In the past few weeks, I’ve covered how to get moving boxes for free, as well as maybe not spending all your time procuring those boxes (lesson learned!) All that to say: my husband and I are finally selling our home!
This is the first time either of us have ever sold a home, so there were a lot of things we needed to learn. While our realtor has been helpful and patient, there have been some thing we’ve learned the hard way. If you’re a first time home seller especially, check out the 7 things I’ve learned selling our home so hopefully you don’t make the same mistake!
1. Become a Minimalist
When you’re selling your home, you have to get your junk out. Sorry, that’s just the easiest way to say it. Other people don’t find your over-large furniture, family pictures, and knickknacks cute – they see it as clutter. Also, who wants complete strangers looking at their family pictures?
While homes can look great staged, if you can’t afford (or don’t have the design chops) to pay for staging, then your house will look best as empty as possible. Take down pictures from the walls, remove as much furniture as you can, and take pictures in full sunlight (open up the blinds and turn on the lights!)
We have to live in our home while we sell it, because we’re not renting and paying for a mortgage, but even we’re able to live comfortably with less stuff in the house. Yes, we do miss some things (probably shouldn’t have packed up the desktops… or the comfy couch…), but overall, having a mostly empty house shows better and is easier to clean!
2. Know Your Weaknesses
Let’s face it: your home probably isn’t perfect. When selling your house, you have to be honest about the flaws. Does your home need new carpet? Updated paint? Whether or not you’re willing to fix it, you have to know what an inspection or picky buyer is going to find – and then determine if you want to fix it yourself, or lower the price.
By knowing your weakness(es), you won’t be as surprised when the inspector or buyer points out flaws and asks you to fix them. Whether or not you fix them is up to you, but at least you’ll recognize your weakness(es).
3. Agree on Pricing with Your Agent
While your realtor is supposed to run comparable homes in your area to determine “comps”, and therefore a fairly accurate assessment of the price of your home, you should also do your own research.
You know your house, and you (hopefully) know your neighborhood, and you’ve probably kept an eye on the homes in your area that have gone up for sale. While you don’t need to pretend to be looking (or drop in on open houses), it’s a good idea to do a little research on Zillow or Trulia to see what homes are going for in your neighborhood.
When it comes time to pricing with your agent, you’ll have a good idea of the range in your neighborhood and should come to a reasonable price for your home. This means there shouldn’t be any surprises for you or your realtor.
4. Ask Questions About Everything
For first time sellers, it’s really important to understand all closing costs and the negotiation process. It’s not as simple as it looks on HGTV – there are a few costs you may not understand as a first time seller, and it’s important your realtor explains them to you.
Don’t feel embarrassed asking too many questions of your agent – they’re getting paid, and they want to make sure you’re getting the best deal too. It’s in both of your interests to understand what you’re signing.
5. Be Prepared for Anything
Buyers are unpredictable, and their offers are just as unpredictable as they are. Never assume you’re going to get a reasonable offer from sellers right away. Just remember: you can negotiate, and if buyers are seriously interested in your home, they will be willing to negotiate back.
6. Not Everyone Knows How to Negotiate
That said, not everyone knows how to negotiate (and not everyone has a good agent that tells them to negotiate). When we countered back our first offer on our house, the buyer pushed back – and asked for more money off the house… not less!
As I said, buyers can be unpredictable, but just as bad: many don’t know how to negotiate. If you receive a response you’d never entertain, or don’t hear back from your counter-offer, don’t automatically assume your deal is dead in the water.
As far as our buyer, the one who offered even less after our counter-offer, she came around once she got a new agent. This agent clearly taught her how to negotiate, and she came back (closer) to our asking price.
7. Be Willing to Compromise
No matter how awesome your house is, be prepared to compromise. Depending on the housing market in your area, you may get a ton of offers and get your asking price (if not more!), but other markets will be slower.
If you’re expecting to get your asking price, think again. You may have to offer concessions to your buyer, fix more things in your house you anticipated, or simply negotiate your price below asking. None of these things are necessarily bad if you’ve asked all your questions and agreed on a solid price with your realtor. Remember: you can ask more than you expect to get from your home, with the knowledge that most buyers will try to negotiate down.
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For the home sellers out there, what recommendations do you have for any first time home sellers?