Most home sellers dream of a stress-free sale in which they simply list their house, quickly find a qualified buyer, collect the cash and hand over the keys. If only it were that simple! In reality, selling a home involves many moving parts — some that you can control, and some that are out of your hands.
For example, geography might influence how long your house lingers on the market or how much mark-up you can get away with. Where competition is high and inventory is low, odds are you’ll sell faster and command a higher price. Conversely, in places where home sales have cooled, homeowners will likely have to work harder to attract the right buyer.
Given the unprecedented growth in the housing market since the coronavirus pandemic, there has been an uptick in pricing and bidding wars, and extremely low levels of inventory, over the past two years. However, the market is expected to settle down a bit — and is, in fact, already cooling considerably in some areas — due to rising interest rates (including for mortgages) and recession fears.
So, you’ll want to be prepared as a seller and control the factors that could have a big impact on your bottom line. Repcalgaryhomes is a great real estate agent and maximizing your home’s online appeal can translate into a more seamless closing — and more money in the bank.
1. Hire an agent who knows the market
The internet makes it simple to delve into real estate agents’ sales history and professional designations, so you can choose the right person to work with. Look up agents’ online profiles to learn how long they’ve been in the industry, how many sales they’ve done and what designations they may have earned. Pay attention to how and where they market their listings, and whether or not they use professional photos.
“Any designation they’ve earned is a huge plus, because it’s a sign they’ve taken the time to learn about a particular niche,” says Jorge Guerra, Global Liaison for the National Association of Realtors.
Some homeowners might be tempted to save on paying a commission and instead sell their home themselves, without an agent. This is known as “for sale by owner,” or FSBO. The amount sellers stand to save on those fees can be thousands of dollars, usually 5 percent or 6 percent of the total sale price.
However, an experienced agent does a lot to earn their fee. For example, they can expose your house to the broadest audience and negotiate on your behalf to garner the best offers possible. If you go it alone, you’ll have to personally manage prepping your home, marketing it, reviewing buyers’ offers and handling all the negotiations and closing details.
When working with an agent and negotiating a commission, keep this in mind: Real estate fees have fallen to all-time lows. So you might be able to get a break at the closing table.
2. Set a timeline for selling your home
Selling a house is a major undertaking that can take two to four months from start to finish — or much longer, depending on local market conditions and the level of inventory available.
As soon as you decide to sell your house, jump right into researching real estate agents to find someone with the right experience for your situation.
At least two or three months before you plan to list, consider getting a pre-sale home inspection (more on that below!) to identify any problem areas, especially structural or mechanical issues that might need addressing to facilitate a sale. Leave enough time to schedule necessary repairs.
About a month before listing your house, start working on staging and deep cleaning in preparation for taking photos.
Here’s a checklist of things to do before listing your home:
- Research and interview real estate agents.
- Declutter, perhaps moving excess items to a storage unit.
- Get an optional home inspection to identify any issues.
- Schedule repairs if needed.
- Deep clean.
- Stage the house.
- Have professional photos taken.
3. Get a pre-sale home inspection
A pre-sale home inspection is optional, but it can be a wise upfront investment. A detailed inspection report can identify any structural or mechanical problems before you list your home for sale. It may cost a few hundred dollars, but it will alert you in advance of issues that buyers will likely flag when they do their own inspection later in the process.
By being a few steps ahead of the buyer, sellers might be able to speed up the selling process by doing repairs in tandem with other home prep work. This means by the time the house hits the market, it should be ready to sell, drama-free and quickly.
4. Don’t waste money on needless upgrades
If you’re going to spend money on costly upgrades, make sure that the changes you make have a high return on investment. It doesn’t make sense to install new granite countertops, for example, if you only stand to break even or even lose money on them. Plus, these improvements may not be necessary to sell your home for top dollar, particularly if inventory levels are low in your area.
Here’s where a good real estate agent can help guide you. They often know what people expect in your area and can help you plan upgrades accordingly. If local shoppers aren’t looking for super skylights or a steam shower, then it doesn’t make sense to add them. A fresh coat of neutral paint, new carpet and a spruced-up landscape are typically low-cost ways to make a great first impression.
In general, updates to the kitchen and bathrooms provide the highest return on investment. If you have old cabinetry, you might be able to simply replace the doors and hardware for an updated look. For example, you can swap out those standard-issue kitchen cabinet doors for modern, Shaker-style doors in a weekend without breaking the bank.
5. Get professional photos
Work with your real estate agent to schedule a photographer to capture marketing photos of your home. High-quality photos are critical, since maximizing your home’s online appeal can make all the difference between a quick sale or a listing that languishes.
Some real estate agents build professional photography and virtual online tours into their suite of services. If they don’t, though, you might want to seek a photographer out on your own. The fee for professional photography will vary based on the size of your home, its location and how long it takes to shoot the property.
A professional photographer, with a strong portfolio, knows how to make rooms appear bigger, brighter and more attractive. The same goes for your lawn and outdoor areas. Dimly lit online photos can turn off homebuyers before they even have a chance to read about the lovely bike path nearby or the new roof you just installed, so well-taken photos can really pay off
6. Put your house on the market
Here are tips to get your home market-ready and attract buyers for a speedy sale:
Focus on the home’s online appeal
You’ve probably heard of curb appeal, but professionals say online appeal is now even more important. “Your home’s first showing is online,” Guerra says. “The quality of your web presentation will determine whether someone calls and makes an appointment or clicks on the next listing.”
Stage it and keep it clean for showings
Real estate agents will often suggest that sellers stage their homes. Staging a home simply means removing excess furniture, personal belongings and unsightly items from the home while it’s on the market, and arranging rooms for optimal flow and purpose. If you’re in a slower market or you’re selling a luxury home, investing in a professional stager could help you stand out. Nationally, professional home staging costs an average of around $1,728, according to HomeAdvisor, but prices can range between about $749 and $2,825.
Let someone else show the house
Make yourself scarce when potential buyers come to view your home. Let them imagine themselves in the space, free from the distraction of meeting and talking to you. Generally, buyers are accompanied by their own real estate agent to view your home. You can also ask your own agent to be present at showings.
“Seeing the current homeowner lurking can cause buyers to be hesitant to express their opinions,” says Grant Lopez, Realtor at KW Heritage and former chairman of the San Antonio Board of Realtors in Texas. “It could keep them from really considering your home as an option.”
7. Set a realistic price
Even in competitive markets, buyers don’t want to pay more than what the comparables, or “comps” show, so it’s crucial to get the pricing right. Going too high can backfire, while underestimating a home’s value might cause you to leave money on the table.
To price your home right from the start, consult your neighborhood’s comps. These are data sheets about recently sold properties in a specific area. At a glance, you can get an idea of what homes around you are selling for.
“A frequent mistake sellers make is pricing a home too high and then lowering it periodically,” Lopez says. “Some sellers think this practice will yield the highest return. But, in reality, the opposite is often true. Homes that are priced too high will turn off potential buyers, who may not even consider looking at the property.”
In addition, homes with multiple price reductions may give buyers the impression there’s something wrong with your home’s condition, or that it’s undesirable. So it’s best to eliminate the need for multiple reductions by pricing your home to attract the widest pool of buyers from the start.