- Get in Shape
Buyers are attracted to clean, spacious and attractive homes. Brighten up the house – take down dark curtains, paint, let in more light. Remove all clutter: counter tops, tables, rooms, closets. Reduce distractions. Help the buyers visualize making themselves at home. Remove family pictures, political, religious or social clues. Invite a neighbor to walk through your house like a buyer would. Get others' opinions. Scrub your house down from top to bottom. "If a car is worth $200 dirty, it will be worth $220 cleaned up." – Donald Trump. Simple aesthetic improvements such as trimming trees, planting flowers, fixing squeaky doors, broken tiles, and shampooing rugs will greatly enhance your home's appeal. Also, make sure your house smells good. Your house should have curb appeal to make that first impression when buyers do the "drive-by." If they don't like the outside, they won't want to see the inside. Keep your lawn cut, pick toys or garden tools up, park your car in the garage if you can, or get a new mat for the front door.
Hire someone to clean if you have to. Give away, sell items or throw them away. Sort out the attic, basement and garage storage. Put it in commercial storage if that's what it takes. Inspect your property and list what needs to be fixed.
Home staging is a great service to consider. In our area, you can get help starting as low as $75. If there are alot of comparable homes on the market, and you want to sell quicker - your home needs to stand out. According to USA Today (10/27/06), Coldwell Banker in Los Altos, CA looked at 2,800 properties in eight U.S. cities in 2004. They found that staged homes, on average, sold in half the time as non-staged homes. Sellers with staged homes sold at nearly 5% more than non-staged homes.
- Price It Right
This is very important! You may use a professional appraiser or do your own careful study of comparable home sales in the last 6 months in your area. Do not overprice your home. You have the advantage to offer a slightly lower price – with your savings from commission – to attract more buyers and sell your home faster. Although, if you are in a desirable area, you may aim for fair market value and retain more of your sales proceeds. Over-pricing will reduce buyer interest, makes competing homes look like better values, and can lead to mortgage rejections once the appraisal is in. When using an agent, there can be a tendency to bump up the price to cover commission. You can have leveraging power by advertising a more attractive price.
Go to open houses of comparable properties and see your competition. Compare square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms and special features. Finally, set your selling price just under a whole number, such as $189,900 rather than $190,000.
Note: If you are receiving substantial hits on your listing and/or you have many showings requested – but no offers – chances are that potential buyers perceive your house is priced too high. Buyers who have been looking around for a while are savvy. If priced too high, buyers may be reluctant to make a more reasonable offer that is much lower than your asking price.
- Get a Real Estate Attorney
This is well worth the expense to have their expertise to handle paperwork and protect your interests. An experienced lawyer can help you evaluate complicated offers, act as an escrow agent to hold down the down payment, review contracts and handle your home's closing process. They are a good resource to help you handle disclosures.
Contrary to popular belief, legal services are much less expensive than a real estate broker. Many attorneys can do your paperwork for a flat fee in the $700-800 range. For some attorneys in our area, go to the Service Directory. More on Attorneys.
- Marketing Your Home
Get as much exposure as possible: While the internet will give you the color photos and unlimited description of your property that you can not do in a 5- line newspaper ad, it is still a good idea to advertise in a newspaper to reach potential buyers and direct them to your website.
Lawn signs: The professional sign that La Crosse By Owner provides attracts attention to your home. Many home buyers find homes by just driving through the neighborhood.
Open houses: This is sometimes a good way to invite potential buyers into your home, and an excellent opportunity for feedback.
Home photos: A picture is worth a thousand words. When taking photos, be sure that your yard and driveway are uncluttered. Buyers don't need to know what kind of car you drive. Remove bikes and garbage cans. On the interior, people are looking to buy your house, not your possessions. Move things around if you have to. Try different angles when shooting pictures. Take inside photos during the daytime. Turning on lights usually helps. Cloudy days are actually quite nice for photos. Most people include a front photo, 2-3 inside images, and maybe the backyard. Inside photos usually include the kitchen and main living area. Include photos of special features. Some people do not want to include inside photos. Only present quality photos that compliment your property.
Home brochures/Info sheets: It is a good idea to have these on hand to give to potential buyers and use as handouts at open houses. They may be printed directly from your listing page.
Describing your property or writing an ad: you have unlimited description space on your web page, but remember, a long flowery prose will not make your house more appealing. Try to be concise. Provide critical facts. Most buyers quickly scan ads, so use descriptors to attract attention. Attract only serious buyers by mentioning the price. Don't make it a secret. You have done research on the market and should be confident in what your house is worth.
- Get the forms
Be prepared to disclose radon levels, lead paint, any material defects, and pest problems. Discuss potential liability with your attorney.
Wisconsin Real Estate Forms
Minnesota Forms Available Upon Request Due To Copyright
- Arrange a Title Company
Sometimes your attorney will take care of this. You need a title company to provide title insurance and represent you at the time of closing. When a title company holds your current policy, many will give you a discount if you order your new policy through them. Your title company may also be able to provide you with specific details about your property that you can share with buyers. (square footage, year built, number of owners, etc.) See the Service Directory for title companies.
- Fielding Calls
Make yourself available as much as possible. Sometimes people will call from their cell phone in front of your property. You are not obligated to show the house, but take advantage of their interest while they have it if you can. It pays to keep your house neat and clean as much as possible. This will keep your stress level lower and prevent last minute scurrying. In a kind and gentle way, feel free to ask "Are you prequalified for a house in this price range?" and/or "Are you pretty much ready to buy or are you in the information gathering stage?" Knowing this helps you understand your buyers and you can make decisions accordingly.
Make sure your answering machine has an appropriate message on it. When you are doing the business of selling your home, you want to be professional. Return all calls as soon as possible. Be prepared to give accurate directions and have a fact sheet by the phone on your home. Also, if someone without internet inquires, but doesn't set up a showing, you can mail them your info sheet. They may call back or pass it on to a friend. Keep a log sheet of callers with date, time, name, showing date/time and phone number. Note if they are out of town or local, and if they are renting or if their house sold.
- Showing Your Home
Turn on the lights and open the blinds. Bake bread for that "homey" aroma, play tasteful background music. Have all valuables secured out of sight. Have a sign-in sheet as a safety precaution. Be available to answer questions, but allow space for private discussion. Remember your home will sell itself! A nice touch is to place index-sized cards at eye level with a few words to provide brief facts or point out features. If you have kids or pets, it is preferable to have them away at showings. Be ready to answer questions. Get out previous heating, electric, water bills and tax bill. Gather appliance receipts, service records, and warranties on siding, shingles, etc. Know the age of appliances and components of the home (roof, furnace, siding). It takes time, but you will appear organized and that you have nothing to hide. It will reassure buyers that your house is reasonable to maintain and keep up. Sell the neighborhood as well as your home. Keep in mind, however, that what seem advantages to you may not be to others. Buyers who value privacy may not like block parties or overly friendly neighbors. Use your discretion and listen to what buyers reveal about their likes and dislikes. Show enthusiasm, but don't get caught up in talking too much. Listen to criticism, and don't let negative comments upset you. Some buyers may use criticism as a negotiating tactic to prepare you to accept a low offer. Others just "talk out" their reactions without thinking about your feelings. If prospects are focusing on little problems, such as whether the closet is big enough, it is often a sign that they are seriously considering your property. If someone doesn't like your decorating style, remember, it is only one person's opinion. Your biggest critics may provide the most helpful suggestions when it comes to getting your home sold.
Don't lose sight of the most important fact: You are not looking for compliments, you're looking for a buyer. Selling your home can be enjoyable and fun.
When negotiating, project a calm, relaxed comfortable mood. Have in mind what you can negotiate. Your bare minimum price, closing date/price, leaving/taking appliances, contingencies and other buyer/seller considerations. Assess your buyer's financial qualifications. You can ask for a pre-approval letter.
When a home buyer makes an offer (presented on a legal form – not verbally) you should consult with your attorney before accepting it. Both parties should be in agreement on all the details: final price, financing contingencies, professional inspection, closing date, title policy, possession date, and other terms of interest. Maintain mutual respect to strike a win-win deal for both parties. Don't get emotionally attached or appear desperate. Listen to the other side to avoid misunderstanding. Don't be offended by a bad offer. Politely thank them for their interest, but that you're so far apart that further negotiations would be fruitless. If you've reached your goal, don't be greedy.
It is still a good idea to keep marketing the property until all contingencies of the agreement have been met. You may note on your listing that an offer is pending and keep a record of inquiries in case the sale doesn't close.
- Home Inspection
Prospective buyers have the right to inspect your property. Make sure the offer indicates who pays for the inspection and who has the right to cure the defect. See the Service Directory for home inspectors.
- Buyer's Appraisal and Other Details
The buyer's lender will coordinate the appraisal to confirm the value of the home. They may order a surveyor to make sure that property boundaries are properly laid out. They will also order a title search to determine if there are any liens against your property.
The home buyer should do a walk through of the property to make sure all agreed repairs are completed and that the home is in the same condition as when the buyer made their offer. At the closing all monies will be collected, existing loans and liens will be paid, the deed transferred and insurance issued insuring a free and clear title. You will receive the proceeds from your home sale!