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Selling Your Home It's a Balancing Act Between Emotions and Common Sense.
Selling your home can be an emotional experience. You may have to leave a backyard you enjoy or neighbors with whom you are compatible. The sale can involve the pain of a divorce. Or you can be happily moving on, buying a larger or more attractive home as your family expands or your finances permit. No matter why you are selling your home, you must be ready to take a number of basic steps. A lot of planning and usually some "financial engineering" go into selling a home. Let´s address the financial issues first. On the one hand, you are moving on to your next residence, and it will most likely take discretionary money to make your new home the desirable home you want. You may want to purchase furniture, upgrade the kitchen or enhance the landscaping at your new home. On the other hand, you´d rather spend as little as possible to "spruce up" your existing home to make it attractive to a buyer. You must balance the cost of improving your current home for a rapid sale against the net return you receive as a final sales price. With the extra net profit you may receive from minimal upgrades to your current home, you can budget money for your new home.
You will want to ask yourself the following questions. The answers to these questions will help you determine what you need to do to prepare your home to bring it to the market and sell it quickly.
Realistically, how long will my current home be on the market, given the condition of my home, market conditions now and my asking price?
How urgent is it, for whatever reason, that I sell my home in a short time frame?
Would my home sell faster and for more profit if I invested money on improvements?
If I do decide to invest some money to prepare and "stage" my home for a faster sale, how should I invest it?
Is Your Home Ready for Sale?
How do you present your home as attractively as possible to a potential purchaser? The emphasis you place on this depends, again, on many factors-including the condition of your home, the urgency with which you have to sell it, and the price you are asking. If your home is in the "upper brackets," you may want to hire a professional "stager" -- an individual who can optimize the appearance of your home at the most reasonable price. Most real estate agents, too, can recommend ways in which to stage your home to make it more saleable. Often, sellers do not maximize the potential sale price simply because they do not properly prepare their home. The condition that your home is in when the potential buyer sees it for the first time is critical to the successful sale of your home. You can´t make a second first impression! Answers to the question of how much to spend and which projects will improve the appeal of your home can be complicated, depending on your personal situation. There are some simple, low-cost things you can do to help ensure that the house sells quickly and at the maximum price. You want your home to look its best, even if that just means making it exceptionally clean and organized.
Spring Cleaning for a Great First Impression
First, clean your house -- and we are not talking about vacuuming and dusting. We are talking about that type of spring cleaning that your grandmother used to do. Everything should be moved, dusted, mopped, vacuumed and put away. This is a great time to start packing items you will not need in the next few months. Carpeting should be professionally cleaned. Wood should be polished. You want potential buyers to see that the home is sparkling clean -- and this costs nothing but some elbow grease. When you start cleaning, go through your items and get rid of all of the things that you don´t plan to take to your next home. Sell them on eBay, donate them to charity or throw them away. Next, start packing things you will not need during the time your home is on the market, even though you will be taking them to your next home.
Some other important "basics":
Clean out the garage. You may want to store some of your packed boxes neatly in the garage.
If necessary, rent a small storage unit for the "stuff" that detracts from the appearance of your home but that you plan to move to your new home.
Clean and organize your closets. Adequate closet space is an important selling feature. If your closets are stuffed full, they will appear smaller.
Keep the counters in the bathrooms and kitchen as clear as possible. Even if they are outdated, clean counters make the rooms seem larger.
In other words, minimize and organize. The idea here is to make your home appear as spacious as possible. The less clutter and less furniture that you have, the more open your home will look. If you have furniture that you plan to get rid of, now is the time to donate it to charity or sell it. Buyers like blank slates -- and the last thing you want is a dog-worn couch distracting a potential buyer from the beautiful brick fireplace.
Keep the furnishings to a minimum. When a room is cluttered with furniture, the buyer may not appreciate its actual size. Minimizing the amount of furniture is a proven approach to make your home appear the optimal size. As an article in Business Week noted, To net top dollar, you have to banish most traces of yourself -- from your refrigerator magnets to your kid´s artwork -- and create an idealized living space, almost with the look of a model home. The goal is to show potential buyers a dwelling that´s both tasteful and impersonal enough to allow them to "mentally move in.You want prospective buyers to say "WOW!" when they enter your home!
Small Projects Can Make a World of Difference
From a financial perspective, not all home improvement projects are equal. If you are looking to make improvements to your home before selling, you should make changes in areas that will provide you the highest return on your investment. But even if you can only make a few changes, some small projects can have a real impact.
Without a doubt, a fresh coat of paint can make a world of difference. Although white is bright, it can also look too antiseptic -- "hospital-like" -- as well as highlight other flaws in a room. At the same time, bright colors can turn some people off. I recommend sticking to warm, mild tones. For a few hundred dollars and a few days work, you can completely warm up the feeling of your home.
Fresh paint also makes a house look cared for and maintained. Painting should include fixing nicks in the wall, scratches from kids or pets and nail pops; caulk, if necessary. Clean, fresh walls tell buyers that your home has been well maintained and is in move-in condition. We promise you, fresh paint speaks volumes. Prioritize this home improvement.
Another important element is flooring. Like the wall paint, the flooring should be neutral, clean and maintained. Nice flooring can make your house more inviting. In some instances, the flooring may need to be changed for the home to get a higher price.
Other Inexpensive Touches
Be sure that your house smells clean and fresh. When potential buyers are coming to view your home-open windows, put out fresh flowers, bake cookies or bread and brew fresh coffee. Avoid air fresheners though, because they usually give the impression that you are trying to cover up bad scents.
Trim and clean up the front landscaping, as this is the first thing that a potential buyer will see. It can cause an immediately pleasing reaction if it looks inviting and maintained. Put away any toys, lawn equipment, trash cans or "junk." Minimalism is always better than clutter. We recommend keeping your cars in the garage or out of the driveway. This gives potential buyers an unobstructed view of your home´s exterior features. Paint or stain your front door. Buyers form opinions as agents are ringing the doorbell or opening a lockbox.
Make sure that most lights are on. Your house will appear bright, large and inviting. Years ago, when I worked as an agent at a new-home development, I started my day by opening the model homes and turning on every light.
Larger Projects that Add Value
Even before the above-mentioned cosmetic changes, you must fix any items that need repair. These repairs should include anything that might cause problems at a home inspection. Bad plumbing, a leaky roof and structural issues, for example, could make selling a house difficult. If your house is in sound condition but could use some updating, experts agree that you will likely get the biggest return on your investment in the kitchen and then in the baths. These rooms seem to go out of style most quickly. Some other items that tend to become outdated (and are worth replacing) are appliances that are more than 10 to 15 years old, linoleum floors, extensive mirrors and dated paneling. Removing wallpaper is a time-consuming and tedious job, but it can depersonalize and neutralize a home for the new buyer.
Home Valuation and Market Analysis
After preparing your home for sale, the next big step will be determining a fair asking price. An agent will do various forms of research to present you with their opinion of your home´s value. The final list price, however, is up to you. Trust your agent´s judgment, but make sure that you are comfortable with the asking price. It is your home, and only you can make the final determination on what it is worth to you. If you price it too high, the market will clearly tell you: You simply will not receive a contract or offer on your home. Do not hesitate to reduce the price of your home when the feedback from agents and clients who have looked at the property tells you that the home is overpriced.
There are various ways to determine a realistic price to ask for your home. Here are brief descriptions of some of these methods
Comparable Market Analysis (CMA): A CMA shows the prices of comparable homes in your area that have recently sold or are currently on the market. At your request, a Realtor¨ will do a CMA by analyzing this data. The Realtor¨ will then determine a price range based on your home´s size, condition and the local market. A CMA is not an appraisal. Some sellers pay $400 to $600 for an estimate of their home´s value by a professional, licensed appraiser. Appraisers create a report using homes that have sold and "settled" in the past six months and are comparable to yours. A precontract appraisal estimate can be a useful guideline for setting the sale price of your home. The marketplace is the ultimate determinant, though, and an early appraisal may not take current market conditions into consideration. Also, the purchaser´s lender will order a final appraisal for the property. This appraisal is used after a sales contract has been ratified.
Internet pricing: Several websites offer home valuation information for free or for a small fee. These reports don´t take into account the condition of the home or important factors such as nearby highways, however. I would not trust a website home evaluation to set a price for your home.
Open houses: Check out open houses in your community. Looking at homes on the market in your area not only lets you check out the competition but also will tell you how your house compares in terms of location, size, amenities and condition. Assuming that all the asking prices were the same, would you buy your home, or someone else´s? You may see things that these other homes offer that you can easily and inexpensively add to your home to compete more effectively. Sellers often need an outside, impersonal opinion of value; they have been known to instinctively feel that "my house is much better."
A good agent understands the marketplace and factors current market conditions into his or her recommendation of the right asking price. In a strong seller´s market, when homes are increasing rapidly in value, the price suggested by your broker will most likely be higher than what the appraiser can justify in a written report. Many homes have sold for higher than their list prices, and buyers have to adjust their financing accordingly. If you hire an appraiser to get an estimate for your home before going on the market, it will be for your own peace of mind, but will not necessarily give you the price you should set. In the end, only the marketplace -- that is, what a buyer is willing to pay in today´s circumstances -- will determine the exact price of your home.
Moreover, there will always be buyers who have needs that are not simply reflected by a dollar amount. If you´re willing to settle quickly or perhaps extend a settlement date, you may attract buyers who have particular needs in terms of their move. If you can be flexible and meet a buyer´s needs, then you will have the best chance of getting a better price in the sale of your home.
The Multiple Listing Service
Nowadays, most people have heard of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The MLS has always been the primary way in which agents have found out about houses that are on the market. But today, because the MLS is Internet-based, agents have access to information on a home faster than ever. Also, agents offer their clients access to the MLS through Internet sites, so potential homeowners can view your home with a mouse click just minutes after it is listed.
As you know, consumers who go online primarily want access to current and complete information. Make sure that you work with an agent who will not only quickly post your home on the MLS but will also provide accurate information with as many pictures as possible. With the low cost and ease of digital photography, there is no reason why your home should not get this level of marketing. Effective Internet marketing is not only useful, it is essential to the successful sale of your home. You may have heard that at times "good" listings aren´t on the MLS but instead get sold before they come on the market. Although this does sometimes occur, most sellers would rather put a home in the MLS so that it can be seen by numerous real estate agents and untold numbers of potential buyers. Sellers want competition, because it can drive up the price of a home. You want to give as many people as possible access to information about your home.
We're All About Service and Results
Pat Paulas, Drew Paulas and Associates, Realtors Loudoun County Real Estate and West Fairfax County Real Estate
Prudential PenFed's TeamWorks 11864 Sunrise Valley Drive, Suite 101 • Reston, Virginia 20191 703.909.6333 e-mail theTeam@eLoudounHomes.com
Good Photos Bring Buyers When placing your home on the market, it is important to present your home at its best on the internet -- this is where the top photos pay off. See a few samples below.