The other day I watched a report on the national news (ABC News) that the real estate market was beginning to slow down across the country. Today the National Association of Realtors announced that across the nation the sales of existing homes in May fell for the third time in the past five months. However, here in north Texas the housing market still appears to be strong and the sale of existing homes did not decline in May. In spite of this, you never know when our market may take a turn for the worse and begin to reflect what is happening in the rest of our nation.
My research of today's local real estate market indicates that buyers are far more discriminating these days, and a large percentage of the homes currently listed for sale do not sell the first time. It's now more critical than ever to learn what you need to know to avoid potentially costly mistakes in order to sell your home fast and for the most amount of money. 1.
Know why you're selling, and keep it to yourself. The reasons behind your decision to sell affect everything from setting a price to deciding how much time and money to invest in getting your home ready for sale. What's more important to you: the money you walk away with, or the length of time your property is on the market? Different goals will dictate different strategies. However, don't reveal your motivation to anyone else or they may use it against you at the negotiating table.
When asked, simply say that your housing needs have changed. Remember, the reason you are selling is only for you to know. 2. Find a good real estate agent to represent your needs. All real estate agents are not the same! A professional real estate agent knows the market and has information on past sales, current listings, a marketing plan, and will provide their background and references. Evaluate candidates carefully on the basis of their experience, qualifications, enthusiasm, and personality.
Be sure you choose someone that has a proven track record of selling homes and that you trust and feel confident that they will do a good job on your behalf. Nearly three-quarters of homeowners claim that they wouldn't use the same real estate agent who sold their last home. Most relationships with an agent break down because of poor communication. While it is the professional's responsibility to manage your expectations and regularly communicate with you, you can help by telling them what you expect and regularly talking with your real estate agent. Be sure to communicate with your real estate agent upfront and let them know what you expect. 3.
Do your homework before setting a price. (In fact, your real estate agent should do this for you). Find out what homes in your neighborhood have sold for in the past 6-12 months, and research what current homes are listed for sale and for much.
This is how prospective buyers will assess the worth of your home. Settling on an offering price shouldn't be done lightly. Once you've set your price, you've told buyers the absolute maximum they have to pay for your home, but pricing too high is as dangerous as pricing too low. Remember that the average buyer is looking at 15-20 homes at the same time they are considering yours. This means that the buyer has a basis of comparison, and if your home doesn't compare favorably with others in the price range you've set, prospective buyers or real estate agents won't take you seriously. As a result, your home will sit on the market for a long period of time and, knowing that your house has been on the market for an extended period, new buyers in the market will think there must be something wrong with your home.
4. Maximize your home's sales potential to get top dollar. Each year, corporate America spends billions on product and packaging design.
Appearance is critical, and it would be foolish to ignore this when selling your home. You may not be able to change your home's location or floor plan, but you can do a lot to improve its appearance. The look and feel of your home generates a greater emotional response than any other factor. Clean like you've never cleaned before.
Pick up, straighten, unclutter, scrub, scour and dust. Fix everything, no matter how insignificant it may appear. Often the single best investment you can make when selling your house is a fresh coat of paint, buyers will notice the smell of fresh paint and it gives them the sense that your home has been well taken care of even if you just painted it for the first time in years. Overall, you want your home to get a "wow" response from prospective buyers.
Allow the buyers to imagine themselves living in your home. The decision to buy a home is based on emotion, not logic. Prospective buyers want to try on your home just like they would a nice new set of clothes. If you follow the buyers around pointing out improvements, or if your decorations are so different that it's difficult for a buyer to wipe it from his or her mind, you make it very difficult for the buyers to feel comfortable enough to imagine themselves as the new owner. 5. Make it easy for prospects to get information on your home.
You may be surprised to know that some marketing tools that most agents use to sell homes (ex. traditional open houses) are actually not very effective. In fact less than 1% of homes are sold at an open house. Furthermore, the prospects wanting more information on your home probably value their time as much as you do. The last thing they want to be subjected to is either a game of telephone tag with your real estate agent, or an unwanted sales pitch. Make sure the ads your agent places for your home are attached to a 24 hour prerecorded hotline with a specific ID# for your home which gives buyers access to detailed information about your property day or night 7 days a week without having to talk to anyone.
It's been proven that 3 times as many buyers call for information on your home under this system. And remember, the more buyers you have competing for your home the better, because it sets up an auction-like atmosphere that puts you control. 6.
Know your buyer. In the negotiation process, your objective is to control the pace and set the duration of the process. What is your buyer's motivation? Does he or she need to move quickly? Do they have enough money to pay you your asking price? Knowing this information gives you the upper hand in the negotiation because you know how far you can push to get what you want. The better you know your buyers, the better you can use the negotiation process to your advantage.
7. Make sure the contract is complete. For your part as a seller, make sure you disclose everything. Smart sellers proactively go above and beyond the laws to disclose all known defects to their buyers in writing. If the buyer knows about a problem, they can't come back with a lawsuit later on.
Make sure all terms, costs and responsibilities are spelled out in the contract of sale, and resist the temptation to diverge from the contract. For example, if the buyer requests a move-in prior to closing, just say no. Now is not the time to take any chances of the deal falling through and not closing as scheduled. 8.
Don't move out before you sell. Studies have shown that it is more difficult to sell a home that is vacant because it looks abandoned, forgotten, and simply not appealing. It could even cost you thousands. If you move, you're also telling buyers that you have a new home and are probably highly motivated to sell fast. This, of course, will give the buyer the advantage at the negotiating table.
9. Have a friend who is not afraid come over and "tell you like it is". A good friend will be able to point out all of things they see that need fixing, painting, updating, etc. A "fresh look" from someone else will catch more things than you can see for yourself. Don't be shy about seeking the honest opinions of others. You need to be objective about your home's good points as well as bad.
First impressions are critical. Make sure your home makes a positive statement by carefully inspecting all the little details and viewing it through the eyes of a buyer. Don't gloss over needed repairs and fix-ups, because the buyer will not. Your job is to make sure that your home stands out better than the competition.
10. Remain objective during a showing of your home. Keep emotion out of the sale of your home, and the best way to do this during a showing is to not be there.
You want the prospective buyer to feel as comfortable as possible when they are viewing your house and when your are there the buyer often feels uneasy about being in someone else's home. So go for a walk, go to the store, just do anything but be at the house. Make sure when you leave the house to turn the lights on even during the day, have the temperature set where it is comfortable for the buyer, be certain there are no unpleasant odors, the house is clean, and leave some light background music playing. These items will help set you apart from your competition and make it more likely your home will sell fast and for top dollar.
Ward Miller is co-founder of The Miller Team at Coldwell Banker, a Highland Park real estate group that has sold hundreds and hundreds of houses since 1994. His group specializes in helping people sell their homes quickly and for top dollar. You can contact him at his website.