Preparing Your Home for Sale
Here are some of the most frequently asking questions regarding selling a home.
When is the best time to sell a home?
The best time to sell is when you are ready, or when you must. That is, when you have outgrown the space in your current home, or you prefer to trade down to something smaller or move up to something larger. Perhaps your martial status has changed, which necessitates a move, or you need to relocate for a job.
Market conditions also play a role, as do seasonal conditions. For example, your chances of getting top dollar for your home are more likely in a seller’s market, when demand outweighs supply, than in a buyer’s market.
Local and national economic factors also may dictate when to sell. If a major employer in your area is laying off workers, it may not be a good time to put your home up for sale. People will be cautious about buying when the future seems so unpredictable or bleak.
Most agents agree the best time to sell is in the spring and fall. This is when the largest number of potential buyers hit the market. Your home is likely to sell faster and at a higher price, although sales begin to pick up as early as February and start to slack off in July, the slowest month for real estate transactions.
What should I do to prepare my home for sale?
Start by finding out its worth. Complete this form for a free comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties. Or get a certified appraiser to provide an appraisal, but sometimes even this isn’t accurate. Appraisers tend to appraise low, your home is worth what someone will pay for it. Zillow and other third party, online companies can be off by 60% or more (read their disclaimers).
Next, get busy working on the home’s appearance. You want to make sure it is in the best condition possible for showing to prospective buyers so that you can get top dollar. This means fixing or sprucing up any trouble spots that could deter a buyer, such as squeaky doors, pet smells, smoke smell, a leaky roof, dirty carpet and walls, and broken windows. Even good landscaping trim up can change the appearance.
The “curb appeal” of your home is extremely important. In fact, it is the first impression that buyers form of your property as they drive or walk up. So, make sure the lawn is pristine – the grass cut, debris removed, garden beds free of weeds, and hedges trimmed.
The trick is not to overspend on pre-sale repairs and fix-ups, especially if there are few homes on the market but many buyers competing for them. On the other hand, making such repairs may be the only way to sell your home in a down market or sell quickly.
What else should I know?
Once your home is available to be shown strive to keep it in tip-top shape. This will require a lot of effort on your part, but you want buyers to feel welcomed and not turned off by unmade beds, cluttered floors, and grungy bathrooms.
Realize, too, that your life will be temporarily inconvenienced. When an agent – yours as well as others – calls wishing to bring a buyer to see the home at the last minute or on the same day, respond favorably. Remember your goal is to get the home sold, and that can only be accomplished if people get to see it. Flexibility is the key to a quick sale.
Plan not to be present when buyers pass through. It is awkward and unsettling for them to have the owners present. If you cannot leave, sit in the backyard or walk around the block. But do not attempt to have conversations with the buyer. Speak only when spoken to; be brief and polite. Let your REALTOR® represent you. That’s their job.
Finally, pay special attention to pets, particularly dogs. They can be intimidating. Put them on a leash and in the backyard. Better yet, when possible, take them with you. And be keen to cat/dog odors. They can turn buyers away. Some buyers may have allergic reactions to your pets.
Should I sell my home first or wait until I have bought another home?
This is a tough decision, but the answer will depend on your personal situation, as well as the condition of the local housing market.
If you put your home on the market first, you may have to scramble to find another one before settlement, which could cause you to buy a home that does not meet all your requirements. If you cannot find another home, you may need to move twice, temporarily staying with relatives or in a hotel or an extended stay.
On the other hand, if you make an offer to buy first, you may be tempted to sell your existing home quickly, even at a lower price. Some mortgages can be done where you can accommodate doing both with your new mortgage.
The advantage of buying first is you can shop carefully for the right home and feel comfortable with your decision before putting the existing home on the market. You can always sell with a contingency offer, but in a seller market, the seller may not except it.
On the flip side, the advantage of selling your existing home first is that it maximizes your negotiating position because you are under no pressure to sell quickly. It also eliminates the need to carry two mortgages at once.
Talk with your agent or mortgage agent for advice. Discuss the pros and of each and whether certain contingencies written into the contract can ease some of the pressures.
Are there tips for selling a vacant home?
Yes. Once furniture is removed from the home, you will notice all kinds of imperfections you never paid attention to before – rips in the carpet, holes in the walls, and dinginess. In an empty house, everything stands out. What you see is what potential buyers will also see. So, you may need to paint, tear out and replace old carpet, and replace the kitchen floor or appliances, fixtures.
To get rid of the “empty house” feeling, leave a few pieces of furniture behind – simple things like a lamp, chairs, and a table will do. Or you could hire a professional stager for open houses or showings, depending on what your needs are. Staging is a great Idea for not a lot of cost.
Pay special attention to maintenance. Someone will need to dust and vacuum, yard maintained, leaves will need to be raked, and the grass cut.
In the winter, consider having the heating system shut down and drained to save money. But keep the electricity running because lights will be needed to be on to show the house and keep the heat on to keep pipes from freezing.
Watch out for that musty smell, particularly during the summer months, that settles in from having the windows sealed and locked. And beware of pests such as roaches, mice, squirrels, ants and bats.
How can I get a quick sale, particularly in a slow market?
One of the most important things to consider is price. You may want to reduce the price of your home or, at the very beginning, set it at a low price that will generate more buyer interest. Make sure that you price just
Cash can often be an incentive, both for the buyer as well as the agent. You could offer the buyer a $1,000 to $2,000 decorating rebate upon closing the deal. It is also not uncommon to offer the selling agent a $500 bonus or rebate or the mortgage company offer $500 in closing cost. You may also consider offering a higher co-broker incentive such as 4% to the selling or purchasing broker. All this is dependant on your timetable and selling needs. However, some brokers – who supervise agents and run real estate offices – may prohibit such incentives, as do some REALTOR® boards. Check to find out.
Other common incentives: paying for the property inspection and home warranty policy and getting your home preliminarily approved for FHA and VA loans, thereby making it more attractive to a larger number of buyers. Contact a lender who writes FHA-insured and VA-guaranteed loans.
What are some costs associated with selling my home?
Besides the costs related to making repairs and improving the overall appearance of the home, as the seller you will also need to pay the following:
- A real estate commission, both agencies usually split the commissions.
- Advertising costs, marketing materials, and other fees if you sell the home yourself.
- Attorney, closing, or other professional fees.
- Title insurance.
- Excise tax for the sale.
- Prorated costs for your share of annual expenses, such as property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, homeowner association fees, and fuel tank rentals.
- Any other fees normally paid by sellers in your area, including points, survey, and appraisal fees.
To get a better handle on all costs, ask your mortgage agent or REALTOR®. REALTORs® deal with this information daily and can give you a pretty good estimate of the closing costs you can expect to pay.
What are some costs associated with buying a new home?
Basically, the costs are no different from when you purchased your existing home. They include moving expenses, loan costs, the down payment, a home inspection, survey, title work and policy, and paying for a new homeowner’s insurance policy. Your lender can give you a disclosure of estimated costs when you apply to be pre-approved for a home loan. Remember with the new contracts you as the buyer are responsible for appraisal, termite letter and any inspections.
Do I need an attorney to sell a home?
In the State of Georgia, the attorneys represent the mortgage company. They are equally committed to the Buyer and Seller to explain and disclose what is going on during the closing. Good attorneys will assist you in completing the deal swiftly and with confidence. This also makes sure everything is done legally, which should reduce your risk factor. Title issues and title insurance are a big thing that they help with.
The Wagner Team
Bill Wagner – Keller Williams Atlanta Partners
Call or Text 770-316-5519