Discover how to protect and capitalize on your most important investment
Because your home may well be your largest asset, selling it is probably one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. To better understand the home selling process, a guide has been prepared from current industry insider reports. Through these 27 tips you will discover how to protect and capitalize on your most important investment, reduce stress, be in control of your situation, and make the most profit possible.
Your main goal when selling your home is to sell it quickly at the highest price while investing as little as possible in renovations. With a limited budget and a little effort, you can greatly increase your home’s appeal by focusing on what prospective buyers can see on the first visit.
“If they don’t like what they see outside, they’ll never walk inside”. Curb appeal can often mean the difference between a house sitting for months or selling in a few weeks.
The view from the street can net you more traffic than you might think. Seventy-four percent of all home buyers use the Internet to shop for a new home, according to figures from the National Association of Realtors.
1. Understand Why You Are Selling Your Home
Your motivation to sell is the determining factor as to how you will approach the process. It affects everything from what you set your asking price at to how much time, money and effort you’re willing to invest in order to prepare your home for sale. For example, if your goal is for a quick sale, this would determine one approach. If you want to maximize your profit, the sales process might take longer thus determining a different approach.
2. Keep the Reason(s) You are Selling to Yourself
The reason(s) you are selling your home will affect the way you negotiate its sale. By keeping this to yourself you don’t provide ammunition to your prospective buyers. For example, should they learn that you must move quickly, you could be placed at a disadvantage in the negotiation process. When asked, simply say that your housing needs have changed. Remember, the reason( s) you are selling is only for you to know.
3. Before Setting a Price – Do Your Homework
When you set your price, you make buyers aware of the absolute maximum they have to pay for your home. As a seller, you will want to get a selling price as close to the list price as possible. If you start out by pricing too high you run the risk of not being taken seriously by buyers and their agents. If you are pricing too low it can result in selling for much less than you were hoping for.
Setting Your Home’s Sale Price
If You Live in a Subdivision – If your home is comprised of similar or identical floor plans, built-in the same period, simply look at recent sales in your neighbourhood subdivision to give you a good idea of what your home is worth.
If You Live in An Older Neighbourhood – As neighbourhoods change over time each home may be different in minor or substantial ways and you will probably find that there aren’t many homes truly comparable to your own. In this case you may want to consider seeking a Realtor ® to help you with the pricing process.
If You Decide to Sell On Your Own – A good way to establish a value is to look at homes that have sold in your neighbourhood within the past 6 months, including those now on the market. This is how prospective buyers will assess the worth of your home. Also a trip to City Hall can provide you with home sale information in its public records, for most communities.
4. Do Some “Home Shopping” Yourself
The best way to learn about your competition and discover what turns buyers off is to check out other open houses. Note floor plans, condition, appearance, size of lot, location and other features. Particularly note, not only the asking prices but what they are actually selling for. Remember, if you’re serious about getting your home sold fast, don’t price it higher than your neighbour’s.
5. When Getting an Appraisal is a Benefit
Sometimes a good appraisal can be a benefit in marketing your home. Getting an appraisal is a good way to let prospective buyers know that your home can be financed. However, an appraisal does cost money, has a limited life, and there’s no guarantee you’ll like the figure you hear.
6. Tax Assessments – What They Really Mean
Some people think that tax assessments are a way of evaluating a home. The difficulty here is that assessments are based on a number of criteria that may not be related to property values, so they may not necessarily reflect your home’s true value.
7. Deciding Upon a Realtor®
According to the National Association of Realtors, nearly two-thirds of the people surveyed who sell their own homes say they wouldn’t do it again themselves. Primary reasons included setting a price, marketing handicaps, liability concerns, and time constraints. When deciding upon a Realtor®, consider two or three. Be as wary of quotes that are too low as those that are too high.
All Realtors® are not the same! A professional Realtor® knows the market and has information on past sales, current listings, a marketing plan, and will provide their background and references. Evaluate each candidate carefully on the basis of their experience, qualifications, enthusiasm and personality. Be sure you choose someone that you trust and feel confident that they will do a good job on your behalf.
If you choose to sell on your own, you can still talk to a Realtor®. Many are more than willing to help do-it-yourselfer with paperwork, contracts, etc. and should problems arise, you now have someone you can readily call upon.
8. Ensure You Have Room to Negotiate
Before settling on your asking price make sure you leave yourself enough room in which to bargain. For example, set your lowest and highest selling price. Then check your priorities to know if you’ll price high to maximize your profit or price closer to market value if you want to sell quickly.
9. Appearances Do Matter – Make them Count!
Appearance is so critical that it would be unwise to ignore this when selling your home. The look and “feel” of your home will generate a greater emotional response than any other factor. Prospective buyers react to what they see, hear, feel, and smell even though you may have priced your home to sell.
10. Invite the Honest Opinions of Others
The biggest mistake you can make at this point is to rely solely on your own judgment. Don’t be shy about seeking the honest opinions of others. You need to be objective about your home’s good points as well as bad. Fortunately, your Realtor® will be unabashed about discussing what should be done to make your home more marketable.
11. Get it Spic n’ Span Clean and Fix Everything, Even If It Seems Insignificant
Scrub, scour, tidy up, straighten, get rid of the clutter, declare war on dust, repair squeaks, the light switch that doesn’t work, and the tiny crack in the bathroom mirror because these can be deal-killers and you’ll never know what turns buyers off. Remember, you’re not just competing with other resale homes, but brand-new ones as well.
a. Refresh the exterior
First impressions count when it comes to selling a home. A majority of buyers will not even get out of their car if they do not find the exterior appealing. The best way to improve your exterior includes:
- Repairing and/or replacing trims, shutters, gutters, shingles, mailboxes, window screens, walkways, and driveway.
- Painting siding, trim and shutters, lamp and mail box posts.
- Pressure washing vinyl siding, walkways, and driveway.
- Washing windows.
b. Tidy lawn and landscape
Home buyers associate the condition of your lawn and landscape with the condition of your home interior. The best way to enhance the yard includes:
- Mowing and edging your lawn.
- Seeding, fertilizing, and weeding lawn.
- Trimming and/or removing overgrown trees, shrubs, and hedges.
- Weeding and mulching plant beds.
- Planting colourful seasonal flowers in existing plant beds.
- Removing trash especially along fences and underneath hedges.
- Sweeping and weeding the street curb along your property.
c. Create an Inviting entrance
The front door to your home should invite buyers to enter. The best way to improve this includes:
- Painting the front door in a glossy, cheerful color that compliments the exterior color.
- Cleaning and/or replacing the door knocker, locks, and handles.
- Repairing and/or replacing the screen door, door bell, porch light and house numbers.
- Placing a new welcome mat and a group of seasonal potted plants and flowers.
d. Reduce clutter and furniture
A buyer cannot envision living in your home if they cannot see your house. A home filled with clutter or even too much furniture distracts buyers from seeing how they can utilize the space your home offers. If you have limited storage space, you may want to consider renting a temporary storage unit to place items you wish to keep. The best way to improve your home includes:
- Removing clutter such as books, magazines, toys, tools, supplies, unused items from counter tops, open shelves, storage closets, garage and basements.
- Storing out of season clothing and shoes to make bedroom closets seem roomier.
- Remove any visible damaged furniture.
e. Clean, clean, clean
The cleanliness of your home also influences a buyer’s perception of it’s condition. The appearance of the kitchen and bathrooms will play a considerable role in a buyer’s decision process, so pay particular attention to these areas. The best way to improve this includes:
- Cleaning windows, fixtures, hardware, ceiling fans, vent covers and appliances.
- Cleaning carpets, area rugs, and draperies.
- Cleaning inside refrigerator, stove and cabinets.
- Removing stains from carpets, floors, counters, sinks, baths, tile and grout.
- Eliminating house odours, especially if you have pets.
f. Make minor repairs
The small stuff does count, especially with first time home buyers. Without dismissing the importance of repairing major items such as a leaking roof or plumbing, you do not need to spend money on replacing these items. Instead, focus on the minor repairs that make your home visually appealing. The best way to improve your home includes:
- Repairing ceilings and wall cracks.
- Repairing faucets, banisters, handrails, cabinets, drawers, doors, floors and tile.
- Caulking and grouting tubs, showers, sinks and tile.
- Painting ceilings, walls, trim, doors and cabinets.
- Tightening door handles, drawer pulls, light switches and electrical plates.
- Lubricating door hinges and locks.
g. Showcase the kitchen
The heart of any home is the kitchen. If you are going to spend any money on renovations, this is the one area where you will see the greatest return. Even with a modest budget, focusing on a few key areas can make a great difference in getting the asking price for your property. The best way to showcase the kitchen includes:
- Replacing cabinet doors and hardware.
- Installing under cabinet lighting.
- Replacing light fixtures.
- Replacing outdated shelving with pantry and cabinet organizers to maximize space.
h. Stage furniture
Furniture placement can enhance the space of your home while giving buyers an idea of how to best utilize the space with their own belongings. Take some time out to rethink how different areas in your house could be used. Some ideas to think about includes:
- Moving couches and chairs away from walls in your sitting and family rooms to create “cozy conversational groups.”
- Creating a reading corner in the master bedroom.
- Clearing an empty room to setup a reading space.
- Turning an awkward space into a home office.
i. Light up the house
Create a sense of openness and cheerfulness in your home through lighting. To improve the lighting try:
- Opening shades and drapes to let the sun shine warm and brighten rooms.
- Installing brighter light bulbs in rooms that tend to be dark.
- Adding additional lamps for ambient lighting.
j. Freshen up the garage or workshop
- Items should be neatly stored in shelving or wall units.
- Allow appropriate space for the homebuyer to visualize their vehicle or workbench.
- Consider moving excess or over-sized items to mini-storage.
k. Add natural touches
You can easily add color and style to your home by placing fresh flowers and fruit bowls throughout it. Some ideas to consider includes:
- Placing fragrant arrangements in the entry and master bedroom.
- Placing bowls of bright coloured fruit in family room and kitchen.
- Filling an empty corner with a potted leafy plant.
- If you have room, go for the traditional two large planters, one on either side of the door or walkway. Fill them to overflowing with flowers if it’s spring or summer or evergreens in the cooler months. This will create a focal point, forcing home buyers to focus on one area rather than the whole home at once.
Remove objects that your potential buyers won’t be able to identify with. For example, political and religious items may turn off whole groups of buyers, because they cannot “imagine” your home as their home. Buying a home is an emotional decision, and you want potential buyers to make an emotional connection with your home by being able to “see” themselves in it.
m. keep your pets under control
Always keep your pets under control. Try confining them to a specific area. Although you may love your pets, they can be off-putting to other people, and smells can be offensive, so make sure there are no lingering odours in furniture or flooring, and if there is, get them cleaned before you sell.
n. Fit into the community.
If there are tons of kids in the neighbourhood, it’s OK to have a bike in the yard. Not so if your neighbourhood is mostly retirees. Keep your audience in mind as you show your house.
o. Don’t forget the rear view
Buyers doing a drive by will try their best to see your back yard. If it’s visible from another street or from someone’s driveway, include it in your curb appeal efforts.
p. Evening curb appeal
Do your curb appeal exercise again at dusk, because it isn’t unusual for potential buyers to drive by houses in the evening. One quick way to improve evening curb appeal is with lighting:
- String low voltage lighting along your driveway, sidewalks, and near important landscaping elements.
- Add a decorative street lamp or an attractive light fixture to a front porch.
- Make sure lighting that’s visible through front doors and windows enhances the home’s appearance.
Cosmetic changes do not have to be expensive. In fact, costly home improvements do not necessarily offer a good return on your investment when you sell. It’s attention to the basic, anything that says “this home has been carefully maintained”, that will help you get the price you want.
12. Allow Prospective Buyers to Visualize Themselves in Your Home
The last thing you want prospective buyers to feel when viewing your home is that they may be intruding into someone’s life. Avoid clutter such as too many knick-knacks, etc. Decorate in neutral colors, like white or beige and place a few carefully chosen items to add warmth and character. You can enhance the attractiveness of your home with a well-placed vase of flowers or potpourri in the bathroom. Home-decor magazines are great for tips.
13. Deal Killer Odours – Must Go!
You may not realize but odd smells like traces of food, pets and smoking odours can kill deals quickly. If prospective buyers know you have a dog, or that you smoke, they’ll start being aware of odours and seeing stains that may not even exist. Don’t leave any clues.
14. Be a Smart Seller – Disclose Everything
Smart sellers are proactive in disclosing all known defects to their buyers in writing. This can reduce liability and prevent lawsuits later on.
15. It’s Better With More Prospects
When you maximize your home’s marketability, you will most likely attract more than one prospective buyer. It is much better to have several buyers because they will compete with each other; a single buyer will end up competing with you.
16. Keep Emotions in Check During Negotiations
Let go of the emotion you’ve invested in your home. Be detached, using a business-like manner in your negotiations. You’ll definitely have an advantage over those who get caught up emotionally in the situation.
17. Learn Why Your Buyer is Motivated
The better you know your buyers the better you can use the negotiation process to your advantage. This allows you to control the pace and duration of the process.
As a rule, buyers are looking to purchase the best affordable property for the least amount of money. Knowing what motivates them enables you to negotiate more effectively. For example, does your buyer need to move quickly. Armed with this information you are in a better position to bargain.
18. What the Buyer Can Really Pay
As soon as possible, try to learn the amount of mortgage the buyer is qualified to carry and how much his/her down payment is. If their offer is low, ask their Realtor® about the buyer’s ability to pay what your home is worth.
19. When the Buyer Would Like to Close
Quite often, when buyers would “like” to close is when they need to close. Knowledge of their deadlines for completing negotiations again creates a negotiating advantage for you.
20. Never Sign a Deal on Your Next Home Until You Sell Your Current Home
Beware of closing on your new home while you’re still making mortgage payments on the old one or you might end up becoming a seller who is eager (even desperate) for the first deal that comes along.
21. Moving Out Before You Sell Can Put You at a Disadvantage
It has been proven that it’s more difficult to sell a home that is vacant because it becomes forlorn looking, forgotten, no longer an appealing sight. Buyers start getting the message that you have another home and are probably motivated to sell. This could cost you thousands of dollars.
22. Deadlines Create A Serious Disadvantage
Don’t try to sell by a certain date. This adds unnecessary pressure and is a serious disadvantage in negotiations.
23. A Low Offer – Don’t Take It Personally
Invariably the initial offer is below what both you and the buyer know he’ll pay for your property. Don’t be upset, evaluate the offer objectively. Ensure it spells out the offering price, sufficient deposit, amount of down payment, mortgage amount, a closing date and any special requests. This can simply provide a starting point from which you can negotiate.
24. Turn That Low Offer Around
You can counter a low offer or even an offer that’s just under your asking price. This lets the buyer know that the first offer isn’t seen as being a serious one. Now you’ll be negotiating only with buyers with serious offers.
25. Maybe the Buyer’s Not Qualified
If you feel an offer is inadequate, now is the time to make sure the buyer is qualified to carry the size of mortgage the deal requires. Inquire how they arrived at their figure, and suggest they compare your price to the prices of homes for sale in your neighbourhood.
26. Ensure the Contract is Complete
To avoid problems, ensure that all terms, costs and responsibilities are spelled out in the contract of sale. It should include such items as the date it was made, names of parties involved, address of property being sold, purchase price, where deposit monies will be held, date for loan approval, date and place of closing, type of deed, including any contingencies that remain to be settled and what personal property is included (or not) in the sale.
27. Resist Deviating From the Contract
For example, if the buyer requests a move-in prior to closing, just say no and that you’ve been advised against it. Now is not the time to take any chances of the deal falling through.
~ The Maven Lane Gang~