There’s so much news about the real estate markets – it’s all over the media and everyone’s talking about it. You’ve decided to sell you home or real estate properties and wonder what’s really going on in your area. Real estate in some places is regional, and in others, very localized. You want to find out how your local market is doing, how to arrive at the right asking price, and sell your home quickly and for more money right?
Here’s what to do:
- Go to a real estate website and look at how many homes are for sale in your neighborhood and/or area. (I go to the Coldwellbanker.com website, click on neighborhood, then choose the county, the area, and the neighborhood). Register your name and address on the website, then choose 5 to 10 homes similar to yours in square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, age and condition (remodeled, partially remodeled, or original condition), and save them in the website’s “favorites” area. Note how much they are asking. This will give you a starting ballpark for your asking price and is not an accurate number to rely on to choose your selling price. Every time one of them has a price change, you will be automatically emailed notification. Note what the starting price was and what it is now. I saved some “favorite” homes in my area and recently received emails for price reductions.
- Call an agent whose ‘for sale’ signs you have seen in the neighborhood. You want someone who knows, without researching, what houses have sold for in your neighborhood, and specifically what kind of demand and challenges there are. Ask how many homes they have sold (brought the buyers) in the neighborhood recently, not just homes they’ve listed. Listing agents are sometimes better at getting listings than they are at selling homes.
- Some questions to ask the agent are: What is their marketing plan? How will they create an attractive flyer? If your home is higher end, what will the brochure they create look like, do they have a sample, and will they use a special photographer? (Eighty percent of home buyers look at homes on the internet first. The photographs of your house in the listing are crucially important as they will either drive buyers to your home or turn them off before they’ve even seen it). How much advertising will they do and where? Are open houses part of their strategy and why or why not? What kind of networking do they have with other agents? How many buyers are they currently working with? How often will they communicate with you? Do they stage a home for sale? What suggestions do they have to make your home more attractive to buyers?
- Ask the agent to run a competitive analysis or “comp” on what price similar homes in your neighborhood have SOLD for. This may be very different from their original asking price, so be sure to get the sold prices. If the prices were below asking price, how much below?
- How long ago did they sell? In some markets, such as in large metropolitan areas, 6 months can be an eternity! Find out the most recent sales prices.
- Have more than one agent come to your home and make a presentation to receive your listing. Choose the one who has market knowledge of the area, has a large network of agents they work with (a larger real estate firm is usually better, but there are exceptions), and experience. This is not the time to hire your niece, unless she is the most expert agent in your neighborhood.
- Agents are tempted to quote you a high listing number in order to get your listing. While the highest quote might seem to be music to your ears, remember your home will not sell for the price you selected, it will sell for what a willing buying will pay and a willing seller will accept! The most common mistake I see sellers make is thinking the price they set is the price they’re going to receive and then way overprice their home. Another mistake is thinking their home should sell for whatever the highest priced home in the neighborhood sold for and totally disregard the differences in condition, floor plan, square footage, property size, market conditions, etc. That was only the price agreed on that particular house by that particular buyer and seller at that particular time and not necessarily what yours will sell for! Overpricing causes a home to sit on the market, get stale, and weaken bargaining power by having to make price reductions. Price it right the first time – based on the sales prices of similar homes sold or slightly below – and you’ll have more interest and a quicker sale. Multiple offers have even occurred in slower markets when homes are priced right.
- Remember to consider your carrying costs to have your house on the market. For every month it’s for sale, subtract your monthly payment from the price of the house because the longer it sits, the more out of pocket you are paying. A house priced at $520,000 with a house payment of $3,500 a month that sits for 6 months, costs $21,000 to carry just the mortgage and could have been priced at $499,000, for the same profit. And the lower price might have been the difference in selling it immediately – and you being on your way to your new home, instead of in six months of “listed-house worry” punishment!
- Try to get your home looking clean, well-maintained, and clutter free. Pack up everything on your kitchen counter except a coffee pot and some flowers. Pack up everything from your bathroom counter except soap. Put away all your personal photos – they are too distracting and also the buyer wants to picture themselves in the house, not be reminded they are in someone else’s home. Put away all toys, paint any super bright or super dark wall colors you have a light beige. If necessary and you have time, have a garage sale. If not, order a Pod to come to your home and load extra furniture, Christmas decorations, collections, photos, toys, sports equipment, tv’s, extra overflow of office files, books, garage items, and so on into the Pod and store it. You can have it delivered to your new address when you move. (Yes, it interferes with living – unbearably if you have small children. That’s why it’s even more important for you to price your house right.)
- Try to minimize the negatives (outdated elements) of your home. If you have a bathroom that hasn’t been updated, what could you do to make it better? Paint the cabinets white or dark brown? Change the handles from gold to brushed nickel? Change out the faucets and lighting? Take down flowered wallpaper and paint it? Small improvements make a big difference. The fewer things a new buyer has to change after moving in, the higher your house will be on their “potential house to buy” list.
- Make sure your yard looks manicured. Plant bright colored flowers by your front door for a cheery first impression. Spend a few hundred dollars to get your yard weeded, pruned, plant flowers, etc. If you can’t do the work, hire your children or neighbor kids, or ask your neighbor for their gardener’s phone number. It could be the thing that brings the buyer into your home and gets you an offer and a SOLD sign in your front yard.