If selling a house is on your to-do list, you’ve got a lot to do. Preparing a house for market is one of the biggest chores a homeowner can face. Getting everything to look “just right” can be just exhausting for those who do the work.
But the payoff is generally worth it — getting the best price possible for your property. For help on how to get ready for a home sale, we gathered advice from local real estate professionals, as well as the website of the National Association of Realtors, www.realtor.com. Here’s what we learned.
1: Sell in springtime if you can — When the weather warms up, so does the real estate market. Families with school-age children, in particular, begin to look in earnest for new places then. They’re on a mission to resettle the family while school’s out for the summer, causing the least disruption possible. Their urgency works in favor of the seller.
An extra bonus to sellers is that houses look their best in the spring, when trees and shrubs leaf out and flowers begin to bloom.
2: Make a good first impression — The front door is one of the first things people are going to see, says Al Suguitan, president and chief operating officer of the Greater Gateway Association of Realtors in Glen Carbon. He suggests painting the door a bright color, such as red or maroon, or giving stained wooden doors a thorough cleaning.
Planting annuals in pots or flower beds near the entryway and spreading fresh mulch in beds will also “help make the home more inviting,” he says.
3: Get rid of clutter — Too much stuff makes a house feel small and crowded. Decluttering gives homes a more spacious feel. As long as you’re going to be moving anyway, begin to pack up items that you can do without for a while, and stack those boxes in a corner of the basement or garage. Put excess furniture and other big items in storage. Start throwing out the junk that’s accumulated over the years. Or cash in on your discards and have a garage sale.
“Make the house as wide open as possible,” says Suguitan, who might even advise a homeowner to cut back on the number of sofa pillows or candles in a room. “Sometimes houses can become too busy,” he says.
Take a hard look in the kitchen and bathroom, too, advises Pat Walker, chairman of the Greater Gateway Association. “Keep all of your cabinets and vanities as decluttered as possible.”
4: Clean, clean, clean — Plan on a spring-cleaning — a top-to-bottom, behind-the-refrigerator, under-the-bed type of scrubbing. Look for a spring-cleaning checklist on the Internet, and try to check off every item — from washing the curtains to dusting the blades on the ceiling fans.
If the job seems overwhelming, hire a cleaning service to help.
5: Give your home a “well-loved” feeling — Take this opportunity to fix the little things your family has probably been living with for years. Fix the faucet that leaks. Repair the siding that has a ding in it.
“You want to make your house look well-maintained,” says Jenny O’Toole of Kirkwood, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Gundaker. It should look as if “the people who’ve been living there have cared about it.”
6: Get a critical opinion • Borrow fresh eyes — from a friend or a real estate agent — to find the flaws in your house before you put it on the market. You may no longer notice the stains on your carpet, but someone else probably will. Make a list of the problems that are pointed out, and try to correct as many as possible before the home goes up for sale.
You may even want to go further. Walker, of the Greater Gateway Association, says she has recommended a professional whole-house inspection for a few of her home sellers lately. When the inspection is done before the house is listed, problems can be addressed early and a buyer’s concerns can be alleviated.
“It could expedite a sale,” she says.
7: Lighten up the place • One of the easiest ways to brighten a house, Walker says, is to use the brightest light bulbs that you can. Check the recommendations for each fixture, and use the largest wattage allowed. (While you’re at it, clean the fixtures, too.)
“It makes the house look brighter and cheerier,” she says, especially in a night showing.
Coats of fresh paint also brighten a home, Walker says.
When painting, choose neutral colors, which are generally more attractive to buyers.
8: Spend wisely • Fix up and spruce up, but don’t go overboard.
“In preparing your home for the market, spend as little money as possible,” the website www.realtor.com recommends in an article titled “Get the House Ready.”
“Buyers will be impressed by a brand new roof, but they aren’t likely to give you enough extra money to pay for it. There is a big difference between making minor and inexpensive ‘polishes’ and ‘touch-ups’ to your house, such as putting new knobs on cabinets and a fresh coat of neutral paint in the living room, and doing extensive and costly renovations,” such as installing a new kitchen.
At this point, every improvement should pay off in the form of a better sale price. For a guide on how much to spend, see Page 22.
9: Compile a history of the property • In what year was the house built? How old is the roof? When was the last time the basement leaked?
Unless you’ve kept good records, you may need to do some legwork — not to mention ing through old bank statements — to get the answers to these crucial questions. But you’ll need the answers to provide a proper disclosure of the condition of your property.
Filling out a seller’s disclosure form gives the seller a record of the information shared with potential buyers. And home shoppers get an in-depth glimpse of the property.
10: Try to sell your house before you move out • Vacant houses are harder to sell because prospective buyers have a harder time visualizing themselves in the home.
O’Toole, of Coldwell Banker Gundaker, has a perfect story to illustrate this; it involves a house that she listed twice.
The first time, she says, the house was “put on the market two days before Thanksgiving, which is really the worst time of year, and the sellers had moved out.”
The house didn’t show well, she says. It was empty. People couldn’t visualize. There were fewer buyers at that time of year, and the house just sat there for about six months.
Eventually, the sellers took the house off the market, and renters moved in.
The following February, the sellers called O’Toole again, wanting to relist the house.
This time, the story was different.
“The renters had the house fixed up so cute, it was just amazing,” O’Toole says. The home “had cute furniture, someone was there cleaning it every day, and when people came to look … they were very impressed.”
The house sold within two weeks.
It just goes to show, O’Toole says: “Vacant house put on the market in November — not a good idea. Nicely furnished home in the first week of March — yes! Then you’ll sell it.”
House prices are falling in much of the country, and a report by Merrill Lynch says a record 2.2 million single-family homes and condos are on the market — almost 1 million above normal levels. It’s a buyer’s market, but don’t despair.
Selling in a buyer’s market: You can increase your chance of selling your house in a reasonable time by following a few good guidelines.
Play the cards you’re dealt.
Scope out other houses for sale.
Make it a turnkey, not a turkey.
Play the cards you’re dealt. A successful poker night begins before you reach the table, when you resolve not to chase after hands that you have no realistic chance of getting. Similarly, a successful home sale begins before the house is listed, when you decide not to expect to make a killing. “All you can do in a falling market, if you have to sell, is have the best possible product out there at the price it should be,” says Diane Saatchi, an agent with Corcoran Group in East Hampton, N.Y. “Not what you wish you could get, not what the neighbor got two years ago, but at the price you should get now. That’s the reality.” It takes discipline to face that reality. Humility, too. For many sellers, “the only disappointment is that their friend, six months or a year ago, got more than they’re getting,” says Bill Christiano, a loan officer with MortgageIT in White Plains, N.Y. “Ego gets in the way when they’re trying to sell. Or stubbornness, I should say.”
Scope out other houses for sale. Break through your ego and stubbornness by looking at the good deals that your neighbors are offering. “The most important thing is to really shop the competition on the market right now,” says Elizabeth Razzi, author of “The Fearless Home Buyer,” published in 2006, and of “The Fearless Home Seller.”
The U.S. senior community is warming up to reverse mortgages, but the product’s increasing popularity also is breeding a new crop of unscrupulous brokers, lenders, and loan agents who are taking advantage of the nation’s elderly.
In general, reverse mortgages allow home owners who are 62 and older to borrow against their home equity without having to repay the money until the home is sold or the borrower dies or permanently moves out.
But the mortgages have some groups concerned. Speaking at a recent hearing before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, legislators and consumer advocates warned that, without better loan counseling and tougher government oversight, a flood of older home owners could be pressured into taking out inappropriate loans — just as millions of mortgage borrowers were persuaded to accept subprime loans that are now going into default at a rapid clip.
“We have gone through a savings and loan collapse, a stock market bubble and are currently in the middle of a lending mess,” noted Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) at the hearing. “Our goal is to make sure that the reverse mortgages don’t become the scandal of the next decade.” National Reverse Mortgage Loan Association President Peter Bell says the perceived problem may be somewhat overblown. But he concedes that some sales agents who are finding themselves unemployed due to the housing downturn could be picking up jobs in the reverse mortgage sector but may have “a different type of mentality about moving transactions through quickly.”
Priciest Homes on the Market
Source: Forbes, Matt Woolsey
Soft-Market Secrets To Selling A High-End Home
Even Martha Stewart might have a hard time selling a mansion in this market. Sales of new homes dropped last month to their lowest level in more than 12 years. Mortgage applications have fallen to their lowest level in a year. Bidding wars are pretty much done. Homes in great neighborhoods boasting stellar architecture and well-landscaped gardens are languishing. During the boom, such properties practically sold themselves. Now, homeowners are figuring out what strategies will help unload a quality piece of real estate. The top tip? Proper pricing, say economists, brokers and home sellers.