Preparing Yourself or your Family
Selling a home is an interesting and often exciting experience, but it can also be emotionally and physically draining. Here is what you and your family should be ready for once your home is placed on the market.
- Lower privacy expectations. When your home is on the market, your home is open to the world--or at least to any person who has an agent and a lockbox key. Make sure everyone in your family understands the privacy implications of this open-door policy. Most of the adjustments are common sense: don't walk around the house in your underwear, don't leave cash on your nightstand, don't leave confidential business documents on the kitchen table, put valuables away or in safe deposit box, don’t leave weapons unattended--that kind of thing.
- Make special accommodations for pets. Pets present a special set of problems for sellers. They tend to make the home smell worse, thus reducing the home's showing potential, they can scare potential buyers from even entering the home, and they often escape when doors or gates are left open by buyers and their agents. Generally speaking, the best-case scenario is to get your pet to stay with a friend or family member during the sale of your home. If that option is not available, you can try to convert your pet to an outside animal (at least during showing hours). Finally, if that is not a viable option, you can try to compensate for the pet by posting signs telling buyers how to handle your pet (if at all), and using strong air fresheners to cover the pet smells.
- Stay out of the house from 9am to 5pm. Buyers often feel uncomfortable when they look at a home while the sellers are there. They will not open the closets to see how big they are, or ask their agent if the landscaping can easily be redone. They spend less time, ask fewer questions, and won't say what is really on their mind. This timid politeness prevents them from truly experiencing your home and falling in love with it. For this reason, it's best to stay out of your home during prime showing hours.
- Communicate frequently. The more that your family knows about the sale of your home, the more helpful they can be throughout the process. Let your family know what people are saying about the home, how competing homes are attracting buyers, and what your expectations are for showings and offers over the next days and weeks. Most importantly, ask for their feedback. Ask if they have any ideas on how to improve your home's "wow factor," or clever ways to promote the home.
Top 10 Seller Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)
Selling a home is fun, profitable, and relatively easy, if you do it correctly. However, if you make one of the following ten mistakes, you could unnecessarily complicate the process:
- Setting an unrealistic asking price. The biggest and most common mistake that sellers make is setting an unrealistic asking price. It's so tempting because you can always reduce the price if you don't get any interest at the higher price. However, buyers tend to focus their attention on new homes, rarely visiting homes that have been on the market more than a few weeks. If you are priced too high at the outset, you will waste this time of maximum exposure.
- Waiting too long to reduce the asking price. If you find that your home is not getting the activity that you desire at your current asking price, it's important to act decisively to make a meaningful price cut before all activity evaporates. If you wait too long to make a meaningful price cut, you may find yourself in a position where you have to make a severe price cut just to get people to look at your home again.
- Pricing outside the brackets. When most buyers look for homes, they use big, round numbers to categorize their price range. For instance, a buyer may describe his/her price range as "between $300,000 and $400,000." This tendency to focus on big, round numbers is very important when considering your asking price. For instance, if you set your price at $405,000, then the buyer who can spend up to $400,000 will never see your home. You would be much better off setting your price at $399,000, which drops you into a whole other bracket. Even though you are asking for less, in the end, you will likely make more money because you will have a larger group of buyers competing for your home.
- Resisting constructive criticism. Hearing that your home looks "dated" or is "priced too high" never feels good, but that could be the important piece of information that allows us to sell your home. Try not to get emotional when people offer constructive criticism about your home. It's all part of the process.
- Making it difficult for potential buyers to access the home. Having complete strangers enter your home, sometimes without any warning, is something that you will never get used to. However, it's important to resist the impulse to restrict showings to pre-set appointments or to eliminate the lockbox key from your home. Nothing makes a buyer's agent look worse than showing up to a home and not being able to get inside. For this reason, many agents avoid appointment-only listings.
- Offering a low commission split to the buyer's agent. Traditionally, the seller offers a 3% commission split to the buyer's agent, meaning that the buyer's agent will receive a check for 3% of the total purchase price of the home at the completion of the transaction. Some sellers try to cut corners on transaction fees and offer reduced commission splits to the buyer's agent (such as 2% or 2.5%). This is usually a self-destructive strategy since buyer's agents are the gatekeepers to the qualified buyers that you want visiting your home. If an agent can make 3% off the sale of a home down the street, but only 2% off the sale of your home, don't be surprised if the agent skips your home altogether.
- Not taking every offer seriously. Some offers come in so far off the asking price that sellers want to ignore the offer altogether. This is a bad idea for a few reasons. First, you never know how much wiggle room a buyer has on his/her offer. Second, it always sounds good when another agent calls me to inquire about your home and I can say, "You had better make your move fast, because we just received an offer." Nothing attracts buyers like other buyers.
- Confusing personal economics with market conditions. Naive sellers have a tendency to conflate their personal finances with overall market conditions. For instance, an inexperienced seller may refuse an offer on the basis that "we need $10,000 more to send our child to the college of their choice." Unfortunately, the fact that you need more money doesn't mean you will get it by waiting longer. In fact, oftentimes these sellers end up settling for a deal that is worse than the one they rejected weeks earlier.
Demanding ineffective advertising The vast majority of homes are sold through relatively simple promotion tools such as the MLS, brochures, sign calls, and conversations with other agents. Depending on your home's unique properties and competition, we may employ other methods, but the further we get away from the fundamentals, the less likely we are to find qualified buyers. My instinct is to say "yes" to your every request, but years of experience have taught me to resist flashy advertising and focus on what really works.
- Ignoring market trends. Your home will inevitably have competitors. There will likely be homes in the same neighborhood, often at the same price, competing for the exact same buyers. The more you understand about your competition, the better chance you have of adapting your strategy to give you a competitive advantage.
Understanding Your Agent's Role
Real estate agents perform several roles throughout the course of a transaction. Here are the four main ways that I will assist you throughout the transaction process:
- Promoter My first job as your listing agent is to attract buyers to your home. I will do this by crafting a compelling MLS (Multiple Listing Service) listing; deploying a variety of marketing techniques such as flyers, virtual tours, open houses, and e-mail campaigns; and promoting your home to groups of agents at office meetings, caravans, and pitch meetings. With the correct mix of marketing savvy and old-fashioned elbow grease, we will attract a steady stream of qualified buyers who are interested in your home.
Advisor As people begin to look at your home, I will speak with them to get their honest opinions about pricing, staging, and market position. I will also keep constant watch of all comparable properties to better understand competing homes and the day-to-day market fluctuations. We will review this information at regular intervals so that you can make informed decisions and get top dollar for your home.
- Representative. Once you find the right seller, we will work together closely to respond to offers and propose counteroffers quickly and fluidly. Throughout this process, you will communicate your priorities to me, and I will negotiate on your behalf. I will represent your best interests to the buyer and buyer's agent, while updating you whenever I receive new information from them. As contracts and disclosures need to be completed, I will prepare them for you and deliver them to the necessary parties.
- Facilitator. As we move through the transaction process, there will be times when you need the aid of a qualified expert. For instance, you might need a termite inspector to inspect your home, or a qualified contractor to perform some basic repairs. At this point, I will access my large referral network to set you up with first-rate professionals who can get the job done quickly and effectively.