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Maintenance and Repairs
Spend the money and have a professional home and pest inspection performed. Yes, having to spend $500 – $1,000 on inspections hurts, but it allows you to correct and/or disclose any issues prior to putting your home on the market, which will ultimately maximize your profit and eliminate surprises.
Your additional profit will more than cover the cost of the inspections for a few reasons: 1. A “clean” house that doesn’t require any repairs will usually be rewarded with a higher sale price, 2. Estimates from inspectors tend to be high, but those are the numbers you’ll have to work with, 3. By disclosing everything up front, you eliminate the buyer’s ability to negotiate a reduction of the purchase price based on those estimates, 4. By using your own people to fix any issues, you can control the cost and there won’t be any unknowns to worry the buyer.
This “unknown” aspect scares people, especially first-time buyers, and they’ll try to make you pay for it. The buyer will most likely have their own inspections performed, but there shouldn’t be any new information or discoveries, although that can happen.
Staging, Decluttering and Cleaning
While you’re getting all the maintenance and repair issues completed, you should also focus on how to make your home appeal to the most buyers. Think minimal. Remove EVERYTHING that doesn’t need to be there. This means all personal items and knick knacks—no more family photos or your favorite collection of shot glasses from around the world. Keep it basic, clean and simple. Buyers need to be able to envision themselves in the rooms of the house, and they won’t be able to do that if all your stuff is in the way and drawing their attention elsewhere.
Rooms should be set up to maximize the space. Get rid of additional pieces of furniture that can make the room seem closed in and heavy. Even if this means that you won’t have all your stuff right where you want it, you’re going to have to sacrifice a little bit of comfort in order to sell your home faster and for more money.
Be sure to allow as much light into every room as possible. Open blinds and curtains or even completely remove them, especially if they’re dated and bulky. Everybody likes light and bright. Brightness creates a warm and happy feeling and that’s what people want to experience when they walk into a home and as they go from room to room.
Also, think about painting walls and recaulking tubs, showers and sinks. The cleaner and fresher everything looks and feels, the better. Once all of these things are done, have your home professionally cleaned. Again, having to spend $150 – $200 hurts, but it’s another investment in your future profit. A professional cleaning will really make your home sparkle and set it apart from the competition. Buyers are picky. You don’t want to give them any reason to move on to the next house. If there are too many negatives, your house will be eliminated as an option and that buyer will be gone forever. The more buyers you can get to write an offer on your house, the better your situation will be, not just for the sale price but for the terms as well.
City Resale Inspection
Most cities require a resale inspection that is typically paid for by the seller. I will order and schedule this inspection, which typically costs between $200 and $400 depending on the city. These inspections are used by the city to update their records and determine what actually exists at the property. They also look for any work completed on the property that was not properly permitted. The city resale inspection will be included in the disclosure package.
You must complete a Disclosure Package for buyers to review prior to making an offer. This process usually takes 1 – 4 hours depending on the home, but I will sit down with you and go through each page to make sure you’re fulfilling your obligation to the buyer and protecting yourself in the future. Providing this package to buyers up front allows them to submit offers based on full disclosure, which will also limit their ability to negotiate after the fact.
We will have discussed the value range of your home during our first meeting, but now that we’ve established at what condition your home will be sold (based on the home and pest inspections, staging and any repairs or upgrades you’ve made), we can determine the actual list price and strategy for sale. The strategy will depend on the current market and what you’re comfortable with, e.g., today we’re seeing multiple offers on pretty much everything priced well, and sellers who are willing to price their home at or just below market value are creating a bidding war that is actually driving up the price and netting them more money in the end. Each house and neighborhood is unique, so we’ll develop the strategy that will work best for your home and your goals.
Even before your home officially goes on the market, I will create interest by teasing it to the public.
Here are the things I do for my listings:
- Professional Photos Taken (once repairs and staging are complete)
- Virtual Tour Created
- Direct Mail Postcards or Letters to the Neighborhood
- Advertisements in Local Newspapers and Magazines
- Professional Property Brochure
- Individual Property Website, e.g., http://www.77MainStreet.com
- Networking with the 450+ Agents in My Company as well as Other Agents and Contacts in the Area
Once the home is officially entered into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and goes on the market, it will appear on over 1,000 websites.
My personal listings then get the following:
- Email Flyer to Every Agent in Marin, Sonoma and San Francisco Counties
- Featured or Enhanced Listing on Zillow.com, Trulia.com and Realtor.com
Your House Goes on the MLS and is Officially for Sale
Ideally, we’ll have your house hit the MLS on a Monday or Tuesday. This will maximize exposure and limit days on market as well as allow us to ride the momentum of being a new and fresh listing.
Broker Open House
I will hold a Broker Open House aka Broker Tour the first week your home is on the market. These open houses are on a Wednesday or Thursday depending on what city your home is in and they last for 3 hours. This is the time your home will be open so all the local agents can come and preview your house for any clients they may have.
Now that your house is on the market, it is extremely important that it’s easy for agents to show it to their clients. Ideally, the house will be vacant so people can go any time, but that’s not always possible. If you’re still living at the house, you can either set times when the house can be shown without an appointment or showings can be set by appointment only, i.e., agents will call me with a showing request and I will call, email or text you to make sure that time is okay.
The reality is that, especially in a market with a good amount of inventory, vacant and easy-to-show homes will almost always be viewed first. If those homes don’t work for the buyer, then they will figure out how to schedule an appointment to see the home that isn’t as easy to see. Obviously, every situation is different and having buyers schedule an appointment to view your home might be necessary. If that is the case, you need to be agreeable and flexible—you should do your best to make the requested time happen because that might be your only shot with that buyer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a seller deny a request to a buyer and that buyer never came back. You may think that asking them to come at a different time isn’t a big deal, but something that small is often enough for a buyer to move on to another house. You may have accommodated the first 8 showings and this is the only time you’ve rejected one, but, for the buyer, this is their only experience with you and could be a sign of how you’ll be to work with should they decide to submit an offer on your house. It’s best to start out on a positive note, so a small sacrifice of your time might be what it takes to get your house sold the fastest and for the most money. Keep this in mind: the more showing requests you deny the longer you’ll have to deal with your house being on the market.
Depending on the market and pricing strategy, we may be able to set an offer date. In a strong seller’s market like we have today, we can put the house on the market on a Tuesday, have the broker tour on Wednesday or Thursday, an open house on Sunday and then accept offers on Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week. This strategy allows you to create buzz and ride the momentum into a successful sale. If the real estate climate is different, we will discuss the best way to get your home sold for the most money.
The Escrow Process
Congratulations! You’ve accepted an offer! The day after you deliver written acceptance of your buyers’ offer to them is the first technical day of the escrow and time periods. A typical offer will have about 10 days for a buyer to complete their investigations, 17 days for them to have an appraisal and receive full loan approval and 30 days to close the transaction. If you’ve followed my advice and had your own inspections done and had the buyer sign off on those reports at the time they submitted their offer, then the 10 day investigation period should be relatively smooth. Basically, they’ll just confirm what was in the reports and verify that they can obtain title insurance as well as homeowner’s insurance. They will also continue the processing of their loan including having an appraiser visit the house and determine his/her opinion of market value. By the 17th day, the buyers should have their loan fully approved and be able to release all their contingencies. From that point, you’re on the home stretch and will need to meet with the escrow officer to sign your closing documents. On the 30th day, the property will officially transfer to the buyer and the escrow officer will release any funds due to you. If you opted for a wire transfer then you should expect the funds to hit your account the next business day after closing.
The escrow process above is a little oversimplified as many things can and do happen throughout each transaction, but this will serve for our purposes as a general understanding of what to expect.
You are free and clear! Hopefully you were able to achieve your goals and are ready for the next chapter in your life.