Do some research before picking an agent
fizkes/ShutterstockMost sellers find their agent through a referral from a friend or relative (39 percent) or by going back to an agent they used to buy or sell before (25 percent), according to the National Association of Realtors. Plus, almost three quarters of sellers said they only got in touch with one agent before settling on whom they would work with. But settling on the first person who comes your way might land you with someone who’s not familiar with your type of house or who makes a slow sale, says Sumant Sridharan, COO of HomeLight, a company that matches sellers to real estate agents. A service like HomeLight can use data to find an agent with a history of selling homes quickly and for more money, but even your own Internet search can do the trick. Interview at least one extra agent, suggests Sridharan. He recommends finding out how much experience they have, whether they do home selling full-time (ideal) or part-time, and if they can give you references. “Talking to the people who used that agent can give a sense of who that agent is and how their working style is,” says Sridharan. Check out these 10 funniest moments realtors have had while showing houses.
Audit your agent’s online marketing
Photographee.eu/ShutterstockMore than 90 percent of homebuyers start their house hunt online, and they will never even get in the car to come see your home if the online listings aren’t compelling. In real estate, compelling means pictures! A study by Trulia.com shows that listings with more than six pictures are twice as likely to be viewed by buyers as listings that had fewer than six pictures. Don't miss these other 22 secrets real estate agents won't tell you.
Post a video love letter about your home on YouTube
NiP photography/ShutterstockGet your phone’s video camera rolling and walk through your home AND your neighborhood, telling prospective buyers about the best bits—what your family loved about the house, your favorite bakery or coffee shop that you frequented on Saturday mornings, etc. Buyers like to know that a home was well-loved, and it helps them visualize living a great life there, too. Here are 11 more questions you need to ask before selling your home.
Let your neighbors choose their neighbors
Monkey Business Images/ShutterstockIf you belong to neighborhood online message boards or email lists, send a link to your home’s online listing to your neighbors. Also, invite your neighbors to your open house—turn it into a block party. That creates opportunities for your neighbors to sell the neighborhood to prospective buyers and for your neighbors to invite house hunters they know who have always wanted to live in the area. Check out these 10 life hacks that make it easier to move to a new city.
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Facebook your home’s listing
Denys Prykhodov/ShutterstockFacebook is the great connector of people these days. If you have 200 friends and they each have 200 friends, imagine the power of that network in getting the word out about your house! Before listing your home, be sure to answer these 7 essential questions to ask before moving.
Leave some good stuff behind
Alex Gorins/ShutterstockWe’ve all heard about closing cost credits, but those are almost so common now that buyers expect them—they don’t really distinguish your house from any of the other homes on the market anymore. What can distinguish your home is leaving behind some of your personal property, ideally items that are above and beyond what the average homebuyer in your home’s price range would be able to afford. That may be stainless steel kitchen appliances or a plasma screen TV, or it might be a golf cart if your home is on a golf course. If you aren't leaving things behind, learn how to make the most money selling stuff online.
Time your sale wisely
Artem Postoev/ShutterstockIn general, the best selling season runs from March to May or late June, says Sridharan. After all, that’s the idea time for parents to look for a new school district before leaving for summer vacation. But that doesn’t mean every neighborhood should put its “for sale” signs up in the spring. One HomeLight analysis found that the best time to sell varies from place to place. For instance, in Houston, Texas, where it gets hot earlier, homes sold for more in late winter and early spring. “In warmer areas, it might be that October and November could be great times to sell as well because the weather is conducive,” says Sridharan. Do some research before you choose.
Beat the competition with condition
Vlad Teodor/ShutterstockIn many markets, much of the competition is low-priced foreclosures and short sales. As an individual homeowner, the way you can compete is on condition. Consider having a termite inspection in advance of listing your home, and get as many of the repairs done as you can – it’s a major selling point to be able to advertise a very low or non-existent pest repair bill. Also, make sure that the little nicks and scratches, doorknobs that don’t work, and wonky handles are all repaired before you start showing your home. Plus, consider these 10 cheap decorating ideas that make a house look expensive.
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Stage the exterior of your home, too
encierro/ShutterstockStage the exterior with fresh paint, immaculate landscaping and even outdoor furniture to set up a Sunday brunch on the deck vignette. Buyers often fantasize about enjoying their backyards by entertaining and spending time outside. Plus, an ugly exterior could set your sale up for failure. “If doesn’t have great curb appeal, even if it’s beautiful on the inside, buyers are predisposed to think, ‘This isn’t the one for me,’” says Sridharan. Try a coat of this paint color that can make homes sell for $5,000 more.
Access is essential
Monkey Business Images/ShutterstockHomes that don’t get shown don’t get sold. And many foreclosures and short sale listings are vacant, so they can be shown anytime. Don’t make it difficult for agents to get their clients into your home—if they have to make appointments way in advance, or can only show it during a very restrictive time frame, they will likely just cross your place off the list and go show the places that are easy to get into. (First-time homebuyers should read these 12 surprising costs of buying a house.)
Get real about pricing
Andy Dean Photography/ShutterstockToday’s buyers are very educated about the comparable sales in the area, which heavily influence the fair market value of your home. And they also know that they’re in the driver’s seat. To make your home competitive, have your broker or agent get you the sales prices of the three most similar homes that have sold in your area in the last month or so, then try to go 10-15 percent below that when you set your home’s list price. The homes that look like a great deal are the ones that get the most visits from buyers and, on occasion even receive multiple offers. (Bidding wars do still exist!)
Get clued into your competition
Rawpixel.com/ShutterstockWork with your broker or agent to get educated about the price, type of sale, and condition of the other homes your home is up against. Attend some open houses in your area and do a real estate reality check: know that buyers that see your home will see those homes, too—make sure the real-time comparison will come out in your home’s favor by ensuring the condition of your home is up to par.
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OndroM/ShutterstockDo this—pretend you’re moving out. Take all the things that make your home “your” personal sanctuary (e.g., family photos, religious decor and kitschy memorabilia), pack them up and put them in storage. Buyers want to visualize your house being their house—and it’s difficult for them to do that with all your personal items marking the territory as yours. If you're buying, find out what you need to know before doing a final property walk-through.
Derek Hatfield/ShutterstockKeep the faux-moving in motion. Pack up all your trinkets, anything that is sitting on top of a countertop, table, or other flat surfaces. Anything that you haven’t used in at least a year? That goes, too. Give away what you can, throw away as much as possible of what remains, and then pack the rest to get it ready to move. Check out these other 12 decorating tips that will make home selling go faster.
Add some stats to your listing
Monkey Business Images/ShutterstockFirst of all, think about what kind of person is likely to move into your house. If it’s a four-bedroom in the suburbs, it will probably appeal to families; a one-bedroom in the city might go to a young professional. “If you’re in the neighborhood, you know who the people are that are moving in,” says Sridharan. Now figure out what that kind of buyer might be looking for. For instance, that family might want to know how local schools rate on Great Schools, while a young, single person might want the Walk Score walkability rating, says Sridharan. (Here are 15 more questions every first-time home buyer needs to ask.)