By: Amy Hoak
A number of economists are forecasting an increase in home sales this year, and some are predicting that more first-time buyers will be in the mix.
That’s great news for sellers, particularly first-time sellers most likely to have the kind of starter homes these buyers will want. Below are some tips for those selling a home for the first time.
Prepare for your own purchase
Before selling your home, give some careful thought about where you will live next, said Hedda Parashos, owner of Palisade Realty in Spring Valley, Calif. “Planning ahead will save the time and money associated with moving multiple times or trying to get out of a deal after you sign a purchase agreement,” she said. “Your Realtor can help you locate a new home or rental before you close escrow or negotiate a lease back.”
If your plan is to buy another home and finance it, get pre-approved for a mortgage. That way, you’ll know what you will be able to afford—and can eliminate surprises, she added.
It’s also getting more common these days—in certain markets—to purchase a home contingent on the sale of your existing one, said Christina Esala, associate broker and team leader with Tierra Antigua Realty, in Tucson, Ariz.
Get the home move-in ready
If you can afford it, do whatever you can to make your home move-in ready. That means replacing ripped screens, broken baseboards, leaky faucets and making cosmetic repairs, as well as updating landscaping, Parashos said. Your house needs to be in showing condition all the time, she added.
At this point, start looking at your home as a house—stripping all sentimental value from the place, since your buyer won’t care about the tree you planted or the kitchen tile you installed yourself, said Geoff Bray, real-estate agent and partner at the Reuter Bray Group of RE/MAX Results in Minneapolis.
Enlist the help of a good real-estate agent
Many people choose real-estate agents based on referrals from family and friends, but look beyond that to make sure you’re working with someone who does a lot of business in your particular neighborhood. While sales information for individual agents often isn’t publicly available, you could check with your local Realtor association group for the data, call the local multiple-listing service or ask a brokerage about their top sellers.
Online reviews of real-estate agents can also be helpful, Esala added. At the very least, get statistics from the agent, asking him or her how many homes they’ve sold recently, where the homes have been located and what the average sales prices have been, Esala said.
Price it right
A good real-estate agent will help you price the home right—from the start. “Nothing will attract more buyers than making the right choice when pricing your home and nothing will deter buyers more than overpricing,” Parashos said. Overpricing often means a longer stay on the market as well as future price cuts—which often makes a home listing look stale and less desirable.
Market the home appropriately
In addition to getting on the multiple-listing service, or MLS, as well as home listing sites online, your real-estate agent might recommend other methods of advertising, including open houses and direct mail postcards. Ask the agent how he or she plans on marketing the property before hiring the agent.
Quality photography of the home is also important. Those who use professional real-estate photos sell listed homes 32% faster than all other listings, according to VHT Studios, a real-estate photography network for homes and businesses. Take it for what it’s worth, a statistic from a company in the photography industry. But also think about the homes that you spend the most time looking at online; chances are they’re the ones with a variety of clear, quality pictures.
Make the house available
Some sellers create restrictions on when their home can be shown, but being inflexible on this point can hurt you. “People, if they want to see it now…they’re going to contact that agent and going to want to see it immediately,” Esala said. “Make your home available for all of the daylight hours,” she said. Otherwise, within two days, prospective buyers will find another home and forget yours.
Plan your negotiation
Know what you will and won’t give up when it comes to your sale, from price to closing date, repairs to closing costs. “Knowing what outcome you want in advance will help you avoid haggling over minor items that could cost you the sale,” Parashos said.
Finally, don’t focus as much on the final sales price as on the final net price, Bray said. Many first-time buyers ask for sellers to help with closing costs, for example, which affects the net cost.