1. Know why you are selling - The reason we look closely at why you want to sell is that your motivations play an important role in the process. They affect everything from setting a price to deciding how much time and money you will invest in getting your home ready for selling. For example: What’s more important to you: the money you walk away with, or the length of time your property is on the market? If your goal is a quick sale, that can dictate one kind of approach. If you want to maximize your profit, the sales process will almost certainly take longer.
2. Once you know, keep it to yourself - Your reasons will affect how you negotiate the sale of your home, but they shouldn’t be given as ammunition to the person who wants to buy it. For example, a prospective buyer who knows you must move quickly has you at their mercy in the negotiation process. When asked, simply say that your housing needs have changed. Your reasons are nobody’s business but your own.
3. Do your homework before setting a price - Settling on an offering price is not something that should be taken lightly. Once you have set your price you have told buyers that maximum they will have to pay for your home. The trick for the seller is to get a selling price as close to the offering price as possible. If you start out too high, you may not be taken seriously by prospective buyers and their agents. A price too low can result in selling for much less than you had hoped for.
Setting the price can be a fairly simple process. If you live in a subdivision comprised of similar or even identical floor plans, built in the same time period, then all you have to do is look at the most recent sales in the neighborhood to give you a good ballpark figure.
But many people live in older neighborhoods that have changed quite a bit over the years. Every home in your neighborhood may be a little bit different. The house next door may have added another bedroom, or the one across the street might have been built recently to fill a vacant lot. As a neighborhood evolves over the years, you may find that there are not any homes that are truly comparable to yours.
If you are selling, the most common way to set a value for your home is to look at homes that have sold in your neighborhood within the past 6 months, as well as those now currently on the market.
4. Go home shopping yourself - The best way to get to know your competition is to identify features that are popular and learn what turns buyers off is to check out open houses. Plan on spending a few weekends touring other homes on the market to learn what others are offering and their asking prices. And remember, if you are serious about selling, don’t be more expensive than your neighbor.
5. Know when to get an appraisal - Sometimes you can use a good appraisal to your benefit in marketing your home. If you obtain an appraisal in advance, keep in mind that appraisers are very good fact checkers; however, they are not good at determining how their price will coincide with your motivation.
Think about it like this; You hire an appraiser and they research the comparables for the past 6 months. They find 3 sales that are similar to your home. They provide an estimate of what it will sell for.
What did they do? They simply found three sales that match your house. They did not look at the time it took for the homes to sell, nor did they look at the several other homes that are for sale now and have failed to do so. If an appraiser finds 3 comparables, it is the agent’s job to point you in the direction of the 10 houses in direct competition with you.
How will obtaining an appraisal benefit you? – If you have an appraisal for 400,000 and you would be happy selling it for $375,000… ask your agent to market the appraisal with the property. It will show the buying public that you are already pricing it below market and they will feel compelled to make a stronger offer, thus netting you more money.
It also takes the guesswork out of the picture for the bank. If you can provide an appraisal that already justifies you price, the closing should happen with ease and take the worry of “the appraisal getting cut” out of the picture.
6. Your tax assessment means almost nothing - Some people look to tax assessments to assign value. The problem here is that tax assessments are based on a number of criteria unrelated to property values, so they often don’t necessarily reflect the true value of your home. Have you heard of two identical homes in the same neighborhood with dramatically different assessed values because one was purchased more recently than the other? Well, it happens quite often.
7. Find a good Realtor - nearly two thirds of the people that sell their home say they would not do it themselves again, according to research by the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The sellers surveyed pointed to these obstacles:
- Difficulty setting a price
- Marketing handicaps
- Not being able to accommodate buyers in a timely fashion
- Not familiar with the process between having a contract and closing
- Many of these FSBO sellers feel like they were taken advantage of by “savvy buyers” and actually ended up negotiating on average 10% off of the selling price.
If you decide to work with a realtor, keep in mind the following… what are they willing to do for you and your circumstance? Look closely at their track record. Ask for a list of the properties they have sold in the past. Ask for some letters of recommendation from past clients. And keep in mind, the best agent is typically the one that provides the lowest recommended asking price for your property. Of course, you want to make sure that they can back it up with data about the neighborhood. Typically realtors with the highest price may just end up trying to “buy the right” to put their sign in your yard.
8. Give yourself room to negotiate - but not too much – Make sure you leave some room to bargain. If the price they ask for from you is unacceptable, then their better be a place to go that is acceptable to you or you are back to square one of showing your home every weekend.
Start with the absolute minimum price you would accept, then pick the price you really want. Check with your realtor to make sure that the price is not too high (because you never will get an offer nor the chance to negotiate).
9. Maximize your home’s sales potential - Each year North America spends billions of dollars on product and packaging design. The lesson here is that appearance is critical – and it would be foolish to ignore this when selling your home.
You may not be able to change your home’s location or floorplan, but you can do a lot to improve it’s appearance. And you should. The look and feel of your home generates a greater emotional response than any other factor. You may price your home to sell, but a buyer reacts to what they hear, see, feel and smell.
10. Rely on other people’s judgment, as well as your own - The key to effective marketing is knowing your products good points and bad points. In the case of your home – accentuating the good can mean a faster sale for more money; and failing to deal with the bad can mean months on the market and a lower than desired selling price.
The biggest mistake you can make is to rely solely on your own judgment. Remember this is your home, a place of fond memories. There are bound to be emotional issues that can impair your ability to make an honest assessment of your home’s strengths and weaknesses.
In evaluating the improvements you can make, don’t be shy about asking others for their opinion. But make sure you are getting an honest answer; some may try to spare your feelings, which is just what you do not need. When you meet with a realtor, make sure they are not shy in discussing what should be done to make a home more marketable.
11. Clean like you have never cleaned before - Pick up, straighten, unclutter, scrub, scour, dust…well, you get the idea. If your living room feels crowded, take out every piece of furniture you can get away with. If your home still is not ready to appear in House Beautiful, scrub some more. Remember, you are not just competing against other people’s homes, you are competing against brand new homes as well.
12. Fix everything, no matter how insignificant - The step that squeaks, the light switch that does not work, the hairline crack in the bathroom mirror – they might be annoyances to you, but they can also make people walk out of your home as fast as they walked into it. The problem is that you will never know what will turn a buyer off. Even something minor that has gone unattended can suggest that perhaps there are bigger, less visible problems as well.
13. Remove the traces of you from the home – When you toured other people’s homes, you may have felt some discomfort. This probably occurred because you sensed that you had intruded into someone’s life.
The last thing you want others to feel in your home is discomfort. Avoid this by making everything as neutral as possible. Anything that interferes with a buyers ability to see themselves living in your home must be eliminated. A few carefully chosen knickknacks and family portraits may add warmth and character to the home, too many are a distraction.
14. The little touches can make a difference - While personal items can detract, other small touches can help your house a home to buyers. A well placed vase of flowers, accent pieces of sculpture, potpourri in the bathroom – all will enhance the attractiveness of your home in a subtle-soft spoken way.
15. Don’t let the smell be the downfall - Odd smells turn people away. All traces of food, pet and smoking odors must be eliminated before the first showing. Even when you are sure they are gone, do not encourage prospective buyers to imagine things. Ask a friend or neighbor to come in and give their opinion. Ask your agent if he has a good sniffer. If necessary, repaint your home or even get new carpet. Remember, you are trying to sell your home. Taking the right steps now can mean the difference between having the property on the market for 30 days and 9 months.
16. Disclose, Disclose, Disclose - In recent years a seller disclosure form is a requirement to sell your home. Even if you are selling it yourself. In today’s litigious society, go overboard in disclosing. Even if the item has been repaired and is giving you no problems, let the buyer know about it. You don’t want an old stain from a roof leak in the attic spoil the closing.
17. The more prospects the better - by maximizing your home’s marketability, you will increase your chances of attracting more than one buyer. Because several buyers compete with one another, a single buyer ends up competing with you. If you are interviewing agents, ask them how they typically handle multiple offer situations.
18. Don’t get emotional during negotiations - When selling it, think of it as simply sticks and bricks. It is a “House”, not a “Home”. – The extent of most people’s experience in the art of negotiation begins and ends at their local auto dealership. And very few of us have pleasant memories of buying our most recent car. But, if you can let go of the emotion you have invested in your home and approach negotiations in a detached, businesslike manner, you will find the process of to be a lot less painful. In fact, you may even enjoy it. You will certainly have an advantage over buyers who get caught up in the emotion of the situation.
19. Know your buyer - In the negotiation process, your objective is to control the pace and set the duration. The better you know the buyer, the better you can maintain control.
As a rule, buyers want the best property they can afford for the least amount of money. But knowing what motivates them specifically motivates your buyer enables you to negotiate more effectively. Maybe your buyer needs to move quickly. Or the maximum he can spend is just a little below your asking price. Know all of this will help you define your approach and puts you in a better marketing bargaining position.
Keep your competition in mind. If there are several other homes identical to yours, sometimes the best move you can make is to simply accept their offer and not take a chance on them leaving and going elsewhere.
20. Find out what the buyer can pay - As soon as possible, try to find out the mortgage the buyer is qualified to carry and the size of his down payment. If he makes a low offer, question his realtor about his ability to purchase what the home is really worth.
Take another step and ask for a loan approval letter. Sometimes a buyer will obtain a letter with the maximum he can afford. The Prudent realtor will simply have their buyer’s lender state on a letter that they are qualified to purchase the home at your specific street address. Sometimes this slips through the cracks and you get the whole picture by them providing a letter the buyer got weeks in advance.
21. Find out when the buyer would like to close - When a buyer would like to close is many times when a buyer needs to close. Ask questions like” when does their lease end? When will his home be closing? Make their response a problem for you, one which you can quickly solve by getting the right price for your home.
22. Do not sign a deal on your next home, until you close the deal on this one - If circumstances force you to close on another home while still making the mortgage payments on the old one, it may turn you into an eager seller and you may end up selling for much less.
23. Don’t move out before you sell - Studies have shown it is more difficult to sell a home that is vacant. It looks forlorn forgotten, simply not appealing.
When you walk into a vacant house, every bump, every scuff, every single imperfection is magnified.
If you move, you are probably telling buyers that you have a new home, are making two mortgage payments and are probably motivated to sell.
24. Don’t give yourself a deadline - Forcing yourself to sell by a certain time only leads in disaster and will put you at a serious disadvantage. Many times this is unavoidable. Most buyers tend to find the next home, before selling the one they are in. This is essentially putting the cart before the horse. It minimizes negotiation and your ability to purchase the next home while subconsciously (until it is too late) makes you willing to accept less for your home. Essentially you are losing on both ends.
25. Don’t take a low offer personally - The first offer is inevitably well below what the buyer will be willing to pay for your property. Don’t get angry or insulted ;evaluate the offer objectively . Make sure it spells out the offering price, adequate earnest money, the amount of the down payment, the mortgage amount, a closing date and any special requests. Now you are in a position to negotiate.
26. A low offer may mean the buyer is not qualified - If you feel an offer is inadequate, now would be a good time to make sure the buyer has been qualified to carry a mortgage of the size this deal would require. Ask how they arrived at that figure, then suggest their agent use comparables to establish what homes are going for in the neighborhood. Now would be a great time to break out the appraisal that you have in your file for more money.
27. Don’t take a lowball offer seriously - An unacceptably low offer should not be taken personally or seriously. Rather it should be countered, even with the slightest of reductions in your asking price. This lets the buyer know their first offer is not seen as a very serious one.
28. Make sure the contract is complete - The best way to avoid problems is to make sure all of the terms, costs and responsibilities are spelled out in the contract of sale. A contract should include:
- The date the agreement was made
- The names of the parties involved
- The address of the property being sold
- The purchase price
- Where deposit monies will be held
- The date for loan approval
- The date and place of closing
- The type of deed
- Any contingencies that remain to be settled
- Whether any personal property should be included
29. Don’t deviate from the contract - Resist the temptation to diverge from the contract. For example, if the buyer requests a move in prior to closing, just say no. Now is not the time of taking the chances of the deal falling through. Even if there is a slight delay, if the buyer is in the house they are much less motivated to react in a timely manner because they already will have the house (which was their goal in the first place).