My friend Anne started talking about selling her home two years ago. She bought her two-bedroom townhome nearly eight years ago and watched as the price of other similar homes sold in her complex rose nearly 50 percent.
Now she thinks the time is right to take her profits. She hasn’t decided where to move yet. Perhaps from the suburbs to a more urban community. Perhaps she’ll even rent for a year.
No matter where she moves, I have no doubt that when the final offer is accepted, Anne will have received the highest offer ever for her size unit in her complex. Why? Research and timing.
Anne has taken the time to carefully research every step of her sale process, and make thoughtful decisions, from what work should be done in her unit to which broker she should choose.
Also, her timing couldn’t be better. Despite a rise earlier this year in interest rates, rates have come down a bit to 8 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate loan. Homes in her community are selling within 2 to 15 days on the market. Even in a fast market, that’s a heady speed.
Here are the steps Anne has taken to sell her home.
- Make it look great.
The first item on any home seller’s list should be to make your home look as good as possible. If there are items that are broken, fix them. If something needs paint, paint it. If you need to shampoo or replace the carpet, do so.
The trick is to make these repairs before you invite anyone in from the brokerage community.
In Anne’s townhome floor plan, there has been a recurring problem with the roof leaking. After several years of repainting, Anne had the problem fixed in her unit. Upon entering her unit, one of the prospective brokers she interviewed immediately exclaimed, “Oh, you don’t have the leaking ceiling.”
Anne ended up repainting almost her whole unit, and replaced the carpet. The colors for the carpet and paint were a neutral beige and white.
- Interview at least three agents.
After Anne interviewed her first agent, she called to tell me she’d found the right person. “She sells a lot of stuff in the neighborhood, is smart and quick, and thinks we can get a great price.”
I encouraged Anne to interview several other agents, just to compare styles and techniques. The thing about agents is this: They all have a slightly different way of getting results.
After interviewing two more agents, Anne was stuck. She really preferred Agent #3, but Agent #1 was willing to cut her commission to 5 percent, 4 percent if the property sold “inhouse” (both agents are from the same firm). I suggested that Anne ask Agent #3 to meet the first agent’s commission structure.
Anne asked, and Agent #3 agreed – and got the listing.
- Price it right – or maybe a bit above right.
Although no similar unit had ever sold for more than $149,000, Anne and her agent decided to test the water and price her home at $158,900. Anne reasoned that the last property sat on the market for about a day, and her unit looked a lot better and was slightly bigger, with higher ceilings. The agent agreed.
At the first open house, 19 buyers came through – a good sign that the price is right. One couple, who were considering buying the property for their daughter, came back twice. By the end of the night, Anne had received her first offer. While she mulled it over, her agent called back to say that more offers were expected.
Brokers like to say that in a hot market, everything sells. Perhaps it does, eventually. But the homes that sell the fastest, and for the most money, are those in the best condition.
After paying top dollar for a property, home buyers don’t have the cash or the energy left to renovate their new home. So they prefer to buy something that’s already been “done.” That’s in move-in condition. If you want your house to move, make sure it looks its best and is in very good physical condition.
- Remember, when you sell, you’re a seller, not a home owner.
One of the most important things you can do is separate yourself emotionally from your home. It’s tough enough to do, since we tend to put so much of ourselves into making where we live a reflection of who we are.
But if you want to sell your home, you have to remember that you’re no longer an owner. As a home seller, you may have to do things that you, the owner, wouldn’t choose to do. Like repaint your red dining room in a neutral color.
How much will Anne get for her home? With the first offer already well above the last highest selling price for the community, it’s clear that Anne will take home far more than she even expected.
July 3, 2000.