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Selling your home is an important life event and one that can be quite rewarding. I want you to enjoy the journey. When you have finally finished, you should feel confident that you made some great decisions and that you walked away with the best possible return on your investment. Working with someone who knows the ropes and who has been down the path to closing many times in Charleston can make a substantial difference in your success. I always suggest hiring a professional real estate agent. A quality agent will help you get the most money for your home, stand up for your interests, provide you with resources, and assist you by offering advice and consultation.
Because you know that selling your home is one of the most important personal financial transactions you will encounter, I want to congratulate you on taking an important step. As we move along, I will walk you through the process and help you get ready for a successful transaction.
When you start thinking about selling, you will have a lot of questions, including:
I am here to help. Call anytime. I will be happy to share tips on selling, give personal insights, discuss the psychology involved in getting top dollar, and explain what to expect. The better you understand what to expect and how to manage the process, the better your decisions will be and the more peace of mind you will experience. Maximizing your potential returns and optimizing your terms – requires homework.
Selling your home is a team effort. We are in this effort together. My job is to market your home, to interpret the market, to get your house shown, to help you with important negotiations plus provide you with knowledgeable guidance so you can relax, knowing that you are making the best decisions along the way. I am dedicated to being an active, hardworking participant in the sale of your home. I will communicate with you frequently. Reaching me directly is always easy so never hesitate to call, text or e-mail.
I want you to have an amazingly positive experience selling your home. In fact, it is my goal to provide you with such outstanding service that you will select me for all of your real estate services in the future and you will gladly recommend me to friends and family members who are considering either selling or buying a home!! After all, a referral is the highest compliment a Realtor can get!
Even if you sold homes before, the process can be overwhelming. Let's look at how:
Once your home is on the market, be prepared to monitor and adjust as necessary. Listen carefully to the feedback you receive from potential buyers and buyers agents. As offers come in, be ready to make counter offers. Study and understand the importance of every element of the offer and contract. You may only have a few hours to respond so be sure you have a good grasp of this material prior to the first offer.
Know your bottom line, your dates, and what you are willing to convey with the home. Are you going to offer a home warranty? Are you willing to assist with seller closing costs or prepaid items? Who will pay transfer fees? Are you OK with all types of financing and all lenders the buyer may want to use?
Know about the paperwork you will need such as an elevation certificate and CL-100. Study up on legal disclosures and your liabilities. Use care in advertising as some of the fair housing requirements are not all that obvious (for example, using the term “within walking distance” is problematic).
Set your limits. How much involvement are you willing to invest on your own to get your home sold? How much can you invest in marketing? How much will you spend on repairs, upgrades, and cleaning?
Know yourself. Are you a good negotiator? Are you good at marketing? How much do you know about offers, contingencies, and contracts? Are you willing to negotiate directly? How do you feel about doing open houses?
First, determine the market value of your home. Of all the steps involved in the process, this may be the most important. There are many online tools to help. I have one on my website that is far better than a Zestimate (www.scseller.com). But, no automated tool will be as effective as a trained human being in coming up with the best fair market value for your home. Ask a Realtor to assist - even if you are selling alone. I will be happy to help – give me a call.
Next, study the neighborhood and get a good idea about the degree of negotiation that takes place during a real estate negotiation. How? Use a comparison of last listing price to the final contract price. You need to find out how much flexibility, on average, sellers in your neighborhood have. You need to be confident that you have the correct market price to account for the expected level of market negotiation. I am not suggesting overpricing. I am suggesting tactical pricing. Stay within 1% of estimated fair market value.
It is critical to understand that the market determines value – not you are your agent. No matter what you want to sell your home for, no matter what you paid for your home or the upgrades you made, no matter what helpful neighbors tell you your home should sell for, the ONLY thing that determines value is what another person is willing to pay for your home. Too obvious? Maybe not. Sellers work hard to show that their home exceeds the value of other similar homes in the neighborhood. We all feel that our home is special. And it is special - to us - but it is a commodity to the buyer. We all overestimate the value of upgrades, repairs and the “intrinsic” aspects of our own homes. That is 100% normal. That is what an unbiased 3rd party can help.
As a commodity, buyers look at your home in comparison to similar homes on the market for sale and homes that have sold recently. Buyers are just simple comparison shoppers, looking for the perfect home at the right price. They see kitchen upgrades as positive, old roofs as negative, and swimming pools as either negative or positive, depending on their needs. If they like the style, they give bonus points. If they think the neighbors are too close or the neighborhood association is a bother, they subtract.
Still, a simple price per square foot comparison is often the easiest common denominator in understanding how the average buyer looks at your home. They focus on the core for 95% and add or subtract the good and the bad. While great care and upgrades can influence your home valuation, and can certainly help with the speed of sale, by not overestimating the value of these improvements, you will do a better job targeting the correct market value for your home.
TIP: Proper pricing early on is critical to maximizing your bottom line.
Studies have shown time and time again that sellers who attempt to maximize their return by pricing at or above the top of the market have a significant chance of making less than if they had priced properly in the beginning. Target the sweet spot for pricing - that very narrow range of peak consumer interest. Both overpricing and underpricing will damage your bottom line.
The temptation to overprice is strong. No one wants to "leave money on the table." ALERT: Overpricing shuts out the most likely buyers early - during the time when your home is fresh and hot on the market. Buyers are smart and well informed. They know if your home is overpriced. The market is more transparent than ever before, so it is easy for a buyer to have a very good idea of the value of your home in advance. Buyers agents are even more savvy to price. Overpriced homes are avoided just like homes in poor condition are avoided. There are simply too many homes out there that are priced fairly. Pricing your home correctly at the beginning is fundamental to maximizing your bottom line. Do not overprice - it will almost certainly cost you money and lost time.
Prepare your home. You may need to do a few repairs or even many repairs. You may need to organize and cut back on clutter. And it's likely you'll need to do some significant detailing to guarantee the best showing results. I have many tips on my website to help you prepare your home. I also share many tips for great showings on my site.
Decide what sort of marketing strategy you wish to use. The second most important item in selling your home for top dollar is effective marketing. The way we market homes today looks nothing like the way we did just five years ago. Marketing has become highly competitive and more complex. Still, there are many ways for people who do not use agents to get information out about their omes for sale.
Are you going to hire a Realtor? If not, how will you advertise and how much will you spend? How will you market effectively online? What is your marketing budget for each type of advertising? How will you maximize your marketing dollar?
Of course, experienced agents have a great deal of marketing expertise and savvy. Arguably, the two most important reasons listing agents are still hired today are 1. marketing expertise, and; 2. negotiation expertise. Regardless of your choice (agent or FSBO), a solid marketing strategy absolutely must be in place before you put your home on the market. Again, I have many marketing tips on my website to help with this part of the process.
TIP: Often the first offer is the best you will receive. Be ready for it.
If you get an offer quickly, you may conclude that you have underpriced your home. Caution is recommended here. Because a brand-new listing garners a lot of attention, you may have just received an offer from someone who has been patiently waiting for a home just like yours to hit the market. It may have nothing to do with an underpricing. So, take the first offer, and every offer, seriously and negotiate carefully. Avoid the error of overconfidence if you get an offer "too fast". Make the most of it. I have seen sellers destroy a negotiation and a great chance to sell when they felt the offer arrived too soon after listing. Again, a fast offer does NOT usually mean you underpriced the home. It just means that the right buyer saw it at the right time.
Adjust - adjust - adjust. If it turns out that you are not getting showings at a rate similar to other listings nearby, you are probably overpriced. The market's way of telling you that you need to lower the price is when 1. you have too few showings or 2. after many showings, you are getting few or no offers or you are getting only low ball offers. Do not wait more than three weeks after you list your home to make a price adjustment if showings appear to be anemic.
Get your home ready before you start to show
• Get rid of clutter
• Keep everything extra clean
• Depersonalize the rooms by putting away family photos, mementos, and distinctive artwork
• Put away any items that may be offensive to some buyers
• Put away/secure bills, mail and other items that contain personal information
• Put up books out of view that may not appeal to some buyers
• Throw out newspapers and magazines
• Pack away small decorative items or collectibles
• Store out-of-season clothing to make closets seem roomier
• Clean out the garage
• Wash your windows and screens to let more light into the interior
• Wash fingerprints from light switch plates
• Mop and wax floors
• Clean the stove and refrigerator
• Get rid of smells
• Clean carpeting and drapes
• Open the windows
• Clean blinds and windows
• Put in higher wattage bulbs to make rooms bright
• Replace any burnt-out bulbs – buyers do notice
• Paint your front door
• Paint inside trim if needed
• Power-wash your sidewalk
• Power-wash your home’s exterior
• Replace your A/C air filter if it is dirty – buyers’ agents will notice this. A clean air filter is a sign that the home is being maintained well
• Remove clutter in the yard
• Clear off magnets, photos etc. from the refrigerator
• Put a pot of bright flowers on your porch
• Put fresh flowers in the dining room and master bedroom
• Add new shower curtains, fresh towels, and new liquid soap dispensers
• Clean the showers/tubs
• Set out potpourri or fresh baked goods for a homey smell
• Set the dining table with pretty dishes and candles
• Buy a fresh doormat
• Replace torn screens
• Avoid cooking with strong seasonings prior to showings or cooking foods with strong odors such as frying fish
• Take one or two major pieces of furniture out of every room
• Put away kitchen appliances and personal bathroom items to enhance the counter space
• Put a fire in the fireplace if you have a cold day. Or put a basket of flowers there if it’s not in use
• Turn on the sprinklers for 30 minutes before a showing
• Make minor repairs that can create a bad impression. Small problems such as sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, or a dripping faucet may seem trivial, but they’ll give buyers the impression that the house isn’t well maintained
• Cut the grass, rake the leaves, trim the bushes, and edge the walks and around trees. Trim bushes and trees near the home so they don’t block windows and cut down on the light
• Replace dead patches of grass with new sod
• Make a centerpiece for your table with fruit or artificial flowers
• Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones that let in more light
• Put the toilet seat down … please
• Put new doorknobs on your front door or polish your front doorknob
• Put a fresh coating on your driveway or have it power-washed
• Keep your garden tools out of site
• Be sure kids put away their toys
• Buy a new mailbox
• Upgrade your outside lighting
• Polish or replace your house numbers
• Clean your gutters
• Put out fresh mulch
• Program your thermostat around showings – not too hot or too cold
• Bake cookies before a showing – makes your home inviting
• Buy new pillows for the sofa
• Dust – clear cobwebs. Get on top of ceiling fans as well
• Check the yard where animals might visit
• Send your pets to the neighbor’s house during a showing
• Remove any evidence of pets (bowls, cat litter box)
• Play nice, very soft music in the background
• Replace batteries in smoke detectors to avoid unexpected beeping
• Verify that front door locks work smoothly and that lockbox keys work well
• Eliminate squeaks when doors or windows open
• Eliminate squeaks in floors
For other tips and strategies, give me a call or spend some time on my website. I have many pages dedicated to helping sellers.
I'm always happy to share the knowledge I have with sellers even if they are selling on their own. Congratulations on deciding to sell!
Chris DeLoach - Your Charleston Realtor
Make a checklist of important dates – including inspection dates, the date that you need to respond to buyer requests for repairs, the date that the buyer needs to have information to you such a repair request date and any other dates that may be specified including the closing date. Sometimes certain contingencies, if you have any, will have dates associated with them as well.
Consider your plans for moving. Depending on when you plan to vacate the home, you may need to start taking steps early. Once you have a firm closing day, a date that is likely to occur based on your confidence, and the confidence of your agent, in the buyer’s readiness, contact a moving company and schedule a time for pickup. Keep in mind that 20% of closing dates slip a day or more.
The closing attorney will be doing a background check on the property to ensure there are no hidden issues, such as problems with the title, that could prevent or delay closing. Any problems that arise in the title report must be cleared. An example of this is a mechanic’s lien or a dispute with a neighbor over a property line.
Your buyer will be doing inspections either personally or by using professionals. The buyer has the right to ask for repairs. As the seller, you have a right to refuse repairs (usually – some may be required by statute in order to transfer the property). Of course, in order for the sale to go forward, a reasonable agreement on repair issues must be met. The typical processes are for an inspection to be completed, after which a request for repairs is submitted by the buyer to the seller via the sellers’ agent. The seller can make all repairs as requested, make some repairs, or make no repairs. The seller may also offer monetary compensation in lieu of repairs or make some other concession to move the sale forward. There is no set formula but working out the details but doing so is critical and can be tricky.
If you are selling a condominium, the process can be more complicated. Expect that the lender financing the purchase will require additional documentation and additional time.
If you are unable to attend the closing, you can, in many cases, pre-sign the documents which transfer title. This arrangement has special conditions and may require the set-up of a Power of Attorney so let your agent and the closing attorney know at least 2 weeks in advance.
Be careful out about making a mortgage, maintenance, and common area charge payments shortly before a closing. If payments cannot be verified, this will create an issue at a closing.
Continue to maintain the property, keep insurance in place, etc. up until a day of closing. The buyer will make a final inspection on the closing day or the day prior to closing. If things are missing that should be there, such as a chandelier that was in place at the time of the contract that was not specifically excluded from the purchase agreement, you may have a problem getting the home closed on time. Also, if you agreed to have anything removed from the property, or if you agreed to take additional actions (such as getting a carpet cleaning done, purchasing a home warranty, obtain a termite inspection letter, etc.), be absolutely sure you have met your obligations so closing is not delayed.
Communicate with the buyer about the transfer date for utilities. It is not uncommon to have a transfer date set for a day or two after closing to prevent problems should closing be delayed. Provide a courtesy contact list of services for electricity, water, cable, trash pick-up, recycling pick-up etc. so your buyer can make the changes easily and to encourage your buyer’s prompt cooperation. Follow up with utility companies after closing to ensure the transfer occurs as anticipated. This could prevent an unpleasant surprise in next month’s utility billing.
Unless you have a pre-close occupancy* agreement in place, allowing the buyer to take possession of the property in advance of closing, do not provide a key to the buyer prior closing and do not allow the buyer to store anything on the site prior closing. Do not allow the buyer to make any repairs or modifications to the property prior to closing without a special agreement in place approved by your attorney. If you have ANY questions about legal issues related to closing, always – always – always consult your attorney.
Call me anytime! I hope to have the privilege of selling your home!
That 92% of sellers, who begin as a for sale by owner in Charleston, end up hiring an agent
Homes listed "FSBO" attract a different set of buyers than homes listed by agents
FSBO house hunters report that the number one reason they look at FSBOs is, "...because for sale my owners will sell for less money."
Investors/flippers focus on FSBOs because they consider FSBOs "better targets" to get homes at lower prices
Professional real estate investment seminars teach the "70% Rule": This rule states that you should only pay 70% of what the value is for the property. These trainers often suggest that best way to do this is to buy a for sale by owner.
Most shoppers for FSBOs expect sellers to "throw in" the commission savings by lowering the price
It is estimated that 82% of agents avoid showing FSBOs even when the seller offers a competitive commission
Agents who will agree to show FSBOs typically have strong negotiating skills and experience.
Most buyers seeking For Sale by Owner homes do not have an agent.
To avoid wasting time, before showing homes, agents screen clients by asking questions about buying ability and buying motivation. Many now even require that buyers have a pre-approval letter in hand before showing the first home. Many FSBO buyers are not qualified to purchase so agents will not work with them.
Buyers agents are totally free to buyers (since sellers pay the commission). So, be cautious when a buyer does not have an agent - there may be a good reason.
Agents sell for 18% more money on average - a difference well below the cost of an agent