Selling a house is, for just about anybody, one of the most momentous processes life will present. For most people, a house is the biggest investment they will ever undertake. Selling it is at least equal. Add to that the fact that selling a house usually has to take place under the demanding deadline of either the purchase of a new home or a move to another community, and you have a situation that calls for clear thinking, effective planning and, one hopes, a little luck.
Hiring a real-estate agent is usually a wise choice, as someone experienced in all of the intricacies of something as involved as selling the most expensive item you own can iron out complications a novice would never even think of. Still, some people prefer to try it on their own in order to save commission costs, which usually amount to 6 percent of the price of the house. Either way, there are some pieces of wisdom that ought to be taken into account. The agent will probably know these precautions, but it’s also good for the seller to be aware of them to, if nothing else, remind the agent as the process unfolds and to check to see that they are being attended to.
Here are some important points to underscore, based on universal truths in the housing business, when laying out strategies for selling a home:
- Set a realistic price. Don’t price it high in order to give yourself some negotiating space. If your house is worth $400,000, don’t ask $450,000 in order to “settle” for your true target. That could eliminate your house from consideration by potential buyers who have imposed a practical limit on themselves. In the age of online shopping, it might also have this negative effect: Properties are often categorized by price. Listing your price artificially high at $450,000 could take you out of a particular grouping — say, $350,000-$400,000. It would be wiser by far, just to be safe, to put it at $399,999. And remember that housing prices are local — there is no national housing market. Recent sales of comparable properties in the neighborhood or as close by as possible are the best yardstick in setting a price.
- When marketing a home, advertising it, either in local publications or on the Internet (preferably both), is critical, especially when time is an important factor. Take a lot of photos, both inside and outside the house, and post them generously. Zillow, Redfin and Trulia are among the giants of the home-search apps. Your real estate agent should know this, but it’s important to double-check to be sure this is being taken care of.
- When preparing photographs, include some of the attractive features in the neighborhood. Recreation, dining and shopping areas are important to outsiders who may be considering moving to your area.
- Get your house inspected before beginning your marketing effort. Before the sale transaction is complete, the buyer will surely get the property inspected. You’re far better off knowing your liabilities beforehand. You may find it expedient to complete certain repairs before marketing.
- Empty clutter from each room. Not only is clutter unattractive to shoppers, it makes the rooms look smaller. Your aim in marketing your house is to make it appear as spacious as you can.
- Spaciousness is not the only factor in presenting your rooms. You want to get as much of “yourself” out of the photos as possible. Prospective buyers want to be able to picture themselves, not you, in the home. If you have family photographs, team pennants and other memorabilia, it will look more like your house than theirs.
- Hire a professional to clean the house. You may think you can do the job yourself, but remember that you will miss potential sales if the home does not look absolutely pristine. Professionals know a good deal more about how to accomplish this than you do.
- Remove all evidence of pets in the house. Some potential buyers could be dissuaded by the idea of a dog or cat having occupied their new house. Collect food dishes, bedding and pet toys and put them into a box out of sight when taking photos to appear in advertisements.
- Give the outside of the house what real estate agents call “curb appeal.” The lawn may need attention. New sod can help. Plant some flowers. Make sure the doors and window frames have a fresh coat of paint. Maybe the mailbox is ready to be replaced. When viewers see the outside, they should consider every visible feature as a source of their own pride as if they're the new owners. Don’t give them any reason to think negatively upon their first glance at the property.
- Before photographing any of the rooms, try to set the stage so prospective buyers will sense a use for each one. This may not be possible in every instance, but people with an interest in buying your house should not have the impression that there is extra, unnecessary space that, for them, will add to the cost of the house without offering a practical use.
- Make in-person showings easily available. Don’t restrict them by ruling out a particular time of the day or week. You don’t know possible conflicts a prospective buyer’s schedule will impose, so don’t allow for any conflicts. And try to make showings available on short notice. Don’t insist on appointments far in advance.
- Another point about showings: Make yourself scarce while the shoppers are going through the house. Let them make themselves feel at home and at ease discussing the pluses and minuses they’ll encounter along the way. They’ll want to talk freely about what they’re seeing and feeling. Remember and respect the fact that they may be picking the place where they’ll spend the rest of their lives. Tell them you’d be happy to answer any questions when they finish or whenever they’d like. But don’t take a chance on restricting their expressions of their impressions by shadowing them or lurking in a room nearby.
With some forethought and care, you can effectively market your home and get a fair price for it. For more information on selling a home (and for information on buying as well), visit the ALEC Real Estate Center — and get free access to many resources there.