It’s been a pretty lousy year for home sellers.
With home values off 30 to 50 percent from their high in 2006, roughly 28 percent of homeowners underwater with their loans (or nearly in negative equity) according to third quarter 2010 data from CoreLogic, and a record number of foreclosures closed, it’s getting harder to sell your home and walk away.
Despite record-low interest rates, which touched 4.3 percent for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage and the even lower 3.6 percent for a 15-year loan (a full half percentage point below the interest rate lows of 2009), buyers have been reluctant to jump into a market where it’s uncertain whether home prices are appreciating, holding steady or declining further, without a substantial tax credit from Uncle Sam. Unfortunately, the days of home buyer tax credits have gone away.
Millions of foreclosures and shorts sales also undercut pricing of homes, making it seem as though home values are lower than they might actually be.
If you’re hoping to sell in 2011, you’ll be facing all these challenges, and more – the real estate industry isn’t expected to improve much over the next couple of years. Certainly, until the unemployment picture improves substantially, it will be difficult for the real estate industry to gain any positive momentum.
So what can you do if you want or need to sell in 2010? Consider my classic New Year’s Resolutions for home sellers:
Overcome any possible objections a buyer would have.
Sellers don’t often understand that their primary job is to not only eliminate any potential objections that would stand in the way for a buyer to make an offer, but to exceed their expectations as well. If your home is competitively priced, and your home’s condition exceeds a buyer’s expectations, you’ll get an offer – even if it isn’t the offer you want.
Get your home into selling shape.
Cleaning your home and cleaning out your home is a must. After that, you should consider hiring a stager to give your home the television-worthy polish so many buyers expect today. Assess what other sort of work needs to be done, such as fixing things that don’t work, touching up paint, or cleaning or replacing your carpets.
Decide if you need to update your landscaping, and paint, clean or tuckpoint your home’s exterior. Clean out the clutter in your home. Get rid of items in closets, storage areas, basements and attics that you no longer need or use. If you have not seen it or used it in the last five years, it’s probable that you can throw it out or donate it to your favorite charity. An uncluttered home will sell faster than a home stuffed with personal belongings.
Invite at least three agents to create a comparative marketing analysis.
Often, sellers simply call the agent who sold them their home to list it. While you may wind up hiring that person, you’ll be doing yourself a favor if you invite a couple of other agents in from different firms. That’s because each will bring different ideas to the table about how much your house is worth and what kind of marketing plan will work.
Understand what it will take to sell your home.
If you live in an area littered with foreclosures, you may have to meet that price point in order to sell. Is it worth it? Probably not, but you’ll have to really evaluate price and timing in order to get the most for your property.
Be realistic about the market.
Find out what is selling, and what the average number of days on the market is for homes that are selling. Accept the reality of your local market and make sure you price your home realistically. Don’t blame your broker if you don’t get 3 offers over your list price within 24 hours of putting your home on the market. Sellers who set sky-high prices could wait months or years for an offer and may wind up with the same price they would have had if they’d priced their home correctly the first time – or a lot less. In this real estate market, one of the worst things you can do is overprice your home from the onset. If you price it below where it should sell, you may start a bidding war and may sell your home faster and for more money. The key to a sale in today’s market is understanding what is going on in your neighborhood in terms of normal sales, foreclosures and short sales.
Know where you’re going.
I don’t recommend putting in an offer on another house until you have some serious interest in your current property. It’s fine to start researching other neighborhoods, but if you’re not sure what you want to do, consider renting on a short-term or month-to-month lease. These days, landlords are hurting and they may be perfectly happy to accept a 6-month lease. During those 6 months, you can search for a home, in a neighborhood you like and without the pressures brought on by the impending closing of the home you are selling.
Read all documents thoroughly before I sign them.
Why would someone sign a legal document he or she hasn’t read? I’m not sure, but home sellers do it every day. If you’re going to sell (or buy) in the coming year, promise yourself that you’ll take the time to read and understand the listing contract, offer to purchase, and loan documents for your next purchase. If you have to sell your home as a short sale, make sure you understand the timing of the sale, the timing of the negotiation with your lender on the sale of your home and all the other issues that go into getting a short sale completed. (If you’re giving financing to your buyer and taking back a loan have an attorney prepare the documents so you are sure to be protected.) Unless you’ve got cash to spare, a mistake in these documents could seriously affect your finances.
Not be driven by greed.
One big mistake many sellers make is to get a little greedy, particularly if the first offer is above the minimum acceptable price you’ve set. Then, the negotiation becomes a game of how much you can get.
Remember, a successful sale means everyone walks away feeling happy. If you get so greedy that the buyer walks away, you’ve let the deal get the best of you. Resolve to be reasonable and you’ll end up shaking hands with the buyer at the closing. You should also know that there are fewer buyers out there and if you lose a buyer it might take you quite some time to find another one.
Keep in mind that real estate brokers have a saying “the first offer is always the best offer.” While that saying may not always be true, you may be better off with that first offer than another offer six months later.