25 Essential Tips To Sell Your Home Quickly (And For Top Dollar)
Selling your home is one of the biggest milestones in your life. Here are 25 Essential tips you must know…
For most people, selling their home means cashing in on their biggest asset. In other words, it must be handled with great care if you hope to protect - and capitalize on - your investment. This guide was written with one goal in mind: to give you the tools you need to maximize your profits, maintain control, and reduce the stress that comes with the home-selling process.
KNOW WHY YOU ARE SELLING
The reason you look closely at why you want to sell is that your motivations play an important role in the process. They affect everything from setting a price to deciding how much time and money you’ll invest to getting your home ready for selling.
For example, what’s more important to you: the money you walk away with OR the length of time your property is on the market? If your goal is a quick sale, that can dictate one kind of approach. If you want to maximize your profits, the sale process will almost certainly take longer.
ONCE YOU KNOW, KEEP IT TO YOURSELF
Your reasons will affect how you negotiate the sale of your home, but they shouldn’t be given as ammunition to the person who wants to buy it. For example, a prospective buyer who knows you must move quickly has you at their mercy in the negotiation process. When asked, simply say that your housing needs have changed. Your reasons are nobody’s business but your own.
DON'T PRICE YOUR HOME TOO HIGH
This is the #1 mistake that many sellers make; they think their home is worth more than it actually is. Don’t let this be you! It is not a bad idea to price yourself a little bit above fair market value, but understand that the typical home sells for about 98% of the asking price (per National Assoc of Realtors® 2015 stats). So asking 5-10% above fair market value does not fit with that. If you do this, there is a good chance you will sit on the market until you reduce the price.
Most buyers do not like to make low-ball offers. If you are priced too high, there is a good chance you won’t even receive an offer. A low-ball offer can mean different things to different people, but generally speaking, anything more than 5% below asking price is probably considered "low-ball" to most people.
DON'T PRICE YOUR HOME TOO LOW
If you want a quick sale, then you may want to price the home a bit lower than your expected fair market value. But if you are too low, you are going to shortchange yourself. Once you’ve set your price, you have told buyers the absolute maximum they have to pay for your home. Another potential problem with listing too low is that buyers might hesitate and opt to not write an offer at all, thinking “what is wrong with this house…what is the seller hiding?"
YOUR TAX ASSESSMENT MEANS ALMOST NOTHING
Some people look to tax assessments to assign a value. There are two problems with doing this:
- The municipalities’ assessed value is not necessarily their estimated fair market value. You will need to look at what ratio your municipality is using for assessment to fair market value. Many municipalities have their assessment values very close to estimated fair market value, somewhere 98-102%. But some municipalities, especially some rural ones, are way below or above that.
- The value that your municipality has placed on your home is very unreliable. When was the last time someone from your municipality walked through your home? Do they know about the granite countertops and stainless steel appliances you installed last year? Do they know that you just replaced all the flooring? Did they even go inside your house after you completed the sun room addition? Typically a municipality will update the assessed value of a property after it has recently sold. Other than that, they are typically increasing and decreasing value based on overall market averages, which is not a reliable way to figure out the value for your specific property. Even when permits are pulled for additions and such, the municipality is not necessarily doing a full evaluation of the value of your home, but rather simply adding value to the already unreliable value that they have on record.
DON'T RELY ON YOUR 'ZESTIMATE' OR OTHER COMPUTER GENERATED VALUES FOR YOUR HOME
Zillow has become a very popular real estate website for consumers. While there is a lot of useful information on Zillow, the ‘Zestimate’ value is not very helpful. It is a computer algorithm that compares your home to other homes in your neighborhood and then assigns a specific value. It is simply looking at square feet, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc, and then assigning value based on that. Occasionally it might be accurate, especially in cookie-cutter type of neighborhoods (but more often than not, it is not accurate). It cannot take into consideration a number of factors including: updates, improvements, condition, etc. Also, in certain areas there are specific neighborhoods that are more valuable than others, and the computers won’t necessarily know what comps to include and what ones should not be included.
PRICE IT RIGHT!
I know this is yet another tip regarding price, but that is because choosing the right list price for your home is the most important factor in selling it. If you are too high or too low, you either won’t get offers or you will sell it for much less than you otherwise could have. Of course you can always reduce your price, but then you have wasted time on the market and lost some potential buyers. Also if you are on the market too long, you become a stale listing and buyers are wary of that, possibly causing you to get a lower price in the end than you otherwise could have if you priced it right to start.
FIND A GOOD REALTOR®
Nearly two-thirds of the people who sell their own home say they wouldn’t do it themselves again, according to research by the National Association of Realtors®. Sellers surveyed pointed to difficulties setting a price, marketing handicaps and liability concerns among the primary reasons they would turn to a Realtor® next time. And selling a home yourself usually eats up more time and effort than you might initially expect.
If you decide to work with a Realtor®, contact two or three. Explain to each that you’re thinking about putting your home on the market and you’d like to meet to talk about pricing and marketing. Just as you should be concerned with too low of a price, beware of an agent who gives you the highest price - they may be artificially inflating the price just to get you to sign a listing contract with you now, only to pressure you to reduce the price later.
RELY ON OTHER PEOPLE'S JUDGEMENT AS WELL AS YOUR OWN
The biggest mistake you can make at this point is to rely solely on your own judgement. Remember this is your home, a place of fond memories. There are bound to be emotional ties that can impair your ability to make an honest assessment of your home’s strengths and weaknesses.
In evaluating what improvements you can make, don't be shy about asking others for their opinions. But make sure you're getting an honest answer; some may try to spare your feelings, just what you don't need. Fortunately, your Realtor® won't be shy in discussing what should be done to make your home more marketable.
CLEAN LIKE YOU'VE NEVER CLEANED BEFORE
You want your house to show as good as it possibly can, and that means a clean house. This is the time for you to do a deep clean. Get all the nooks and crannies, finally clean that tile grout, get the carpets shampooed, clean or replace the shower liners, etc. After the deep clean is done, then you just have to focus on cleaning up after yourself when you have shoiwngs. Remember, you are competing with other people's homes, some of which might be new construction.
FIX EVERYTHING NO MATTER HOW TRIVIAL IT MAY APPEAR
The step that squeaks, the light switch that doesn’t work, the cracked tile - they might be minor annoyances to you, but they can also be deal-killers. The problem is that you never know what will turn a buyer off. And even something minor that’s gone unattended can suggest that perhaps there are other, possibly more signifianct, problems present as well. And that leads to buyers passing on your home or paying less than they otherwise might for your home.
REMOVE ALL [MOST] TRACES OF YOU FROM YOUR HOME
Many buyers feel a little uncomfortable walking through somebody else’s home, and that feeling of discomfort is stronger if they are continually reminded of that as they walk through the house. Avoid this by making your home as neutral as possible. Anything that interferes with a prospective buyer’s ability to see themselves living there must be eliminated. A few carefully chosen knickknacks and pictures may add warmth and character to the home, but too many are a distraction.
DON'T LET A SMELL BE YOUR DOWNFALL
A bad odor can easily be a deal killer. You must do your best to eliminate all traces of food, pet and smoking odors. Lighting candles or plugging in an air freshener is typically not the answer. Buyers will just think you are covering something up. Eliminate the bad scents completely, even if it means you need to paint or replace carpet. Pay special attention to this if you have pets…you may need to make a point to cleanup after your pets more often than normal during the time your house is listed for sale.
MAKE A GREAT FIRST IMPRESSION - CURB APPEAL
Improving the curb appeal of your home can boost its value by as much as 17 percent, according to a Texas Tech University study. Power wash the siding and clean the windows. If the siding is not in great shape, consider replacing or painting. Get rid of all weeds, put down fresh mulch, mow the lawn regularly…make sure your lawn and landscaping look great. Does your driveway need a fresh coat of asphalt? Is your roof starting to curl? Don’t give the buyers a negative first impression when they drive up to your house. The 5 top curb appeal trends in 2016 according to the Texas Tech study are: (1) Update the front door, (2) Lighen up the exterior, (3) Liven up the landscaping, (4) Put furniture on the porch, and (5) Update the garage door.
MAKE YOUR HOUSE LARGER - DECLUTTER
Declutter, declutter, declutter. You do not want to make your house feel smaller than it is! This is a great time to do that garage sale, or just take some things to Goodwill. You want to make the buyers feel comfortable as they walk through the home. Also, you want them to focus on each space and the house itself, rather than making comments on your furniture. Enhance and highlight the house, not your personal belongings.
MAKE YOUR HOUSE BETTER - STAGING
You do not want to alienate any buyers with bold paint colors. Painting is a relatively cheap and easy way to make sure you don’t lose any buyers over something so insignificant.
Staging is also about defining the function of each living space, so that buyers can see the potential. You should strongly consider getting staging advice from a professional. Some Realtors® will cover the cost for you to meet with a professional stager.
THE LITTLE TOUCHES CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
While personal items can detract, other small touches can help make your home a "home" to potential buyers. A well-placed vase of flowers, accent pieces of sculpture, potpourri in the bathroom - all can enhance the attractiveness of your home in a subtle, soft-spoken way. Think HGTV and Better Homes and Gardens…get your house looking as good as possible.
You are legally responsible to disclose any known defects to all buyers in writing. There is a Real Estate Condition Report that makes this easy to do. If there is any doubt as to whether or not you should disclose something, then you probably should be disclosing it.
OFFER COMMISSION TO BUYER'S AGENTS
88% of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent, according to National Assoc of Realtors 2015 stats. If you are not willing to pay a commission to an agent working with a Buyer, then you are significantly shrinking your buyer pool. It is worth the 3% (or whatever the typical commission might be for a selling agent) to get your listing in front of Realtors® so that they can bring their buyers to your house.
THERE IS MORE TO AN OFFER THAN JUST PRICE
It is exciting when you receive an offer at your asking price, but make sure you look through the entire contract. Is the buyer asking for a closing cost credit? What contingencies are in the offer? Does the buyer need to sell a house before purchasing your home? What kind of financing are they getting…are they pre-approved for a mortgage loan? What closing date are they proposing? There are lots of important elements to look for in a contract. This is another reason to have your own REALTOR®, so that you don’t overlook something important. Consider hiring a real estate attorney if you do not have a REALTOR®.
DON'T GET EMOTIONAL DURING NEGOTIATIONS
This is a difficult one for many sellers, and understandably. But if you can let go of the emotion you have invested in your home and approach negotiations like a business transaction, you’ll find the process to be a lot less painful - and you are less likely to kill a deal before it starts. Also if you can do this, you will likely have an advantage over prospective buyers who can get caught up in the emotion of the situation.
DON'T TAKE A LOW OFFER PERSONALLY
This is an extension of tip #21. Keep your emotions out of it, try to see the situation from all perspectives, and approach this like a business transaction. A low offer does not mean that the buyer is unwilling to pay a fair price. If you want to sell your house, then counter the offer. Keep communication and open and you never know what might happen. If you close off communication and tell the buyer to take a hike, then you will never see what that buyer might have done. Worst case scenario is they aren’t willing to pay what you need, and an offer doesn’t come together. Best case scenario, you sell your house.
DON'T TAKE A LOW OFFER SERIOUSLY
An unacceptably low offer should not be taken personally or seriously. Consider countering at a price slightly below your asking price. This lets a buyer know that their first offer isn’t seen as a serious one, but you are open to negotiating.
MAKE SURE THE CONTRACT IS COMPLETE
To avoid potential problems later in the transaction, make sure you have a complete offer. If the offer is incomplete, counter the necessary items to make it a complete contract. Some things to look for include: Date it was made, buyer name(s), property address, purchase price, earnest money, closing date, signatures.
DON'T DEVIATE FROM THE CONTRACT
Once you and the buyer(s) have both signed and delivered the contract in a timely fashion, then you have a binding contract. If you do not follow the terms of the contract, then you might be considered to be in breach of contract, which might include legal ramifications. So, make sure you understand the contract and follow it accordingly. Note that all deadlines are firm.
If this all sounds like a lot of work, it is. But it’s to be expected when you’re selling anything of such great value. You’ll thank yourself for all the expense and hard work when the outcome works to your satisfaction.
Please feel free to call Seth if you would like further explanation on any of these topics, or if you have any real estate questions at all. Seth has over a decade of experience selling homes in Dane County and would like to be as helpful as he possibly can to home owners. He hopes this special report provides you with the information you need.
Realty Executives Cooper Spransy
5940 Seminole Centre Ct #310
Madison, WI 53711