Secrets for Selling Your Home

Selling a house is a complicated process, no matter how good the real estate market is.  Whether you are a first-time seller or not, you will probably have a bunch of questions.  What is closing?  How much paperwork am I going to fill out?  How can I get the best price for my house?  How can I sell my house and buy a new one at the same time?

Secret #1: The kitchen comes first.  You are not actually selling your house; you are selling your kitchen-that is how important it is.  The benefits of remodeling your kitchen are endless and the best part of it is that you will probably get 85% of your money back.  It may be a few thousand dollars to replace counter-tops where a buyer may knock $10,000 off the asking price if your kitchen looks dated.  The fastest, most inexpensive kitchen updates include painting and new cabinet hardware.  Use neutral-colored paint so you can present buyers with a blank canvas where they can start envisioning their own style.  If you have a little money to spend, buy one fancy stainless steel appliance.  Why one?  Because when people see one high-end appliance, they think all the rest are expensive too and it updates the kitchen.

Secret#2: Take the home out of your house.  One of the most important things to do when selling your house is to de-personalize it.  The more personal belongings in your house, the less potential buyers can imagine themselves living there.  Get rid of at least a third of your things; put it in storage.  This includes family photos, memorabilia collections and personal keepsakes.  Consider hiring a home stager to maximize the full potential of your home.  Staging simply means arranging your furniture to best showcase the floor plan and maximize the use of space.

Secret #3: Audit your real estate professional’s online marketing.  92% of home buyers start their house hunt online, and they will never even get in the car to come see your home if the online listings are not compelling; compelling means pictures.  Listings with more than six pictures are twice as likely to be viewed by buyers as listing that had fewer than six photos.  Be sure to ask your agent to only include attractive pictures and this means no ugly pictures of the toilet with its seat up.

Secret#4: Renovate wisely.  The average remodeling payback in the past ten years has dropped from 82% in 2003 to 60.6% this year, according to Remodeling Magazine. Bringing up the rear are a dedicated home office and adding a sun room.  Topping the list are steel entry-door replacements followed by fiber-cement exterior siding.  Sellers routinely underestimate the positive impact of simple home improvements such as repainting and minor fix-ups.

Secret#5: Sweeten the deal.  Another way to make the home and deal more attractive to buyers is to offer things or terms that might sweeten the pot.  For example, sellers that offer the buyer a couple of thousand dollars credit toward closing costs, or a credit for the purchase of new flooring receive more attention from house hunters looking at similar homes.  In a down market buyers are looking for a deal, so do your best to make them feeling they are getting one.

Secret#6: Make all necessary repairs.  Even minor things, such as a leaky faucet or chipped paint on a baseboard, can suggest to buyers that you might not be maintaining the house well in other ways, too.

Secret#7: Focus on curb appeal.  First impressions matter.  A house with chipping paint, overgrown bushes and patchy grass will not make a good impression.  You may have to spend money to make the exterior of your house more appealing, but it is money well spent if it gets potential buyers in the door.  If your house is in good shape on the outside, buyers will see it as one less thing they have to spend money on once they move in.

 

Don’t List Your Home Until You Are Ready to Show It

I have noticed that many times in today’s market that a home is listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), but the property cannot be shown until after the first brokers open house or cannot be shown until a week from the date the listing was submitted.  The reason for this delay is often due to fact that the owner needs time to prepare the house for sale.   I urge all home sellers to be ready to show their homes on the date they are listed.  The way our MLS works is that agents with buyers for a house like yours enter their search parameters into the MLS and the buyer may be put on an automatic e-mailing system; when a house that matches a buyer’s criteria is listed on the MLS, he will be automatically notified, many times immediately after the listing was entered.  In today’s market there is a shortage of homes on the market in the Palos Verdes area and in the other South Bay cities.  Buyers who are looking for a home like yours are anxious to see it when it comes on the market.  Being told they must wait “takes the wind out of their sails”.

I recommend being totally prepared to show your home the minute it is put on the market.  There are possibly a number of prospects waiting and I believe your chances of getting top dollar for your home may be better shown to those motivated buyers than waiting to show until after brokers, who may not have buyers for your home, are allowed to stream through it.  If you list your home a week or so before you are ready to show it, the wording, “Will not be listed in the Multiple Listing Service until…” can be added into the listing contract and a waiver filed with our local association of Realtors.

Housekeeping Tips

Over the years of my career in real estate, I have learned some interesting housekeeping tips that you may not know about:

1.  Shower door cleaning: When I was in the process of getting my own home ready to market, I was trying to remove soap scum from my shower doors and failing at the task.  I gave up and called a tradesman to replace the doors.  The contractor told me how to clean them and I must share this information because it really works.  Spread shampoo (one without any conditioner in it) on the glass surface; rinse it off; and behold, it works like a charm!

2.  Cleaning sinks, tubs and toilets: There is a miracle product called “Bar Keepers Friend” that can be purchased at Home Depot, Lowes and other such stores.  All I can say is you will be amazed at how this product works.

3.  Maintaining hardwood floors: Usually, just dust mopping is adequate, but when the floors really need more help, I recommend using Murphy’s Oil Soap,  diluted as directed on the bottle.  Damp mop, but do not soak the floors.  Do not let the solution sit, but dry the floor immediately.  I get a towel and “skate” over the floor with it.

4.  Taking care of badly scuffed hardwood floors: One home I was helping an owner get ready for the market had hardwood flooring.  In one of the hallways the floor was really scuffed up.  The owner said he would probably have to re-do the floor, and expensive undertaking.  A quick, very inexpensive fix is to use Old English Scratch Cover, that comes in different shades.  I asked my client’s cleaning lady to try it; the floors looked like new; the home sold within a week.

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Updates to Your Home

It happens to all homeowners.  Rooms that once looked fresh and contemporary have aged themselves into drabness.  For some it is an excuse to redecorate.  For others it is a chore.  Either way, homeownership is an ever-evolving process.  As one project ends, another peaks its head around the corner.

To bring your rooms current, as well as to update worn and disheveled items, consider these five room freshening tips:

1.  Paint: Paint is number one on the list because it is relatively cheap and easy to do yourself.  Getting a professional finish is simple, thanks to a myriad of products now on the market for the do-it-yourselfers.  From tape to edgers to color changing paint, you are sure to get a quality finished product.  “In” colors change every few years, so be sure to do some homework on what hues are in style.  While you are at it, research zero-voc  (volatile organic compound) paint before starting your project.  Traditional paint leaches fumes into your home for years.  Zero-voc paint, however, exposes you to fewer odors during the painting process and fewer risky fumes in the years to come.  This is well worth the effort of searching out zero-voc and the cost difference per gallon is minimal.  Paint does wonders for hiding dirt, wear, and tear.  Bring your home into the new decade with a fresh coat.

2.  Trim: The current trend for trim in the rooms of a house is to be white instead of natural wood.  It is contemporary and clean.  If your trim work is in good repair, simply puttying holes, sanding scuffs and painting can update the look.  Dated trim that is too thin for your large rooms can be replaced with new baseboards.  An amateur handyman can tackle this task with table and coping saws.  Trim is all about getting the angle out correctly.  If you already have current looking trim, upgrade your room with crown molding.

3.  Cabinet Hardware: From oil-rubbed bronze to beautiful vintage pieces, old is in.  Hardware can easily be added to any existing cabinetry or changed to bring a new feel to a tired room.  Shop your local home improvement stores, online and at local auctions to find the pieces that truly speak to you.

4.  Decorative Accents: Curtains are the frame to any well-designed room.  Choose colors and patterns that fit the scale of your room.  Heavy curtains made from chenille or jacquard work best in large rooms with tall ceilings.  Lighter weight fabrics, such as silk and chiffon, are great choices for small or airy rooms.  Decorative pillows and throws are also an inexpensive way to change the accents of your room.  Bright is in; do not be afraid to play with color.

5.  Flooring: While flooring is not a simple fix and may require the help of a professional, it can make all the difference in a dated room.  Scratched and worn wood floors should be sanded and refinished to show the natural beauty of the wood.  Laminate wood flooring is an inexpensive and easy solution for homeowners who want a clean and modern update.  I recommend that you do not over-do this type of flooring; it should be in a room or two but not the entire house.

If your rooms are looking tired, be sure to wake them up with a few new colors, paints or accents.

 

 

Home Seller Pitfalls to Avoid

Six years after the market peaked in 2006 and prices started to decline, many sellers are still in denial about the current market value of their homes.  It is difficult for most sellers to accept the reality of today’s home-sale market, whether they bought at or near the peak and will lose money selling today, or bought decades ago but are still stuck at 2006 prices.  One homeowner recently remarked that she was aware that home prices had dropped quite a bit over the last five years, but she felt that her home had not lost any value.

It is hard for homeowners to divorce themselves emotionally from a home they have enjoyed.  This is what sellers need to do so they can make rational decisions about a list price that will actually result in a sale.  This decision should be based on listings that have sold in your area that are considered comparable to your home.  Some sellers go to open houses to evaluate the competition.  If you are still emotionally wrapped up in your home, the exercise can be futile.  You return home feeling that the other homes are not as good as yours.

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.  Your house needs to be listed at a price that is enticing to buyers because it represents a good value.  In most areas, buyers are buying ibn a market knowing prices may continue to decline before the market fully recovers.

House Selling Tip: Be wary of real estate agents who tell you that your home will sell for a higher-than-supportable price just to get the listing.  Then they work on you over time until you reduce the price to market value.  Agents refer to this as buying a listing.

Its hard to resist the temptation of trying for a higher price than the comparables indicate.  However, you will not be happy if your home is on the market for months with no activity, and each time you drop the price it feels like too little, too late.  You can end up selling for less later if home prices in your area are still declining.

Listing your home based on what you want or or need to net from the sale will not motivate buyers to pay more.  Buyers pay market value.  They will not overpay in today’s market.

If your home needs a lot of work compared with the competition, you will either need to have work done before selling or discount your price accordingly.

For best results, be realistic about the current market value of your home and what preparation it needs in order to sell successfully in this market.