SELLERS / Prepare to sell

Preparing to sell your home? Here are a few key tips to keep in mind during this process.

1. Declutter and Depersonalize the Home

Most of our homes are filled with pictures and other items that commemorate events in our past or with items such as collections which we enjoy on a regular basis. These pictures and personal items turn our houses into our “homes”. In most cases, the particular person or family who chooses to purchase our home will not share the same interests as we do; making it important to portray our home as a “blank canvas” in which a new buyer can make the house their “home”. Sellers need to create a neutral environment in which buyers can envision themselves and their possessions comfortably in the home.

-Declutter the home; open up spaces by removing personal items and furnishings which may make a space seem small and non-functional.  Spaces such as closets, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, utility areas, and garages.  Sellers should pack away items which are non-essential for everyday life and in some cases even consider renting a storage garage or locker to house these items.  The idea here is to make the home and all its various areas appear large, functional, and well organized.

-Depersonalize the home; remove family pictures and personal items which reflect our personal tastes and interests.  Also, remove items such as unique furnishings or décor items which may detract from the overall appearance and feel of the home.  Stamp or doll collections, obscure artwork, and taxidermy are examples of items which take away from a home’s neutrality.  Remember, the trophy case in the family room dedicated to the great achievements of your kids’ past are of no interest to a potential buyer.  Remove these items to make the home appealing to the greatest number of people.

2. Repair and Take Care of Deferred Maintenance

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Homes need constant care and attention and many homeowners do not care for and/or maintain their homes as they should.  Today’s home buyers are looking to purchase homes which have been well maintained on a regular basis.  In preparing to sell their homes, sellers should have their homes assessed by a reputable inspector or building contractor prior to listing the home.  A professional can give a seller a realistic list of both repair and maintenance items which should be taken care of prior to putting the home on the market.  Furthermore, since inspections rarely uncover all defects in a home, a potential seller should make a list of items which they know need to be repaired.  Sellers should keep this in mind; the bigger the problem, the tougher it will be to sell and close on the property.  Sellers should never try to cover up a problem; but rather have the problem repaired properly.

Here is a short list of typical “big” problem areas in a home:
-roofing, flashing, and gutter/downspouts
-footings, foundations, and basement water problems
-exterior siding, trim, doors, windows, and exterior paint
-mechanical systems: heating, plumbing, electrical, fire/smoke, and appliances
-septic system, sewer lines and well/water lines

Of course there are many other more cosmetic items which could be added to this list, but that will be addressed later. These are the major and possibly more expensive items which a seller needs to deal with prior to placing their home on the market. It is rare that multiple problems from every line on the list are encountered, but often there are many more than a seller might think of. Today’s buyers test and inspect for everything; sellers need to stay one step ahead to make sure potential problems are found and repaired prior to listing the home.

A few other considerations:
-have the home tested for radon and mitigate if necessary
-have the water tested and have the results ready to give to potential buyers
-hire an exterminator to eradicate any insect or rodent problems
-have the sewer line rooted out and inspected or the septic tank pumped and inspected
-If any mold or other environmental conditions are suspected, test and mitigate as needed

3. Update/Remodel

Let’s face it; a 10 year old home probably needs some cosmetic help and could even be outdated. Today’s buyers are not interested in 10 year old paint, carpet, and appliances – even if they were expensive, high quality items when they were put in the home. Finishes such as paint, carpet, and appliances have a useful life of no more than 10 years; sellers need to realize this and replace these items prior to selling.  A cosmetically pleasing home typically sells faster and for more money. It is often beneficial for a seller to spend several thousand dollars in refreshing a home before selling it, while at the same time realizing that an expensive full remodel may not be beneficial because it will cause a need for the home to be priced too high for the particular area. Find the happy medium by talking to your a Paffrath & Thomas broker, an interior decorator, or a professional home stager. These experts can help a seller determine how to make the most of what the home already has, while at the same time give an honest report as to what the home needs.
Start with the simple, less expensive components and evaluate from there:
-Paint; fresh, updated paint brings new life to a home
-Carpet; replace old carpet with a modern, neutral color carpet.  Use the same carpet throughout a home to create uniformity.  New carpet makes a home look and smell better.
-Appliances; these are easy and often inexpensive to update and sellers will not have to worry about problems with them when it comes time for the buyer’s home inspection.
-Furnishings/Staging; furnishings pull a house together and make it look inviting.  Consider using a home stager to recreate rooms so that they flow well.  You may want to consider purchasing or even leasing key pieces of furniture to make the home look appealing; again this can often be done on a small budget, but will make a huge difference in how a buyer perceives the home.
-Kitchens and Baths; these are 2 areas in a home to consider remodeling completely.  Kitchens and baths offer the best “bang for the buck” when it comes to maximizing the sale price of a home.  Get some professional advice and talk to your realtor; perhaps it is just the countertops which need to be redone or maybe the whole kitchen needs to go.  Make sure to weigh your options carefully and do not go overboard; a $100,000 kitchen remodel makes no sense in a $250,000 home.
-Exterior; paint the house, clean up and maintain the yard, seal coat the driveway – a potential buyer will always see the outside of a home before seeing the inside. Sellers need to make their homes as cosmetically pleasing as possible to give potential buyers an eagerness to see what is on the inside. Many real estate agents never get a potential buyer inside a home because the exterior of the home and the property are not appealing.

4.  A Few Other Items

Since there are so many facets to the home buying/selling process in today’s world, sellers need to be ready with information for potential buyers.  Today’s home buyers desire to know all the pertinent facts and conditions of the home they are about to buy.  Sellers should prepare in advance to provide buyers with all the information they can.  By following these suggestions below, sellers can often identify and rectify potential deal breaking problems before they surface.
-Check your mortgage balance; make sure you will have enough proceeds after closing to pay off the mortgage, seller paid closing costs, sales commissions, and probably some inspection items.  If this is not the case, talk to your realtor about alternative processes in selling your home.
-Have your property surveyed; almost all contracts today require a seller to pay to have the property surveyed – this is a normal request.  It may also uncover a problem which could potentially mess up a deal later on.  A survey will update the legal description, show the property boundaries and improvements, and illustrate easements or encroachments.  A surveyor will typically mark the corners of a property so they are easily visible to potential buyers.
-Check the legal status of your property; consider having your local title company prepare an Ownership and Encumbrance Report.  This report will show all items of record pertaining to the property.  Also check with the county assessor to make sure all property taxes are up-to-date.
-Check on your HOA status; make sure dues are current and there are no pending issues with the HOA.  Pull together HOA documents and contact information; buyers will require this information.
-Compile maintenance records, receipts, and warranties for the home; share this information with your real estate agent who will in turn share it with buyers.  Buyers appreciate a home that has been well maintained and especially appreciate warranties which transfer from one owner to the next.
-Compile any other information regarding the home; leases, contracts with snow removal companies, yard maintenance companies, and other documents or contacts which could be helpful to a buyer.
-Have the property appraised; use a local, reputable appraiser to find the market value of the home.  The appraisal, coupled with the CMA from a realtor will help to price the home properly when it is listed.

Information is the key in today’s real estate market; sellers should always take the time to compile this information in advance of buyers’ questions and concerns.  A wise seller is an honest, forthright seller who anticipates a buyer’s concerns and makes every effort to alleviate those concerns.

Today’s real estate market is fast moving and ever changing.  Selling a home requires a substantial amount professional expertise, knowledge, and time. At Paffrath & Thomas Real Estate we have been assisting sellers for over 3 decades in the real estate process.  We know how to help sellers prepare, market, and sell their homes in all types of markets.  We have surrounded ourselves with quality contractors, title companies, appraisers, home stagers, and inspectors; just to name a few, who can assist you in this process.

Preparing your home for sale and taking proactive measures to ensure the transaction goes smoothly once an offer is accepted, will save you time and money.  It’s hard to measure the true cost of a failed transaction…time off the market, more mortgage payments, time waiting for another offer, etc., but guaranteed- it will cost you. Follow these tips and get in-touch with a Paffrath and Thomas broker today.

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