Well, we’ve been in the new house for 3 months and we’ve successfully sold the old one. Most of the new home furnishings are in place and we feel like we’ve completed a big chapter. We’ve purposefully refrained from blogging about the experience. There was sort of a feeling throughout the process that we were fighting an uphill battle to make this transition.
That feeling caused us to think twice about blogging how we were feeling and thinking about the events that occurred along the way. We really prayed a lot about finding the right buyer for the other house and we were grateful that one came along within 10 days of the house going on the market. We’ve gone through this process 3 times in the first 3 years of our marriage. First selling Lisa’s townhouse after we got married. Then buying our new house and finally selling the house we lived in after getting married.
As I reflect on the latest house adventure, there are a couple of things that stand out that might be useful to you if you’re planning to sell. The first thing
is staging the home you’re planning to sell. We rolled the dice and bought our new house before selling the old one, so we weren’t living in the house but we were carrying two mortgages for awhile. We planned for that, but it does hold some risk if you can’t sell quickly. However, since we weren’t living there, it made it easier to stage the home. You really need to de-clutter and get rid of personal items. Then consider some inexpensive tasks like adding some fresh paint, fixing squeaky doors, changing the furnace filter, cleaning the carpets, making feature cards to hang up in the house and hiring a professional photographer are prime examples of simple things that you can easily do. Let’s face it, when you’re selling you’re facing a war with two fronts – a pricing war and a beauty contest. You want to stay competitive on the price and win the beauty contest. All these things that I listed are examples that address the beauty contest. Take time to schedule walk through’s of your competition with your broker. This is called scouting your competition.
You’ll be surprised at how your competition looks really good on-line, but when you visit their place you’ll find out the imperfections that your neighbors are strategically hiding. Use that information and make sure that if you have a closet door that needs a new handle because it looks worn out just like your neighbor’s does, then it’s worth a few bucks to replace it with a new one. The people walking through your place will notice it.
In this market, your neighbors will affect your price. Bank-owned properties drive prices down – they’re not supposed to be used as comp’s for an appraisal, but home prices are not immune to their existence. And your competition affects your price too. If your neighbors haven’t taken good care of their property then it could negatively affect your price. Your property may look stellar, but if the other comparable properties for sale by an owner are dumpy, then that will drive your price down. In this market don’t expect that just because you took great care of your house you can sell it for a lot more than your neighbors who haven’t done the same. It simply doesn’t work out that way, unfortunately. Be real with your price, don’t start out high and think you’ll bargain down. Buyers don’t want to bargain down from a high price, even if your house looks better. People will save the money, avoid talking to you and buy the cheaper house and use the savings for improvements on the other houses for sale. We think this is especially true in Minnesota. “Minnesota nice” will prevail and people will simply ignore you and your high price. You might get traffic, but you won’t get an offer.
Plan ahead and save a bunch of money, more than you think. It’s going to cost you to sell your house in this market. Plan for the offer scenario where you”ll likely need to cover closing costs, broker’s fees, title fees, taxes and a host of other things. Buyers have the advantage to ask you to cover a lot of costs in this market because many people are desperate to sell. The market will vary, but even when the amount of available homes for sale is down, that doesn’t necessarily translate to a higher price for the seller. The law of supply and demand are affected by many other variables that prevent a low supply of homes to equate to higher prices.
Work with your broker ahead of time and discuss the types of costs you’d be willing to take on. This will help you to not feel so bad when the costs are estimated. Save now and plan for this. Then if it happens, you won’t feel so shocked about writing that check or taking home less than you thought if you don’t have a mortgage to pay off or you didn’t have a lot left to pay off. Assume the worst case scenario, then if you get something better than that, you’ll feel better when that offer comes in.
Finally, your closing experience as a seller will be affected by how good your buyer’s mortgage lender and title company are. This is often out of your control, however if your broker tells you that the offer is coming from a legitimate buyer but that the buyer’s mortgage company has a bad reputation, then you can try to suggest the buyer work with someone else. Once the buyer is pre-approved and has paid for an appraisal, it’s tough for them to walk away from that lender.
Let’s face it, this market is tough no matter what you do. If you have other ideas that helped sell your home, then please share in the comments as we’d love to hear what you have to say!