- Clean out your home. As soon as you decide to sell your house, thoroughly clean it from top to bottom. Don’t forget rarely-cleaned areas such as baseboards, blinds, roof gutters and window wells. If you don’t have time to undertake a deep clean, hire a maid or a cleaning company. A clean home will help an appraiser see your house in a better light and value it more highly, as well as appealing to buyers.
- Clear up clutter while you clean. Make your home look more spacious by getting rid of any unnecessary junk. You’ll see a big difference in how your wardrobes look, as well as your garage, porch and bathroom. Buyers want to feel like they’re purchasing sufficient space, and clearing out more of your stuff helps them see themselves in your home. If you can’t bear to part with anything, consider moving the items to a storage unit temporarily.
Have your property valued. As much as you’d like to set the price of your home as high as possible, you have to be realistic. Many for-sale-by-owner listings fail to sell because owners persist in thinking their home is worth more than the market will offer, or because they have already settled on a set amount of money that they want and refuse to budge. Having a professional, third-party assessment of your home’s worth will help you get comfortable with a price range, in addition to providing you with a solid reference point if a buyer or realtor accuses you of setting the price too high.
- Don’t just rely on the property tax assessment. Many property tax assessments are out of date, and they don’t necessarily reflect the current real estate market.
- Hire an appraiser. A certified residential appraiser will come to your house, measure the property, take notes and photos, research information about any land parcels, and assemble a list of comparable sales in your neighbourhood to determine the value of your home. A visit from an appraiser will cost you far less than the services of a real estate agent, and the value the appraiser sets will be more accurate. Many banks keep a list of reputable appraisers they contact for refinancing or mortgage loans; ask your local branch manager to refer you to an honest, qualified professional. Once you receive your copy of the appraisal, make a second copy and store it in a secure location. Keep the first copy on-hand to go over with serious buyers.
- Be aware of the effects of your neighbourhood. If your neighbourhood is undergoing a mini boom of strong residential sales, those transactions will increase the value of your home. Conversely, if your neighbourhood has seen a lot of short sales or foreclosures, your home’s value will be decreased. Try to time your listing so that you’re not affected by distressed sales. For instance, in most areas, a comparable sale can only weigh against the value of your home for 90 days after the sale date. It might be worth it to wait a few months to list your home if you can do it at a higher price.
Have your home inspected. Many standard real estate contracts are going to give the home buyer the right to inspect the property, so be prepared. Have your home inspected before you advertise. Under a general inspection you might be obligated to make major repairs to appliances, plumbing, septic, electrical and heating systems, etc. You can expect your home’s roof and foundations to be inspected, as well. Follow the recommendations and make necessary repairs. Additional inspections requested by the buyer are customarily at their expense.
Know your selling points. Before you start marketing your home, write up a list of special selling points you think will attract buyers. Potential items include good school districts, recent renovations, benefits that have been grandfathered into the property, energy-saving windows or insulation and new appliances. Highlight these items in your ads, when you talk to people about your home or while you’re showing it. Memorise them so that you don’t forget anything.
Time it right. Be aware that the real estate sector sees a noticeable uptick in business over the summer – people prefer to move when it’s warm, and they’re reluctant to have their children change schools in the middle of the school year. Start trying to sell your home in April or May and continue to promote it throughout the summer. If you haven’t sold it by late fall, scale back your efforts and begin marketing more intensely when the weather warms up again.
Market your home. Staking a “For Sale By Owner” sign in your garden is good if you live in a high-traffic neighbourhood, but you can go further.
- Put up fliers. If local ordinances permit it, place fliers on stoplight poles at prominent intersections.
- Fish out potential buyers. Call local bank managers, as well as school principals, and let them know that you have a great home for sale if they know a family who’s looking. If you know that a nearby company often relocates workers to your area, contact their recruiting or human resources department and tell them you have a home you’re ready to sell. Do whatever you can to get the word out.
- Rely on word of mouth. Alert your friends, family and business associates that you’re selling your house. If you need to sell quickly, offer them a carrot – say that if they can find someone who’s looking for a house and that buyer makes an offer, you’ll buy them an expensive bottle of wine, a nice dinner out, or some other reward.
Know how to show your home. When potential buyers or their realtors contact you and want to see the home, try to be as available and flexible as possible. Be aware that many people will want to see the home in the middle of the day, when you might be working. If you can’t be home for appointments, try to arrange for a close friend or family member to be there.
- Set a peaceful, enticing mood. Before your potential buyers arrive, quickly clean up any clutter. Put away food on the counter, throw dishes into the dishwasher, and gather up laundry. Light a scented candle if you have one, or put a few drops of vanilla on a cookie sheet at put it in the oven at around 120 Celsius. Put some light, soft classical music on in the background. If the weather is nice, open a few windows; if not, light a fireplace or turn the heater up a bit. These extra little steps will make your home seem inviting and calm.
- Be a good host. This might seem like obvious advice, but some people are so anxious about selling their home that they forget basic etiquette. When your potential buyers arrive, greet them with a firm handshake and look them in the eye. Introduce yourself, and ask and remember their names. As they step inside your home, ask if you can provide them with a glass of water or light refreshment. Hone in on their interests (i.e., do they have kids? Are they empty-nesters?) and talk about the house in those terms. Lead them from room to room without rushing. At the end of the tour, ask if they have any questions or if they’d like to see anything again. Have your contact information ready to give them on a small note or card. Coming off as polite and prepared will make you seem like someone with whom they could enter a real estate transaction with minimal hassle.
- Keep it positive. Be honest, but do not dwell on the home’s flaws or offer apologies like “Sorry it’s so messy in here!” If you’re selling your house because of a divorce, lost job or other personal tragedy, do not discuss these issues with your buyers, even in jest (i.e., “I could have kept this house if my husband could have kept his pants up!”) Make your entire interaction with them as positive as possible. You want them to leave your home feeling happy and excited at the possibilities.
- Secure your valuables. Lock up everything truly irreplaceable in a safe location before you open your home to strangers. Don’t let your buyers walk around unsupervised; if they ask for a moment alone, try to give them some privacy in the garden or the kitchen.
Navigate financing. Most sellers assume that the buyer has been through the process and know the stages of buying a home. The fact is, that this is one of the many valuable services that a Realtor would normally provide, but now it is left to You, the seller, to walk them through choosing a mortgage broker to getting to the closing table. By aligning yourself with a local mortgage company first, you are giving the financial advisor leads in return for assisting you with the transaction, a virtual win-win. Mortgage brokers often have clients that are approved but have yet to find a home; this is a great way to tap into their client list to find a qualified buyer. The financial advisor should also estimate the closing costs for your home and give you strategic financing tips for marketing (Zero Percent Down, 2-1 Buy own options, Interest only options or community funding & grants available). Financing can sell a home just as quickly as good staging.
Be prepared to negotiate . If a buyer says he or she likes your home but is not sure about buying it, this is your opportunity to sweeten the deal. Did you notice the buyer looking longingly at your new barbecue? Throw it in. Did they seem dismayed that the fence hadn’t been treated for a while? Say you’ll come down £200 to cover the cost of treating.
Giving up an appliance or making a small concession for home improvements could cost you less than continuing to pay a mortgage on a house you don’t want.
Try to close cleanly and quickly. Once the buyer is making offers and negotiating, try to close the transaction as quickly as you can. Make sure you’ve provided all the necessary disclosure documents required by your state. If you don’t like the buyer’s offer, don’t just say no. Always make a counter offer. Try to accommodate the buyer wherever you can afford to. Also, consider taking the offer to a solicitor for professional evaluation. Once everything is settled, try to move out as quickly as you reasonably can.