As a realtor, I’m often approached at social functions, basketball games, or church picnics by friends and friends of friends seeking professional advice about buying real estate or listing a home for sale. The question usually begins something like this, “If I were to sell my house – not saying I am going to sell my house – but just for discussion, say I was…. what do I need to do about this or that?”
Here are answers to six of the most commonly asked questions I hear from homeowners who are thinking of listing a home for sale:
1. Those real estate companies who advertise they will buy my house if they don’t sell it, do they really buy it?
Do you ever offer that deal? Would you? Well, that offer has been around a long time. It works because that is how agents get appointments! But you must read the fine print. The agents making that offer will buy your house for a price that is so low that they guarantee themselves from taking a loss when they resell it. The price the agents would buy it at is not the price you are looking to get out of your house. You are looking to sell your house at as high a price as the market will bear. If this was a slam dunk good deal for the seller, than the real estate companies making the offer would never have an expired listing. Check the statistics these companies have to find out how many of their listing contracts expired without an offer from a ready, willing, and able buyer. It is a significantly high number. Recently one of my clients told me after we listed their home that they had called such an agency before listing with us. He said they did offer to buy his house but they valued it so low he was unwilling to make a commitment to that agency. He complained that some of the homes that were used to determine the value of his were actually foreclosures. We sold his home in 30 days and we sold it for $50,000 more than the other company’s estimate on the value. I’m afraid you can apply the old adage: “If it is too good to be true, it isn’t true.”
2. How important is it to repair and update our house? Should we bother to update the kitchen?
Wow, that is an important question. Some updates will definitely help you sell your house for more money, while other updates will lose you the money you spent and your home won’t be any more attractive to a buyer than when you started. Once I was selling my own house, my realtor was a friend of mine and a really good realtor. I had her walk through my house and tell me what I needed to do to be ready to put my house on the market. I was really surprised when she recommended that I not replace a window that had a broken seal. I was sure I needed to replace it. She said, “Let’s wait and see if they request it. If they do than you can replace it.” I liked that answer! And sure enough when it came down to the request of repairs the window was not on the list. So ask your realtor to walk through your house before making your list of what must be done to get it ready to sell!
3. How much are closing costs for me as the seller?
Typically, in our area closing costs are not high. The vast majority of the closing costs belong to the buyer. Your closing costs will be whatever the title company is going to charge to transfer the property out of your name into the buyer’s name. This is usually under $400. You will also need to pay your portion of taxes for the year, based on the number of calendar days you own the property (the title company will be able to figure that out on the day you close). If you have already paid them you will be getting a refund. Anything else you owe such as HOA dues will also be prorated. If you have any loans or liens on your property they will be paid off at closing.
4. Do open houses sell houses? I am really afraid to do an open house. I have heard that nosy neighbors are all who come or worse, someone looking to steal my jewelry when the house is full of people.
In this case you are right on both fronts. The good news is that you don’t need to have an open house when listing a home for sale. They do not sell houses in our area at this time. Anyone serious about your house will make an appointment and view it on their schedule without other people coming through to distract them or be the competition. We have never once sold a house at an open house. The only real value in open houses is that they are a good way for real estate agents to get clients. So while they make sellers feel like their agent is working for them by having them, I recommend skipping the open house.
5. When is the best time to sell?
Well… I don’t know. I don’t ever have a “down season” and I am not sure why that is. I don’t know if I just apply more effort when things are slower so they are not slow, or maybe I advertise like crazy so I don’t notice a slower time. That said, I would say if you have a house that backs up to something unsightly like an industrial park, in other words the view is lousy in the winter when the leaves have fallen, then winter is not your season. Or, if you have a house oriented to a family with kids, then you know the end of the school year and before the beginning of school is your hot season. Other than that, put it on the market when it is best for you!
6. If I only have money and energy for one thing, what would you have me do or spend my money on in preparing my house to sell?
Clean it! And make the front door and the walk up to your home as lovely as possible. Plant new flowers by the front door, mulch that flowerbed located by the front steps, pressure wash the walkway, and trim the shrubs so they can get to the doorbell. It’s said that buyers often make a decision about the house as they stand at the front door! Sounds crazy, I know, but many times it’s true!