Answers to the Ten Most Common Questions Home Sellers Ask
Selling a home. For most people, it’s a little like being on trial: They’re faced with more questions than they could imagine, and one wrong answer could cost them dearly. For first-timers, the decisions and implications of selling their most important investment can seem overwhelming. Even for experienced home sellers, keeping up to date with the changes in the real estate market—or perhaps finding ways to overcome the problems they ran into last time—can be daunting. That’s why information becomes such an invaluable commodity for anyone selling a home today.
Local real estate professional Larry Ditty of Century 21 Select Group, has compiled a list of answers to ten of the most common questions most home sellers face.
“How can I be sure now is the right time to sell?” For some home owners, the decision to sell at a particular time is necessitated due to job relocation, life change or some other factor that makes the answer to this question an easy one, Larry says. However, “for the majority of sellers, moving is a more subjective matter,” he adds. Therefore, one of the most important first steps any potential seller can take is to decide exactly what his or her own personal motivations for selling are.
“How do I find out what market conditions are like in my area?” After sellers know why they want to sell, the next step is to get a clear picture of the current local real estate market to determine whether factors are in favor of allowing them to achieve their goals, he says. According to Ditty, potential sellers can compile this information themselves by researching home sales to find out what comparable homes are selling for, or they can talk to a REALTOR® they trust who can provide them with this information as well as current insights on the market.
“How much can I expect to get for my home?” For the most part, Ditty says, pricing will depend on how much similar homes in the area are selling for. “But each home is different,” he adds. “The best price is the one that takes all of the property’s advantages and disadvantages into account as well as the goals of the seller.” For instance, if the sellers absolutely must sell within a given time frame, they may need to set a slightly lower price than a similar home with owners who are in no rush and want to maximize their profit.
“How long will it take for my home to sell?” Local real estate boards keep track of the average length of time most properties stay on the market in the area. Ditty advises prospective sellers to pay close attention to the time frames established in their listing agreement before they sign with any agent. They should ask their agent how long most of his or her listings remain on the market, and what will happen if their home doesn’t sell within the prescribed time. “But beware of an agent who promises extra speedy results,” he says. “They could be simply pricing too low just to get the sale quickly.”
“Can I save money by selling my home myself?” Initially the idea of not having to pay a commission to an agent may be tempting to some sellers. However, any erstwhile do-it-yourself-ers should also be aware of exactly what’s involved in selling a home and make sure they have what it takes to follow through with every step. The majority of home owners choose to let a professional real estate agent handle all the legwork and paperwork for them—as well as any potential problems that may arise in even the seemingly simplest of transactions. In addition, by listing with a REALTOR®, home owners have access to the Multiple Listing Service, the marketing tool that accounts for the vast majority of home sales.
“Even if sellers choose to go it alone,” Ditty says, “they should still talk with a REALTOR® they know and trust. Many professionals will still offer to help with paperwork and marketing for home owners handling their own sales. This way, if something unexpected does happen, the seller has already built a relationship with a professional who is ready to help.”
“Does choosing the right agent really make a difference?” Contrary to conventional wisdom, all REALTORS® are not created equal. “The key to choosing the right agent is to find someone whose personal style and methods fit in with your own,” Ditty says. Start by getting referrals from friends or by contacting local agents and setting up interviews. Never go blindly with a referral. What works for your friend may not work for you.
“How can I find the right REALTOR®?” Take time to interview each potential agent. Look at the professionalism of his or her marketing materials and get a feel for how comfortable you feel talking with this person. Don’t be afraid to ask for references. You should feel confident that the agent you choose is a trustworthy and knowledgeable individual, working full-time and representing a solid and reputable agency, who will treat your best interests as paramount. If you don’t feel confident, look for someone else.
“What do I need to do to prepare my home for sale?” Selling your home involves more than simply putting a sign in the front yard. To maximize your home’s appeal to potential buyers, you may need to be willing to make some minor cosmetic changes or repair major problems. Ask your REALTOR® for a complete list of cleaning and makeover strategies, as well as other details which can add to the curb appeal and ultimately may make your home worthy of a higher price.
“What if there’s something wrong with my home? Do I have to tell the buyer?” “It is always in the seller’s best interest to disclose everything regarding the state of the property,” Ditty says. “In most cases it is illegal not to.” In many areas laws have been established to hold the seller accountable for home defects even if the seller wasn’t aware of the problem. “Sellers should consider going above and beyond the law’s requirements for home inspections and disclosure,” she adds. “This will make buyers more comfortable about buying your home and, in some cases, even paying more for it.”
“How can I tell a good offer from a bad one?” Each seller should know in advance what his or her “bottom line” is, what contingencies or terms would be acceptable and what would not. In addition, the seller should find out whether the buyer has been prequalified for financing, something most real estate agents will quickly determine right from the start, before seriously counting on any offer. Beyond that, each offer should be reviewed for a deposit, the price offered, the down payment, the terms involved, occupancy details and any contingencies.
“Any offers should be reviewed in private with the seller’s agent,” Ditty says. “This way, the home owner and the agent can openly discuss how well this offer matches the seller’s goals and what should be included or deleted from any counteroffer that may be necessary.”