Three years ago, I came up with a list of rules sellers should live by. This column has been updated to reflect some of the new truths of selling, including savvier home buyers and home prices that have increased at unbelievable rates.
One thing hasn’t changed. Sellers always want to know how to make more money when they sell their homes. The truth is a lot depends on timing — both yours, and where your local market is when you list your home.
But there are a few things all sellers can do that will certainly add some cash to the bottom line. This week, we’ll look at the first five. Next week, I’ll finish the list.
- If you know something’s broke, fix it!
Take a look around your house. Think about all of the little niggling things that have been bugging you. Well, they’ll bug a home buyer, too.
I’ll bet it doesn’t even take a minute to come up with a few items that must be fixed, including removing and replacing moldy grout in the shower; tightening the bedroom door knob, fixing and repainting a crack in the ceiling; installing that last under cabinet light fixture in the kitchen; and replacing and regrouting a cracked floor tile in the mudroom.
Fix these items so when you show your home (to a broker or a buyer), it really shines.
- Don’t lie about what’s wrong with your home!
Sometimes sellers believe if they just put on a good face, no will know what’s going on behind the scenes. These days, it’s a crime to lie about things that are wrong with your home. While the buyer still has to prove you knew or should have known about these items, the damages (not to mention the defense) can be costly.
If you’re honest and upfront about past problems and steps you’ve taken to correct them, your seller disclosures will be a whole lot easier. If the house has current issues, tell the broker and the buyer what you’re doing to correct them. Or, make it clear that the purchase price reflects these problems. Either way, honesty pays.
- Don’t think you can fool the home inspector – you can’t
It’s tough to fool a good home inspector these days – so don’t even try. Instead, consider hiring your own home inspector to walk through your home before you list it.
Called a pre-listing inspection, the home inspector will point out all of the flaws the way a home buyer will see them. That gives you the opportunity to correct these problems, and figure out how to be honest about them.
Repainting a leaky basement just before each showing won’t work – and when you’re caught you’ll get a bad reputation in your local real estate brokerage community.
- Choose a broker who matches your home-selling temperament
If you’re eager to get out of your home, don’t hire a methodical and thorough, but slow-paced agent. You’ll end up feeling frustrated. Similarly, if you’re in no big hurry to sell, don’t hire the most aggressive agent on the block. You’ll end up feeling pushed or bullied into accepting an offer you weren’t ready to receive.
The best agent-homeowner relationships start with a meeting of the minds about how where you want to list your home and how quickly you’d like to move.
- Don’t be a pig when it comes to money It’s never enough for sellers – not even in the last 1990s, when home sellers were entertaining multiple bids and accepting offers for as much as 150 percent of the list price, and brokers were cringing.
But being greedy can get in the way of accepting the right offer. Work with your agent so you fully understand how much money other sellers are accepting for their homes today. It doesn’t matter what someone got a year ago, before the collapse of the stock market, September 11th, and the disintegration of Enron.
All that matters is where the market is today.
Next week, we’ll take a look at another five simple things you can do to improve your home selling prospects.
July 2, 2004.