Preparing your house for sale
It's been said that buyers know they are going to buy a house witin the first few seconds of entering the property. What buyers see when they walk into your house can make or break a sale. Here are some tips to make a good first impression:
- Keep a clean house - dishes washed and put away, cleared counter and table tops, made beds, clothes put away
- Declutter - put away toys, stacks of papers and magazines, toiletries, small plants, personal items, religious items
- Organize - laundry area, yard tools, garage
- Make your yard inviting - trim trees and shrubs, mow lawn, rake leaves, sweep sidewalk and porch, put out a welcome mat
- Put pets in kennels or secure them in the backyard
Establishing the list price
The most important things to home buyers when considering price are:
- Safe neighborhood
- Good schools
- Distance to work and shopping
- Size of house and yard
- Number of bedrooms & bathrooms
- Garage, carport, patio
- Type: Ranch, 2 story, multi-level, condo, townhouse
- Move-in condition
- Roof, foundation, mechanicals
- Upgrades - kitchen, bathrooms
- Finished basement
Establishing a sales price is based on comparable properties withing your neighborhood with similar amenities that have sold within the past several months.
Prior to settling on the list price, the Seller should consider the closing costs that will be deducted from the net proceeds at closing:
- Mortgage payoff - The balance due on the mortgage(s) must be paid.
- Commissions - The Seller typically pays a percentage of the sales price to the Seller's agent, who splits that commission with the Buyer's agent.
- Property taxes - The Seller must pay these taxes that are prorated from the first of the current year to the date of closing.
Most houses sell in the spring and summer when school is out and buyers have time to shop. Selling during the "high season" usually means a larger selection of houses on the market. This period can bring competing offers and more profits. Yet, in these days of job transfers, baby boomers downsizing, and the rise and fall of the economy and stock market, the housing market is always active.
The posting of your house on the multiple listing service is seen by thousands of Buyers' agents as well as the general public. Posts describe your house in words and photos along with selling details. A sign may be placed in your yard as notice that your house is available for purchase.
Once your house is posted on the multiple listing service site, Buyers' agents will make appointments to tour your house with potential Buyers. It's best to allow as many showings as possible.
When there is a shortage of houses on the market, as there has been in recent years, a Seller may receive multiple offers. If there are similar offers, your agent may ask for the "highest and best" offer from those that are the most attractive. Once an offer is accepted, your house is considered to be "under contract." Although you may continue showing the property, no other offers can be accepted unless the existing contract is cancelled.
The Contract to Buy includes a schedule to accomplish various steps taken by certain deadlines prior to closing the transaction:
- Earnest money -- Once the house is under contract, the Buyer must provide an earnest money check made payable to the Seller's selected title company. The amount of the check is typically 1% of the list price, but in today's market, it's often more than 1% due to multiple offers. This is to eliminate weak offers.
- Seller's Disclosures to Buyer -- These documents must be provided shortly after the house goes under contact. They describe everything the Seller knows about the property, such as condition of roof, foundation, mechanical systems, and potential toxic chemicals on the property. They also include county records of the size of the house, the source of water, whether or not any reports exist as to lead-based paint or mold conditions on the property.
- Inspection -- The Buyer may purchase an inspection by a professional house inspector who does a general inspection to disclose any problems unknown to the Seller. The inspector will provide the Buyer with an Inspection Report that may be sent to the Seller. The Buyer may request the Seller make repairs, or provide a credit toward the Buyer's closing costs, or, perhaps, reduce the sales price. If there is no resolution, the Buyer may buy the house as is or cancel the contract. If it's cancelled, the Buyer may receive a refund of the earnest money.
- Appraisal -- The Buyer or the Buyer's lender will order an appraisal. If the appraised value is less than the purchase price, the Buyer may chose to pay the difference between the appraised value and the purchase price, or the Buyer may cancel the contract. If it's cancelled, the Buyer may receive a refund of the earnest money.
- Closing -- The transaction is consummated at the title company where papers are signed, funds are wired, and the Seller turns the keys to the house to the Buyer. If the real estate agents have done a professional job, it's a happy occasion for all involved.