When you decide to put your house up “for sale”, we do not just put a sign in the yard and wait for a buyer to call us. We are pro-active Realtors® who immediately start the process. We can make decisions quickly without having to go through layers of management that can complicate issues and slow down crucial timing.
We are confident you will be in excellent hands with Corliss Realty!
Getting Your House Ready to Sell
The Selling Process:
If you are thinking of selling your home, chances are you're caught up in a mass of emotions. You may be looking forward to moving up to a new home or facing the uncertainty of a major move to a new town or across the country. You may be reluctant to leave your memories behind or eager to start new and exciting adventures. Remember, we are here to help you with any of your needs. Call or email us today!
Introduction - Emotion vs. Reason
When conversing with real estate agents, you will often find that when they talk to you about buying real estate, they will refer to your purchase as a "home." Yet if you are selling property, they will often refer to it as a "house." There is a reason for this. Buying real estate is often an emotional decision, but when selling real estate, you need to remove emotion from the equation.
You need to think of your house as a marketable commodity. Property. Real estate. Your goal is to get others to see it as their potential home, not yours. If you do not consciously make this decision, you can inadvertently create a situation where it takes longer to sell your property.
The first step in getting your house ready to sell is to "de-personalize" it.
De-personalize the House
The reason you want to "de-personalize" your house is that you want buyers to view it as their potential home. When a potential homebuyer sees your family photos hanging on the wall, it puts your own brand on the home and momentarily shatters their illusions about owning the house. Therefore, put away most of your family photos, sports trophies, collectible items, knick-knacks, and souvenirs. Put them in a box. Rent a storage area for a few months and put the box in the storage unit.
Do not just put the box in the garage or closet. Part of preparing a house for sale is to remove "clutter," and that is the next step in preparing your house for sale.
Removing Clutter, Though You May Not Think of it as Clutter
This is the hardest thing for most people to do because they are emotionally attached to everything in the house. After years of living in the same home, clutter collects in such a way that may not be evident to the homeowner. However, it does affect the way buyers see the home, even if you do not realize it. Clutter collects on shelves, countertops, drawers, closets, and garages.
Take a step back and pretend you are a buyer. Let a friend help point out areas of clutter. This works as long as you can accept their views without getting defensive. Let your agent help you, too.
The kitchen is a good place to start removing clutter because it is an easy place to start. First, get everything off the counters. Everything. Even the toaster. Put the toaster in a cabinet and take it out only when you use it. Find a place where you can store everything in cabinets and drawers. Of course, you may notice that you do not have enough cabinet space to put everything. Clean them out. The dishes, pots, and pans that rarely get used? Put them in a box and put that box in storage too, or better yet, donate them.
You see, homebuyers will open all your cabinets and drawers, especially in the kitchen. They want to be sure there is enough room for their "stuff." If your kitchen cabinets, pantries, and drawers look jammed full, it sends a negative message to the buyer and does not promote an image of plentiful storage space. The best way to do that is to have as much "empty space" as possible.
For that reason, if you have a "junk drawer," get rid of the junk. If you have a rarely used crock pot, put it in storage. Do this with every cabinet and drawer. Create open space.
If you have a large number of food items crammed into the shelves or pantry, begin using them – especially canned goods. Canned goods are heavy and you don’t want to be lugging them to a new house, anyway – or paying a mover to do so. Let what you have on the shelves determine your menus and use up as much as you can.
Beneath the sink is very critical, too. Make sure the area beneath the sink is as empty as possible, removing all extra cleaning supplies. You should scrub the area down as well, and determine if there are any tell-tale signs of water leaks that may cause a homebuyer to hesitate in buying your home.
Closets are great for accumulating clutter, though you may not think of it as clutter. We are talking about extra clothes and shoes – things you rarely wear but cannot bear to be without. Do without these items for a couple of months by putting them in a box, because these items can make your closets look "crammed full." Sometimes there are shoeboxes full of "stuff" or other accumulated personal items, too.
Many people have too much furniture in certain rooms – not too much for your own personal living needs – but too much to give the illusion of space that a homebuyer would like to see. You may want to tour some builders’ models to see how they place furniture in those homes. Observe how they place furniture in the models so you get some ideas on what to remove and what to leave in your house.
Storage Area Clutter
Garages and sheds accumulate not only clutter but junk. These areas should be as empty as possible so that buyers can imagine what they would do with the space. Remove anything that is not essential and take it to a storage facility or have a garage sale.
Fixing Up the House Interior
Plumbing and Fixtures
All your sink fixtures should look shiny and new. If this cannot be accomplished by cleaning, you may want to buy new ones where needed.
Check to make sure you have good water pressure and that there are no stains on any of the porcelain. If you have a difficult stain to remove, one trick is to hire a cleaning crew to go through and clean your home on a one-time basis. They seem to be wonderful at making stains go away.
Ceilings, Walls, and Painting
Painting can be your best investment when selling your home. Do not choose colors based on your own preferences, but based on what would appeal to the widest possible number of buyers. You should almost always choose an off-white color because white helps your rooms appear bright and spacious.
Carpet and Flooring
Unless your carpet appears old and worn, or it is definitely an outdated style or color, you probably should do nothing more than hire a good carpet cleaner. If you do choose to replace it, do so with something inexpensive in a fairly neutral color.
Repair or replace broken floor tiles, but do not spend a lot of money on anything. Remember, you are not fixing up the place for yourself. You want to move. Your goal is simply to have as few negative impressions for those who may want to purchase your property.
Windows and Doors
Check all of your windows to make sure they open and close easily. If not, a spray of WD40 often helps. Make sure there are no cracked or broken windowpanes. If there are, replace them before you begin showing your home.
Do the same things with the doors – make sure they open and close properly, without creaking. If they do, a shot of WD40 on the hinges usually makes the creak go away. Be sure the doorknobs turn easily, and that they are cleaned and polished to look sharp. As buyers go from room to room, someone opens each door and you want to do everything you can to create a positive impression.
For those who smoke, you might want to minimize smoking indoors while trying to sell your home. You could also purchase an ozone spray that helps to remove odors without creating a masking odor.
Pets create odors that you may have become used to, but are immediately noticeable to those with more finely tuned olfactory senses.
For those with cats, be sure to empty kitty litter boxes daily. There are also products that you can sprinkle in a layer below the kitty litter that helps to control odor. For those with dogs, keep the dog outdoors as much as possible. You might also try sprinkling carpet freshener on the carpet on a periodic basis.
Costs of Repairs
Do not do anything expensive, such as remodeling. If possible, use savings to pay for any repairs and improvements – do not go charging up credit cards or obtaining new loans. Remember that part of selling a house is also preparing to buy your next home. You do not want to do anything that will affect your credit scores or hurt your ability to qualify for your next mortgage.
Fixing Up Outside the House
Most real estate advice tells you to work on the outside of the house first, but unless there is a major project involved, but we believe it is best to do it last. There are two main reasons for this. First, the first steps in preparing the interior of the house are easier. They also help develop the proper mindset required for selling - beginning to think of your "home" as a marketable commodity. Second, the exterior is the most important. A home buyer’s first impression is based on his or her view of the house from the real estate agent’s car. So, take a walk across the street and take a good look at your house. Look at nearby houses, too, and see how your house compares.
Is your landscaping at least average for the neighborhood? If it is not, buy a few bushes and plant them. Do not put in trees. Mature trees are expensive, and you will not get back your investment. Also, immature trees do not really add much to the appearance value of the home.
If you have an area for flowers, buy mature colorful flowers and plant them. They add a splash of vibrancy and color, creating a favorable first impression. Do not buy bulbs or seeds and plant them. They will not mature fast enough to create the desired effect and you certainly don’t want a patch of baren earth for homebuyers to view.
Your lawn should be evenly cut, freshly edged, well-watered, and free of brown spots. If there are problems with your lawn, you should probably take care of them before working on the inside of your home. This is because certain areas may need re-sodding, and you want to give it a chance to grow so that re-sod areas are not immediately apparent. Plus, you might want to give fertilizer enough time to be effective. Always rake up loose leaves and grass cuttings.
The big decision is whether to paint or not to paint. When you look at your house from across the street, does it look tired and faded? If so, a paint job may be in order. It is often a very good investment and really spruces up the appearance of a house, adding dollars to offers from potential homebuyers.
When choosing a color, it should not be something garish and unusual, but a color that fits well in your neighborhood. Of course, the color also depends on the style of your house, too. For some reason, different shades of beige seem to elicit the best response in homebuyers, whether it is in the trim or the basic color of the house. Don't forget to take into consideration the color of your roof when choosing a paint color. Also, make sure you follow the Homeowner Association rules if applicable.
As for the roof, if you know your house has an old leaky roof, replace it. If you do not replace a leaky roof, you are going to have to disclose it and the buyer will want a new roof, anyway. Otherwise, wait and see what the home inspector says. Why spend money unnecessarily?
The Back Yard
The backyard should be tidy. If you have a pool or spa, keep it freshly maintained and constantly cleaned. For those that have dogs, be sure to constantly keep the area clear of "debris." If you have swing sets or anything elaborate for your kids, it probably makes more sense to remove them than to leave them in place. They take up room, and you want your backyard to appear as spacious as possible, especially in newer homes where the yards are not as large.
The Front Door & Entryway
The front door should be especially sharp since it is the entryway into the house. Polish the door fixture so it gleams. If the door needs refinishing or repainting, make sure to get that done. And, don't forget to get rid of any spider webs hanging around the entry! Speaking of standing on the front porch, make sure you have a nice and clean welcome mat too.
Make sure the lock works easily and the key fits properly. When a homebuyer comes to your home, the agent uses the key from the lockbox to unlock the door. If there is trouble opening the lock while everyone else stands around twiddling their thumbs, this sends a negative first impression to prospective buyers.
When Your Selling Price is too High, Beware!
Meeting With Real Estate Professionals
So, you’ve decided to sell your home and have a fairly good idea of what you think it is worth. Being a sensible home seller, you schedule appointments with a few listing agents who’ve been hanging stuff on your front doorknob for years. Each Real Estate Professional comes prepared with a "Competitive Market Analysis" on fancy paper and they each recommend a specific sales price.
Amazingly, the Real Estate Professionals may have come up with prices that are lower than you expected. Although they back up their recommendations with recent sales data of similar homes, you remain convinced your house is worth more. When you interview the third agent’s figures, they are much more in line with your own anticipated value, or maybe even higher. Suddenly, you are a happy and excited home seller, already counting the money.
Which Real Estate Professional do you choose?
If you’re like many people, you pick Real Estate Professional number three. This is an agent who seems willing to listen to your input and work with you. This is an agent that cares about putting the most money in your pocket. This is an agent that is willing to start out at your price and if you need to drop the price later, you can do that easily, right? After all, everyone else does it!
The truth is that you may have just met an agent engaging in a questionable sales practice called "buying a listing." He "bought" the listing by suggesting you might be able to get a higher sales price than the other agents recommended. Most likely, he is quite doubtful that your home will actually sell at that price. The intention from the beginning is to eventually talk you into lowering the price.
Why do agents "buy" listings? There are basically two reasons.
A well-meaning and hard working agent can feel pressure from a homeowner who has an inflated perception of his home’s value. On the other hand, there are some agents who engage in this sales practice routinely.
What Happens Behind the Scenes?
Whichever the case, if you start out with too high a price on your home, you may have just added to your stress level, and selling a home is stressful enough. There will be a lot of "behind the scenes" action taking place that you don’t know about.
Contrary to popular opinion, the listing agent does not usually attempt to sell your home to a homebuyer. That isn’t very efficient. Listing agents market and promote your home to the hordes of other local agents who do work with homebuyers, dramatically increasing your personal sales force. During the first couple of weeks, your home should be a flurry of activity with buyer’s agents coming to preview your home so they can show it to their clients if the price is right.
If you and your agent have overpriced, fewer agents will preview and/or show your home. After all, they are Real Estate Professionals, and it is their job to know local market conditions and home values. If your house is dramatically above market, why waste time? Their time is better spent previewing homes that are priced realistically.
Dropping Your Price...Too Late
Later, when you drop your price, your house is "old news." You will never be able to recapture that flurry of initial activity you would have had with a realistic price. Your house could take longer to sell.
Even if you do successfully sell at an above-market price, your buyer will need a mortgage. The mortgage lender requires an appraisal. If comparable sales for the last six months and current market conditions do not support your sales price, the house won’t appraise. Your deal falls apart. Of course, you can always attempt to renegotiate the price, but only if the buyer is willing to listen. Your house could go "back on the market." You do not want that to happen.
Once your home has fallen out of escrow or sits on the market for a while, it is harder to get a good offer. Potential buyers will think you might be getting desperate, so they will make lower offers. By overpricing your home in the beginning, you could actually end up settling for a lower price than you would have otherwise have received.
Details of a Listing Contract
Obviously, the name of the seller and the property address will be included in the listing contract. There are many other things that are included, too, and you should be aware of them.
Price and Terms of Sale
When setting the terms of sale, the main thing you are concerned with is the price. Exercise great care in determining your asking price, making sure not to set it too high or too low.
In addition to the price, you will disclose what personal property, if any, stays with the house when you sell it. Personal property is anything that is not attached or fixed to the home, such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, and so on.
There may be some item that is considered "real property" that you do not intend to include in the sale. Real property is anything that is attached to the home. For example, you may have a chandelier that has been in your family for generations and you take it from home to home when you move. Since the chandelier is attached to the house, it is considered "real property" and a reasonable buyer would normally expect it to stay with the house. If you do not intend to include the chandelier, replace it before your hits the market.
Lockbox - Yes, or No?
A lockbox is basically a padlock with a cavity inside where a key to your home can be placed. Only someone with an electronic key or the combination can get into the lockbox and access the key. Having a lockbox available at your house makes it easy for other agents to get access to your house.
Without the lockbox, agents representing buyers would have to set appointments to meet you or your agent at the house so they could gain access and view the home. This would be inconvenient. Since almost every other house does have a lockbox available, if you do not allow one, many agents will simply not show your property. You will miss out on lots of potential buyers. The listing contract specifies whether you allow a lockbox or not. It is locked into place, usually on the front door and can only be removed by your agent. Only other agents can access the key that is located within the lockbox.
Multiple Listing Service
Your listing contract should specify whether or not the house will be listed with the local MLS (multiple listing service). It is definitely in your interest to have the house listed in the MLS. This is because your sales force is automatically multiplied by however many agents are members of the local MLS. If your house is not listed, then you only have one agent working for you instead of thousands of agents.
Agency Duties of a Listing Agent
The listing contract will specify that your agent is acting as a "seller’s agent" .This means that, in the sale of your house, they are working for you and only you. However, there may be times when your listing agent has a client who wants to buy your home. For that reason, there is a little "wiggle room" in the listing contract. If your agent also represents the buyer, the listing contract should specify that they provide an additional disclosure that details their duties as a dual agent.
The contract also provides permission for your listing agent to act as an agent for others on other transactions. They can continue to list other properties, and represent buyers looking at other homes.
Resolution of Disputes
There are times when you and your agent have a disagreement that you cannot resolve by yourselves. Maybe the agent did a poor job or misrepresented something. Maybe your agent was really doing their job correctly, but you did not understand. Perhaps the agent will have a dispute with you.
The listing contract specifies what methods will be used to settle such disputes. You can choose to accept binding arbitration which is usually cheaper than hiring a lawyer and going to court. Usually, matters that can be dealt with in a small claims court are excluded from having to go to binding arbitration.
You are not required to sign or initial the binding arbitration clause. This would leave you free to hire an attorney and pursue disputes in civil court instead of binding arbitration. Consult your attorney for advice on this legal matter.
Preliminary Marketing of Your Home
The "For Sale" Sign
It seems fairly obvious that when you put your house up for sale that your agent will put a "for sale" sign in the front yard. The sign will identify the agent’s company, the agent, and have a phone number so prospective buyers can call and get information.
Signs are great at generating phone calls, even if very few actually purchase the home they call about. However, you might be one of the lucky ones. For that reason, you should determine what happens when a potential buyer calls the number on the sign. Does a live person answer the phone or does the call go to a voicemail or recorder? Does your agent answer the phone or does someone who has never seen or been to your house answer the call? This is important!
You want someone to answer the phone while the caller is "hot." When buyers call the number on the sign, the call should go to your agent who can answer questions immediately.
Marketing Your Home to Other Agents
The Multiple Listing Service
The MLS is a database of all the homes listed by local real estate agents who are members of the service, which is practically all of the local agents.
Important information about your property is listed here, from general data such as square footage and a number of rooms to such details as to whether you have central air conditioning or hardwood flooring. There should also be numerous photos and a well written and interesting description of what makes your house "special." This makes your house stand out from the others.
Agents search the database for homes that fit the price range and needs of their clients. They pay special attention to homes that have been recently placed on the market, which is one reason you get a lot of attention when your house is first listed. Many agents will want to preview the home before they show it to their clients.
Marketing Your Home to Homebuyers
The Purpose of Advertising in General
Every home seller likes the idea of their listing agent or the real estate company running ads featuring their home. Many sellers do not understand that the advertising that agents put into magazines and newspapers is not to sell homes, but is designed to "pick up" new clients by getting the agent’s name out there in front of buyers. Of course, agents and companies will run ads, but not for the reasons you expect.
Over 95% of buyers visit the internet to look at homes. So, it is logical that most of the advertising that is successful in getting a buyer to visit your home is done on the internet. Your Corliss Realty agent will create a plan that specifically targets buyers for your home. He/she will also take steps to feed search engines the data on your home and, ultimately, your home will appear on hundreds of websites on the internet.
An open house when your property is first placed on the market can be very important, but not for the reasons most homeowners think. Just like with advertising, most visitors to open houses rarely buy the house they come to look at. They may not even know the price of your home when they stop by to visit – they probably just followed an "Open House" sign to your door.
An open house performs a similar function to the neighborhood announcements – it lets all of your neighbors know that your house is for sale, and it practically invites them to come "take a look." Being generally nosy, a lot of your neighbors will take advantage of the invitation. And they may tell their friends about your house, creating more "word of mouth" advertising.
Of course, there are other reasons for holding open houses, too. Listing agents who "farm" a particular neighborhood use them as an opportunity to meet with other local homeowners who will someday be selling their home.
Open houses held after your home has been on the market awhile do not usually serve a useful purpose in selling your home. Most of the neighbors already know your house is for sale and open house visitors rarely buy the homes they visit. However, if you really want more open houses, your listing agent may do so or allow other agents to hold it open. Open houses attract prospective homebuyers and agents hope to convince some of those homebuyers to become their clients.
Showing the House to Potential Home Buyers
Your house should always be available for show, even though it may occasionally be inconvenient for you. Let your listing agent put a lockbox in a convenient place, to make it easy for other agents to show your home to homebuyers. Otherwise, agents will have to schedule appointments, which is an inconvenience. Most will just skip your home to show the house of someone else who is more cooperative.
Most agents will call and give you at least a couple of hours’ notice before showing your property. If you refuse to let them show it at that time or try to pin them down to a specific time. they may just skip your house. Even if they come back another time, it will probably be with different buyers and you may have just lost a chance to sell your home.
Why You Should Not Be Home
Homebuyers will feel like intruders if you are home when they visit, and they might not be as receptive toward or comfortable viewing your home. Visit the local coffee house, yogurt shop, or take the kids to the park. If you absolutely cannot leave, try to remain in an out-of-the-way area of the house and do not move from room to room. Do not volunteer any information and direct the Realtor® to contact your agent with any questions. Your answer could give away valuable negotiation opportunities without you even realizing it.
Lighting, Fragrances, Pet Control, and More
When you know someone is coming by to tour your home or if you are planning to leave for some time, turn on all the indoor lights – even during the day. At night, a lit house gives a "homey" impression when viewed from the street. During the daytime, turning on the lights prevents harsh shadows from sunlight and brightens up any dim areas. Your house looks more homey and cheerful with the lights on.
Do not use scented sprays to prepare for visitors. It is too obvious and many people find the smells of those sprays offensive, not to mention that some may be allergic. Additionally, you do not want buyers to think you are trying to cover-up or mask a smell. If you want to have a pleasant aroma in your house, have a potpourri pot or something natural. Or turn on a stove burner for a moment and put a drop of vanilla extract on it. It will smell like you have been cooking.
If you have pets, make sure your listing agent puts a notice with your listing in the multiple listing service. The last thing you want is to have your pet running out the front door and getting lost or frightening the buyers. If you know someone is coming, it would be best to try to take the pets with you while the homebuyers tour your home. If you cannot do that, it is best to keep dogs in a penned area in the backyard. Try to keep indoor cats in a specific room when you expect visitors, and put a sign on the door. Most of the time, an indoor cat will hide when buyers come to view your property, but they may panic and try to escape.
The Kitchen Trash
Especially if your kitchen trash can does not have a lid, make sure you empty it every time someone comes to look at your home – even if your trash can is kept under the kitchen sink. Remember that you want to send a positive image about every aspect of your home. Kitchen trash does not send a positive message. You may go through more plastic bags than usual, but it will be worth it.
Keeping the House Tidy and Neat
Not everyone makes his or her bed every day, but when selling a home, it is imperative that you develop the habit. Pick up papers, do not leave empty glasses in the family room, keep everything freshly dusted and vacuumed. Try your best to have it look like a model home – a home with furniture but nobody really lives there.