By Celeste M. Smucker –
For home owners who have been waiting for the market to improve—or who have just learned there is a great job waiting in another city, or who have their eye on a terrific floor plan in a brand new subdivision—the good news is that 2018 looks like a great year to sell your house.
After a very active 2017 (the best many agents have experienced in 10 years or more) inventories of homes for sale are depleted and buyers are lined up to see new listings as soon as they come on the market. All of this is great news for sellers, especially those living in popular neighborhoods where homes sell very quickly, some for more than the list price.
Even in a fast-paced market, however, sellers must carefully prepare their homes to get the best price. While this is good advice for any situation, it is especially critical for those selling in direct competition with new construction. Buyers active in the new construction price range appreciate the advantages of moving into a brand new energy-efficient house, and owners of resale homes must be willing to update and price accordingly to compete effectively.
Selling your home starts with a careful look around, viewing it as the commodity it is and seeing it from a buyer’s eyes. Begin by walking through the house and noticing all the annoying little items you take for granted, but that will be very noticeable to buyer prospects.
For example, homes that are the most appealing are free of clutter. Start at the entry and walk through each room removing anything that is not essential. Clear off kitchen counters, remove family photos, your children’s artwork and grocery lists from the refrigerator and organize your cupboards so anyone looking inside (and they will) is impressed by all the storage space. Give the same kind of attention to all of your closets.
As you walk through the house, make a list of small repairs like dings in the woodwork; areas where a child or your favorite cat scraped paint off the wall; a doorbell that doesn’t work; a kitchen drawer that sticks; a dripping faucet; or bathroom tile that needs to be cleaned and caulked.
Also plan to clean the fingerprints off cabinet fronts and the dust from fan blades.
Your exterior is the buyers’ first impression so make sure it looks its best. Are hoses neatly coiled and out of sight? Bikes, lawn equipment and trash cans put away? Do decks need power washing and resealing?
When weather permits, add colorful bedding plants to your landscaping and in pots on your deck. A tasteful flag or seasonally appropriate wreath can be nice touches, and, if it needs it, give your front door a new coat of paint.
Call Your Agent
Before you do any major repairs—paint interior rooms, take up old carpet, or replace the roof—make an appointment with your agent. They can advise you on the repairs that are critical to complete and suggest staging ideas to make your home show its best.
Your agent will also do a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) and recommend the most appropriate list price based on the prices and conditions of your competition—those homes currently on the market—as well as those pending and awaiting closing and those that have sold and closed. Their knowledge of the condition, amenities, and shortcomings of these other homes is critical and absolutely essential to help you make an informed decision about the right list price.
Ask your agent about the benefits of having your home pre-inspected. Chances are your buyer will do their own inspection. However, especially if you suspect there could be something major that needs attention—the HVAC is dated, there is moisture under the house, or the roof looks questionable—learning about problems in advance allows you to get several estimates on the cost of repairs and have ample time to complete them. If you wait until after the buyers’ inspection you may be faced with getting the work done quickly under the pressure of meeting the contract closing date, which could end up costing a lot more.
Light, bright and spacious homes look the best, so when agents schedule a showing prepare by opening the drapes, pulling back shower curtains, putting out clean towels and turning on lots of lights.
If your home is well insulated have copies of utility bills available along with your agent’s fliers highlighting the home’s amenities and upgrades (like the new roof or the energy-efficient AC, self-closing skylights or maintenance free siding or deck).
Plan to be away during showings and drop your dog at daycare or take him with you. Be especially sensitive to odors like doggy smell or cat litter. Your agent can advise you on how to handle these challenges.
They will also suggest how neat and tidy your home should be. For example, Len Mailloux, Associate Broker with BHG Real Estate III, believes that when a home appears lived-in buyers will understand that it is loved while Scott Ward with A. Scott Ward Realty Inc. suggests you continue to live in your house, just “live neater.”
If you are ready to sell in 2018, call your agent today to learn how to get the quickest possible sale at the best price. They will also help you buy your next one, and if you are moving out of the area, refer you to a top notch agent in the market where you are relocating.
Celeste Smucker is a writer and blogger who lives near Charlottesville.