Selling or buying a home is one of the biggest transactions you’ll ever make in your life. How often do you write or accept checks with that many zeros on them? Probably not often.
Whether you’re the buyer or seller, it’s normal to have nerves around getting it right. After making the sale, you don’t want to find yourself whether you could’ve gotten more for your house or if you had enough people see your property. You may be counting on the money you make selling your house to buy a new home or retire or even send your kids to college, which makes the stakes that much higher.
If this is your first time selling a home, there are some things you should know that will not only ensure the best results but will also make you and your realtor’s life much easier. We spoke with realtor Leneiva Head of Welcome Home Realty to get her input on what sellers should know.
“Take heed of the pricing recs”
Head says that when your realtor recommends a price at which you should list your home, that number is based on important and thorough research. The realtor has looked at homes similar to yours, in the same area, that sold recently, and off of those sales numbers, your realtor is coming up with a smart price for your home.
Why do houses sell for less than they appraise?
Head said we need to understand that the appraisal often happens in the loan process so when you got your original loan, or perhaps during a refinance period, your lender had to have your home appraised just to confirm that it was at least worth the price you were going to pay for it. The lender does this to protect themselves against losses. Once an appraiser can confirm the property is at least worth that asking price, they stop assessing. But, again, it’s really about what the market is willing to pay. Your home may have appraised for $500K four months ago, but if the market is slow, you may not get $500K for it.
What happens if you over-price it?
“Anything over 5 percent above the market recommendation is too much,” Head informs us. Overpricing a property can be very taxing because you’ll likely need to wait longer to sell it. That means clearing out for open houses, weekend after weekend. It can put a financial strain on you if you’ve already started paying rent or a mortgage elsewhere. It can be very draining and may result in you, in the end, having to drop the price anyways. “It’s not about what the house is appraised for,” Head adds. “The market value is what people are willing to pay for it.”
“Don’t get attached to a number”
Once you agree on a listing price with your realtor, you still shouldn’t be completely married to that number. You need to be willing to negotiate. Head says that sometimes, sellers will be offered 95% of asking price, but turn it down, because they were so attached to the idea of 100%. And then the property sits there.
Make your house available
This means being ready to vacate for open houses, but also keeping the home in a way that’s show-ready. That means cleaning away clutter. It can mean putting away lots of personal items like photographs and jewelry. If you have already permanently vacated the property, stage it. A little staging goes a long way, which we’ll cover in our next slide.
“For staging, less is more”
Head advises against filling up a living room with a full set. A small sofa, a love seat, and a small end table will do. If you have an area rug, make sure it isn’t covered corner to corner with furniture. You want to expose the floor space. Add some flowers to the kitchen, and put out a few place settings. Put candles in the bathrooms. Hang a simple item, like a robe, in the closets. Open the blinds and curtains in every room to let the light in.
Clean up these areas
If you have any old, faded, or sunken-in furniture, get rid of that. That should not be out for open houses, even if you’re still living in the home, and attached to that furniture. Take down personal photos and put up generic photos. “No doilies!” Head joked. But she was also serious. “Doilies are not in anymore!”
Look into cosmetic upgrades
Consider some fixes that, while still just cosmetic, may involve a bit of work. Get an inspection to handle any unknown issues in advance. You don’t want the buyers finding those. Look at the entrance. Is there any chipping paint? Cracks in the walls? Do you need a new door? How is your flooring? Does it look particularly dated? If so, change it. Head suggests asking yourself, “Would I spend the asking price on the house, as it is?”
Your biggest return is in these rooms
Head says your biggest return on investment, when it comes to upgrades, might be in the kitchen and the bathrooms. Consider updating appliances – especially if the digital knobs on your oven and microwave are faded. Head suggests replacing countertops, or doing a layover, if there are burns or stains that cannot be removed. Consider updating cabinets, or having them re-stained. As for floors, Head is a fan of luxury vinyl tile, because it’s easy to clean and not susceptible to water damage.
Don’t be afraid to bother your realtor
“When it comes to correspondence, it’s your transaction, so if at any time there is information that you need, or something that you don’t understand and would like to understand, communicate that question.”