Do's and Don'ts for Sellers in Today's Housing Market

home for saleIt seems to be a good time to be a home seller. Prices are higher than a year ago in most markets, and good homes are selling fast.
Unfortunately, that positive environment can sometimes trip up sellers, turning confidence into cockiness, and real estate agents working with new clients have to bring them down to earth with some do’s and don’ts. Here’s a sampling of their advice:
Do walk around your property with a critical eye.
It was a rough winter. Lawns look bad, landscaping is droopy, and homes and buildings may have suffered cosmetic or structural damage. Don’t assume a buyer is willing to blame the lack of maintenance on the weather.
Tammy Hensley, an agent at Hensley’s Prairie Path Realty, advises sellers not only to take care of inside fixes, like repainting or replacing cracked bath tiles, but also to make exterior repairs to bent gutters and banged-up siding. It would be better, she says, to keep the house off the market for a week to make those repairs than to rush to list it and pay the price, literally.
“It’ll nick them on their price” by thousands of dollars, Hensley said. “The offers will come in a lot lower if it doesn’t look good from the outside.”
Do think about who your buyer is and what your competition is, and make your house appealing from the start.
The best opportunity to get top dollar for a home is within the first 30 days, said Jim Votanek, an agent at @properties. “When a prospective homebuyer comes into a home, that’s not the first time they’ve seen it. Buyers eliminate properties very quickly on the Internet.”
Do remember the city is not the suburbs, and vice versa.
A lot more variables are in place in the suburbs, and that makes it harder to find comparable transactions and understand pricing. Anyone who has sold a Chicago condo and is selling a suburban home may find that the negotiations are taking a lot longer this time, said Eric Rojas, an agent at Kale Realty.
Do decide how serious a seller you are.
Some homeowners test the market with higher-than-recommended prices. Serious sellers price their homes to sell quickly.
“The marketplace is very clear on what home values are. Many people want more,” said Cindy Dalton, an agent at Century 21 Affiliated. “We’re not going to get you what you were able to get seven years ago.”
Besides, even if a seller did receive a much-above-market offer, issues with the home appraisal could scuttle the deal.
Do weigh all parts of an offer and don’t get greedy.
There’s emotion tied to an offer from buyers who want to make a home their own, and they typically are willing to pay more for a property than an investor, whose motivation is the bottom line. But money isn’t the only factor.
Owner-occupant buyers need to secure financing, and if that falls through, the house has to return to the market. Also, their offer may be contingent on selling their own home. An investor, meanwhile, is making a cash offer and can close quickly.
Decide whether price, peace of mind or convenience is more important.
Do tread carefully when faced with multiple offers.
“Don’t lose people,” Rojas advised. “You think you’re hot stuff (until) one goes away.”
Rojas recommends either negotiating with the first offer, and tell the second offer that’s what you’re doing, or have each party make its last and best offers. “Either way is very fair and ethical.”
Putting mortgages first. Reversing a trend that has been in place since September 2008, consumers in many areas last fall began putting more emphasis on paying their mortgages than their credit card debt, a study by TransUnion found.
But there was no such turnaround spotted in its Chicago data. Since June 2008, Chicago-area consumers have paid their credit cards first, allowing their mortgages to become delinquent if need be.
“As unemployment gradually improves and housing prices recover, we expect every major metropolitan city will revert to the traditional payment hierarchy,” said Ezra Becker, a TransUnion vice president.
This post originally appeared on on March 30, 2014.