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Brian Czup is a Realtor with White Pepper Real Estate
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> Home Sellers Guide

 

Are You Ready?

 

The home-selling process typically starts several months before a property is made available for sale. It's necessary to look at a home through the eyes of a prospective buyer and determine what needs to be cleaned, painted, repaired and tossed out.

 

Ask yourself: If you were buying this home what would you want to see? The goal is to show a home which looks good, maximizes space and attracts as many buyers - and as much demand - as possible.

 

While part of the "getting ready" phase relates to repairs, painting and other home improvements, this is also a good time to ask why you really want to sell.

 

Selling a home is an important matter and there should be a good reason to sell - perhaps a job change to a new community or the need for more space. Your reason for selling can impact the negotiating process so it's important to discuss your needs and wants in private with the real estate agent who lists your home.

 

When Should You Sell?

 

The marketplace tends to be more active in the summer because parents want to enroll children in classes at the beginning of the school year (usually August). The summer is also typically when most homes are likely to be available.

 

Generally speaking, markets tend to have some balance between buyers and sellers year-round. In a given community, for example, there may be fewer buyers in late December, but there are also likely to be fewer homes available for purchase. So, home prices tend to rise or fall because of general demand patterns rather than the time of the year.

 

Owners are encouraged to sell when the property is ready for sale, there is a need or desire to sell, and the services of a local agent have been retained.

 

How Do You Improve your Homes Value?

 

The general rule in real estate is that buyers seek the least expensive home in the best neighborhood they can afford. In terms of improvements, this means you want a home that fits in the neighborhood but is not over-improved. For example, if most homes in your neighborhood have three bedrooms, two baths and 2,500 sq. ft. of finished space, a property with five bedrooms, more baths and far more space would likely be priced much higher and likely be more difficult to sell.

 

Improvements should be made so that the property shows well, is consistent with the neighborhood and does not involve capital investments, the cost of which cannot be recovered from the sale. Furthermore, improvements should reflect community preferences.

 

Cosmetic improvements - paint, wallpaper and landscaping - help a home "show" better and often are good investments. Mechanical repairs - to ensure that all systems and appliances are in good working condition - are required to get a top price.

 

Ideally, you want to be sure that your property is competitive with other homes available in the community. Real estate agents, who see numerous homes, can provide suggestions that are consistent with your marketplace.

 

What is Your Home Worth?

 

All homes have a price, and sometimes more than one. There's the price owners would like to get, the value buyers would like to offer and a point of agreement which can result in a sale.

 

In considering home values, several factors are important:

  • The value of your home relates to local sale prices. The same home, located elsewhere, would likely have a different value.
  • Sale prices are a product of supply and demand. If you live in a community with an expanding job base, a growing population and a limited housing supply, it's likely that prices will rise. Alternatively, it's important to be realistic. If the local community is losing jobs and people are moving out, then you'll likely have a buyer's market.
  • Owner needs can impact sale values. If owner Smith "must" sell quickly, he will have less leverage in the marketplace. Buyers may think that Smith is willing to trade a quick closing for a lower price -- and they may be right. If Smith has no incentive to sell quickly, he may have more marketplace strength.
  • Sale prices are not based on what owners "need." When an owner says, "I must sell for $300,000 because I need $100,000 in cash to buy my next home," buyers will quickly ask if $300,000 is a reasonable price for the property. If similar homes in the same community are selling for $250,000, the seller will not be successful.
  • Sale prices are NOT the whole deal. Which would you rather have: A sale price of $200,000, or a sale price of $205,000 but where you agree to make a "seller contribution" of $5,000 to offset the buyer's closing costs, pay a $2,000 allowance for roof repairs, fund two mortgage points, re-paint the entire house and leave the washer and dryer?

How to Market Your Home

 

If you look at a typical transaction you can see that there are five general areas where REALTORS® can assist in the home-selling process.

  1. Preparation: Before being placed on the market, homes must be in "show" condition. REALTORS® can explain what repairs and upgrades are required for individual homes which are most likely to produce the best results.
  2. Pricing: Brokers do more than price homes for sale, they also construct sale terms designed to speed the selling process. It may be, for example, that a home priced at $150,000 with a 2 percent seller credit to the buyer at closing will be far more attractive to purchasers than a home priced at $147,000. Why? That 2 percent credit is worth $3,000 to the purchaser at closing -- the time when buyers are most likely strapped for cash.
  3. Marketing: REALTORS® will execute strategies and programs to get the home sold. Typically this includes placement on the local MLS and Realtor.com as well as related marketing, advertising and networking.
  4. Negotiation: REALTORS® assist owners in the bargaining process, offering advice and counsel as offers are received and by working closely with legal counsel, tax specialists and inspectors as required.
  5. Closing: Once a contract for the purchase of a home has been accepted, a series of inspections and checks are typically required to satisfy buyers and lenders. REALTORS® can help owners complete the transaction process by assisting with the many requirements found in a typical sale agreement.

What is an Acceptable Offer?

 

The goal of every seller is to have a line of buyers outside the front door, each clutching higher and higher offers. And while this has been known to happen, in most markets there is some balance between the number of buyers and sellers. A number of factors determine whether a buyer's offer is acceptable. They include:

  • Is the offer at or near the asking price? Is the offer above the asking price?
  • Has the buyer accepted the asking price or something close? Has the buyer then buried thousands of dollars in discounts and seller costs within tiny clauses and contract additions?
  • What is the alternative to the buyer's offer? If a home has not attracted an offer in months, then sellers need to determine if a better deal is possible -- recognizing that each month costs are being incurred for mortgage payments, taxes and insurance.
  • Does the owner have enough time to wait for other offers?
  • What if no other offers are received?
  • What if several offers are received? Do you choose the high offer from the purchaser with questionable finances who may not be able to close, or a somewhat lesser offer from a buyer with preapproved financing?

In each case, owners -- with assistance from REALTORS® -- will need to carefully review offers, consider marketplace options and then determine whether an offer is acceptable.

What is a Counter-Offer?

 

When a home is made available for sale the owner is essentially making an offer to buyers: For a given number of dollars and other terms you can acquire this home. Buyers, in turn, can respond with several options:

  • Not interested.
  • Yes, we'll buy on the owner's terms.
  • We're interested and here's our counter-offer.

A counter-offer is nothing more than a new offer. And just as the buyer had three options in response to the owner's original price and terms, the seller can now choose one of three reactions: accept the offer, decline the offer or make a fresh counter-offer.

 

Offers and counter-offers reflect the back-and-forth activity of the marketplace. It's an efficient and practical process -- but also one that may contain tricky clauses and hidden costs. The agent who lists your home can explain the local bargaining process in detail and assist in the actual negotiations.

 

How Do You Negotiate?

 

It's sometimes argued that negotiation must produce one "winner" and one "loser." Others suggest that a "win/win" situation is possible where each side gets something of value.

 

Real estate bargaining typically involves compromises by both sides. It's not war; it's not winner-take-all; and it's not the time to take personally any comments made by purchasers.

 

Instead, negotiating should be seen as a natural business process; buyers should be treated with respect; and owners should never lose sight of either their best interests or their baseline transaction requirements. These are the standards unique to each owner, which must be met before the home can be sold.

 

Closing

 

It might seem as though once a sale agreement has been signed that the selling process is complete. Not only is it not over yet, but some of the most complex aspects of a real estate transaction now begin.

 

A sale agreement sets not only a purchase price for the home, but also a series of terms and conditions. For instance:

  • Contracts routinely depend on the ability of a buyer to obtain financing, which is why most sellers prefer buyers with pre-approval letters from lenders.
  • A growing percentage of transactions involve a home inspection, or a physical review of the home by a trained and independent observer.
  • Lenders will establish numerous conditions before granting a loan. They will want a title exam, title insurance to protect against title errors, termite inspections, surveys and an appraisal to assure that the home has sufficient value to secure the loan.

The agent typically arranges required inspections and helps the owner prepare for closing.

 

What Happens at Closing?

 

Closing -- or "settlement" or "escrow" as it is known in some areas -- is essentially a meeting where the closing agent (the party who conducts settlement) takes in money from the buyers, pays out money to the owner and makes sure that the purchaser's title is properly recorded in local records along with any mortgage liens.

 

The closing agent reviews the sale agreement to determine what payments and credits the owner should receive and what amounts are due from the buyer. The closing agent also assures that certain transaction costs are paid (taxes and title searches).

 

Closing is also the time when "adjustments" will be made. For instance, suppose you've pre-paid taxes four months in advance. In this case, the closing agent will compensate you for the prepayment at closing by having the buyer pay you additional money.

 

It could also work in reverse. If you are behind on property taxes, the closing agent will reduce the money due to you at settlement by the amount of the unpaid taxes.

 

(Taken from the From the National Association of Realtors Website)

 

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