Tips for Sellers
Like all sellers, you'd like to command a high price for your home—and every buyer would like to pay as little as possible. The sale depends on many factors, including market conditions, your home's desirability, and how quickly you want to sell. In most real estate transactions, sellers and buyers meet somewhere in the middle—but there are ways to tip the balance in your favor.
The urgency to make improvements later on may be prompted by a leaking roof, a change in the size of your household, or the need to convert the basement into the headquarters of a home-based business. You have a number of options to pay for improvements, including paying cash. However, most homeowners favor financing the job, especially if it involves significant remodeling or repair.
Get the facts.
Don't spend money on a formal market appraisal. The best way to determine the value of your house is to get three comparative market analyses from three agents specializing in your area. Not only will the agents take recent sales data and your home's attributes into account, they also will factor your neighborhood into the equation. If you choose to work with an agent to sell your home, select one with a track record of local sales and a good marketing plan.
Set your price judiciously.
Typically, if you set your price 5 percent to 10 percent above market price, you are likely to end up with an offer close to your home's true value. Also try calculating the cost per square foot of your house compared to homes already on the market (divide list price by square footage of livable space). If your house has more features or other desirable qualities, you may want to set a higher price. Finally, follow an old retail maxim for hooking buyers: Set your price just under a whole number, such as $179,900 rather than $180,000.
Don't waste time.
The longer a house sits on the market, the less likely you are to get the best price. Put your house on the market during the spring or fall, when the most buyers are looking; avoid the seasonal slow periods of mid-summer and mid-winter. Remember, you're paying property tax, insurance, and other costs while you're selling. If you've already bought your next home, expenses can quickly add up.
Have your house inspected.
A pre-sale evaluation from a qualified home inspector can save both money and heartache. You'll end up with a list of repairs you can address before you sell. The last thing you want is a surprise during the buyer's home inspection that will force you to lower the price or make costly, last-minute repairs before closing.
Make your home a model home.
Once you've made basic repairs, give your house the model-home treatment. Your goal is to dazzle buyers willing to pay for a home in mint condition. Paint, floor polish, new light fixtures and fresh bedding plants are inexpensive ways to take your home from plain to profitable.
Finesse the purchase contract.
In the purchase contract, avoid expensive terms such as paying a buyer's closing costs, and watch out for contingencies that could cost you time off the market. If a buyer wants to close the sale contingent on selling his or her current house, include a kick-out clause that allows you to back out of the deal within 72 hours if you receive an offer that does not contain contingencies.
Are you missing out on a better offer if you accept the first one you receive? If the price is in your range, consider market conditions and how quickly you want or need to sell. In a seller's market with few listings, you may get other offers right away. But in a buyer's market with many listings, you risk offending the buyer who may then withdraw the offer. If local practice and custom is to entertain all offers as they are received, follow convention and counter at a higher price. If custom dictates that no offers will be accepted until after the first open house, you have a reprieve.
Nothing to Lose
In a buyer's market with many listings, you may be presented with a low offer. Such offers can be annoying, but consider testing the buyer's interest by countering the offer. (The buyer could be testing you, too.) If your home is in a desirable location and in excellent condition, and the buyer is genuinely interested in purchasing a home, you have a golden opportunity to sell. Find out what the buyer really wants and shape the counteroffer accordingly. Signal your flexibility on contract terms or, if you can, offer seller financing in exchange for a higher price.