So you really want to sell your home. You have heard that the market is changing, and maybe you have already tried on your own or through a Realtor, without success.
It's not as easy as it looks! The days are over when you could just pound in a sign and wait for the offers to come in. This will be a moment of truth for owners and some agents who have not experienced market cycles.
First, let's make one thing perfectly clear - the market is still great. What is different is that conditions are becoming more balanced after five-plus years of heavily favoring sellers. We had a very tilted market for so long that it is natural and positive occurrence to see this leveling. But it means that homeowners need to fall back on some basics if they are to successfully sell their homes.
Here are some pointers to refresh your memory of how things work in more normal market conditions:
1. Hire the best Realtor you can find. This does not necessarily mean the agent with the most sales, or the one who calls themselves your neighborhood expert, or even the one your auntie used. Examine their qualifications and match your goals with the person who is truly committed to achieve them. The expertise and experience of your real estate professional will determine the outcome to a great extent. If you still want to try to sell yourself, see the suggestions at the end of this article
2. Price to Sell The neighborhood and Island market conditions are crucial to setting your listing price range. This should be based on a detailed "Comparative Market Analysis" of homes in the neighborhood that most closely resemble yours in land and home size, features such as view, age, and condition. Actual closed sales show what buyers will pay, and homes on the market show what homes you will be competing with for the pool of qualified buyers.
Your home value has nothing to do with what you need to get out of the sale, or what you spent on improvements. Your home will be judged based on what it offers compared to the other choices an interested buyer may have. Overpricing is the "kiss of death". If you start too high, you can never recreate the impact of a priced-to-sell home. Even hiring the Goodyear Blimp to promote your home won't do a thing if it is priced in the clouds!
3. Marketing Your Home: Decide with your real estate professional what specifically should be done to expose your home to the world. Open Houses, mass mailings, advertisements, and descriptive flyers are some of the commonly used tools. The Internet is the most effective new way to expose your home to a huge group of buyers. Ask your Realtor how they will reach these buyers, or better yet, visit your Realtor's web sites first-hand. If there are lots of homes competing for qualified buyers, think outside the box. Some of the latest techniques include "drama pricing", bid sales, and even auctions, more common on the mainland than here. Tried and true tactics are worth considering also, such as offering to help buyers with closing costs, or paying buyers a credit at closing for improvements that chose to not do, such as new carpeting or appliances.
4. Don't Cut Corners. If you select a Realtor based on price along, you will get what you pay for. There are many discount options available for sellers, so if you go that route, be sure you understand what you are getting - and not getting - for the price. Ask how many other properties your Realtor is marketing at the same time, and understand that you may be just one of the bunch. Ask yourself - how important is your goal to your agent? Will they take the time (and money) to market and negotiate for your best effort?
Want a Neiman Marcus result? Or even just a bit of customer service? You won't find it at Wall-Mart! And don't forget that there are generally two Realtors involved, yours and the buyer's. In spite of popular opinion, Realtors work hard to support their families so be sure your listing agent is offering an attractive commission to the buyer's agent. For a fast sale you can even sweeten the pot by offering a bonus to that agent. If you need a fast sale, this technique can increase the number of showings you get while a substandard commission may put your property at the bottom of the list.
5. De-clutter first. If your home does not show it's best face, take the extra time to freshen things up. Failing to do so is the most common and most costly of the mistakes homeowners make prior to putting their homes on the market. If you have an open carport with lots of junk, plan on deducting $10,000+ off the sale price as a general guideline! You will lose many prospects on the drive-by. Box up your personal possessions such as family portraits, school awards, and items you will not need until after the sale. Before you go on the market, throw out or donate everything you will not need at your new home- this will put money in your pocket at the close of your sale. Most buyers are not equipped with "mental erasers" to visualize how things will look after you move out, so make it easy for them.
6. If It's Broken, Fix It! Do any needed repairs so that plumbing and electrical fixtures are good looking and functional. If appliances are old and rusty, now is the time to upgrade. Paint and flooring are always cost-effective- go neutral unless you have a designer's eye. Check doors, windows, and screens , too. Of course, you could just sell "as-is" but you will have to deduct far more off the price than the cost of the repairs.
7. Clean is Beautiful. No one likes other people's dirt, so go all-out with the cleaning. Scrub everything is sight, or hire someone else to do so. Focus on the kitchen and bathrooms, which should be easy since you cleared off all those cluttered counters, right? Sinks and tubs should be spotless. Wash the switch plates and scuffs on any walls that you are not painting. Have the yard trimmed and the lanai and garage swept. Pets? Wash their sleeping quarters, and change the kitty litter. Don't want to bother? It's OK, just deduct about $15,000 off the price and buyers won't mind!.
8. Show Time! Buyers will make a decision about your home within 90 seconds of entering the door - First impressions count. Let your Realtor advise you on how to prepare your home for showing. This may be just putting fresh flowers on the table, or it may involve adjusting the positions of furniture for the best effect. A pot of flowers by the door is said to add $1000 to your home's value. That can't be proven, but you will get a great return for your effort if you made the right decisions to maximize your home price. Professions Home Stagers are becoming more popular to get the maximum effect, and some Realtors offer that service as a part of their standard fee. Check out model homes in some of the new condo buildings and home developments. You may be surprised to see what features and images are attracting today's buyers.
9. Buyers Welcome: The buyers are coming! Turn on the lights and open up drapes and blinds to let the light in. Always have the television off when you are expecting a buyer as it is extremely distracting from your home's features. Make sure it will be a comfortable temperature for showings, even if you have to leave the air conditioner on. Pets should be removed from the property, or confined to an area outside the main home. Many people have allergies or are simply fearful for themselves or their families.
10. Disappearing Act! When its time for showings or an Open House, get out of sight! It is best if you are not home to hover over buyers, as this will make them uncomfortable. Some of the other problems that occur if you are on-site are the awkward questions they may ask ("Why did you pick such a yucky color for the carpet?"), as well as their requests for information that can actually hurt your pocketbook ("How much are you willing to accept?"). When put on the spot, sellers say the darndest things and can become their own worst enemy. If you must be home to let them in, be ready to leave the instant they arrive and go visit a neighbor of do some shopping.
Sell Your Home Yourself?
It's a big gamble, and the odds are against you. Most people end up hiring a Realtor after trying on their own. Experienced Real Estate professionals market and sell homes a dozen or more times a year. How many hoes have you sold in Hawaii? Do you have home marketing access and skills? Know how to comply with the newest laws on disclosures, hazardous substances, and more? Most people use a professional to help them save money on their taxes, and they want the most experienced doctors, attorneys, and other professionals. Think about whether you want to trust your most valued possession to a well-meaning amateur - yourself.
Illusory savings. You'll probably still be paying for sales materials, advertising, and an appraiser to establish the asking price and a lawyer to close the deal.
When buyers come to view your home, guess who they expect to benefit from your savings on commissions? Themselves! And buyers' agents will want a commitment that they'll get paid by you (typically around 3 %) before they bring their clients to see your house. With limited exposure to the market, what are the chances you will net more than you "saved?"
Get Used to It
We are now in a real estate market that is starting to level off, but prices are still at record levels. The future may bring prices down a bit, so if you need to sell, now could be your best time. No market goes up forever, so this is a part of the natural cycle of supply and demand. The sky is not falling in, but we are entering a more balanced market where buyers have more choices. This has already happened in most of the country and is a reality here, too. Don't wait for an unknown future market unless you can hold on for 5+ years.
Make your best decision about selling by consulting with the professionals and planning and preparing first. Don't rely on chance with your most valuable asset!
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