Selling a home. For most people, it’s a little like being on trial: They’re faced with more questions than they could imagine, and one wrong answer could cost them dearly. For first-timers, the decisions and implications of selling their most important investment can seem overwhelming. Even for experienced home sellers, keeping up to date with the changes in the real estate market — or perhaps finding ways to overcome the problems they ran into last time — can be daunting. That’s why information becomes such an invaluable commodity for anyone selling a home today.
To help alleviate this problem, I’ve personally compiled a list of answers to ten of the most common questions most home sellers face.
“How can I be sure now is the right time to sell?” For some homeowners, I believe the decision to sell at a particular time is necessitated due to job relocation or some other factor that makes the answer to this question an easy one, However, for the majority of sellers, moving is a more subjective matter. Therefore, one of the most important first steps any potential seller can take is to decide exactly what his or her own personal motivations for selling are.
“How do I find out what market conditions are like in my area?” After sellers know why they want to sell, the next step is to get a clear picture of the current local real estate market to determine whether factors are in favour of allowing them to achieve their goals, she says. Potential sellers can compile this information themselves by researching home sales to find out what comparable homes are selling for, or they can talk to a REALTOR® they know and trust who can provide them with this information as well as current insights on the market.
“How much can I expect to get for my home?” For the most part, pricing will depend on how much similar homes in the area are selling for. But each home is different. The best price is the one that takes all of the property’s advantages and disadvantages into account as well as the goals of the seller. For instance, if the sellers absolutely must sell within a given time frame, they may need to set a slightly lower price than a similar home with owners who are in no rush and want to maximize their profit.
“How long will it take for my home to sell?” Local real estate boards keep track of the average length of time most properties stay on the market in the area. I always advise prospective sellers to pay close attention to the time frames established in their listing agreement before they sign with any real estate agent. They should ask their REALTOR® how long most of his or her listings remain on the market, and what will happen if their home doesn’t sell within the prescribed time. You should find out if the number they quote is the number of days on the market in the current listing or the total days on the market in all listings: It's a common trick when a home doesn't sell in 20 to 30 days to terminate the listing and relist the property for sale — in resets the "days on market" counter to fool potential buyers. They also use that lower number to deceive sellers. Also beware of a REALTOR® who promises extra speedy results. They could be simply pricing too low just to get the sale quickly.
“Can I save money by selling my home myself?” Initially the idea of not having to pay a commission to a REALTOR® may be tempting to some sellers. However, any erstwhile do-it-yourselfers should also be aware of exactly what’s involved in selling a home and make sure they have what it takes to follow through with every step. The vast majority of homeowners choose to let a professional real estate agent handle all the legwork and paperwork for them — as well as any potential problems that may arise in even the seemingly simplest of transactions. Other than builders with their own in-house sales staff, the number of homeowners who try to go it alone decreases year after year. In addition, by listing with a REALTOR®, homeowners have access to the Multiple Listing Service® System, the marketing tool that brings the most exposure for the home to potential home buyers and their real estate agents and accounts for the vast majority of home sales. The "System" requires a commission offered to the real estate agent that brings the buyer, and that's the reason it is so very successful.
Even if sellers choose to go it alone, I firmly believe they should still talk with a REALTOR® they know and trust. Many real estate professionals will still offer to help with paperwork and marketing for homeowners handling their own sales for a nominal cost. This way, if something unexpected does happen, the seller has already built a relationship with a professional who is ready to help.
“Does choosing the right REALTOR® really make a difference?” Contrary to conventional wisdom, all REALTORS® are not created equal. “The key to choosing the right one is to find someone whose personal style and methods fit in with your own. Start by getting referrals from friends or by contacting local REALTORS® and setting up interviews. Never go blindly with a referral. What works for your friend may not work for you.
“How can I find the right REALTOR®?” Take time to interview each potential REALTOR®. Look at the professionalism of his or her marketing materials and get a feel for how comfortable you feel talking with this person. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. You should feel confident that the real estate professional you choose is a trustworthy and knowledgeable individual, working full-time and representing a solid and reputable brokerage, who will treat your best interests as paramount. If you don’t, look for someone else.
“What do I need to do to prepare my home for sale?” Selling your home involves more than simply putting a sign in the front yard. To maximize your home’s appeal to potential buyers, you may need to be willing to make some minor cosmetic changes or repair major problems. Ask your REALTOR® for a complete list of cleaning and makeover strategies, as well as other details which can add to the curb appeal and ultimately may make your home worthy of a higher price.
“What if there’s something wrong with my home? Do I have to tell the buyer?” It’s always in the seller’s best interest to disclose everything regarding the state of the property. In most cases it is illegal not to. In many areas laws have been established to hold the seller accountable for home defects even if the seller wasn’t aware of the problem. I feel sellers should consider going above and beyond the law’s requirements for home inspections and disclosure. This will make buyers more comfortable about buying your home and, in some cases, even paying more for it.
“How can I tell a good offer from a bad one?” Each seller should know in advance what his or her “bottom line” is, what contingencies or terms would be acceptable and what would not. In addition, the seller should find out whether the buyer has been prequalified for financing — something most real estate REALTORS® will quickly determine right from the start — before seriously counting on any offer. Beyond that, each offer should be reviewed for a deposit, the price offered, the down payment, the terms involved, occupancy details and any contingencies.
Any offers should be reviewed in private with the seller’s REALTOR®. This way, the home owner and the REALTOR® can openly discuss how well this offer matches the seller’s goals and what should be included or deleted from any counter offer that may be necessary.