Thursday, February 3, 2022 / by Jeff Lovato
Selling your home can be surprisingly time-consuming and emotionally challenging, especially if you’ve never done it before. At times, it may feel like an invasion of privacy because strangers will come into your home, open your closets and cabinets, and poke around. They will criticize a place that has probably become more than just four walls and a roof to you, and to top it all off, they will offer you less money than you think your home is worth.
With no experience and a complex, emotional transaction on your hands, it’s easy for first-time home sellers to make plenty of mistakes. However, with a little know-how, you can avoid many of these pitfalls. Read on to find out how to sell your house while getting the highest possible price within a reasonable time frame and without losing your mind.
It’s easy to get emotional about selling your home, especially your first one. You spent a great deal of time and effort to find the right one, saved up for your down payment and furniture, and created many memories. People generally have trouble keeping their emotions in check when it comes time to say goodbye.
Think it’s impossible? It’s not. When you decide to sell your home, start thinking of yourself as a businessperson and salesperson rather than just the homeowner. In fact, forget altogether that you’re the homeowner. By looking at the transaction from a purely financial perspective, you’ll distance yourself from the emotional aspects of selling the property.
Also, try to remember how you felt when you were shopping for that home. Most buyers will also be in an emotional state. If you can remember that you are selling a piece of property as well as an image and a lifestyle, you’ll be more likely to put in the extra effort of staging and doing some minor remodeling to get top dollar for your home. These changes in appearance will not only help the sales price; they’ll also help you create emotional distance because your home will look less familiar.
Not Hiring an Agent
Although real estate agents do receive commission—usually 5% to 6% split between both sides, buying and selling agents, it’s probably not a great idea to try to sell your home on your own, especially if you haven’t done it before. It can be tempting, especially if you’ve seen all those “for sale by owner” signs on people’s front lawns or on the Internet. So does it pay to hire an agent?
A good agent generally has your best interests at heart. They will help you set a fair and competitive selling price for your home, increasing your odds of a quick sale. An agent can also help tone down the emotion of the process by interacting with potential buyers and eliminating tire kickers who only want to look at your property but have no intention of making an offer.
Your agent will also have more experience negotiating home sales, helping you get more money than you could on your own. And if any problems crop up during the process—and they commonly do—an experienced professional will be there to help handle them with you. Finally, agents are familiar with the multitudes of paperwork and pitfalls involved in real estate transactions and can help make sure the process goes smoothly. This means there won’t be any delays or glitches in the deal.
Here are just some of the items that a competent Real Estate Agent will help you avoid:
Setting an Unrealistic Price
Whether you’re working with an agent or going it alone, setting the right asking price is key. Remember the comparative market analysis you or your agent did when you bought your home to determine a fair offering price? Buyers will do this for your home, too, so as a seller you should be one step ahead of them.
You may think your home is worth more, but remember to set a realistic price based on comparable homes in the area.
Absent a housing bubble, overpriced homes generally don’t sell. In a survey, 70% of real estate agents said that overpricing is the No.1 mistake that sellers make. Don’t worry too much about setting a price that’s on the low side, because in theory, this will generate multiple offers and bid the price up to the home’s actual market value. In fact, underpricing your home can be a strategy to generate extra interest in your listing, and you can always refuse an offer that’s too low.
Expecting the Asking Price
Any smart buyer will negotiate, and if you want to complete the sale, you may have to play ball. Most people want to list their homes at a price that will attract buyers while still leaving some breathing room for negotiations—the opposite of the underpricing strategy described above. This may work, allowing the buyer to feel like they are getting good value while allowing you to get the amount of money you need from the sale.
Of course, whether you end up with more or less than your asking price will likely depend not just on your pricing strategy but also on whether you’re in a buyer’s market or a seller’s market and how well you have staged and modernized your home.
Not Carrying Proper Insurance
Your lender may have required you to acquire a homeowners insurance policy. If not, you’ll want to make sure you’re insured in case a viewer has an accident on the premises and tries to sue you for damages. You also want to make sure there are no obvious hazards at the property or that you take steps to mitigate them (keeping the children of potential buyers away from your pool and getting your dog out of the house during showings, for example).
Hiding Major Problems
Think you can get away with hiding major problems with your property? Any problem will be uncovered during the buyer’s inspection. You have three options for dealing with any issues. Either fix the problem ahead of time, price the property below market value to account for it, or list the property at a normal price and offer the buyer a credit to fix the problem.
Remember: If you don’t fix the problem in advance, you may eliminate a fair number of buyers who want a turnkey home. Having your home inspected before listing is a good idea if you want to avoid costly surprises after the home is under contract. Further, many states have disclosure rules. Some require sellers to disclose known problems about their homes if buyers ask directly, while others decree that sellers must voluntarily disclose certain issues.
Not Preparing for the Sale
Sellers who do not clean and stage their homes throw money down the drain. Don’t worry if you can’t afford to hire a professional. There are many things you can do on your own. Failing to do these things can reduce your sales price and may also prevent you from getting a sale at all. If you haven’t attended to minor issues, such as a broken doorknob or dripping faucet, a potential buyer may wonder whether the house has larger, costlier issues that haven’t been addressed either.
Have a friend or an agent (someone with a fresh pair of eyes) point out areas of your home that need work. Because of your familiarity with the home, you may be immune to its trouble spots. Decluttering, cleaning thoroughly, putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and getting rid of any odors will also help you make a good impression on buyers.
Not Accommodating Buyers
If someone wants to view your house, you need to accommodate them, even if it inconveniences you. And yes, you have to clean and tidy the house before every single visit. A buyer won’t know or care if your house was clean last week. It’s a lot of work, but stay focused on the prize.
Selling to Unqualified Buyers
It’s more than reasonable to expect a buyer to bring a pre-approval letter from a mortgage lender or proof of funds (POF) for cash purchases to show that they have the money to buy the home. Signing a contract with a buyer may be contingent on the sale of their own property, which may put you in a serious bind if you need to close by a particular date.
Learning how to sell a house is crucial. Make sure you prepare mentally and financially for less-than-ideal scenarios, even if you don’t make any of these mistakes. The house may sit on the market for far longer than you expect, especially in a declining market. If you can’t find a buyer in time, you may end up trying to pay two mortgages, having to rent your home out until you can find a buyer, or, in dire situations, in foreclosure. However, if you avoid the costly mistakes listed here, you’ll be a long way toward putting your best foot forward and achieving that seamless, lucrative sale for which every home seller hopes.
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