Look Before Selling?

We need a larger home and have just begun thinking through selling and purchasing. Should we begin looking for what we may want to buy before we sell ours?

The first step in searching for a home is finding out what you can afford. Meeting with a mortgage representative who will help you understand what it costs to sell and buy is crucial.    Looking at properties that are outside of your financial reach is a waste of everyone’s time.

The next step is to compile a list of items important to you in a home and prioritize them. This includes desired acreage, number of bedrooms/bathrooms, garage and/or size of it – anything you feel is important for your next home.

Finally, finding a good real estate agent to help you begin looking is crucial. If you know the area you want to live in, find an agent who is familiar with that area.  She will not only be acquainted with the ins and outs of the region, she will also understand the value of one property over another.  Her expertise in finding homes on the market that fit your description will help you get the most for your dollar.  As a buyer, this service is most often paid for by the sellers.

Even if you’re not in a position to purchase yet because your home is not sold, looking at properties in advance gives you an opportunity to do your homework. Usually, the more you see, the more you come to realize what you like, what is available at your price range and where you want to live.  Then, when your home is sold, you’re ready to write up a contract on another.

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Hard Work Pays Off

We are working on getting our home ready to sell.   We really wanted to have a for sale sign up this spring but have found that our “to do” list is not complete.  Should we put it up for sale anyway, hoping it won’t matter?

If you’re serious about selling (and you sound like you are), it is very important to have your home “show ready” on day 1. Before your agent puts the sign up, gets photos taken and posts your home online, everything on your list should be checked off.  Inside that means, painting walls and trim where needed, cleaning and/or replacing floors, emptying closets, removing items from surfaces and counters and possibly removing and/or moving furniture.  All, including windows, should be clean and sparkling. Outside, flower beds should be weeded and mulched, shrubs trimmed, sidewalks and siding pressure washed and your deck cleaned and stained.

It is the simple truth that folks cannot see past clutter and dirt. Telling them that the carpet will be replaced next week or the pink room painted will not help you sell your home.  It is worth the wait to have it ALL done and move in ready before you put your home on the market, even if you miss the spring months.

Selling a home is not for the faint of heart. But like most things in life, hard work pays off.  When your list is complete and your home is on the market, buyers will be impressed.  Before you know it, you will be packing and moving on, buying someone else’s home and appreciating their hard work.

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For Sale By Owner

We want to sell our home. My sister suggested that we should try to sell it ourselves which would save us thousands of dollars. This sounds like a good idea. I am surprised more people don’t do it.  Why don’t they?

More people use real estate agents to sell instead of trying to sell themselves because they understand that selling a home is complicated and so best left to a professional. You may be thinking, “Of course she’s going to say that. She is a real estate agent and so needs to justify her profession.”   Yes I do.  Hear me out.

Selling a home is much more than deciding on a price, putting a sign in the yard and finding a buyer. In this tech savvy world, you can figure out how to prepare your home to sell, hopefully price it right and get it online. But what happens when you find a buyer? The 13 page agreement of sale is only the beginning.  Contingencies usually abound.  There is much more to negotiate than the price of your home.  Are your buyers qualified to pay what they said they would?  Have they supplied a mortgage preapproval?  How much deposit money are they putting down and what will you do with it?  What inspections are they requesting and what is their time frame for them?  Who will negotiate the ins and outs of the inspection report and corrective proposal?  Who will meet with the appraiser and respond to that value if it’s low?  What if the mortgage commitment has requirements the buyer can’t make by the deadline? These are only a few of the many items which could come up, putting you back to square one – looking for another buyer.

In the same way that you don’t do surgery on yourself, write your own insurance policy or overhaul your own car engine, you are better served using a professional to sell your home. And if saving money is your motivation (which is understandable), it is important to know that, according to the National Associations of Realtors, homes sold by real estate agents sold for 20% more than those sold by owners.

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Neutralizing Your Home

We have been in our home for 20 years and, in that time, have made it our own. We’ve painted bedrooms colors to please our kids and enjoyed decorating according to our tastes.  My husband is relocating so we have to sell.  Is it important to get rid of the colors which we love?

The colors that you love, that are specific to your taste and lifestyle, will not necessarily be the colors that others appreciate. Your job in selling is to make your property appeal to as many buyers as possible and neutralizing your home will do that.

This includes not only repainting walls and woodwork with an off white color. It also involves removing family photos, collections and trophies, replacing old and bright area rugs with more toned down ones and scraping off colorful or busy wall paper and borders.  Your purpose is to create a clean, simplified background – a home that buyers can visualize themselves in.

You may feel like offering an allowance to potential buyers to pick their own carpeting and paint makes more sense. But, purchasing a home is an emotional decision.  Buyers need to love your home when there.  Too much color and personal items can get in the way of them appreciating the beautiful home you’re selling.

I suggest that you contact a real estate agent who will help you make decisions about what colors to use and what to remove. She is in the business of helping sellers make their homes as appealing as possible to the most buyers.  In doing so, she will guide you through the repainting/removing/decluttering process step by step.  And then, before you know it, you will be packing and moving on.

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Seller’s Property Disclosure

We just met with a real estate agent to talk about selling our home.  She gave us a 9 page document to complete called the Seller’s Property Disclosure.  Answering the questions will take a lot of time and I don’t know how to answer some of them.  How important is this form? 

The Seller’s Property Disclosure is a thorough questionnaire of every imaginable aspect of your home and property.  It is very important.  By completing it, you as the seller, are able to provide information about your home that will help the buyer determine the condition before purchasing it.

For example, if your home is older, a buyer will want to know if the roof is the original.  Your answer to the question, “When was the roof installed?” will help the buyer know if he will need to replace it in the next few years.  There are questions about water leaks, plumbing lines, HVAC systems, septic tanks, home alterations and hazardous substances – lots of questions which need to be answered to the best of your knowledge.  If you honestly don’t know the answer, you can mark the unknown box.

In the state of Pennsylvania, this document must be completed by sellers and available for buyers when they sign a contract on your home.  Although time consuming to complete (yes, dig out old invoices to verify your answers), it is important to disclose any and all information on every aspect and to give an accurate and complete picture of the condition of your home.  Completing it thoroughly and honestly goes a long way toward giving buyers peace of mind.  And buyers that feel confident about the condition of your home will be more prone to purchase it.

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We are thinking about selling our home. We don’t have a radon removal system in our house. Will this get in the way of selling?

Part of selling a home is allowing the buyer the opportunity to hire professionals to conduct inspections. Your buyer will almost always hire a radon testing company to test for radon if you do not have a system in place. Usually this involves placing a test monitor box in the basement of the home which reads radon levels hourly for 48 hours. The average reading for that time period is used to determine if your home is safe.

Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that is not recognized unless you test for it. It is formed by natural radioactive decay of uranium in rock, soil and water. Once produced, it moves through the ground to the air above. It is considered to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in our country. Breathing it does not cause any short-term effects such as shortness of breath, coughing, headaches etc but the risks to long term exposure can be great.

The EPA has determined that a radon level of 4.0 or higher is unsafe. Therefore, if levels are higher than 4.0 when your home is tested, your buyer will usually request that you, as the seller, hire someone to install a radon mitigation system. The cost for this system is about $1,000 and includes installing a pipe from below the basement floor through the roof with a motor that moves gases up and out.

Radon testing is one of the many steps in selling your home. A good agent will help you through the ins and outs of all of the steps until a sold sign is up and you’re packing and moving on.

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Price it Right

We recently met with a real estate agent to discuss selling our home. We were surprised at the price she suggested as we were thinking we could get at least $20,000 more. Shouldn’t we begin high with a price and go down if we have to?

Your logic seems to make sense and I hear it frequently from sellers – “Let’s begin high and then we have room to negotiate down.” It’s understandable as well because, of course, you want to get as much as you can for your home.

There are a few problems with this thinking, however. In our digital world, sold prices are common knowledge to all. Buyers know what homes are selling for. They know that your neighbor’s property, similar to yours, just sold for $280,000 in the spring. So why would they pay $300,000 for yours?

Most buyers do not want to offer substantially less for a home, even if they love it or can afford it. Instead of offering less, they will usually move on to another home which they feel is priced realistically.

Another factor is the appraisal most buyers will need in order to get a mortgage. Even if you get a buyer who is convinced your home is worth more, if the appraiser (who has to use sold prices to determine the value of your home) decides it’s not worth that much, you may need to come down anyway so your buyer can get financing.

Trusting your agent to price your home appropriately is only the first step in selling it. You are also hiring her to help you prepare it to sell, market it well and guide you through the process to settlement.

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