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Selling Your Home? Here’s What You Need To Know

If you are planning to sell your home soon, you have no doubt looked online to find tips to get it sold quickly and for the most money. What follows are the best of those suggestions and some that do not appear online at all.

  1. MARKETING – If you want to brave the “for sale by owner” maze, like Dirty Harry you need to ask yourself “Do I feel Lucky” and: a) How will I know my home is priced correctly? Recent sales comps (non-MLS) are difficult to come by and do not provide a searchable feature to compare b) How will I screen and qualify potential buyers? c) How will I field inquiries and set up showings? d) What is my liability if the property disclosure is incorrect? e) Do I know how to negotiate a purchase and sale agreement and know what is binding and what is not? f) How will I handle home inspection findings and negotiations? g) Am I willing to pay a commission to buyer agents? h) Where and how will I market the property for sale?  i) How will I handle the earnest money deposit and know the legalities of returning it? Answer all of these to your own satisfaction before you take the FSBO route. It’s a lot of work, there are many pitfalls, and you haven’t even looked at the rest of this article!  Remember 92% of FSBOs eventually list with an agent.

    Obviously, my suggestion is to find a great agent who knows this stuff inside and out.  You will save the hassle and put much more money in your pocket if you do.

  2. STAGING – Assuming you are working with an agent, you can now focus on another vital piece of selling a home: the presentation, which includes everything in the house that needs attention either visually or operationally. 

    The buyer’s first impression occurs within 10 seconds of laying eyes on your house, and curb appeal is the first and most important feature that creates that impression.  Not every home has it, but you have the make the most of what you have. So, make sure the front door looks as inviting as possible with a new coat of paint or new hardware; fix all items that attract negative attention – trim missing, rotted, or in need of paint.

    If there’s a yard, make sure bushes are cut back if they are overgrown, and the flower beds are mulched.  Buy some inexpensive annuals to fill in the bare spots in flower beds. Keep the lawn mowed. Power-wash the roof, deck, and areas where there’s dirt or algae. Paint inside and out where the walls or trim don’t look fresh. Replace any broken fixtures or cabinet hardware. Clean all the windows inside and out. Are you tired yet?

    Regarding the “stuff” in your home, it’s very important to de-clutter as much as possible. This means removing all personal items, photos, knick-knacks, and all “polarizing items” such as anything political or religious.  The buyer is likely to be distracted by these things, instead of focusing on the physical attributes of the house.  Remove enough items in closets to make them look 1/3 empty (it leaves the impression there is more than enough closet space) and remove as many pieces of furniture as possible to maximize the spaciousness in all the rooms.  Renting storage space, if needed, will be well worth the minimal cost and again will come back to you with higher offers than might be the case with all that furniture in the house. Paint walls and trim that doesn’t look fresh and do a thorough deep-cleaning.

    Order a professional home inspection. This will cost $300-$450 (add $200 or so for a septic inspection) but will allow you to identify things you may not be aware of that will come up in the course of a transaction’s home inspection.  If you have a septic system, I strongly suggest you inspect it before a failed septic torpedoes your transaction. Replacing a septic system is always expensive, and usually an untimely surprise. Much better to deal with it ahead of time (in Massachusetts this is a requirement for good reason). 

    Be sure your boiler or furnace has been serviced within the last 12 months, as that will likely be requested from a buyer anyway.  If there are any undesirable odors in the house make sure you’ve done all you can to eliminate them. Buyers are quickly turned off by odors regardless of whatever positives the home may showcase.  Clean the carpets – that could help with odors too.

    Having an opportunity to fix these items and give the impression to the buyer that your home is very well maintained will make higher offers more likely. The money you spend will be reflected by a smoother transaction.

  3. SELLING – If you’ve done all of the above, you have set yourself apart from most of the competing listings which means a faster sale and a higher sale price. If you’ve also priced it at or slightly below market, a multiple offer situation becomes very possible.

    Now that you’ve done the preparation, it’s equally important to make sure all showings reveal all your hard work, and that takes a little more work.

    Buyers will open your kitchen and other cabinets. Make sure they are neatly organized. Wipe down counters, vacuum, and clean mirrors daily. Keep a laundry basket handy for the stuff you’ll quickly stow when there is a showing.  Using large trays to put your cocktail table stuff on, like remotes, mail, magazines, etc. is a quick way to move out of sight.

    And, when there’s a showing you can freshen the air without a perfumy smell by boiling lemons or cinnamon on the stove.

It’s hard to live in a home when you have to keep it in “show ready” condition, but it will pay big dividends if you do.  If you heed all of the above, or even most of it, the time you’ll have to endure the inconvenience will be minimal, and then it’s time for another fun task – moving!

Do you know the game show, the one that has been around for 63 years? There’s a good reason for that: people love to guess the price of something. We are continually assessing the cost and value of everything, so after a few decades on this planet, we get pretty good at it.  And now with the internet as a research tool, we feel even more confident about how much we should pay for everything from toilet paper to real estate.  So, why do we need real estate agents? We “know” what our house is worth, right?  Zillow knows, your better half knows, your brother knows, and the neighbor down the street knows all the “sales” info, so you feel pretty good about your estimate of value for your home. The trouble is, none of the above sources are reliable.

There’s an inherent distrust of realtors, and this is partially justified.  Some real estate agents will tell you your home is worth more than what they know is market value just to get the listing. This practice is called “buying” the listing.  But, an agent who has the integrity to tell you what you need to know versus what you’d like to hear is the one you want to hire. However, with our newfound, but false confidence to value our home correctly, we are even more reluctant to trust a realtor who tells us what our home is worth.  The homeowner’s reaction might be “You just want a quick sale with that price. I’m not gonna give it away!”

This makes the listing agent’s job that much harder. It’s so much easier to “buy” the listing, and then time will take its course wearing down the seller until the market price is arrived at six months or a year later.  But this is exactly why trusting your listing agent is so important.  Ultimately, it will mean a lot more money in your pocket. Here’s why.

During the first 30 days, especially the first two weeks of a listing, the buyer pool viewing the listing online will never be greater. In fact, the number of people is often triple what it will be later in the listing period. That means triple the number of bonified buyers who will also be interested in that particular listing, to set up showings, and make offers. The likelihood of multiple offers is also 3 times greater than just a few weeks further into the listing.  But, all of that will be squandered with the wrong price.

With the wrong price, either selected by the agent or the owner, the die is cast for a failed listing, one that sits and goes stale. “What’s wrong with that house?”  It sounds simplistic to say it has the wrong price, but a home that doesn’t sell is always, always because of the price.

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