Selling Tips

Preparing your home

The effort put into repairing and cleaning your property is likely to be returned in a fast sale at an attractive price.

As buyers approach your property the first time, impressions are formed quickly.

  • Paint house – this can do more for sales appeal than any other factor.
  • Yard – Remove all toys, garbage, garden tools and other items from view.
  • Mow lawn and keep edged.
  • Close garage doors.
  • Put colorful flowers in front of house.

Often, while waiting to be let in, the first thing a buyer looks at closely is the front door.

  • Put new paint on the front door.
  • Buy a new door mat.

Buyers take a close look at the basement of a home. They will look for bad wiring, leaky pipes and signs of decay.

  • Clean out basement and dispose of everything you are not going to move.
  • Ensure that there is plenty of lighting.
  • Sweep or vacuum floor.
  • Stack items neatly against walls.

The kitchen is often the most important room in the house. Make it bright and attractive.

  • Put a vase of fresh flowers on the table.
  • Replace curtains or clean existing ones.
  • Remove appliances from counters.
  • Create a pleasant fragrance in the kitchen (i.e. vanilla, cinnamon).

It is important that bathrooms are clean, bright and smell fresh.

  • Install a new shower curtain and replace worn throw rugs.
  • Polish all fixtures.
  • Open windows.
  • Hang bright, fresh towels.
  • Remove stains from toilets and bathtubs.
  • Use air freshener.
  • Display colorful soaps.

The living room

  • Clean out the fireplace and place logs in it.
  • Polish all woodwork.
  • Put big furniture in storage so rooms are not cluttered or crowded.

Before Your House Is Shown

  • Tag or remove items not included in sale (i.e. water conditioner, chandeliers, plants, drapes).
  • Open shades and curtains to let in light.
  • Turn on enough lights so home is well-lit during showing.
  • At night, turn on porch light and outdoor lighting.
  • Tidy all the rooms. Neatness makes a room easier to view.
  • Clean dirty dishes in the sink and put away any dishes on counter.
  • Keep toys in the children’s rooms.
  • Put away items in the yard such as bicycles, gardening tools and skateboards.
  • If fall or winter, light a fire in the fireplace.

While Your House Is Being Shown

  • When possible, leave while the property is shown. If not, remain in an area not being shown by the sales associate.
  • Let the real estate expert show your house. Answer questions candidly when asked, but avoid questioning potential buyers.
  • Refer inquiries about seeing your house to your Realtor to take advantage of the agent’s professional skills in selling your home.
  • Don’t mention items you wish to dispose of unless asked.
  • It is best to be away when your agent is holding an open house.
  • Keep pets outdoors or in one area.
  • Keep children quiet and in one area.
  • Keep radio, stereo or TV on low volume.
  • Keep money and other valuable items out of sight.

If you’ve decided to sell your home, chances are you’re caught up in a host of emotions. You may be looking forward to moving up to a new dream house or facing the uncertainty of a major move across country. You may be reluctant to leave your memories behind or eager to start new adventures. Whatever turbulent feelings you’re experiencing right now, there are plenty of practical matters that need your attention. Keep in mind the following considerations to help the whole process go more smoothly.

Time Becomes Money

It’s a good idea to place your home on the market as far in advance as possible of purchasing a new one. If you find a new home first and then try to sell your present home, you may wind up with two mortgages. If this does happen, ask your real estate agent or banker about a bridge loan to help you make the double payments. Lenders use the same criteria for offering bridge loans as they use for mortgages. Should you qualify for a bridge loan, beware of the expense; during the term of the loan you must continue to pay both mortgages. Shop around for the best terms.

Keep in mind that when people move, sell and buy, there usually is a domino effect. Closing and moving dates have to be coordinated, and the more firmly everyone commits to a window of dates and sticks to them, the better for all involved. Put all agreements about dates in writing, and protect yourself by negotiating financial penalties for failure to comply.

Check Your Curb Appeal

A home that’s visually appealing and in good condition will attract potential buyers driving down the street. Use this checklist to view your property through an outsider’s eyes.

  • Are the lawn and shrubs well maintained?
  • Are there cracks in the foundation or walkways?
  • Does the driveway need resurfacing?
  • Are the gutters, chimney and walls in good condition?
  • Do the window casings, shutters, siding or doors need painting?
  • Are garbage and debris stored out of sight?
  • Are lawn mowers and hoses preperly stored?
  • Is the garage door closed?

On the Inside

Strong curb appeal will lure potential buyers inside, where you have to live up to their expectations. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy improvements you can make to your home’s interior without spending a lot of money. Cleaning is No. 1. Your windows, floors and bathroom tiles should sparkle. Make sure you have clean heating and air conditioning filters. Shampoo dirty carpets, clean tubs and showers, repair dripping faucets and oil squeaky doors. Keep your home neat, clean and picked-up at all times. It may not seem fair, but a peek in the oven may be the hallmark by which a buyer judges how well you have kept up your home. Remove unnecessary clutter from the garage, basement, attic, closets and straighten stored items. Also remove any items that might make a statement that would be offensive to others who may not share your same views, beliefs or sense of humor. If your home is crowded with too much furniture, consider putting some things into storage. If a room needs a fresh coat of paint, use a neutral off-white. Think, too, about how your home smells. You may be used to the smell of a pet or cigarettes, but such odors can be a strong turn-off to others. Be certain to remove valuables such as jewelry and other items from view. It might be wise to put these items in a safe deposit box before showing your home. Finally, set a mood for the buyer. Make your house homey with live flowers and fresh guest towels in the bathroom. Place scented potpourri around the house or, on the day you’re expecting a potential buyer, pop a batch of frozen cinnamon rolls into the oven for a welcoming aroma. Remember, 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 basics—anything that says “this home has been carefully maintained”—that will help you get the price you want.

Go It Alone–or Choose an Agent?

Some homeowners decide to sell their homes themselves in order to save the commission charged by a real estate agent. The commission rate may vary, depending on where you live or what agency you choose, but it is generally upwards of 5%. However, handling your own sale means you will be responsible for placing ads, answering phones and showing your home to strangers. What’s more, buyers who know you are saving on an agent’s commission may offer less for your home, wiping out the financial incentive to do it all yourself. You may decide an agent’s commission is a bargain the first time that a would-be buyer shows up unannounced at dinnertime. Also, be aware that a real estate agent probably knows a lot more about the business of selling a home than you do.

Here are some of the advantages professional agents offer:

  • They will help you establish a fair asking price for your home.
  • They will promote your home to other agents and list your property in multiple listing services. A multiple listing service is a book or computer database that all real estate agents who subscribe to the service can access. Your home will get exposure to all those agents, one of whom may have the perfect buyer.
  • They will create, pay for and place advertising for you.
  • They will schedule appointments to show your home to prospective buyers even when you are not there.
  • They can weed out buyers who will not qualify for a mortgage.
  • They can refer you to sources for insurance, inspections, legal counsel and financing.
  • They will help you negotiate with the buyer.
  • They can make suggestions to help make your home more attractive to a potential buyer.

If you decide to sell through an agent, ask friends and neighbors for recommendations. Talk to several agents before picking the one you want to work with. Taking a walk through your home with an agent should give you a feel for how that person will handle prospective buyers. Ask prospective agents how they plan to market your home. Don’t sign with an agent just because he or she suggests the highest asking price. Negotiate the broker’s commission prior to listing your home, and sign for a limited period of time—usually three to six months.

Setting a Fair Price

Naturally, you want to get top dollar for your home. But, at the same time, you don’t want to scare off potential buyers with a price tag that’s too high. Setting an artificially high price may cause your property to languish on the market for months. Reducing your asking price later on may lead buyers to wonder if there is something wrong with your home. Here are some of the factors to consider in pricing your home.

  • Your location
  • Economic conditions
  • Supply and demand in the local housing market
  • Seasonal influences
  • Local schools
  • Average home prices in the neighborhood
  • Your home’s extras — pool, fireplace, central air, etc.

To determine the value of your home, you probably will want the advice of a real estate agent or appraiser. Ask an agent to prepare a market analysis for you, showing the recent selling prices of three neighborhood properties comparable to your own. The agent can help you adjust for the unique features of your own property.

Qualifying a Buyer

Either you or your agent will want to quickly weed out potential buyers who cannot really afford to purchase your home. A number of factors will help determine whether or not you are wasting your time negotiating a sale.

  • The buyer’s debt and credit history
  • The buyer’s current income and employment
  • The buyer’s cash position and availability of a down payment
  • The length of time the buyer needs before closing on your home
  • How interested the buyer appears to be in your home versus others

Seek Legal Representation

When selling your home—particularly if you are selling on your own—it’s a good idea to be represented by an attorney. Look for an attorney with expertise in real estate transactions. When a potential buyer puts an offer in writing and you accept it, the signed acceptance becomes the sales contract. Your attorney will be present at the actual closing to protect your interests and can assist you with the following elements of a sales contract:

  • The sale price
  • What is included in the sale price — draperies, carpeting, light fixtures, heating oil, etc.
  • The amount of the down payment
  • The date of settlement and possession date
  • Contingencies to the sale–inspections (e.g. structural, lead-based paint, radon), required improvements,
  • legal review of the contract by the buyer’s or seller’s attorney, etc.
  • The amount and length of the mortgage loan, interest rate and time limits to secure the loan
  • Determining which closing costs are to be paid by the buyer and which by the seller

Tax Implications

Selling a home can have a major impact on your federal and state tax returns. Check with your tax consultant on the factors that may affect taxes resulting from the sale of your home. For example:

  • Whether you purchased the home or acquired it by gift or inheritance
  • Whether you used your home partly for business or rental
  • Costs associated with selling your home
  • Home improvements or additions, which may help to offset capital gains

The sale of your home. In certain cases you can exclude up to $250,000 in gain ($500,000 for married couples filing a joint return) on the sale of property that was your principle residence for at least two years. Generally, you can use this exclusion every two years.

One step which is inevitable in the home selling process is a visit from a professional house inspector.The following are steps which should be taken to ensure your inspection is a success. It is a good idea to be aware ahead of time of any serious problems which may be present in your home so you will be prepared to deal with them.

1. Ensure that past home renovations have not damaged the structure the home. Other structural damages to look for are whether termites have caused extensive damage, if settling of the home over time has caused damage to the foundation, and/or whether support beams and joists are strong and sturdy or cracked or otherwise damaged.

2. Ensure that the electrical and wiring systems are safe and acceptable. Loose wires or incorrectly installed or wired receptacles, switches or electrical box problems are all hazardous and should be corrected. All homes should have a minimum of 100 amp service.

3. Ensure there are no leaks evident. Water can run and leak into odd and unexpected places, causing extensive damage over time. If there are signs of water leakage, they can quite be often spotted by examining the underside of sinks and dishwashers, along ceilings, on floors or along basement walls. Plumbing fixtures, water-using appliances, drain pipes, water supply inlets and outlets and basements and roofs can all be causes and sources of water damage.

4. Ensure that safety issues are resolved in your home. Trim foliage which may impair a safe view of the area around the home, ensure that windows open easily and close and lock securely and that entrances/exits to the home are able to be securely locked. Hazards such as hidden curbs, loose railings and/or stairs, unused wells which are not capped, etc., should be corrected.

5. With respect to plumbing, ensure that all fixtures are in good working and free from large cracks. Faucets should run easily and shut off completely, proper grouting and caulking should be present around bathtubs, toilets and other fixtures should be bolted down securely and drains should be clog free. The home’s water heater should be in good working condition also.

6. All heating and cooling systems may have to be checked to ensure they are relatively up to date, clean, in good working condition and have clean filters. Refrigerant should be checked in any air conditioning units and may require proper servicing.

7. Also, a general, unbiased overview of your home by a neighbor or friend may reveal matters which need to be dealt with that you may overlooked.