Selling a home is one thing. Selling it for the maximum amount possible takes paying attention to details. You and your seller both lose if you miss any important steps in the process. Here are the six most important items for your seller’s to-do list:
- Be prepared
- Keep it in neutral
- Stay away
- Add exterior sparkle
- Get a home inspection
- Price it right
- Tell the truth
1. Be prepared. Whatever your seller’s reason for putting their home on the market, make sure they understand the ins and outs of the entire transaction. Are they relocating out of the area? If so, have they started the process of buying another home? Selling a home in today’s market, depending on the area, can be a slow process. If the process takes longer than the sellers anticipate, they could get caught in a two-mortgage trap, and be forced to lower their selling price to get out of it.
2. Keep it in neutral. This means making sure the home’s interior is ready for prime time. Paint, in an attractive neutral color, is an inexpensive place to start. Hire professional carpet cleaners and make sure every room is clutter-free. Minimize evidence of children and pets whenever the home is being shown. Barking dogs and howling cats have jinxed a lot of home sales, especially if a prospective buyer is fearful or allergic.
3. Stay away. Not only should kids and pets be kept out of sight, sellers need to disappear too, anytime there’s a showing or an open house. Buyers want to be free to look, visualize, discuss, and comment and that won’t happen if the seller is lurking around the yard or hiding out in the bathroom or the basement.
4. Add exterior sparkle. Drive by the home with your sellers and have them look at it as though they had never seen it before. Is the lawn green and freshly mowed? Does the front door need painting? An exterior pressure wash is a great investment, and window washing inside and out will make the whole place shine. Keep kids’ bikes and other toys out of sight. Add seasonal color with flower pots or plant new shrubs for a fresh look. Make sure all fixtures, such as door knobs, mailboxes, and other hardware are polished or painted.
5. Get a home inspection. A lot of buyers want to skip this step, because it costs money and they don’t see the return on investment. Big mistake. Getting a home inspection before the property is listed can save a lot of time frustration later on. A home inspection can uncover problems that even the seller is not aware of and these can be fixed before they become a negotiating point with prospective buyers.
6. Price it right. Every seller is emotionally attached to his or her home and for most, this means they may have unrealistic expectations about the selling price. One of our favorite questions to ask the seller is, “Do you want to list the home, or do you want to sell it?” This is where your professional expertise as a Realtor can be invaluable. Coach your sellers in market realities. Collect current market data, recent comparable sales, and whatever other information you can gather to support your recommendations. Discuss in advance how often to lower the price and by how much if the home is not getting sufficient attention from buyers.
7. Tell the truth. If they’ve completed #4 above, your sellers should already know what needs to be fixed before the house goes on the market and this issue can be avoided altogether. The buyers will do their own inspection and they will find out about the leak under the kitchen sink, the garbage disposal that’s not disposing, and the crack in the basement floor. Anything that hasn’t been fixed needs to be disclosed to prospective buyers and their Realtors up front. Otherwise, negotiations could get nasty. If problems surface after the sale, there could be a lawsuit in your future.
Selling a home can be an exciting, positive experience. To the seller, it may represent new opportunities, a planned lifestyle change and a nice profit to ease the transition. As a Realtor, you can make it happen by guiding your sellers through the process and helping them avoid the pitfalls that can cost them (and you!) money, time, and stress.