Real Estate Matters | Home seller resolutions for 2015
Here’s the good news: Homes are selling. We see “for sale” signs get posted and then watch as a corresponding “sold” sign gets hammered on a few weeks later. If you’re a seller, now is a good time to put your home on the market, as long as you’re realistic about your price.
Pricing a home correctly means understanding what kind of seller you are. We typically see three kinds: the desperate and anxious who must sell as soon as possible; the “pie-in-the-sky” homeowner with an inflated view of their home’s value; and the realist who understands what the market will bear and is willing to price their home accordingly.
Which seller are you? Before you list your home in 2015, figure that out. Then consider adopting my classic New Year’s resolutions for home sellers:
- Overcome any possible objections a buyer might have.
Buyers are always looking for a reason not to buy your house. Your job as a seller is to eliminate any potential objections that would stand in the way of an offer. If you really want to sell quickly, work hard to exceed the buyer’s expectations. If your home is competitively priced, and its condition exceeds a buyer’s expectations based on other homes in the neighborhood, you’ll get an offer — even if it isn’t the offer you want.
- Get your home into selling shape.
Cleaning your home is a must. After that, you should consider hiring a stager to give your home the television-worthy polish so many buyers expect today. (Yes, they want your home to look like something they’d see on HGTV.) Assess what other sort of work needs to be done, such as fixing things that don’t work, touching up paint, and cleaning or replacing your carpets. Decide if you need to update your landscaping. Paint, clean or repoint your home’s exterior. And if you’re selling in January, clear out the holiday decorations as quickly as possible.
- Invite at least three agents to create a comparative marketing analysis (CMA).
Often, sellers simply call the agent who sold them their home to list it. While you may wind up hiring that person, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you invite a couple of other agents in from different firms. That’s because each will bring different ideas to the table about how much your house is worth and what kind of marketing plan will work. They’ll all have different experiences to draw on and have different buyers in mind who may want to make a quick offer.
- Understand what it will take to sell your home.
If you live in an area littered with foreclosures, you may have to meet that price point in order to sell. Is it worth it? Probably not, but you’ll have to really evaluate price and timing in order to get the most for your property. If homes have begun to appreciate, you might be pleasantly surprised. Again, a CMA will be incredibly helpful.
- Be realistic about the market.
Find out what types of properties are selling in your area and how many days they’re sitting on the market. Accept the reality of your local market and make sure you price your home realistically. Don’t blame your broker if you don’t get three offers over your list price within 24 hours of putting your home on the market. Sellers who set sky-high (or even pretty high) prices could wait months or years for an offer (one of my neighbors has been trying to sell his overpriced home for four years) and may wind up with the same price they would have had if they’d priced their home correctly the first time — or a lot less. In this real estate market, one of the worst things you can do is overprice your home from the start. The more realistic you are, the better off you’ll be.
- Rent if you can’t sell and buy at the same time.
We don’t recommend putting in an offer on another property until you have some serious interest in your current property or unless you have enough cash to cover the expenses of both properties for six to 12 months. It’s fine to start researching other neighborhoods, but if you’re not sure what you want to do, consider renting on a short-term or month-to-month lease. While a double move is a pain and entails added costs, it’s a lot cheaper than carrying two mortgages for two years.
- Read all documents thoroughly before you sign them.
Why would someone sign a legal document he or she hasn’t read? I’m not sure, but home sellers do it every day. If you’re going to sell (or buy) in the coming year, promise yourself that you’ll take the time to read and understand the listing contract, offer to purchase, and loan documents for your next purchase. (If you’re taking back a loan for the home buyer, have an attorney prepare the documents so you are sure to be protected.) Unless you’ve got cash to spare, a mistake in these documents and the warranties they contain could seriously affect your finances.
- Do not be driven by greed.
One big mistake many sellers make is to get a little greedy, particularly if the first offer is above the minimum acceptable price you’ve set. Then the negotiation becomes a game of how much you can get.
Remember, a successful sale means everyone walks away feeling happy. If you get so greedy that the buyer walks away, you’ve let the deal get the best of you. Resolve to be reasonable and you’ll end up shaking hands with the buyer at the closing. You should also know that there aren’t unlimited buyers out there, and if you lose one it might take you quite some time to find another.
Courtesy of Ilyce R. Glink’s latest book is “Buy, Close, Move In!”