Getting the Best Value for Your Home
The best choice for you will depend on your willingness and ability to tackle some of the home selling duties and the local real estate market climate. The three most common are:
- Open Listing
An open listing lets an owner sell her home by herself. It is a non-exclusive agreement, meaning the owner may execute open listings with more than one real estate broker and pay only the broker who brings an able buyer whose offer the owner accepts.
- Exclusive Agency Listing
An exclusive agency listing is similar to an open listing except the major difference is the agent will represent the owner. The owner still reserves the right to sell the property herself and not pay a commission. The broker is free to cooperate with another brokerage, meaning the second brokerage could bring an able buyer whose offer the owner accepts. Typically, the broker is paid a listing commission that is shared with the selling broker, so the owner pays both fees.
- Exclusive Right-to-Sell Listing
An exclusive right-to-sell listing is the most commonly utilized instrument. It gives the broker the exclusive right to earn a commission by representing the owner and bringing a buyer, either through another brokerage or directly. The owner pays both the listing and selling broker fees. The owner cannot sell the property herself without paying a commission, unless an exception is noted in the contract.
Create a Marketing Plan
Selling can entail a variety of marketing strategies. Once listed, it’s likely that the home will be quickly entered into the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and placed on AAPremierProperties.com. Much of an agent’s work will be quiet and unseen – yet important. The quiet telephone calls, the work with contacts, arranging for and marketing open houses, the follow-ups with open-house visitors, conversations with ad respondents, web postings and other outreach efforts are all part of the process required to sell homes.
Your agent will create a marketing plan for your home that will help distinguish it in your local marketplace and attract buyers to your property. An agent will help you sell your home at the best price possible in the shortest amount of time.
Setting the Right Price for Your Home
A key part of the marketing plan is setting the list price. If a home is priced too low, you won’t benefit from the optimal profit. If a home is priced too high, potential buyers may be scared away. To determine the best asking price review the cost of recently sold homes, evaluate the competition and study marketplace trends. AAPP agents use this information to help you reach the right asking price. It is also helpful to discuss other terms and conditions, such as timing and items that can be included with the sale of the home. Both of these can make your home more attractive to potential buyers.
1) Location: You can’t get away from this one. If your house is located in a desirable area that is in demand, you will be able to get a higher price than you can for the same house in a less desirable area.
2) Condition: A house that has been better maintained and shows better will always sell for more than one that has had deferred (neglected) maintenance and needs work.
3) Desirable amenities: If a house has amenities that are currently popular in the marketplace, it will bring a higher price.
4) Calculate the price per square foot: The average price per square foot for homes in your neighborhood shouldn’t be the sole determinant of the asking price for your home, but it can be a useful starting point. Keep in mind that various methodologies can be used to calculate square footage.
A formal written appraisal can be useful if you have unique property, if there hasn’t been much activity in your area recently, if co-owners disagree about price, or if there is any other circumstance that makes it difficult to put a value on your home. Appraisers consider the location of the home, its proximity to desirable schools and other public facilities, the size of the lot, the size and condition of the home itself and recent sales prices of comparable properties, among other factors.
Showing Your Home
Although the buyer is a guest in your home, you want the buyer to imagine living in the home. You don’t want to make the buyer feel like an intruder.
Now it’s time to get your home ready for the spotlight. Start with a good cleaning, then eliminate any clutter, add a fresh coat of paint and tidy up the yard with curb appeal. One way to make a home more attractive is to purchase a Home Protection Plan. This insurance protects you, the seller, from paying repair or replacement costs of major items during the listing period. It also protects the buyer during their first year of homeownership.
- Check the Temperature
If weather permits, open the windows — if there is too much noise outside, close them. And if it’s cold enough to wear a sweater to stay warm, turn on the heat. You want the temperature inside to be comfortable and to give the buyer more of a reason to linger, especially on hot or cold days!
- Create a Mood Light
A fire in the fireplace, and if you have water fountains, turn them on. They are especially useful for drowning out traffic noise.
- Play Up the Visual
Open all the window coverings to let in light. Keep blinds partially closed that otherwise show undesirable outdoor scenery such as a dilapidated fence or a nearby structure that obstructs views. If you have seasonal photographs showcasing flower gardens, leaves bursting in color or a snow-covered lawn twinkling from street lights, then display them in a prominent position. Turn on every light in the house, including appliance lights and closet lights. Brighten dark rooms with few windows by placing spot lights on the floor behind furniture.
Negotiating the Deal
When a buyer is ready to make you an offer they will contact you or your agent to let you know. Buyers should present their offer formally with a contract to purchase and sale. These documents can be obtained from the buyers or sellers agent, lawyer, or notary. If you are going to use their services to review the contract, and later transfer the property title to the successful buyer, they will happily supply you with some blank copies for free. It is also advisable to review one to become familiar with a typical real estate purchase and sale contract.
Most home buyers and home sellers want to arrive at a win-win agreement. Successful negotiating encompasses the learned ability to use certain skills and techniques to bring about those coveted win-win results.
1. Start with a fair price and a fair offer
There’s no question that significantly overpricing your home will turn off potential buyers. Likewise, on the buying side, making an offer that’s far lower than the asking price is practically guaranteed to alienate the sellers. Asking and offering prices should be based on recent sales prices of comparable homes.
2. Respect the other side’s priorities
Knowing what’s most important to the person on the other side of the negotiating table can help you avoid pushing too hard on hot or sensitive issues. For example, a seller who won’t budge on the sales price might be willing to pay more of the transaction costs or make more repairs to the home, while a buyer with an urgent move-in date might be willing to pay a higher portion of the transaction costs or forgo some major repairs.
3. Be prepared to compromise
“Win-win” doesn’t mean both the buyer and the seller will get everything they want. It means both sides will win some and give some. Rather than approaching negotiations from an adversarial winner-take-all perspective, focus on your top priorities and don’t let your emotions overrule your better judgment.
If a seller helps to finance a real estate transaction by taking back a second note or even financing the entire purchase if the seller owns the home free and clear it is called seller financing. Usually sellers do this when a buyer has difficulty qualifying for a conventional loan or meeting the purchase price.
Seller financing differs from a traditional loan because the seller does not give the buyer cash to complete the purchase, as does a lender. Instead, it involves extending a credit against the purchase price of the home while the buyer executes a promissory note and trust deed in the seller’s favor. These special circumstances must be acceptable to the lender who makes the first mortgage on the property.
The necessary paperwork is prepared by the title or escrow company after the terms are worked out between the buyer and seller. If you are a seller considering such an arrangement, it is critical to thoroughly evaluate the creditworthiness of the buyer first. You should consult with legal counsel and your accountant regarding the potential consequences of this type of arrangement. Fear of default makes many sellers reluctant to take back a second. But seller financing can bring a higher price plus complete the sale sooner in some situations. For more information, contact the Internal Revenue Service for a copy of its Publication 537, “Installment Sales.” Order by calling (800) TAX-FORM.
Seller financing offers tax breaks for sellers and alternative financing for buyers who can’t qualify for conventional loans. If you are a seller, the risks you face are the same as those facing any lender: Is the borrower a good credit risk? Will the property hold enough value over time to allow for the repayment of all loans made against it? You should run a full credit check on the borrower, require hazard insurance on the property and include a due-on-sale clause. There also are financing, disclosure and repayment-term requirements that need to be met. Again, it is wise to consult a lawyer when putting together this kind of transaction.
The interest rate on an owner-carried loan is negotiable. Ask your agent to check with a lender or mortgage broker to determine the current rate on institutional first (or second) loans. Seller financing typically costs less than conventional financing because sellers don’t charge loan fees (points). Interest rates on an owner-carried loan will also be influenced by current Treasury bill and certificate of deposit rates. Sellers usually aren’t willing to carry a loan for a lower return than they would earn if their money was invested elsewhere.
Your home is in escrow, and the buyer has scheduled a home inspection. A home inspection is a thorough visual examination of the home and property. The process usually takes two to three hours, during which time the house is examined from the ground up. The inspection includes observation and, when appropriate, operation of the plumbing, heating, air conditioning, electrical, and appliance systems, as well as structural components: roof, foundation, basement, exterior and interior walls, chimney, doors, and windows.
It’s important to remember that a home inspection does not detect every conceivable flaw. It is an inspection of those areas and items that can be seen. Home inspectors cannot see through foundations, floors or walls, and cannot inspect areas or items that are inaccessible.
A pre-sale inspection enables you to attend to problems before the house is put on the market, it also removes any questions about the condition of your home for you and a potential home buyer. Buyers are positively influenced by a professionally produced home inspection report, which improves the speed, price, and likelihood of a sale.
Some home sellers elect not to correct every defect reflected in the inspection report. Instead, they acknowledge the defects to buyers and explain that the asking price has been adjusted to reflect the estimated cost of repairs. Such candor tends to shorten negotiation time because buyers have fewer objections that could thwart a sale. In addition to facilitating the sale of a home, an inspection helps the homeowner comply with full-disclosure real estate laws, governed by state laws. By focusing on the condition of your property, you are less likely to overlook a defect or material fact for which you later could be held liable.
Qualified inspection companies will provide a sample report to substantiate that they abide by industry standards. One of the key standards is that ethical inspectors neither perform repairs nor refer clients to repair companies (thus avoiding a conflict of interest). Obviously, inspectors who make repairs on homes they inspect are more likely to “find” defects.
Once you have arranged for a home inspection, plan to accompany the inspector for the entire procedure. You have the right to be there, and leading home inspection companies will encourage your presence. It helps you to better understand the findings in the report, and will reduce post-closing hassles.
Closing and Beyond
Closing is a meeting where the closing agent (the party who conducts settlement) takes in money from the buyers, pays out money to the owner and makes sure that the purchaser’s title is properly recorded in local records along with any mortgage liens. All papers have been prepared by closing agents, title companies, lenders and lawyers. This paperwork reflects the sale agreement and allows all parties to the transaction to verify their interests. For instance, buyers get the title to the property, lenders have their loans recorded in the public records and state governments collect their transfer taxes.
The closing agent reviews the sale agreement to determine what payments and credits the owner should receive and what amounts are due from the buyer. The closing agent also assures that certain transaction costs are paid (taxes and title searches).
Closing is also the time when “adjustments” will be made. For instance, suppose you’ve pre-paid taxes four months in advance. In this case, the closing agent will compensate you for the prepayment at closing by having the buyer pay you additional money.
It could also work in reverse. If you are behind on property taxes, the closing agent will reduce the money due to you at settlement by the amount of the unpaid taxes.
Timeline and Closing Paperwork
The Closing Paperwork generally consists of the following documents:
Deed – A legal description prepared by an attorney to transfer and record, in public records, ownership of property.
Title Insurance Policy and Certificate of Title – This coverage is issued by the title company after completion of the title search. They check to see if there are any judgments, liens or attachments that need to be taken care of to `clear’ the title. After checking on unpaid taxes and assessments (e.g., sidewalks or sewer), the attorney provides a certificate of title to the lender and the buyer.
Homeowners’ Insurance Policy – New home buyers must obtain a binder for new coverage on the home, and the seller is generally required to keep the property insured against loss or damage prior to the Closing to protect the new buyer’s interests.
Mortgages – The mortgage contract gets recorded to protect the mortgage lender’s interests. When a mortgage is paid off (also known as ‘satisfied’), the home buyer will receive a copy of the “satisfaction of mortgage” which is a document that indicates that the mortgage has been paid in full.
Property Tax Bill – Many homeowners will supply a copy of their property tax bill to the home buyers; if not, a copy can be obtained from the town or city hall Assessor’s office.
Warranties and Service Records – Home buyers appreciate these records, if available from the home sellers, as they can aid in obtaining satisfaction if a product or service fails within the given time or usage limits. It is also helpful to know what service people the sellers have used in the past as they experience, sometimes for the first time, the maintenance of a home (furnace cleaning, snow plowing, plumbers, etc.)
Plot Plans and Surveys – An up-to-date survey will be required for the closing. You can look up a the current plot plan at the town hall and obtain a copy for a nominal fee.
Water and Sewer Bills – Proof of payment by the seller will probably be required for the Closing.
Utilities Records – Homebuyers generally arrange for services to be changed the day of or day after your Closing. Check with each service provider to determine how they handle requests and what is required for final readings and new service setups.
Tips for Moving
Whether you have moved once or a dozen times, it never seems to get any easier. Here are some hints that we hope you will find helpful as you prepare for moving day.
- Make agreements with buyers about possession of the home and moving date. Having sellers and buyers meet on the front walk – each with a house full of furniture – is not a happy situation.
- Start planning early. Once you are confident that you will be proceeding with the sale, start weeding out your current possessions. Toss (or give away, sell at a yard sale, or on-line) things that you don’t want to move.
- Make a list on any important items you will need to buy for your new house. Examples: draperies, blinds, shower curtains, etc. Having these things with you on the day you move in prevents unnecessary surprises.
- Start packing early. Anything that you are sure you will not be using before moving day should get boxed.
- Mark every box and carton. Again, it makes it much easier if you need an item before you move, and makes it much simpler after you move. Unpacking will probably be somewhat of a gradual process–this way you know where the most necessary items are located.