Resolutions for Home Sellers in 2011
by Amy Hoak
Sunday, January 2, 2011
If your New Year's resolution involves selling a home in 2011, you've got some work to do: There's lots of inventory out there and in a buyer's market like this one, getting an offer on a home can be challenging.
Still, for the committed seller willing to do some prep work and come to terms with the current value of his or her home, locking in a buyer isn't impossible.
By listing in early January, you might be able to catch some of those early birds who start browsing in the winter so that they can find a new home before school starts in the fall, said Louis Cammarosano, general manager of HomeGain.com, a real-estate website. In fact, many buyers tend to start their searches online right after Christmas, and continue throughout January and February, he said.
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"If you hit the ground running and you're a fresh listing that has done everything right, you've got the best shot," said Cammarosano.
Consider the following tips to give your home the best chance to get noticed -- and sold -- in 2011.
Price It Right from the Start
Many sellers suffer from attachment bias, said Tara-Nicholle Nelson, consumer educator for real-estate website Trulia.com. They believe that their home is worth more than they'd pay for it in another context. While it's always a bad idea to overprice a home, it's especially dangerous in times like this because there is so much competing inventory in many local markets.
Nelson's advice: Give yourself a reality check by looking inside comparable homes during open houses. That can help you get a clearer idea of your home's value.
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You might even consider interviewing a few real-estate agents to get more than one take on how the home should be priced, Cammarosano said.
The longer something sits on the market, the more price reductions you might have to make and the more potential buyers will assume that there's something wrong with the home, he said. So more often than not, it's best not to try testing the waters with a higher price, he adds.
Don't be afraid to advertise in the listing and marketing materials that it's not a foreclosure or short sale, Nelson said. In markets where distressed sales are plentiful, there are buyers who simply don't want to deal with the extra hassle and uncertainty of a short sale or bank-owned property, she said.
Get the House Ready
Most sellers know they need to declutter, paint in neutral colors and generally stage the home as best as they can to help buyers envision themselves in the home. Often, this is done on the advice of a real-estate agent or professional stager.
The closer you can get your home looking like a photo from a Pottery Barn catalog, the better off you will be, said Beth Jaworski, a real-estate agent in the Milwaukee area.
And make sure that your cabinets and refrigerators are cleaned out and decluttered, too. "You want to have a minimum of 'stuff' in the house. The less stuff you have, the larger the closets, basement and garage will look," she said.
Jaworski also recommends having a home inspection done a month before putting the home on the market to identify any major defects that need to be corrected.
Provide as Much Information as Possible
Have energy bills and a list of updates available for buyers to see, Jaworski said.
"Buyers are always curious what the utility bills are, how old the roof is, how many layers it has, how old the major mechanicals are and when that addition was added," she said. "The more information you can provide on the house, the better."
Consider providing a floor plan with listings as well, Cammarosano said. That way the prospective buyers don't have to keep making return visits to determine how their furniture will fit in the space -- they'll have the dimensions in hand.
Make It Easy to Show
The more available you can make your home for showings, the better, said David Welch, a broker/associate in Orlando, Fla.
Make it easy for your real-estate agent to access the property and keep the place clean.
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"You want your home to be easy to show because you don't know if you will get a second chance," Welch said. "Trust me, the buyer wants to like your house. Keep it in show-ready condition," he said, so they aren't turned off by a first impression.
Buyers are in the driver's seat these days, and they know they can make all sorts of unusual requests without risking the deal. Be ready.
"Buyer wants to see the house at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, OK," Jaworski said. "Buyer wants to bring 10 family members and an inspector to check out the house for three hours this weekend, OK. Buyer wants you to include the kitchen table and chairs, the painting over the fireplace and your snow blower, OK."
"The more flexible you are," she said, "the better off you will be."
Amy Hoak is a MarketWatch reporter based in Chicago.