Q: What should I do to prepare my home for sale?
A: You may not be able to change your home’s location or its floor plan, but you can do a lot to improve its appearance. The look and feel of a house generates a strong emotional response, so your home needs to be at its best. Make sure it’s free of clutter, that furniture is arranged so that it’s easy to navigate the house, and above all, that it’s sparkling clean. Plenty of warm, flattering light is a must, as well – check the bulbs in your lamps and fixtures, and open shutters or drapes for showings and open houses. Fresh flowers or potted plants (indoors and out) can help, and be sure to make any minor repairs a prospective buyer might notice.
It’s also a good idea to pack away most family photos, knick-knacks and the like — you want your home to be as neutral as possible. It’s a lot harder for buyers to imagine themselves and their own possessions in your home if they’re reminded of your own personality everywhere they turn.
Q: How do I choose an agent?
A: You’ll want someone with strong experience in the local market, and with specific experience in your area. Look for an agent who has the resources, time, and support staff to market your home effectively; it’s critical that your agent be able to accomodate frequent showings and open houses — because if buyers can’t get in to your home for a showing, they won’t be writing offers. Your agent should also have a comprehensive plan to market your home, both print advertising to drive traffic to open houses, and a strong web presence — which is where most buyers spend much of their time searching for their new home.
Talk to the agents you’re interviewing about their opinion on your home’s value and salability, but beware the agent who gives you a surprisingly high listing price — they may be trying to “buy” your listing by making you think your home is worth more than it actually is. The result will be your property languishing on the market for months at this too-high price.
Q: How do I decide on a listing price?
A: After viewing your home, your agent will discuss with you what’s going on in the market as a whole, and what recent sales are comparable to your own property. When you decided to sell, you probably started keeping an eye on other properties going on the market in your neighborhood, but remember: homes are compared and priced by what’s sold, not what’s listed on the market.
You’ll also want to consider your desired time frame when deciding on a price. If you’re not in a great hurry to sell, you can price your property at or very slightly higher than the current comparable sales indicate. But if you do need to sell quickly, you’ll definitely want to keep your listing price very competitive. Remember, a too-high listing price will mean a lot of prospective buyers sitting on the sidelines waiting for a reduction…but a comparatively low listing price can result in offers, and maybe even a bidding war.
Q: How long will it take to sell my home?
A: There’s no easy answer here. If your home is priced competitively, you should be able to sell in a couple of months. But so many factors can influence the speed of a sale — the age, style and condition of your home; whether it’s in a popular and sought-after neighborhood; the availability of loans for prospective buyers; and even (as we’ve seen lately) the strength of the financial markets as a whole. Some times of the year are historically slower than others for home sales, and some price points in particular areas can add extra time on the market. It’s important to remember that if your home is priced right, a good agent will find the right buyer for you.