Here are a few issues to consider when you’re about to put your house on the market.
• What prices are other homes in my neighborhood or area selling for? Do not look at statewide or even county-wide statistics, but find out what similar houses in your direct or surrounding neighborhoods have sold for in recent weeks or months. These are the statistics your Realtor will look at when conducting his or her opinion of value on your property.
• If I get less then the full asking price for my home, will I be able to break even or make a profit? You and your Realtor will have to answer this question together. Many homeowners bought their houses during the boom years of real estate about 10 years ago, and have been “underwater” since the prolonged economic slump. If you cannot make enough money to pay off your mortgage and/or any equity loans on the property, you may have to pursue a short sale through your bank. A short sale, if agreed to by your financial institution, means that the bank will accept less than the amount you owe as payment of the mortgage.
• What kinds of improvements must I make in order to sell my home? Ask your Realtor what kinds of repairs are needed in order to prepare your house for the market. Some big renovations will not pay for themselves at sale time, while painting, landscaping, and minor carpentry repairs probably will.
• How will my Realtor market my home? You need to ask your sales agent up front before you sign a listing contract exactly what he or she plans to do to sell your home. Find out a schedule of open houses, advertisements in print or online media, and any other marketing strategies the agent plans to employ, including brochures, brokers tours, etc.
• Does my Realtor have a successful track record in my area? Again, ask this question before, not after you decide on the agent you wish to hire. How many properties has this person sold in the last year, how long were they on the market, and for what percentage of the selling price did they sell?
• How often will I receive feedback from my Realtor? Find out in advance how often your agent plans to communicate with you during the marketing process. Whether it’s once a week, after every showing, following each open house or twice a month, you need to know exactly what to expect. And if you’re not happy with the answer, hire someone else. It’s important to know that you will be kept informed of the marketing process of your home every step of the way.
• Should I have my house professionally staged before I put it on the market? Many homeowners are choosing to hire a specialist in staging houses to showcase their homes for potential buyers. You will have to decide whether you are capable of doing this process yourself – decluttering, removing excess furniture, changing lighting or rugs, etc., or if you’re willing to pay for a professional who has been trained in the process of turning homes into buyer-friendly “sets” for showings.
When you decide to sell your house, emotions can run high, and it’s important to realize that you are selling more than bricks and mortar, but memories as well. It’s perfectly understandable to feel a sense of loss even if your property sells in a bidding war and you end up with a sizable profit. But rest assured that another home awaits you with a history just waiting to be written.