PLANNING THE SALE
Start with an overall view of what selling a house involves:
- Choose the best real estate sales professional
- Determine and set the right price
- Sign the listing agreement
- Review financing available to potential buyers
- Arrange for pest/ termite inspections
- Make major repairs
- Clean and polish the house
- Be patient while the house is shown and marketed
- Negotiate offers
- Close the deal
The Best Way To Sell Your House
Once you have made the initial decision to sell, you will immediately be faced with another tough question - is it best to hire a real estate sales associate or try and sell the house yourself?
To sell and market a house requires specialized skills, is time consuming, and costs money. Are you prepared to buy advertising space? Advertising is one way to let the buying public know your house is on the market. If not, can you afford the time it will take to sell your house with only a sign in your yard? Are you willing to stay close to home for days, weeks, maybe months to show your house? Do you possess the necessary legal and financial knowledge to answer buyers' questions, negotiate a contract, or close a sale?
If you answered "No" to any of the above questions, perhaps hiring a real estate firm to help would be the most efficient way to sell your house. They can be indispensable to you in the following ways. A real estate professional will:
- Access the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which exposes your house to all cooperating member brokers
- Assist with pricing the house properly based on Comparative Market Analysis
- Provide a detailed marketing plan
- Screen potential buyers for financial qualifications
- Provide suggestions for making your property more attractive to potential buyers
- Show your home whether or not you are there
- Answer potential buyer's questions
- Present all offers
- Assist with negotiating the best sale
- Facilitate the closing process
Before deciding on a specific office, there are a few things you can do to narrow the choice. Ask friends and neighbors who have recently sold homes for recommendations. Attend Open Houses and ask sales associate questions about the house. This will give you a feel for the professionalism of the company and their sales associates.
Finally, interview a representative from more than one firm. The following points should be discussed:
- Are you a licensed broker or sales associate?
- Do you belong to the MLS?
- How long has your company been in business?
- What are your qualifications, experience and education?
- How many homes has your office sold in the past three months?
- Do you belong to any out-of-town referral organizations?
- Names of references whose homes you have recently sold.
- How did you arrive at your price evaluation of my home?
- How much can I expect to walk away with?
- What could I do to make my house more marketable?
- Explain the terms of the listing agreement.
- How would you market and advertise my house?
- How often would you communicate with me?
- What if you don't perform?
Payment of the real estate brokerage fee will be the seller's responsibility; the amount of this fee is negotiable. If another company locates a buyer, a portion of the fee goes to that office.
After choosing a real estate company, begin by supplying all the information you can about your house. The sales associate will be asking questions by potential buyers about taxes, utility bills, age and condition of appliances, insulation, room sizes and a variety of other subjects. Don't hide anything, especially any defects in the condition of your property. Failure to do so could leave you legally liable.
What can you expect from your sales associate?
- Accurate information to help set the right selling price.
- Comments on repairs and cosmetic improvements that could help sell you house more quickly.
- A complete marketing plan, including placement of a yard sign, entry in the MLS, and advertising.
- The showing of your house to potential buyers.
- Regular communication on the progress of the sale.
- A professional manner and courteous attitude.
The Right Price
Determining the "right" selling price for your home will take some work. If the set price is too low, you could lose thousands of dollars. If it is too high, the home may not sell within your time frame, costing you time, money and anxiety. The "right " price is a balance between the maximum amount the current housing market will allow, your "competition," and your own time limits in selling. A reasonable time frame for selling a house may be between 30 and 90 days. If a house is on the market too long, potential buyers may avoid the house, wondering if something is wrong with it.
An excellent first step is to have a Comparative Market Analysis done on your house. This information details the current housing market in your area, showing you what houses similar to yours have sold for recently. The market analysis should also list your "competition" - houses like yours which are also on the market. With this information in mind, you will also want to consider the following points before deciding:
- This is an important factor in pricing. Look at both the area in which the house is located as well as the surrounding neighborhood. Does the house back up to a busy street, is it on a cul-de-sac, etc. Try to put yourself in the buyer's position: what are the tradeoffs and the advantages of your property?
- Does your house have specific features that set it apart from other houses in the area, such as a spectacular view, a pool, mirrored closets, room additions, etc.
- Age of the House
- Potential buyers will want to know the age of the plumbing, furnace, roof, appliances, etc. If anything has been replaced, this could add to the value of your property and the sale price.
- The Current Market
- Is today's market a "buyer's market" or a "seller's market"? A "buyer's market" means there are several similar houses for a buyer to choose from. Usually, interest rates are attractive and prices are steady. A "seller's market" is the opposite. Interest rates may be low or high, but housing prices are on the rise, and there are few houses to be sold.
- Your Time Frame
- How long do you have to sell this house? What was the average time on the market for a comparable home? Can you wait while a buyer arranges financing? Does your purchase of another home depend upon this deal closing quickly?
With these points in mind you should be able to determine a fair price for your house. A word of caution: Avoid the temptation to "pad" the price excessively, thinking that it gives you negotiating room. Most buyers have limitations on how much they can spend. If your property out-prices other houses in the neighborhood, it could remain on the market longer than you wish. Even though you may be planning to lower the price later, studies show that the longer a house is on the market, the lower the price at which it finally sold, compared to the original list price.
Although not a specific part of the price setting process, concerns about the amount of profit realized from the sale, tax regulations regarding the sale of property, and settlement or closing costs should be addressed. This is particularly true in markets with a predominance of FHA/VA buyers, or areas where lender "points" are absorbed by the seller.
Anticipated costs of selling include the mortgage pay-off amount, any early pay-off penalty, the real estate broker's fee, other loans against the property (perhaps for a pool or a room addition), the price of inspections, taxes, and other seller's closing costs. Your net profit can be estimated by subtracting these costs from the sales price. But remember, this is only an estimate. Any change in the numbers or closing dates will alter the final figure.
Under current U.S. law, the tax profit you realize on selling your house can be deferred indefinitely if you purchase or build another personal residence within two years before or after the sale. There is no limit on the number of times you can use this tax deferment. (However, there are special rules to consider if you sell your next principle residence before two years from the sale of your previous residence. If these circumstances apply to you, your tax accountant should be consulted.) If your lender charges a penalty for paying off your mortgage before its due date, the amount charged is usually deductible.
Homeowners may also qualify for paying for an immediate deduction of many of these costs if the move is prompted by a job transfer to another city, and the costs are not reimbursed by the employer.
For further tax information, consult a tax accountant specializing in real estate matters in advance.
Your Closing Costs
Closing costs will vary from area to area. Your sales associate can provide categories and the approximate amounts of settlement costs you will be expected to pay. These may include various fees and miscellaneous closing costs negotiated by the buyer to be paid by the seller.
After choosing a real estate company, you are ready to sign the listing agreement. This agreement will state how much brokerage free, or "commission", shall be paid, who will receive it, who has the right to produce potential buyers, and how long the agreement is valid. It should also include a list of personal property that will go with the house. The length of the listing contract will vary.
In the "Exclusive Right to Sell" agreement, the listing company is entitled to a commission regardless of who sells the property. If another office produces a buyer, the commission you pay is shared between the two companies.
A listing agreement is a binding contract. Read it through carefully and ask questions until you understand every part of the agreement before signing.
Review Financing Options
When the time comes to negotiate a sale, it is best to be aware of current financing available to the buyer. With the help of your real estate professional, review the mortgage climate - are loans in abundance or hard to obtain? If the buyer isn't able to qualify for enough money, you may want to offer a second mortgage out of your profits (if this is allowed by the first lender). Does your property qualify for VA/FHA loans? Is your current loan assumable?
Does the buyer expect you to pay any of the discount points connected with the cost of his loan? Determine your time limits in waiting for financing to be secured by the buyer, including the alternatives.
In many states pest inspections and termite reports are required before a house can be sold. Even if these inspections are not state mandated, most lenders will require them. If termites are discovered, they must be eradicated, and the proof documented. Inspection prices vary. Shop around for a good price, but use a reliable company. Check with your sales associate about the laws in your state.
PREPARING TO SELL
Of course, any major repairs should be completed before showing the house, if a top selling price is expected. Limit your repairs to functional parts of the house, such as the roof, plumbing, and major appliances. Cosmetic changes like new carpeting and draperies may not match your future buyer's tastes, and could even discourage the sale.
The key words to remember in preparing your house are neat and clean ...sparkling clean...clean enough for royalty to visit. Take a look at your house as if you were seeing it for the first time. You may not notice crowded closets and untidy flower beds, but potential buyers will!
Make a list of jobs and begin the work today.
When potential buyers drive up to your house, what they see on the outside will make a lasting first impression. Keep the grass mowed, edged, and the weeds pulled. Trim trees and bushes away from windows. Place children's toys in the garage. Plant some flowers to add a touch of color.
If your house needs painting, do it now. A good paint job will more than pay for itself in the selling price. Try to maintain the neighborhood look when choosing paint; you don't want your house to be remembered as "the green one with the blue door."
Remove oil stains from the driveway. Buy an inexpensive drip pan to avoid further stains. Replace a weather beaten mailbox. Make sure your doorbell works. Remove torn screens. Clean outdoor light fixtures. Repair loose brickwork and fill cracks in the walls and driveway. In other words, make your house a show-piece from the curb to the front door.
A coat of paint will brighten interior walls. Choose neutral shades of white, off-white, beige or light pastels that will coordinate with most decor. This inexpensive investment will increase the show ability of your house.
Clear out closets and cupboards. Have a garage sale or donate your unused items to charity. With less clutter, your closets will appear larger. Remove all unnecessary furniture to make your rooms seem more spacious.
Open the curtains and pull the blinds. Turn on as many lights as possible. Give your house an airy look. Fresh flowers bring color, fragrance and a touch of spring that enhances a room.
The bathroom should be absolutely spotless. Remove stains from fixtures, repair dripping faucets, and polish the mirrors. Add a sanitizer to the toilet bowl, and keep the lid down. Wash and fluff bathroom rugs, hang fresh towels. Potpourri or scented soaps add a nice fragrance to the air.
A clean kitchen tells the buyer that the house has been well cared for. Remove excess pots, pans, bowls, and clutter from the cupboards. Clean the oven inside and out. Run a lemon through the garbage disposal for a fresh smell. Make sure all appliances are working.
When a sales associate is showing the house, keep children and pets under control. Also, turn off televisions and stereos. The noise may distract tired clients, causing them to overlook many fine features.
Check garages and basements for debris. A two car garage should have plenty of space for two cars. Brighten basements with the highest wattage lighting allowed, and clear away cobwebs.
Finally, let your sales associate show the house. He or she knows the business and will present your property to its best advantage. In many cases, potential buyers will not thoroughly inspect the house if the owner is present. Let the professional do the talking.
All offers for your property must be presented. Your sales associate will counsel and advise you, but the final decision will be yours. Review every offer, comparing the financial qualifications and readiness to buy of each buyer.
When you decide what terms are acceptable, let your sales associate negotiate with the buyer. The sales associate will cover all costs you are willing to pay and what you expect of the buyer. A suitable deposit will be collected from the buyer prior to any acceptance of their purchase offer. A written agreement stating all conditions of the sale will be signed by both parties.
Now comes the time to sit back and be patient. The buyer is busy arranging mortgage financing. The real estate company and the title company are beginning to accumulate data and prepare documents. The sales associate is checking on the progress of the sale. You can concentrate on the important matter of packing and moving to your new home.
Final closing day will be scheduled when all the steps are completed. Both parties must sign the final closing documents. Once you present an executed deed to the buyer and receive his check in the amount agreed upon, your house is successfully sold.
Congratulations! Selling a house is one of the largest transactions you may ever undertake. But with some careful planning, and by following these steps, it can be very satisfying experience. If you have any questions call us at (413) 586-5401 and see how quickly your house can go from FOR SALE to SOLD.