You’ve made the decision to sell your home, now you just call an agent and they put a sign in your front yard, right? Sure, if you’re not worried about when it will sell or for how much. If you’re looking for top dollar, though, you’ll have to put in a little more work than that. A lot of sellers will meet with an agent assuming that the day they sign the listing agreement is the day advertisement of their home will begin. It’s always frustrating to see a seller whose move is time-sensitive learns that their property won’t be ready to list for a few weeks. There are definitely things that need to be done alongside your real estate agent, but putting in some prep work will cut down the time before you can list, and ultimately close and get moved!
Here are 5 things to do once you decide to sell:
- Determine the Equity in Your Home
The first thing you need to do is figure out how much is left on your mortgage balance. You want to ensure that your payoff amount is less than what you’ll sell for, or else you won’t be making any money off your home! Then there are the costs of a transaction: commissions, prorated taxes for the year, etc. You’ll also have to think about where you’re moving. Most people use the proceeds of their home’s sale for the down payment on a new house. Will the equity in your home cover all that? Call up your mortgage lender and ask their opinion. They will be able to answer a lot of the preliminary questions you might have.
To figure out what your home is truly worth, you’ll need the expertise of a real estate agent who can perform a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) for you. If you just want to get a ball park idea of what your home is worth before meeting with an agent, you can look at market trends in your area. Neighborhood News is really excellent; it’s free, updates monthly, and it will give you info on recently sold properties in your specific area. From there, you can see that other 2 bedroom homes are selling in your neighborhood for between $250K-$275K, for example, and determine if that will be enough for you.
BEWARE of online home estimates! Sites like Zillow or Trulia (who was recently bought out by Zillow, so they are now pretty much one in the same) will give you an estimated value of your home, but it’s been found that they get within 5% of actual market value only about 50% of the time. While you can use their estimate to get an idea of what you’re home is worth, don’t get caught up in that number. Once you’ve determined that you can sell and you’ll still have some money left in your pocket, it’s time to move to the next step.
2. Declutter and Depersonalize
I’ve talked about this before but that’s because this is probably the easiest and most cost-effective way to get your home ready to sell. Take a look around your house. Are there pictures of family and friends all over your walls? Buyers don’t want to see them. It’s hard to envision yourself in a house where there are signs of someone else’s life everywhere. Take anything that’s specific to you or your family: photos, trophies/awards, kids’ art, personalized/monogrammed items and store them. You’re going to have to pack them for the move anyway! If you’re not quite ready to see your wall sans family portrait, make a note now of everything that will have to be put away before your home starts being shown. Especially for homes with children, this will be more things than you initially think!
Cluttered spaces are a big turn off as well. As comfy as your oversized recliner is, the fact that it takes up half the floor space in your living room isn’t doing you any favors. A good real estate agent will have access to a staging company that will be able to do most of the hard work for you, but before you make that call, it’s good to know what pieces you’ll need to put in storage. Take this time to do some research on local storage companies. That way, when the time does come to move out your bigger, bulkier furniture, you’ll already know who has the best deal.
3. Make Minor Repairs
You don’t need a professional to tell you that the doorknob you have to jiggle just so isn’t a selling point. Make sure finishes are functional and don’t look dated. Go through each room and replace anything that is staying with the house that wobbles or flickers. Wood floors should probably be refinished and unless carpet is spotless, it should be replaced. While you can offer a credit to the buyer to make your home more enticing, it’s a lot easier for someone to fall in love with the plush feel below their feet.
If your roof needs replacing, bite the bullet and just do it. The second you hire a real estate agent, they’re going to suggest you do it anyway. Roofs in disrepair can turn off a buyer faster than you can blink three times. No one wants to worry whether the rain is going to leak through during the first big storm.
Landscaping and paint jobs shouldn’t be ignored, either! My earlier post (which I linked to above, but here it is again) goes into much more detail about updates such as these. In short, buyers generally want something move-in ready. The closer you are to that, the more buyers will be interested and the more they will be willing to pay.
4. Think About Throwing in Extras
Sometimes a buyer will walk into a home and fall in love with some of the stuff you have inside. Of course you’re probably not going to give them your bed, but certain things like appliances can sweeten the deal. Is there anything that you would be willing to part with? Maybe there’s a large bookcase in your den that was custom built to fit that wall. There’s a good chance that you won’t want to bring that with you either because it’s too large and cumbersome, or because it’s a weird size that only works for that room in particular. I was in a house recently that had a large freestanding island in the kitchen. The seller planned to leave it behind because even though it wasn’t fixed to the house, it was so heavy that taking it along was impractical. It fit really well with the general aesthetic of the house (very modern) and added a lot of counter space that otherwise would have been lacking in the home.
*On a quick side note, if you plan on leaving any furniture or appliances when you do move out, make sure the movers know not to take those things! If those items are promised in the purchase agreement and aren’t there when the new owners show up, you’ll be in trouble!*
5. Find a Real Estate Agent You Trust
You’ve done your homework, made sure your house looks great, and now you’re really ready to sell! Make sure you’re hiring an agent that you trust and that you’ll know can get the job done for you. Interview different agents to find out who’s services fit best with your needs, and most importantly, find someone you like! You’ll have to work closely with this person for a while so if they have a personality that clashes with yours, it could be an early red flag. If you choose a Realtor®, know that we must abide by a strict code of ethics that are not required by other agents.
Now, the only thing left to do is list your house!