Are you looking into buying your first property? Are you
thinking about moving to a different area or bigger house?
In today's market being pre-approved for a home loan before
you make an offer will give you and the seller peace
of mind all throughout the buying process.
Are you thinking about selling your property? Are you
unsure about the correct market price? Are you aware the
first 60 days your home is on the market is the key time
to sell and pricing your home correctly is the most
important step in putting your home on the market for
In preparing your house to sell, ask yourself
over and over if your house looks like someone else's dream house. Houses in
move-in condition tend to be inviting to buyers; houses that are like new
typically sell the fastest and procure the best price.
With that in mind, here are a few things to consider when getting ready to
Remember the 60-second rule: that's all the time you have to create a good
first impression! Mow the lawn, rake leaves, trim trees and shrubs that keep
light out of the house and remove dead plants. Pick up tools, garbage cans,
hoses, toys, and building materials and store them neatly in a storage area.
Replace broken or missing roof shingles and straighten and clean the gutters
and downspouts. Clean all windows and mend torn screens. Painting your house
helps improve curb appeal more than any other fix-up! If you decide against
painting the entire house, consider painting the front door, window frames and
shutters. Seal or resurface the driveway and repair broken steps and walkways.
Paint or replace your mailbox and post. Dress up the front yard with some
Clean, Clean, Clean
Step back for a moment and look at your home as if you were seeing it for the
first time. Every room should be spotlessly clean, dusted and uncluttered.
Steam clean the carpets and wax the floors. Wash the walls, windows and light
fixtures. Tighten loose stair railings and clean all woodwork. In the event
that you feel a project of this magnitude is better left to a professional,
ask your real estate agent to recommend a cleaning service.
Use bright light bulbs in the foyer and throughout the house. Fill the house
with a pleasant aroma, such as berries in the summer or cinnamon in the
Replace the carpet if it's worn. It costs money, but you may find that you
will more than recoup that cost when the home sells. Patch cracks and nail
holes in the walls, and repaint walls in neutral colors, such as white or
ivory. Nail down creaking boards and stair treads. Lubricate any sticking or
squeaking doors. Open all curtains, and replace them if they are getting old.
Add lamps and lighting if the house is dark. Set out fresh flowers.
Rearrange or remove furniture to make your rooms look more spacious. Too much
furniture and too many knick-knacks make rooms look cluttered and small. One
or two decorative items per surface are plenty, so pack the rest away.
Kitchen and Baths
These rooms should sparkle! Clear off counters, and clean all appliances and
fixtures. Scrub the floors and walls. Re-caulk tubs and showers. Clean these
rooms thoroughly, and be sure they smell fresh.
Take those things to Goodwill that you'll have to discard anyway when you
move. Organize shelves and straighten shoes. Be sure that sliding doors
operate smoothly and knobs on drawers are secure.
Dust and wash the washer, dryer and water heater.
Light and Bright
Do everything you can to brighten the interior. Replace wallpaper with white
or off-white paint, and repaint shabby or dark walls. Open the blinds, and
replace broken windows and window seals. Always maintain a comfortable
temperature inside the house, even if you are away for an extended period of
Write down all the reasons for selling your home. Ask yourself, "Why do I want
to sell and what do I expect to accomplish with the sale?" For example, reasons
for selling include: a growing business that needs more space or a job
opportunity that necessitates a move to another city. Things you want to
accomplish with the sale may include the time frame in which you'd like to sell
or a particular profit margin.
Work with your real estate agent to map out the best path to achieve your
objectives and set a realistic time frame for the sale.
STEP 2 - PRICING STRATEGY
Your next objective should be to determine the best possible selling price for
your house. You will need to take into account the state of the local market,
the condition of your home and sales of comparable homes in your neighborhood.
It is often hard to maintain a non-biased view of your property, so you will
want to gather the necessary information in the most objective way possible. If
you want a truly objective opinion about the price of your home you could have
an appraisal done. This may cost between $300 and $500.
Be reasonable about the price you set. You will always be better off setting a
fair market value price than setting your price too high. If your home stays on
the market too long because it is overpriced, potential buyers may think that
something is wrong with it and you may end up selling it for less than what you
could have gotten if you had started out with a realistic asking price.
STEP 3 - PREPARE YOUR HOME
It's time to get your home in "showing and selling" condition. Most of
us don't keep our homes in the condition they need to be in to be sold.
Piles of boxes in the garage, a broken porch light and even an overgrown
garden just seem normal after awhile. It's time to break out of that
owner's mindset and get your house in tip-top shape. How your home looks
will impact how quickly it sells and the price the buyer is willing to
First impressions are the most important. Work with your real estate
agent to help you take a fresh look at your home. Do the shrubs need
pruning? Do you need to repaint? What's normal for you may be
unacceptable to the buyer.
Make your interior appear more
spacious by removing appliances from countertops, and clearing
knickknacks off coffee tables and shelves.
Organize your closets and kitchen
Make sure items stored in the attic
or basement are tidy.
Open the curtains or blinds during
the day to maximize the natural light.
Turn on the lights at night to
create a welcoming environment for prospective buyers.
A home with too much "personality"
is harder to sell. Consider painting walls white and removing clutter.
This will help the buyer to visualize the home as theirs.
STEP 4 - MARKETING STRATEGY
Now that your home is ready, it's time to put it up for sale and market it.
Establishing a marketing strategy with your real estate agent is a must. Your
agent will expose your home to the greatest number of potential buyers possible.
He or she will use a marketing plan that will bring not only the most buyers,
but also the most qualified buyers to your doorstep.
There are many different ways to get the word out that your home is for sale. A
yard sign, flyers, and direct marketing are just a few of the many options
available. If you are in a buyer's market you will have to be extra careful when
choosing a plan. You don't want your property to sit unnoticed. You and your
agent should structure your marketing strategy so that the first 3-6 weeks that
your house is on the market will be the busiest.
STEP 5 - RECEIVE AN OFFER
When a buyer decides they like your home, they will make you a written
offer. Your real estate agent will advise you as to whether or not the
prospective buyer is qualified to purchase your home. After all, who
needs to review an offer from a buyer that is unable to buy it?
After determining the buyer's qualifications, you and your agent will
review the written contract, taking care to understand what is required
of both parties to execute the transaction. The contract should protect
the interests of all parties.
After you accept the offer, it may be too late to make any changes. The
contract, though not limited to this list, should include the following:
Legal description of the property
List of fees and who will pay them
Inspection rights and possible
Method of conveying the title and
who will handle the closing
Appliances and furnishings that will
stay with the home
Remember that the legalities of this
phase are very important. If you have any questions or concerns, be
certain to address them with your real estate agent right away.
STEP 6 - NEGOTIATE TO SELL
Most offers to purchase your home will require some negotiating to come
to a win-win agreement. You real estate agent is well versed on the
intricacies of the contracts used in your area and will protect your
best interest throughout the bargaining. Your agent also knows what each
contract clause means, what you will net from the sale and what areas
are easiest to negotiate. Your agent will review the written offer with
you to make sure you thoroughly understand what the buyers are offering
and what they are asking you for in return.
Some negotiable items:
Appliances and fixtures
Occupancy time frame
Once both parties have agreed on the
terms of the sale, your agent will prepare a contract.
Remember…bargaining is not a winner-take-all deal. It is a business
process that involves compromise and mutual respect.
STEP 7 - SELLING SERVICE PROVIDERS
Once you accept an offer to sell your house you will need to make a list of all
the things you and your buyer must do before closing. The property may need to
be formally appraised, surveyed, inspected or repaired. Depending on the
specifics reached during the negotiations, you may pay for all, some or none of
these items. If each procedure returns acceptable results as defined by the
contract, then the sale may continue. If there are problems with the home, the
terms set forth in the contract will dictate your next step. Depending on the
contract, you or the buyer may decide to walk away, open a new round of
negotiations or close.
STEP 8 - PRE-CLOSE PREPARATION
A few days before the closing you will want to contact the entity that is
closing the transaction and make sure the necessary documents are going to be
ready to sign on the appropriate date. It would be a shame to get this close to
selling and have the deal fall through because of a missing form. Begin to make
arrangements for your upcoming move if you have not done so. Check out our
Relocation Center to get started.
STEP 9 - CLOSING
"Closing" refers to the meeting where ownership of the property is legally
transferred to the buyer. Your agent will be present during the closing to help
explain the process and forms to you and make sure everything goes as planned.
By being present during the closing, he or she can mediate any last minute
issues that may arise. In some states, an attorney is required and you may wish
to have one present.
As the seller, you will need to be prepared to hand over any necessary
documentation regarding the property and, depending on the arrangements made
during negotiations, you may be required to have done something specific in
order to close.
Be sure to read all the documents and ask questions. It is important you
understand every document you are signing.
STEP 10 - POST CLOSE
Congratulations on the successful sale of your home!
Now that you have closed, prepare to vacate your home in the time frame agreed
upon. You should make a list of all the items you will need to do to turn the
property over to the new owners. For example, make sure to cancel electricity,
gas, lawn care, cable, etc., or if the new owner is going to retain some of the
services, change the name on the account. The home and all items specified by
the contract should be prepared appropriately for the new owners.
Selling a house can be a bit like having a
baby -- everyone gives you advice that may or may not be true for you. Here
are ten myths uncovered:
1. Myth: You should always price your home high and gradually lower it if
it doesn't sell. Truth: Pricing too high can be as bad as pricing too low.
You may think by listing high you can always accept a lower offer, but if you
do, you'll miss the buyers looking in the price range where your home should
be. Offers may not even come in, because interested buyers are scared off by
the price and won't bother to look. By the time the listing price is
corrected, you will have lost a large group of potential buyers. Your real
estate agent will offer you a comparable market analysis. This is a document
that compares your home to other similar homes in your area, with the goal of
helping you to accurately assess your home's true market value.
2. Myth: Minor repairs can wait until later. There are more important
things to be done. Truth: Minor repairs make your house more marketable, allowing you to
maximize your return (or minimize loss) on the sale.
By and large, buyers are looking for an inviting home in move-in condition.
Buyers who are willing to tackle the repairs after moving in automatically
subtract the cost of needed fix-ups from the price they offer. You save
nothing by putting off these items, and you may likely slow the sale of your
3. Myth: Once potential buyers see the inside of your home, curb appeal
won't matter. Truth: Buyers probably won't make it to the inside of the home if the
outside of your home does not appeal to them.
Many buyers drive by a home before deciding whether or not to look inside.
Your home's exterior will have less than a minute to make a good first
impression. Spruce up the lawn, trim shrubs and trees, and weed the garden.
Clear the walkways and driveways of leaves and other debris. Repair gutters
and eaves, touch up the exterior paint and repair or resurface cracked
driveways and sidewalks. Place potted flowers out front, hang a wreath on the
door and put out a pleasing welcome mat for added curb appeal.
4. Myth: Once potential buyers fall in love with the exterior look of your
home, you put interior improvements on the back burner. Truth: Buyers have no qualms about walking right out the front door within
60 seconds if the house doesn't look like it could be theirs.
Remember that most buyers are looking for an inviting home in move-in
condition. Spending a few thousand dollars for the right work on your home
before you sell it, usually translates into a higher selling price and shorter
marketing time. Your real estate agent will consult with you about the repairs
and replacements that will benefit you most.
5. Myth: Your home must be every homebuyer's dream home. Truth: If you get carried away with repairs and replacements to your home,
you may end up over-improving the house.
At some point, improvements that you make to your home can exceed what is
customary for comparable homes in your area. For instance, there may not be
another swimming pool in your entire subdivision. After spending $20,000 to
install an in-ground swimming pool that you hope will lure buyers, you may
find that it only raises the market value of your home by $10,000 because
there are no other comparable properties to support the market value of the
pool. As a rule of thumb, if your improvements push your home's value higher
than 20% above average neighboring home values, don't expect to recoup the
entire amount of improvements. Your real estate agent can advise you as to the
scope of projects you might consider in preparing your house for sale.
6. Myth: Buyers are never swayed by sellers that offer creative financing
options. Truth: By offering flexibility in financing options, you may lure more
You might consider offering seller financing, paying some of the buyer's
closing costs, including a one-year home warranty, or other buyer incentives.
Your real estate agent, who has professional knowledge of local market
activity, can help you decide what incentives, if any, to offer.
7. Myth: You are better off selling your home on your own, thus saving the
commission you would have paid to a real estate agent. Truth: Statistically, many sellers who attempt to sell their homes on their
own cannot complete the sale without the service of a professional real estate
Sellers who sell their home without a real estate agent often net less from
the sale than sellers who use one. You visit a doctor when you're sick and
take your car to a mechanic when it needs repairs. It makes sense to contact a
real estate professional when you are preparing to sell your biggest asset!
8. Myth: Good sellers should be available to guide prospective buyers
through the home, giving the whole process a more personal touch. Truth: Prospective buyers will feel more like the house could be theirs if
the current owners are not there.
The presence of homeowners during a viewing can make buyers feel like they are
intruding. They need to be able to visualize your house as their home, which
can be difficult to do when they are acutely aware that it is still your home.
Your real estate agent will be happy to look out for your home during open
houses or showings.
9. Myth: Successful sellers insist that the terms of the sale happen their
way or no way. Truth: If you approach the sale of your home as the buyer's adversary, you
risk losing a perfectly solid buyer for no good reason.
Both you and the buyer have the same goal: for you to sell your home and for
the buyer to buy it. Work with your real estate agent to approach negotiations
positively and with a win-win frame of mind.
10. Myth: When you receive an offer, you should make the buyer wait. This
gives you a better negotiating position. Truth: You should reply immediately to an offer!
When a buyer makes an offer, that buyer is, at that moment in time, ready to
buy your home. Moods can change, and you don't want to lose the sale because
you stalled in replying.