
Sometimes unforeseeable issues arise just prior to closing the sale. Hopefully, with negotiation, most of these have a workable solution. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. But don’t panic. Another buyer might still be found who is willing to accept the house as is.
Imagine that your prospective buyers are a couple with young children. They envision your unused attic as the perfect playroom for the kids but, before closing the deal, they request an inspection to see if it’s safe and also if they will be able to install a skylight to provide natural light to the new space.
This inspection reveals that under the shingles that are in good condition is a roof that will only last another year or two. The prospective buyers immediately balk, not wanting to incur the time and cost of replacing the roof. Their plans were to move in and only have to spend time and money renovating the attic. The additional cost of the new roof, they say, is just too much.
At this point, you sit down with the prospective buyers and calmly discuss the situation and how it can be solved to the benefit of all. First, you agree to get another professional opinion on what really needs to be done. Inspectors are only human, and are not infallible. Once the extent of the damage is agreed upon, you can jointly decide what to do about it. While the buyers hadn’t planned on that expense, you show them that instead of a limited roof life that they would get with most existing homes, they’ll have a new worry-free roof that won’t cost them in repairs for the next decade or so. Since the roof wasn’t in as good shape as you had thought, you agree to lower the purchase price to help offset the cost of the new roof.
By negotiating calmly and looking at all possibilities, what could have been a “deal breaker” can be turned into a win-win situation for both the buying and selling parties. In other cases, the most workable agreement for both parties might be for the deal to be called off. The seller can always find another buyer and the buyer can always find another home.
Common Selling Mistakes
Mistake #1 – Incorrect Pricing
Every seller naturally wants to get the most money for his or her product. The most common mistake that causes sellers to get less than they hope for, however, is listing too high. Listings reach the greatest proportion of potential buyers shortly after they reach the market. If a property is dismissed as being overpriced early on, it can result in later price reductions. Overpriced properties tend to take an unusually long time to sell, and they end up being sold at a lower price than they likely would have had they been priced properly in the first place.
Mistake #2 — Mistaking Re-finance Appraisals for Market Value
Re-finance appraisals can be very encouraging for homeowners, leading them to assume that the appraisal is the amount that they should expect to receive for their property. Lenders often estimate the value of your property higher than it actually is, however, in order to encourage re-financing. The market value of your home could actually be (and often is) lower. Your best bet is to ask your Realtor® for the most recent information regarding property sales in your community. This will give you an up-to-date and factually accurate estimate of your property value.
Mistake #3 — Failing to "Showcase"
In spite of how frequently this mistake is addressed and how simple it is to avoid, its prevalence is still widespread. When attempting to sell your home to prospective buyers, do not forget to make your home look as pleasant as possible. Make necessary repairs. Clean. Make sure everything functions and looks presentable, and remove as many possessions as you can prior to showing. A poorly kept home, or one with too much clutter, will make it dramatically more difficult for buyers to become emotionally interested in your property.
Mistake #4 – Trying to "Hard Sell" While Showing
Buying a house is always an emotional and difficult decision. As a result, you should try to allow prospective buyers to comfortably examine your property. Don’t try haggling or forcefully selling. Instead, be friendly and hospitable. Pointing out any unnoticed amenities and being receptive to questions is advisable, but this is not the time for negotiation and salesmanship.
Mistake #5 – Trying to Sell to Lookers
A prospective buyer who shows interest because of a For Sale sign or an open house ad may not really be interested in your property. Often, buyers who are not accompanied by a Realtor® are 6-9 months away from buying, and are more interested in seeing what is out there than in actually making a purchase. They may still have to sell their house, or may not be able to afford a house yet. They may still even be unsure as to whether or not they want to relocate.
Your Realtor® should be able to distinguish realistic potential buyers from mere lookers. Realtors® should usually find out a prospective buyer’s savings, credit rating, and purchasing power in general. If your Realtor® fails to find out this pertinent information, you should do some investigating and questioning on your own. This will help you avoid wasting valuable time marketing to the wrong people. If you have to do this work yourself, consider finding a new Realtor®.
Mistake #6 — Being Ignorant of Your Rights & Responsibilities
It is extremely important that you are well-informed of the details of your real estate contract. Real estate contracts are legally binding documents, and they can often be complex and confusing. Not being aware of the terms in your contract could cost you thousands for repairs and inspections. Know what you are responsible for before signing any contract. Can the property be sold "as is"? How will deed restrictions and local zoning laws affect your transaction? Not knowing the answers to these kinds of questions could end up costing you a considerable amount of money.
Mistake #7 – Signing a Contract with No Escape
Hopefully you will have taken the time to choose the best Realtor® for you. But sometimes, as we all know, circumstances change. Perhaps you misjudged your Realtor®, or perhaps the Realtor® has other priorities on his or her mind. In any case, you should have the right to fire your agent. Also, you should have the right to select another agent of your choosing. Many real estate companies will simply replace an agent with another one, without consulting you. Be sure to have control over your situation before signing a real estate contract.
Mistake #8 – Limited Marketing
There are two obvious marketing tools that nearly every seller uses: open houses and classified ads. Unfortunately, these two tools are rather ineffective. Less than 1% of homes are sold at open houses, and less than 3% are sold because of classified ads. In fact, Realtors® often use open houses solely to attract future prospects, not to sell that particular house. Does your Realtor® have a website? There are very few successful real estate professionals who don’t, and for good reason.
Your Realtor® should employ a wide variety of marketing techniques and should be committed to selling your property; he or she should be available for every phone call from a prospective buyer. Most calls are received, and open houses are scheduled, during business hours, so make sure that your Realtor® is working on selling your home during these hours (many Realtors® work part-time).
Mistake #9 – Choosing the Wrong Realtor®
Selling your home could be the most important financial transaction in your lifetime. As a result, it is extremely important that you select a Realtor® who is a good match for you. Experienced real estate agents often cost the same as brand new agents. Chances are that the experienced agent will be able to bring you a higher price in less time and with fewer hassles.
Take your time when selecting a real estate agent. Interview several; ask them key questions. If you want to make your selling experience the best it can be, it is crucial that you select the best agent for you.
Secrets of Stagers
13 Ways to Make Your Home Look Like a Million Bucks
By Leah Hennen, special to HGTV.com
Ever walk into a Sunday open house or a model home and notice how…well, inhumanly perfect it looks? If so, chances are the property is "staged"–in real estate parlance, dressed with paint, furniture arrangements, art and accessories that are all carefully designed to highlight the home’s strengths, downplay its weaknesses, and appeal to the greatest possible pool of prospective buyers. Whether you’re designing to sell or designing to dwell, here’s how the home-staging pros get that "I have to have it!" look–and how their tips and tricks can make your own humble abode look like a million bucks.
1. Make an Entrance
You know the saying: You never have a second chance to make a first impression. "The outside of your home is the first thing guests see," points out Christopher Breining, owner of HomeStagers, Inc., (www.HomeStagersInc.com) in San Francisco. And like it or not, it speaks volumes about what’s inside–and about its owner. A quart of glossy paint in a bold, cheerful color for the front door, new hardware (or a little elbow grease applied to clean and polish the existing knocker, lockset, porch light, house numbers, and mailbox), a fresh coir or seagrass mat, and a trio of seasonal potted plants on the landing will dramatically brighten and refresh your home’s entry and make visitors feel welcome, Breining says. Bonus: This small investment pays personal dividends, too, giving you an emotional boost and a dose of house-pride with each homecoming.
A welcoming entry, such as this one designed by Pamela Berstler, helps to set the tone for the rest of the house.
2. Conquer Clutter
Admit it: You have too much stuff. "The most important thing most people can do to improve their home is to clear out, clean up, and get rid of clutter," says Lisa LaPorta, cast designer on HGTV’s hit Designed to Sell and owner of Lisa LaPorta Design in Los Angeles. Be ruthless as you go about purging your belongings. If you haven’t used it in three months, stagers say, box it up and store it away; if you haven’t used it in a year, get rid of it. And make a house rule that for every new item that comes in, an old one has to leave. Any mixed feelings you have about tossing life’s accumulated detritus will quickly be replaced with a sense of relief and appreciation of your Zen-like new surroundings.
Sound daunting? Take it one room at a time. If your bookshelves are bursting at the seams, for instance, "clear them off and start over," suggests Michelle Yackel, owner of Divine Redesigns in Atlanta. "It’s okay to have empty space around your books and knickknacks." Inexpensive baskets make great hiding places for unsightly paperbacks, and add texture and visual interest. Books stacked vertically serve as pedestals to show off prized pottery or other objects d’art. You can even remove the dust covers from hardbacks and group them by color, turning a busy jumble into a decorative addition to the room.
If you simply can’t part with your collection of Architectural Digest or your kids won’t let you anywhere near their 300 carefully assembled Lego creations, it’s time to get creative about storage and organization. Retailers like the Container Store and Target sell handy rolling bins designed to slip under a bed and house everything from household supplies to kids’ toys. And if you can’t get rid of it and can’t hide it, flaunt it with style: "Places like IKEA sell colorful and inexpensive fabric, cardboard, or melamine magazine holders. Lined up on a shelf, they look a lot cleaner than stacks of magazines everywhere and add a unified visual element to the room," says Michael Friedes, owner of Nest Home Design in Oakland, California.
3. Make "Less is More" Your Mantra
Don’t forget, too, that a cluttered look can also come from too much furniture. "People tend to line their walls with furniture–one piece after another," laments Christopher Breining. When professional fluffers descend on a home being prepped for market, they often whisk away as much as half of the owner’s furnishings–and the house looks miles better (not to mention bigger) for it. You don’t have to whittle that drastically, but take a hard look at what you have and ask yourself what you can live without. "You really only need two pieces of furniture per wall: A bed and a nightstand, say, or a dresser and a chair," Breining advises. Another rule of thumb: If you don’t use it regularly, lose it. While you’re doing this sometimes-painful pruning, remind yourself that every square foot you free up is prime real estate.
4. Float Furniture
If your couches are clinging to your walls, you’re not alone–it’s a typical decorating mistake, stagers say. "There’s a common belief that rooms will feel larger and be easier to use if all the furniture is pushed up against the walls, but it’s simply not true," says Lisa LaPorta. Instead, furnish your space: Float furniture away from walls, reposition it into cozy conversational groups, and place pieces so that the traffic flow in the room is obvious–in most cases, this means keeping the perimeters clear. "When you place furniture in a room, envision a figure-eight or the letter H in the middle, with clear pathways around it," LaPorta suggests. Not only will this make the space more user-friendly, it will open up the room and make it seem larger.
If you’re nervous about doing something that can seem a bit radical, "Try an area rug on an angle first, then move the couch and see how it looks. But just try it," Christopher Breining implores. If the new arrangement doesn’t strike your fancy, you can always put things back the way they were. But chances are, you won’t want to.
5. Mix It Up
You’d never consider donning the same clothes for days on end, would you? So why force your home to endure the same tired decor year after year? "We get used to our surroundings, but they can become stale and stagnant. If a chair has been in the same spot for five years, move it!" admonishes Barb Schwarz, owner of StagedHomes in Seattle, Washington, and Concord, California, and coauthor of Home Staging: The Winning Way to Sell Your House for More Money (John Wiley & Sons). Think of your digs as a nesting superstore, with the added bonus that everything in it is free. Give yourself permission to move furniture, artwork and accessories between rooms on a whim. Just because you bought that armchair for the living room, for instance, doesn’t mean it won’t look great anchoring a sitting area in your bedroom. Or try perching that little-used dining room table in front of a pretty window, top it with buffet lamps and other accessories, and press it into service as a beautiful writing desk or library table. And as for that now-empty dining room? Flank an ottoman or cocktail table with a loveseat and comfy chairs for an instant conversation nook. "When you move things to new spots, you appreciate them again–and give your house a whole new look for nothing," Schwarz says.
6. Rediscover "Lost" Spaces
"A big part of what stagers do is create fantasy spaces: An exercise room, a meditation space, an art studio, a family game room," says Linda Russell, owner of HouseDressing in Montclair, New Jersey. "We take that unused space on the third floor or in the basement and turn it into something you’ve always dreamed about having." So if you have a room that currently serves only to gather junk, repurpose it into something that will add to the value–and your enjoyment–of your home. Move those boxes to a rented storage space (or better yet, have a yard sale or donate their contents to charity) and get to work creating the space you yearn for. The simple addition of a comfortable armchair, a small table, and a lamp in a stairwell nook will transform it into a cozy reading spot, Russell suggests. Or drape fabric on the walls of your basement, lay inexpensive rubber padding or a carpet remnant on the floor, and toss in a few cushy pillows. Voila! Your new meditation room or yoga studio.
7. Let the Sun Shine In
"We almost always take off old, heavy drapery and put something light, airy, and gauzy in its place," says Russell. This ushers in natural light and makes a previously closed-in space seem larger. Simple sheers on a tension rod are great for screening an unattractive view and providing a bit of privacy but still letting in lots of light and visually enlarging a room. If you have lovely vistas from a set of windows, try doing away with treatments altogether. If privacy is paramount, top-down, bottom-up Roman shades will block the neighbors’ view of your bathtub but still let you gaze at the sky while you soak. Lisa LaPorta favors bamboo or parchment shades and simple curtain panels made from fine cotton twill or translucent linen – all of which let light stream in during the day, provide privacy at night, and add touchable texture to a room. Or consider investing in Christopher Breining’s favorite window treatments: Sheer fabric shades with built-in blinds (Hunter Douglas offers several options). "They look great and offer so much versatility," he says.
Other window-treatment tips: If windows are narrow, extend curtain rods a foot or so on each side to suggest width. If your ceilings are low, hang rods right at the ceiling line and consider window treatments with vertical stripes to create the illusion of height.
8. Light the Way
One of the things that make staged homes look so warm and welcoming is great lighting design. As it turns out, many of our own homes are improperly lit–either we have too few fixtures, or our lighting is too dim or too harsh (or all of the above). To remedy the problem and make your home more inviting, increase the wattage in your lamps and fixtures (aim for a total of 100 watts for every 50 square feet). Then install dimmers so you can vary light levels according to your mood and the time of day. This is a relatively simple project for a do-it-yourselfer, or you can hire an electrician for a couple of hours to do several at once. (And while you’re at it, be sure to replace those dingy, almond-colored light-switch covers with crisp white ones. New covers cost less than a buck apiece and are a quick, easy update.)
Don’t depend on just one or two fixtures per room, either. It’s just as important to layer lighting as it is to have sufficient wattage, Breining points out. So go for ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, undercabinet, or reading), and accent (table and wall) lighting. "A combination of overhead, floor, table, and accent lighting creates great ambience," the San Francisco stager says. "Having lights on different planes provides good illumination and makes the room interesting." One thing that’s always in Breining’s bag of tricks: uplights. "You can buy one for as little as $5 at home-improvement stores and hide it behind a potted plant–it creates incredible drama." Another hint: Place mirrors, silver or glass bowls, or other reflective objects near lamps to bounce light around the room and make it glow even more.
9. Make a Splash with Color
"Painting is the cheapest, easiest way to give your home a new look," says Designed to Sell’s Lisa LaPorta. Even if you were weaned on off-white walls, take a chance and test out a quart of paint in a warm, neutral hue (you can always paint over it if you don’t like the effect). These days, the definition of "neutral" extends way beyond beige– from warm tans and honeys to soft blue-greens.
Even deeper shades–long verboten for interiors–are enjoying a renaissance. "Don’t shy away from dark colors in a powder room, dining room, or bedroom," says Oakland stager Michael Friedes. "A deep tone on the walls can make the space more intimate, dramatic, and cozy–and surprisingly, it can even make a small room seem bigger because there’s no delineation of the corners."
How to start? With a pillow, textile, or piece of art you love, LaPorta suggests. "The background color is often great for walls, and you can pull out the other colors for accents around the room." You could also try painting an accent wall to draw attention to a dramatic fireplace or a lovely set of windows. Either paint the wall a contrasting–but still complementary–color (such as a rich red flanked by taupe walls) or a more intense version of the paint used in the rest of the room (say, a deep butterscotch that will play off the soft camel walls surrounding it). If you have built-in bookcases or niches, experiment with painting the insides a color that will make them pop–a soft sage green to set off the white pottery displayed within, perhaps.
If you’re too timid to whip out the paintbrushes, add punch with richly colored accessories, pillows, and throws, LaPorta says. Bonus: When seasons change or you’re ready for something new, these couldn’t be simpler to switch out. Designer Lori Dennis used calming blue punctuated with crisp white in this restful bedroom.
10. Paint It Black
Using white-painted furniture is a tried-and-true tactic for freshening a room, but don’t forget its opposite: A coat of satiny black paint can revive tired furnishings and lend a chic, dramatic flair to just about any space. "Painting an old piece black immediately updates it," says Michael Friedes. "We use black in staging all the time. It’s a great punctuation–it has a graphic quality, provides contrast, and makes a real impact." And not only does black work with every other hue, it makes the colors surrounding it pop and melds with most any décor, from vintage to ethnic to modern. They key, as always, is moderation: Use black as an accent in picture frames, lampshades, accessories, and small pieces of furniture. "The big black leather couch of the ’80s is black gone awry," Friedes warns.
Designer Andreas Charalambous uses a black table and frames to add sophistication to this corridor.
11. Make Your Art Sing
If your home is like most, art is hung in a high line encircling each room. Big mistake: Placing your pictures, paintings, and prints in such stereotypical spots can render them almost invisible. "Art displayed creatively makes the art stand out more and shows off your space," Friedes says.
So break up that line and vary the patterning and grouping by hanging a row of art diagonally–with each piece staggered a bit higher or lower than the next (great for directing the eye toward an architectural feature like a window or arched doorway), triangularly–with one picture above, one below, and one beside (a nice accent for a table-and-chair vignette), or in a vertical line (perfect for accentuating a high ceiling). "Hang pictures on different planes so that your eye goes up and down as it travels around the room–it creates interest on your walls," says Friedes. Try hanging things a bit lower than you’re used to, as well, so that wall art relates to furniture groupings rather than floating (and getting lost) in its own space. Display your art creatively, as seen in this bedroom designed by Robert Noble.
12. Accessorize with Flair
Now that you have your furniture placed, your rooms dappled with color, and your art hung, it’s time to layer in accessories for the finishing touch. When it comes to eye-pleasing accessorizing, three is the magic number–though one and five work well, too. And rather than setting your trio of accessories out in a row, imagine a triangle and place one object at each point. Scale is important, too, so in your group of three, be sure to vary items by height and width, with the largest at the back and the smallest in front. "On a side table, for instance, you might have a lamp, a plant or flower arrangement, and a book or a small box," Barb Schwarz explains. For impact, group accessories by color, shape, texture, or some other unifying element, stagers suggest. Another hint, courtesy of Monclair stager Linda Russell: The eye naturally "reads" the room from left to right, so putting a striking object in the far right corner will automatically draw your gaze there and make the room seem bigger.
Mixing the right accessories, as designer Phyllis Harbinger does here, can make a room all the more inviting.
13. Bring the Outdoors In
Staged homes are almost always graced with bountiful fresh flowers and pricey orchid arrangements, but you can get a similar effect simply by raiding your yard. "Take clippings of branches or twigs and put them in a large vase in the corner of a room to add height– it’s a great structural piece that doesn’t cost anything," says Michelle Yackel, the Atlanta stager. It’s also an easy way to incorporate seasonal greenery. Budding magnolia clippings or unfurling fern fronds herald the arrival of spring, summer blooms add splashes of cheerful color, blazing fall foliage warms up your decor on chilly autumn days, holly branches heavy with berries look smashing in winter, and airy feather-grass plumes add elegance and texture any time of year.
Above all, "Get creative! Don’t be scared to try something different," Yackel says. Indeed, just about every stager has tales of home sellers who, upon seeing their once-tired abodes transformed, were so blown away by the results that they decided to stay put. Who knows–you, too, may just find that you love your "new" home so much you’ll never want to give it up. Designer Ann Morris adds color and style with a well-placed floral arrangement.
Selling Your Home: Where to Begin?
Remember what first attracted you to your house when you bought it? What excited you about it most? When deciding how best to present your home for sale, it is helpful to try to get back into that buyer’s frame of mind.
A spruced-up house makes a great first impression on potential buyers. An attractive property grabs their attention and makes them excited about finding a house that looks and feels well cared for. Because buyers believe they’ll encounter fewer problems if they buy it, your house becomes more appealing and stands out from the competition. So if you prepare your home correctly, you’ll save time selling it when it’s on the market.
A good first impression makes an impact on a number of levels. It’s not just the way your house looks to potential buyers, but how it feels and smells to them, how their friends and family will react, how they imagine it would be to live there.
With simple improvements throughout your house, you can grab the attention of potential buyers and help them see why your house is right for them.
Create a plan to enhance your property. Keep a notebook, and as you stroll through your home and yard, make a list of what needs to be done. Consider what your property looks like to people driving by or walking through your door. What will they like or dislike? What needs fixing, painting, cleaning? What can you improve? Whether you paint your house or fix up the yard, your efforts don’t need to be costly; even inexpensive improvements and minor repairs go far towards attracting serious buyers. But remember, those seemingly insignificant problems you’ve learned to live with can actually discourage potential buyers.
Here are some ideas for increasing your home’s appeal in order to sell it quickly at the best price:
Buyers expect a spotless house, inside and out, so clean everything, especially your windows and window sills. Scrub walls and floors, tile and ceilings, cupboards and drawers, kitchen and bathrooms. Wash scuff marks from doors and entryways, clean light fixtures and the fireplace. Don’t forget the laundry room. And put away your clothes.
Cut the Clutter
People are turned off by rooms that look and feel cluttered. Remember, potential buyers are buying your house, not your furniture, so help them picture themselves and their possessions in your home by making your rooms feel large, light, neutral, and airy. As you clean, pack away your personal items, such as pictures, valuables, and collectibles, and store or get rid of surplus books, magazines, videotapes, extra furniture, rugs, blankets, etc.
Consider renting a storage unit to eliminate clutter in your garage and attic.
It’s hard to get rid of possessions, but cleaning and clearing out the clutter can really pay off in the end. Packing away your clutter also gets you started packing for your next move. Make your garage and basement as tidy as the rest of your house. Simple little tasks such as storing your tools and neatly rolling up your garden hose suggest that you take good care of your house. Don’t let anything detract from making your best first impression.
They’re an important consideration to many buyers. By storing clothing you won’t use soon, you’ll make closets look more spacious.
A new coat of paint cleans up your living space and makes it look bright and new. To make rooms look larger, choose light, neutral colors that will appeal to the most people possible, such as beige or white.
Check its condition. If it’s worn, consider replacing it. It’s an easy and affordable way to help sell your home faster. Again, light, neutral colors, such as beige, are best. If you don’t replace it, you can suggest to potential buyers that they could select new carpet and you’ll reduce your price; buyers like to hear they’re getting a deal. At the very least, have your carpet cleaned.
Repairs and Renovations
It’s best to avoid making major renovations just to sell the house since you’re unlikely to recoup those costs in your selling price. Make minor repairs to items such as leaky faucets, slow drains, torn screens, damaged gutters, loose doorknobs, and broken windows. Make sure repairs are well done; buyers won’t take you seriously if your home improvement efforts look messy, shoddy, or amateurish.
Leaks and Moisture
Water stains on ceilings or in the basement alert buyers to potential problems. Don’t try to cosmetically cover up stains caused by leaks. If you’ve fixed the water problem, repair the damage and disclose in writing to the buyer what repairs were made.
The "Wow" factor — that first visual, high-impact impression your home makes on potential buyers — can turn a looker into a buyer. To determine your property’s curb appeal, drive through your neighborhood and note other properties; then approach your own house as if you were a potential buyer. How does it look? Does it "wow" you? Will its curb appeal attract buyers? Note what needs improving, such as trimming trees, planting shrubs, or painting gutters. Little things convey that you’ve cared for your home, and this is your opportunity to sell that important message to buyers who are shopping from the street, simply cruising neighborhoods looking for houses for sale. To get them through your door, do what you can to make your property look like someone’s dream home.
If it’s peeling or blistering and you can’t remember the last time you painted it, your house needs some attention. That also goes for stain that is significantly faded. A newly painted or stained exterior will help sell your house faster, and whether you do it yourself or hire someone, you’ll also increase your home’s value.
In the Yard
Grab people’s attention by enhancing your yard and landscaping. If your house looks inviting and well-maintained from the street, people will imagine that it’s attractive on the inside, too.
- Prune bushes and hedges; trim trees.
- Keep your lawn looking healthy and green by mowing it often, fertilizing it, and keeping it edged and trimmed.
- Clean up and dispose of pet mess.
- Weed your gardens; add fertilizer and mulch and plant colorful flowers.
- In winter, keep your driveway and sidewalks shoveled, de-iced, and well-lit.
- Stack firewood, clean out birdbaths, repair and paint fences.
The Front Door
An attractive entry catches a buyer’s eye and says, "Welcome," so highlight this area of your house with decorative touches, such as a wreath on the door or new shrubs and flowers around the steps. For an even grander entry, clean and paint your front door, or replace it with a new one for a few hundred dollars. Don’t forget to fix and polish doorknobs, repair torn screens, and then put out that new welcome mat.
Cleaning and Maintenance Checklist:
- Windows, sills, and screens
- Walls and floor
- Cupboards and drawers
- Light fixtures
- Ceiling fans
- Carpet and rugs
- Laundry room
- Replace furnace filter
- Dust furniture, TV and computer screens
- Remove clutter
- Pack personal items
- Leaky faucets and plumbing
- Torn screens
- Slow drains
- Loose doorknobs
- Deck boards
- Broken windows
- Electrical fixtures
- Water stain damage
- Broken appliances
- Damaged walls and ceilings
- Worn carpet and rugs
- Damaged sidewalks and steps
- Stain or paint deck
- Store tools
- Roll up garden hose
- Paint or stain exterior
- Prune bushes and hedges
- Trim trees
- Mow lawn, fertilize, edge, and trim
- Weed gardens, plant flowers
- Shovel driveways, de-ice
- Stack firewood
- Clean out birdbaths
- Caulk windows and doors
- Repair and paint fences
- Seal asphalt driveway
- Make sure doors close properly
- Enhance entryway
- Replace welcome mat
These elements are no secret – selling anything is about presenting it as favorably as possible, and a home is no exception. With the right Realtor® and the right presentation, you may find that selling your home is a painless, quick, profitable process!
Surviving the Sale
Selling a home can sometimes be a long, stressful, and costly process. Like anything, though, equipping yourself with the right tools and the right knowledge can eliminate a great number of the potential negative aspects of the process – and get you the maximum return on your investment.
The importance of having the right allies in the selling process cannot be overstated. Having an expert on your side, not only to assist you in making decisions and getting your home marketed, but also simply in terms of having an advocate in the process, is the single most important step you can take to reduce your stress.
The first step in selling any home should be to arrange to get Comparative Market Analyses for your home from three different Realtors®. Many sellers take this step, but what they do with the information they receive is not always in their best interest.
Once three CMAs have been prepared, the natural tendency is for a seller to hire the Realtor® who produces the highest number. This is often a mistake. Competing Realtors® sometimes inflate these numbers in order to ‘buy’ your listing, intending to later drop their price. If one CMA is significantly higher than the others, be suspicious of how that number was reached.
More important to this process is getting an idea of these Realtors®’ backgrounds, expertise, motivation, and simply their personalities – you may be working closely with this representative for many weeks, so it is important that it be someone you trust.
Goal #1: Make lots of money.
Most sellers fail to move beyond goal #1, and that can cause some problems. Another important goal that should be recognized is the attempt to minimize stress. Will getting an extra percentage or two for your home be worth the inconvenience of having it on the market for an extra month? Two months?
Your priorities are your own, of course, but sometimes sellers underestimate the stress that having their home on the market for an extended period can generate. Constant showings, constant interruptions, and concerns about selling your home before buying its replacement are not minor concerns – each can have a major impact on your life.
Sit down and discuss just where you place the most importance in the selling process. If profit is your only priority, perhaps you can afford to be firmer in your asking price, and can reject offers that are less than ideal. Most sellers who have had their home on the market for an extended period of time, though, would agree that the few extra dollars were not worth it in the end.
The correlative to assembling a strong team is putting your trust in that team.
Few people would second-guess their heart surgeon and insist they could do a better job themselves, or question whether their lawyer’s knowledge of the law is more extensive than their own, but when it comes to selling a home, many homeowners find it difficult to put their faith in the knowledge of their Realtor® fully.
For example, despite the fact that studies show that less than 1% of homes are sold through open houses, many homeowners insist their Realtor® hold one. Indeed, if a yard sign and an open house were all it took to sell a home, there wouldn’t be many Realtors® at all!
If you’ve put the right team in place, put your trust in that team. Realtors® have access to many highly-advanced marketing strategies that you may not even realize are being utilized.
It is your Realtor’s® job to bring qualified buyers to the table – and keep in mind that he or she likely does not get paid at all if your house doesn’t sell! In most markets, the combination of the right representative and the right listing price will result in a sold home. If you recognize this early on, it becomes much easier to take a step back from the process, let your professional representative market your home, and minimize your stress.
Don’t hesitate to speak up if you think that things are not progressing as they should, but likewise, don’t hesitate to sit back and be comfortable in the knowledge that the sale of your home is being handled professionally and effectively.
The Right Selling Price Affects Your Bottom Line
When you’re selling your home, the price you set is a critical factor in the return you’ll receive. That’s why you need a professional evaluation from an experienced Realtor®. This person can provide you with an honest assessment of your home, based on several factors, including:
- Market conditions
- Condition of your home
- Repairs or improvements
- Selling timeframe
In real estate terms, market value is the price at which a particular house, in its current condition, should sell within 30 to 90 days.
If the price of your home is too high, this could cause several things:
- Limits buyers. Potential buyers may not view your home because it appears to be out of their buying range.
- Limits showings. Other salespeople may be more reluctant to view your home.
- Used as leverage. Other Realtors® may use this home to drive the sale of other homes that are better-priced.
- Extended stay on the market. When a home is on the market too long, it may be perceived as defective. Buyers may wonder, “what’s wrong,” or “why hasn’t this sold?”
- Lower price. An overpriced home, still on the market beyond the average selling time, could lead to a lower selling price. To sell it, you will have to reduce the price – sometimes several times. In the end, you’ll probably get less than if it had been properly priced in the first place.
- Wasted time and energy. A bank appraisal is most often required to finance a home.
Realtors® have known it for years – well-kept homes that are properly priced in the beginning always get you the fastest sale for the best price! And that’s why you need a professional to assist you in the selling of your home.
Often, in a seller’s market, homes that are priced slightly below market value initially will sell for more, simply because of the extra interest they incite. This can be a risk, however, and when it comes to such a decision, an experienced, trusted Realtor® is your best ally.