Selling Your Home

Keri Shull’s Ultimate Seller’s Guide

Contemplating selling your house? We don’t mean to brag, but we’ve helped hundreds of DMV owners sell their homes, so we’re sort of a big deal around here. We decided to take advantage of all of our experience by putting together the Ultimate Seller’s Guide. Go on and check out our guide before you decide if you’re ready to sell your home. We’ve jam packed it with information on every step in the selling process just for you.

Deciding When to Sell Your Home

The ‘when’ is the most important word in these terms. Before you begin the selling process, you need to figure out when it’s the best time to start. Important things to consider when deciding when it’s the the best time to sell your house include:

Time of Year—The real estate industry can have seasonal trends, but homes are still bought and sold 365 days out of the year! Many people think springtime is the best time to sell a home because it’s the season of new beginnings, and though this time of year has seen an uptick in stats, there are benefits to selling at other times of year as well. A common misconception is that buyers aren’t looking for homes in the fall and winter months, but this could not be less true. Serious buyers will continue their search all year round until they find their dream home. Current Competition — It’s probably not a good idea to list your house when there are three other houses in your neighborhood still for sale; this would make it the buyer’s market and you’d be opening yourself up to direct competition. However, if your house is the only one with a garage or has been totally renovated to be newer than the rest of the houses on the block, your house has the edge. It’s critical to understand the absorption rate in your neighborhood, so you can utilize that information when creating your pricing strategy. Remember that there are only so many buyers looking for the kind of house you’re selling at any given time, so plan appropriately.

Comparable Neighborhoods— Most buyers have more than one target neighborhood, so compare your house and neighborhood to similar offerings. This doesn’t just include the neighborhoods that are close in proximity to yours, but those that have similar characteristics like schools, parks, public transportation, and the type of people that live there.

Your Personal Situation — If you just got a new job in a different city, that timing will likely override anything else when you’re deciding when to sell your house. Similarly, expecting a child or going through a divorce will also dictate the timing.

Preparing Your Home for Sale

There are five boxes you need to check off when preparing your house to go on the market:

  • Declutter Your Home — Maximize the space in your house by decluttering. This will allow potential buyers to envision themselves and their belongings inside of your home. Remove personal items like photographs, clean out the closets, and trash or donate anything you don’t plan on bringing with you to your new house. Also make sure to remove any items that may signal religious or political beliefs, as you want your home to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible.
  • Stage Your Home — Stage every room in your house to its ideal look and optimal use. Bigger furniture makes a room look and feel smaller, so swap out pieces between rooms to create the perfect balance. Know that a great realtor will have professional staging experience and be able to help you stage your home for its ideal buyer.
  • Clean Your Home — No buyer wants to look at a dirty house. Also, we’ve noticed buyers don’t tend to have the best imaginations when being shown houses, so do the hard work and clean your house from top to bottom. Make sure to keep up with the cleaning while your house is being shown too!
  • Set the Temperature — Many sellers are tempted to save some extra cash by ignoring the thermostat when showing a vacant home, but this is big no-no. You want your potential buyers to feel at home and take their time touring your house, and the temperature needs to be just right to keep them from rushing back to their warm or cool car. Depending on the season in which you are showing your home, make sure to heat or cool your home appropriately until your home is sold.
  • Control Scents — Make sure to neutralize any odors. Buyers are more in-tune to the scent of your home than you may realize, and a bad smell can turn off buyers fast. You may not even notice a certain smell lingering in your home because you’re used to it having lived there for x amount of years, so consult your agent to ensure your home has a pleasant scent for showings.
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    Extra Boxes to Check for Houses

    • Backyard — Don’t forget to tidy up the yard. Many buyers choose homes because of the outdoor space, so make the most out of it by planting a few flowers, mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, and staging the back deck with patio furniture.
    • Basement — Buyers also love a finished basement, so declutter yours and stage it to its optimal use. Can it be a mother-in-law suite? Stage it as one! Also, make sure the furnace and electrical panel are reachable by home inspectors.
    • Bigger Repairs — If your house has issues with the plumbing, electrical wiring, insulation, roof, or A/C, it may be in your best interest to pay to fix these bigger issues before listing your house because they are a much bigger deal to buyers. At least let your realtor know about any existing issues before you decide to make the repairs or not.
    • Curb Appeal — The look of the front of your home sets the whole tone of your property before buyers even get out of their cars. The driveway, porch, sidewalks, and landscaping all have an impact on your home’s first impression, so take care to make them presentable.
    • Small Fixes — Every house has those small repairs that just haven’t been taken on yet, but now is the time to fix them if you’re thinking of selling your house. Call a handyman in to fix that leaky faucet, reattach the gutters, and fix any broken light switches or door handles.

    Pricing Your Home For Sale

    It’s safe to say that pricing a condo is a little easier than pricing a normal house because there are nearly identical units to compare it to either in the same building or in the same neighborhood. Realtors also base their recommended listing prices off of square footage and recent sales. Things to keep in mind when pricing your condo include:

    • Pest Control — You may think your house doesn’t have any bugs or critters, but it is always a good idea to call pest control if it’s been a while since your home was treated. Consider getting your home inspected for termites too. A clean termite report can add to the value of your home, and a bad report can scare off a potential buyer, so take the time to ensure your home is pest-free.

    Prepping Your Home

    Don’t forget to also do the following when preparing your home for sale:

    • Organize important documents — Gather up copies of your heating, utility, electrical, and tax bills because your realtor will need them and it’s good to keep them in a safe place. If you still have warranties or manuals for appliances, hang on to them for the next buyer.
    • Keep track of renovations and repairs — It’s a good idea to make a list of all the renovations and/or repairs you’ve made to the house since you bought it. Also make note of anything that still needs work and share it with your realtor.
    • Copy your keys — Most houses for sale have lockboxes on the front door so realtors can show the house to potential buyers when the seller isn’t around. Make an extra set of keys ahead of time.
    • Skip the pre-listing home inspection — We don’t believe it’s necessary to get a pre-listing home inspection, though some of our sellers like to have one to ensure they take care of any repairs in advance. This can seem like a good strategy; however, in some cases the things they choose to repair from the pre-listing home inspection weren’t items on the buyer’s priority list in the first place, and the seller can risk losing leverage in the negotiation process. We find it’s best to wait until the buyer makes their priorities known, but consult with your agent to make the right decision for you.

    Pricing Your Home for Sale

    Figuring out the listing price for your home is a complicated process that requires a high attention to detail and a negotiator’s tricks. A good realtor will discuss the pros and cons of pricing your home high, low, or in a prime spot for a bidding war. Ultimately, the buyer will be the one deciding how much your home is worth by knowing how much they want to spend on it. A buyer considers the following things

    • Recent sales in your neighborhood
    • Recent sales of similar properties in similar neighborhoods
    • Other properties on the market (your competition)
    • Current market conditions
    • The size, condition, and style of your home
    • Location
    • Parking options
    • Basement or garage
    • Storage space
    • Finishes
    • In-home appliances

    Marketing Your Home for Sale

    Having a real estate agent on your side is critical for this step. Marketing your home for sale is one of the most important factors in getting your home sold in a timely manner and to your home’s ideal buyer. A modern marketing approach to selling your house should include both digital and traditional marketing techniques. The goal is to get as many people as possible to fall in love with your house. The best real estate marketing plan should include:

    • Email & Social Media Marketing — Experienced realtors promote their listings to other realtors either through email or through social media. The authority of your realtor’s name goes a long way to marketing your house effectively in these channels. Buyers see listings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and in email campaigns all the time in this modern age.
    • For Sale Signs — This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how often it can be overlooked. A For Sale sign in the yard will catch the attention of buyers who may not even be looking for your house in particular or even know they’re looking to buy yet. Plus, an agent with a clear strategy will utilize other signs to bring in buyers, like an “Everyday Open House” sign. The number of signs on the ground matters.
    • Online Listings — A whopping 92% of buyers find the listings they’re interested in online. This is why it is critical to have an agent who knows the best listing websites, not just Zillow! The authority of your agent’s own website can also have a significant impact on how far and wide your listing is seen on the world wide web. The average agent (selling five to 10 homes a year) cannot afford to market your home effectively online; the Keri Shull Team spends over $20K a month on Zillow alone! We know how much money it takes to be successful online, and you need someone who will invest heavily in exposing your home to as many potential buyers are possible. Better yet, you need an agent who has been marketing your home to your ideal buyer before they even see the listing.
    • Open Houses — Some people don’t like open houses because they think it only attracts lookie-loos, but that is a misconception. Sure you’ll get a few nosy neighbors, but you’ll also attract buyers who are more comfortable viewing the house in this relaxed setting. Open houses allow serious buyers to pop by that might not have otherwise; many buyers tell us they just didn’t want to bother their agent (which is crazy!) for a private showing, and wait for the open house instead. It can also put the pressure on potential buyers to make an offer due to the volume of people at the open house and an increased awareness of potential competition. Always consult with your agent to market your open house effectively, and avoid common open house mistakes.
    • Photography/Videography — Photos are everything in your listing. We highly recommend professional photography because cell phone photos will not do your house justice. The Keri Shull team loves videos too, so we recommend filming a walkthrough or virtual tour of your house for potential buyers to view online. You’d be amazed at how successful this tactic is when marketing your house for sale. Ask your agent for statistics regarding their home listing hosting sites to see how many buyers view their listing’s virtual tour. No matter how professional the video may look, it only matters if buyers are seeing it.
    • Print Marketing — Print still isn’t dead! Feature sheets are an easy and effective way of conveying the main points of your home to potential buyers, and they can take them with them. Depending on your ideal buyer, your home may also benefit from old-fashioned postcards in the mail or features in real estate magazines.

    Your ideal buyer is out there — somewhere! The catch is knowing how to find them. The best real estate agents will go above and beyond to put your house first on their agenda and create a top notch marketing campaign to sell your house.

    Showing Your Home

    You need to keep the following points in mind when showing your home to potential buyers:

    • Be flexible — Keep your schedule open when you’re selling your house. Most buyers like to look at homes in the evenings or on weekends.
    • Clean continually — Just because you cleaned your house on the first day of showings doesn’t mean you’re done yet! You need to keep up with the state of your home’s cleanliness in order to present the best home possible at all showings.
    • Consider a temporary move — If your home is really popular, you could have upwards of a dozen showings a day which can be exhausting for you as the seller. Consider taking a long weekend away or staying with a friend until your home is sold, or at least for the first few days of showings. This isn’t a must-do, but it’s something to consider.
    • Leave.The.House. — We can’t say it enough. No buyer wants to see the house while you’re in it breathing down their necks. Run your errands or meet a friend for dinner when your home is being shown to potential buyers.
    • Remove the pets — Pets can be distracting during showings and also make your job of keeping the house clean that much harder. Consider boarding your dogs until your house is sold or at least take them on a long walk when buyers are looking at the house. The Keri Shull Team can refer you to our amazing pet sitter that we trust with our own fur babies when we travel.

    Negotiating Offers

    A good real estate agent will prep you on what to expect when you start receiving offers on your home. There will be several things to negotiate when you get an offer on your home:

    • Price
    • Closing date
    • Inclusions
    • Deposit
    • Conditions

    If you start receiving more than one offer or your house becomes the source of a bidding war, your agent should work diligently to get the terms to align closely with your goals. There are a few different strategies for handling bidding wars, but your agent should have experience negotiating these waters and be able to help you get the highest possible price for your home.

    Home Inspection

    In our area, the expectation (and boiler plate contract) for a home inspection report is that all items needing repair will be fixed by a licensed and insured contractor that specializes in the specific trade of each item requiring attention. Receipts must be provided prior to closing, so keep this in mind when proceeding with the home inspection and repairs. Your agent should be able to provide referrals to their trusted partners.

    Closing Day!

    Closing day — the day the new buyer takes possession of your house — is an exciting and monumental time in the process of selling your house because it is the last step in the selling process. A trusted settlement company comes in handy on Closing Day because they will:

    • Provide the payoff to your bank(s)
    • Provide the payoff to the new owner
    • Settle any funds owed back to you

    You will be responsible for informing the utility companies about the move and cancelling your home insurance. After the recordation — which takes longer in some jurisdictions than in others — you will get your hands on the cash from your home sale. Congratulations!

    Have more questions about selling your home? Think we left something out? Contact the Keri Shull team and ask away! We look forward to hearing from you.

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