by Ed Kunkel, Jr.
Tip 1: Decide to Sell or Hold
Before selling your home, consider that the home may serve you better as an investment. Before you put your home on the market for sale, you should seek expert advice from your financial planner and your lender before even talking with an agent.
If it’s financially feasible and wise for you to hang on to your current asset while moving on to another home, then you should!
Put a property manager to work for you, and let a tenant make your mortgage payment while you build equity in your investment.
Tip 2: Estimate Your Home’s Value
If you decide to sell your home, then it will help to have an idea of how much your home is worth.
You may want to talk with an agent, but since you’re not ready for the sign in the yard just yet, you might want to wait and take advantage of the free websites online that can offer you a value range for your home based upon what has sold near your area, and local trends.
Just keep in mind when you are looking at value ranges, there is no exact science to accurately pricing a home. No two homes are alike – even if they are the same builder’s plan, so your estimate will be a ball park range only.
If the range you come up with is close to what you owe, you should have an agent crunch the numbers and give you a realistic value to see if it’s feasible to sell your home.
Tip 3: Get Your Needed Repairs Done
You know that an interested buyer will likely have your home inspected.
Is there something about the home that concerns you enough to say “I wish I could know ahead of time what the inspection results will show?” If so, then you should have the home inspected beforehand.
As a listing agent, I commonly recommend that a homeowner have their home inspected if it’s 10 years old or older before putting the home on the market. If there’s a major repair item that will need to be fixed, you now can contemplate your options on how to deal with it before your home is on the market, instead of being under pressure to make a decision when you are pending sale with a buyer.
Let’s assume the home needs some repairs. Do you do all of them?
In short, no. When you review your report, focus on two things: 1. What are the most critical findings on the report? 2. Were there any other findings that are concerning enough to the inspector to cause him/her to “recommend further review by a licensed contractor?” Focus on those items only. Let your buyer focus on the smaller issues during their inspection.
Doing this will give you peace of mind that they likely will not find something you don’t already know about.
Tip 4: Clean and Prep Your Home
Our next step is to de-clutter, de-personalize, and clean. I highly recommend that you find a good house cleaner and home stager. You may look at this as an expense you’d rather avoid, but the cost of getting this kind of help will always be cheaper than the first price reduction.
- Go after the stuff you know you don’t need anymore and get rid of it!
- Give it away, or sell it in a garage sale
- Clear out your closets, and box up what you can live without for at least 4-6 months
- Clean out the garage. Don’t make it a catch all for what you clear out of the house.
- Consider renting a storage space if necessary
- Pack up your family photos, and any other personal items that adorn the walls or living space. A buyer wants to see themselves in the home. Not you.
- If you are unsure about what should stay and what should go, this is where a professional stager can help. Usually they’ll tell you that less is more when it comes to items in the home.
- Throughout the home
- Clean windows inside and out
- Vacuum ceilings
- Interior walls should all be one neutral color, patched and freshly painted
- Have floors and carpets professionally cleaned
- Fireplace: clean and don’t use while on the market
- Change out light bulbs in the bedrooms, living areas, and kitchen to brighter bulbs
- If your home was smoked in, or has pet odor
- Use a sealer/primer on ceilings, walls and floors before painting
- Install new carpet or flooring
- In the kitchen
- For aroma effect, microwave a small dish of vanilla to offer a natural air freshener
- Dress your eat-in area with a table set for dinner
- Take out small appliances and any clutter off of your countertops
- Kitchen should be spotless! You should feel comfortable eating off of the floor because of how clean it is!
- Should be de-personalized
- No mirrors on the ceiling
- Beds made
- Closets organized
- Scrape off all the old caulking, and apply bright white caulk neatly for a clean look
- Replace any broken tiles
- Replace the shower curtain
- Put out fresh new towels and decorative soaps
- Keep the grass cut
- Plant some annuals around the grounds, or do some hanging plants
- Anything that may look unsightly or like clutter, clean it up!
- Sweep and clean all porches, walkways, decks and driveway
- Touch up paint as needed
- Clean all exposed hardware that looks dingy
- Clean all lamps and lights
- Sweep off debris from the roof
- Get rid of cobwebs
- Trim back any foliage that grows near the home, nothing should be closer to the exterior of the home than 12 inches.
- New door mat
- All of front entry looks clean and inviting
When your home is on the market, you should have a checklist and a routine to make sure the home is clean and show ready at all times. Make sure all the members of your household know what they need to do to contribute to the routine.
And last, but not least..
Tip 5: Hire An Agent
Now, if you’ve made it this far without any help to prep your home for the market, you are probably thinking, “I should sell the house on my own to save money on commissions.” I can respect where you’re coming from, but I must insist that hiring an agent is a must! Why? For starters, there are four types of buyers in any market, and they are:
- Serious buyers that need to buy soon. These are buyers that are relocating, and have a short amount of time to find a home and be settled.
- Serious buyers that do not need to buy soon. Buyers that are commonly first-time homebuyers, and need a little help (and hand-holding) through the process. These buyers are taking their time to ensure they don’t make a hasty decision.
- Investors. These are folks that are not only looking for a deal, they’re looking for a seller that is desperate to sell for pennies on the dollar.
- Non-serious buyers that like to look and dream. AKA, ‘Looky Lous’. People that will probably never buy a home, but love to go to open houses, eat free food and take flyers.
Which Kind of Buyers do you Want?
Now ask yourself, which buyers would you be most interested in working with? The answer is obvious – either category 1 or 2.
Most often, these types of buyers are working with agents – especially category 1. If your home is not listed on MLS with an agent, it’s going to be overlooked by several of the potential category 1 or 2 buyers.
So, then you consider the idea of offering only a buyer’s agent commission to sweeten the deal, but still sell the home on your own. You may not realize it now, but when you make an offer like this to work with a buyer’s agent, what you are really saying to them is, “I (seller) will pay you a rate of half what you would normally earn for doing double the work while compromising your agency relationship with your buyer and taking on additional unnecessary legal risk.”
Based upon this understanding, I know agents who are strictly buyer’s agents, and they avoid working with ‘For Sale By Owner’ homes for this reason. They choose instead to work exclusively with cooperating agents that have listings to sell.
Commissions are expensive, I get that. So if you’re going to hire an agent, hire the agent that will do the best for you. It may not be the biggest, most productive agent, but the one that your gut tells you they have your back.
Here’s some do’s and don’ts when hiring an agent:
- Don’t hire a family member, unless they have proven to be worthy of your business
- This is a business decision, and you do not owe anyone your business, it doesn’t matter if it’s cousin Frank, or Uncle Bill
- Don’t hire the discount agent
- If they’re willing to short change themselves on commissions, what does that say about their ability to negotiate on your behalf?
- Do ask people you know and trust for recommendations
- Your lender and financial planner will have recommendations
- Do interview 3 agents
- Find them at open houses and interview them without telling them you have a house to sell
- Test their knowledge of market activity where you live
- Have the agent clarify what agency relationships are, and how will they handle themselves if they are representing you AND the buyer for their home
- Ask them if they will show you their volume for the past 5 years
- Google your candidates to see what kind of activity is showing under their names online
I hope this information helps you. And please keep in mind, I’m not only a blog writer, but I’m also a Realtor® and a U.S. military veteran that would appreciate the opportunity to earn your business. Best in your endeavors!
Ed Kunkel, Jr. is a Managing Broker/Realtor® at Keller Williams Realty in Olympia, Washington. Visit Ed here. Ed’s Military History: Veteran – U.S. Army and Air Force Reserve; Highest rank, E5; 11 years combined military service.