Selling a house can be stressful. Making the decision, preparing the house for sale, keeping it clean, waiting for a buyer, dealing with offers, and advancing to the closing table – all of these steps can involve discomfort. This is a huge financial transaction with many emotional aspects. But you can get it done – and it may even be easier than you anticipate.
One thing to keep in mind is that you're not alone. An experienced, professional real estate agent can guide you through the process, help resolve any issues that come up, and ensure that your home sells for the optimal price in a timely manner.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when putting your home on the market and learning how to sell your house:
As a home seller, the goal is to sell at the best possible price and as quickly as possible. This doesn’t happen by accident; you need to prepare your home for a successful sale. Check out the resources below for strategies, tips and checklists to ensure your home is “Fit to Sell.”
Plain and simple, owning a home can improve your quality of life, provide stability and give you a sense of control you just can't get from renting. You have a place to live when you rent, but buying is something much deeper – and better.
A skilled, qualified real estate agent brings tremendous value to the process. You're relying on this agent on many different levels, so be careful to select someone with the right combination of education, experience, performance and local insight. Look for a proven expert who can cast a wide marketing net and attract as many potential buyers as possible.
Be sure to let your agent know the particulars of your situation. Perhaps you need to sell within a certain time frame, are relocating out of state, or are facing foreclosure. Keeping your agent informed helps set the path for the best way to proceed, ensures that your needs are met, and ultimately contributes to a successful transaction.
Experienced agents understand how to accurately price your home and make it stand out in the market. They also have access to a vast referral network, enabling them to connect with potential buyers across town or around the world.
Here are a few avenues RE/MAX agents may use to market your home, both online and off.
Multiple photos: Studies show that buyers are more likely to visit a home that includes multiple photos of the listing. Well-lit, wide-angled photos highlight your home's best features and important rooms.
Designated website: A customized website for your home is an effective online marketing strategy. It can showcase your home with photos, virtual tours or videos, and details about the property and surrounding neighborhood.
Virtual tours: Video tours can be posted with or without a designated property website. Giving buyers an inside look at your property online can get them interested enough to schedule a showing.
Home search websites: More than 75 percent of buyers start their home search online. It’s important that your listing receives full exposure in the MLS and in search engine results. Posting your listing on Craigslist, Facebook, newspaper websites and elsewhere can also be effective in reaching potential buyers.
remax.com: All RE/MAX listings (as well as listings from other companies) appear on remax.com, where millions of buyers browse for homes and see listings with multiple photos, property descriptions and other details.
Design Center: RE/MAX agents have access to a proprietary design center that enables them to create professional marketing materials of your home for print and/or online exposure.
The RE/MAX network: Another advantage of choosing RE/MAX is direct access to a network of nearly 90,000 RE/MAX agents around the world, many of them working with motivated buyers.
The RE/MAX yard sign: The RE/MAX Balloon is among the most recognized logos across all industries, not just real estate. A RE/MAX yard sign in front of your house makes an immediate, positive connection with potential buyers who already know the brand.
Your RE/MAX agent likely has other techniques that will attract qualified buyers in your specific market.
Smart, competitive pricing is essential. When you price too high, your home stays on the market longer, prolonging the process and increasing your expenses along the way.
Home Seller Mistake No. 1: Pricing Too High
“I can always lower the price later if I don't get any offers.”
That statement costs home sellers millions of dollars every year.
Yes, you can always lower your asking price, but that’s not a good strategy. Time and time again, experience shows that sellers who list competitively from the start get a better price than sellers who list high and then go lower and lower.
When you price too high, here's what buyers think:
“Wow, three price cuts in the last four months… There must be something wrong with that house.”
“With all the price cuts on this house, the sellers must be desperate. Let's offer them far below what they’re asking and see if they bite.”
Sound Pricing Strategies
A far smarter approach is to find a knowledgeable agent who understands the local market and then work together on setting the right price. A good agent can help you avoid the overpricing trap.
An experienced agent will help set the right price for your home by considering the following:
Similar homes, via a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA): Your agent will provide a professional analysis that goes deep into stats about recent sales and current listings similar to your home in size, age, condition and features. Sales within the past six months are especially relevant.
General market conditions: Is it a seller's market or a buyer's market in your community? It's important to note that what's happening nationally may not reflect local conditions. Your agent can explain the difference and clear up any misconceptions you may have.
Potential buyers get an impression of your home – either positive or negative – within 30 seconds of walking through the door. Having them see your home in tip-top selling shape is an absolute must.
There are countless ways to put the freshest face on your home, many of them costing little more than a bit of your time. Here are a few pointers for the most significant impact:
Outside: The Power of Curb Appeal
• Clear any clutter and keep lawn decorations to a minimum.
• Mow your lawn and trim shrubs.
• Add bushes and/or colorful flowers.
• Sweep sidewalks, porch and driveway.
• Remove or update any dated or personalized fixtures.
• Put all toys away.
• Fix damaged gutters, shutters, siding or roof shingles.
• Add a tasteful welcome mat to the front door.
• Clean all windows inside and out.
Leave your house while it's being shown to potential buyers. Your presence can make them feel anxious and awkward.
Write a letter about your neighborhood that your real estate agent can share with potential buyers. Include information on local events, neighborhood amenities and other factors that define the community.
Inside: Leave No Trace
Clean everything! Check for cobwebs on ceilings, dust on baseboards – everything.
De-clutter. Then de-clutter again. Rent a storage locker if you need to. This is very important for increasing your home's appeal.
• Add a fresh coat of paint to the walls.
• Remove family photos and excessive wall decorations.
• Remove personal items, such as DVD collections and trophies.
• Replace worn carpets, and shampoo carpets that are dirty but still in good shape.
• Polish wood floors.
• Add fresh flowers or plants, but don't overdo it.
• Maximize your home's natural light by opening blinds and shades.
• Do a smell check and address any odors.
• Pet owners: Take Fido or Fluffy with you while your home is being shown.
Your agent can provide additional advice on prepping your home, and also give you insights into the preferences of local buyers.
A home inspection isn’t just for buyers. It’s also something sellers should seriously consider before putting their house on the market.
Why? Quite simply, you don't know what you don’t know. Imagine getting a great offer on your home only to discover, during the middle of the process, that it needs considerable repairs.
This is the kind of surprise that can lead to buyers pulling out, costing you time and money on a number of fronts. It’s better to know problems from the start, and either deal with them before listing or price the home accordingly.
A seller's inspection also provides a reference point from which to compare the findings of the buyer’s inspector. In particular, having a different professional opinion can work to your advantage in price negotiations.
Your home inspection is a sales tool
Having your home inspected before listing can also be an effective sales tool. You can confidently say that your home has been pre-inspected and is in tip-top shape, making that much more attractive to buyers.
Don't wait too long for a home inspection. You want plenty of notice for repairs before you start marketing your home for sale.
Attending your home inspection
Attend your home inspection to see first-hand what the inspector notes, and to learn some important details about the house that may assist you in selling.
When attending your inspection:
Wear casual clothes and comfortable shoes. You may find yourself crawling under and behind things to see what the inspector is pointing out.
Plan for the inspection to take two or three hours.
Feel free to ask questions, but give the inspector time and space to work.
Home Inspection Checklist for Sellers:
Remove clutter that may get in the way of key inspection areas, such as water heater, furnace and main valves.
Clean up! A clean house shows you care and that you've maintained the property properly.
Provide full access to attic, basement, crawl space and garage. Leave the keys if they're needed to enter these areas.
Provide repair documents. If you've done any remodeling or replaced the roof, furnace or electrical system, provide the paperwork. Also, display any paperwork about new appliances that may be included in the sale.
Leave utilities connected if your house is vacant.
A professional home stager can make a big difference in increasing your home’s appeal to potential buyers. Staging helps you clear out old or mismatched furniture, and gives your home a newer, fresher look. Staging peels back your personal grip on the home and makes it feel more like a place that's open and ready for new residents.
What does a professional stager do?
Provides an objective eye to judge your space.
Spots clutter and furniture arrangements that compromise a room's size or function.
Suggests easy fixes like adding slipcovers to old or worn-out furniture.
Lends you tasteful pieces that can help define a room's functionality.
Adds small details of color that can help create mood.
Helps you optimize your home's natural light.
Your agent can recommend a trustworthy professional home stager. And if you don't choose to go that route, most experienced agents can offer suggestions based on their keen sense of what works and what doesn't.
Clutter weakens equity. Pare down as much as possible and put excess furniture and items in storage.
Visit a few open houses in your neighborhood to get a sense of what other sellers are doing to stage their homes.
A successful home sale involves hundreds of details and stacks of paperwork, and requires extensive marketing and an intimate knowledge of the local market. By far the easiest way to ensure success is to work with an agent who's not only an expert at handling the details and marketing materials, but also knows local buyers and market conditions.
Here are a few things to consider when placing your home on the market:
Be clear on why you’re selling. Your motivations will determine timeline and priorities – things you'll need to know to negotiate effectively.
Research your local market. Know the other listings you're competing against, and be realistic.
Interview at least three real estate agents. Go with an experienced agent who will do the best job marketing your home. (See Tips on Choosing and Working with a Realtor.)
Work with your agent to decide on the optimal listing price.
Clear away all clutter and put items in storage.
Add a fresh coat of paint, inside and out.
Ask your agent for suggestions on staging, and best use of light and space.
Be patient, listen to your agent, and be ready to act when offers start to come in.
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