PREPARE TO SELL YOUR HOUSE
Millions of existing homes are sold each year and, while each transaction is different, every owner wants the same thing: the best possible deal with the least amount of hassle and aggravation.
Home selling has become more complex than it used to be. New seller disclosure statements, longer and more mysterious form agreements, and a range of environmental concerns have all emerged in the past decade.
More importantly, the home selling process has changed. Buyer brokerage, the process in which REALTORS® represent home buyers, is now common nationwide and good buyer-brokers want the best for their clients.
The result is that, while hundreds of thousands of existing homes may be sold each week, the process is not as easy for sellers as it was five or 10 years ago. Surviving in today’s real estate world requires experience and training in such fields as real estate marketing, financing, negotiating and closing, the very expertise available from local REALTORS®
FIND A REALTOR
More than two million people nationwide have licenses to sell real estate, of which more than one million belong to the National Association of REALTORS®. Only N.A.R. members are entitled to use the term REALTOR®. N.A.R. members must adhere to a strict code of ethics. By joining N.A.R., individuals have access to a wide range of classes, seminars and certification opportunities. Local REALTOR® groups are active in community service, economic development, local politics, and other neighborhood organizations. In essence, local REALTORS® are the community experts. They track real estate trends, share neighborhood concerns and participate in local matters. They’re good neighbors who are in the business of helping others buy and sell homes.
SET THE LIST PRICE
Every reasonable owner wants the best possible price and terms for his or her home. Several factors, including market conditions and interest rates, will determine how much you can get for your home. The idea is to get the maximum price and the best terms during the window of time when your home is being marketed. In other words, home selling is part science, part marketing, part negotiation and part art. Unlike math where 2 + 2 always equals 4, in real estate there is no certain conclusion. All transactions are different and, because of this, you should do as much as possible to prepare your home for sale and engage the REALTOR® you feel is best able to sell your home.
MARKET WITH MAXIMUM EXPOSURE
The day your home goes on the market it should be in prime condition and priced right to attract the most potential buyers. While your REALTOR® can help you determine an appropriate price and can offer suggestions to make your home more appealing, your job is to put in the work to get your home pristine clean and to remove clutter and personalization. Buyers want to see a home where they can visualize themselves living. If buyers see an overstuffed closet, they’ll assume the home lacks storage space; and if your kitchen counters are cluttered, they’ll think the space is too small. Provide your REALTOR® with tips about what you love best about your home and community that can be incorporated into your marketing materials. Your REALTOR® can advise you on what you need to repair before putting your home on the market. You can also visit other homes that are for sale, or even local model homes for ideas on ways to present your home to potential buyers.
NEGOTIATING THE DEAL
Once you know the buyer can legitimately qualify for a loan, you should begin to evaluate the offer by looking at these factors:
- How close is the offer to your asking price?
- Will your home appraise for the contract price?
- How large is the earnest money deposit that accompanied the offer?
- Has the buyer asked for assistance with closing costs?
- Has the buyer asked you to make repairs or to give a credit for home improvements?
- Is the requested settlement date appropriate for your needs?
If you’re not immediately satisfied with the offer or are uncertain about whether to accept it, consider your options:
- Are there other offers?
- Can you wait for more offers to come in?
- How will you handle it if no other offers come in after a particular deadline?
SETTLEMENT TIPS FOR SELLERS
While the burden is on the buyer to finalize financing for the home purchase and to obtain homeowners insurance, some contract contingencies will impact you, too, especially if you’re living in the home. Most transactions include a home inspection so you’ll need to make your home available to the inspector and then negotiate with the buyers about anything the inspection turns up according to the terms of your contract.
Besides the home inspection, some contracts and some lenders call for a termite inspection and a radon gas inspection. In each case, you or your listing agent or the buyer’s agent will need to make the home available for inspection.
Another important step prior to closing is the appraisal. If the appraisal comes in higher than the sales price, then the buyers can relax and be happy that they have purchased a home for less than its market value. Once the contract has been signed, you as the seller cannot renegotiate the price higher. However, if the appraisal comes in lower than the sales price, then the buyer’s lender will limit the loan amount to that lower value. The buyer may have to come up with additional cash to cover the financing gap or may ask you to renegotiate the contract. Your REALTOR® can advise you about the best way to handle this situation, but in any case you and the buyer are also bound by the contract terms.
PLAN YOUR MOVE
The time to plan your move begins once you’ve decided to sell your home. Some of the activities required to sell the home can actually help with the moving process. For example, by cleaning out closets, the basement and the attic there will be less to do once the home is under contract.
Your planning will be guided by a number of things:
- Are you moving long distance? If yes, you’ll likely require an interstate mover and the use of a large van.
- Moving internationally? Contact the embassy in Washington, DC, for information. Be aware that items which may be entirely common in the United States can be prohibited in foreign countries. Ask about customs protocols, duties and taxes.
- Moving locally? If yes, will you move yourself? You’ll need to consider packing boxes, peanuts, blankets or padding and a van rental.
- Planning is key: Stock up on boxes, packing materials, tape and markers. Always mark boxes so that movers will know where goods should be placed.