SORRY GUYS! Another not-so-horsey post, but I figured it was time to start expanding the “lifestyle” section of the blog, so why not talk about something I’m somewhat well versed in?
If there are two things in life I know my way around, they’re horses and houses. My parents have been in the real estate industry for more than four decades so I suppose it was only natural that I one day leave my marketing job and join the ranks among other residential realtors. Honestly it was the best decision I’ve ever made, because the freedom allowed me to jump back into the horsey world head-first, something I wasn’t able to even consider while working at a creative agency.
So here’s the deal. When you’re getting ready to put your house on the market, there are a lot of variables to consider. Let’s break it down:
Before You List
- Do you have an agent you trust? Working with an agency has a lot of benefits. You get free marketing (usually digital and print) paid for by the company. This usually includes professional photography, which goes a long way. You don’t have to worry about contracts or tracking down tax cards & plot plans at your local town hall, which can be scary to navigate if you’re not familiar. They’ll hold broker and public open houses to help get your home seen by potential buyers. Don’t be afraid to discuss the marketing plan for listing your home – in fact, when you’re interviewing agents/agencies, they should present all of this to you in the meeting, including a price opinion (where agents come to your house to preview and offer their opinion on pricing) and CMA (comparative market analysis) explaining where to price your home competitively in order to get it sold. Furthermore, having your home listed on the MLS (an agent platform that hosts all homes for sale listed with agencies) gives it much-needed exposure in what is currently a very saturated market pretty much across the US. (This varies from city to city so don’t be afraid to ask for the most recent market report which will help you understand what homes are selling for and how quickly.) Currently in my area overpricing your home can be a death sentence, so getting a handle on how the market is performing and where you should price is crucial to minimizing the days on market as much as possible.
- Do a quick sweep. This is where things get a little personal. Just because you love those oversized ceramic chickens in your kitchen doesn’t mean prospective buyers will. Or that spur of the moment decision to paint your powder room bright yellow? I’m sure it looks happy and sunny to you, but bold eclectic choices more often than not make it harder for buyers to *picture* themselves in your home. Do an interior and exterior walk through with fresh eyes. You’ll need to de-clutter (make it look like you have as much room as possible. In other words, make sure your closets aren’t overflowing with stuff.) See any peeling paint or leaky faucets? Sad fences or dead plants? Time to finally suck it up and call the handy man. Prospective buyers pick up on the little things, and at the end of the day most are going to go with the home that is the most turnkey. Give yourself a competitive edge by decluttering, fixing the little things and yes, even considering toning it down with more neutral paint colors. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, 100% call in a stager. They are professionals at walking through a home and saying “get rid of this, replace it with this” to get your home ready to list. They also offer rental pieces of furniture if you’re not wanting to spring for a new sofa to replace the slightly sagging but still cozy hand-me-down from your great (maybe great?) grandma.
- Store your valuables. This includes checkbooks, passports, jewelry and medications. Even though all prospective buyers will be accompanied by your agent, it is not their responsibility to watch them like a hawk 24/7. Sometimes prospective buyers ask to walk through on their own for a more private look at the home to see if they can really picture themselves there. Buy a lockbox and keep it somewhere safe and out of sight. Yes, it’s a hassle, but better than the alternative of having someone with sticky fingers grab some of your most valuable possessions.
- Have a heart to heart with yourself (and your significant other if it applies.) Why are you selling? Are you ready to sell? Listing your house is very invasive. You need to prepare yourself for (hopefully) constant phone calls from your agent asking to show your home, sometimes (annoyingly) in as little as an hour. Are you ready to play the lightning fast clean up game to make your house look like a hotel maid just left, run out the door and wait for the text or call that the showing is done and you can go back home? Potentially while juggling dogs and children? Having your house on the market isn’t a cake walk, but with the right support system it can be made bearable. Prepare yourself and make sure you’re emotionally ready to list in order to save time and effort for all parties involved.
Living Through Listing
- It’s the little things that help save you time and effort in the long run. Make your bed in the morning. Fluff and organize the pillows and fold the blanket on the couch before you head off to bed for the night. Don’t let dishes pile up in the sink. Stay on top of boring life chores that sometimes have a tendency to sneak up on us as we sigh “I’ll do it tomorrow.” You don’t want to be found scrambling & shoving plates into the dishwasher or making a wrinkly bed 10 minutes before you have to vacate the premises for a showing. Suck it up and do the little things. You’ll end up thanking yourself, and your agent will too.
- Don’t expect immediate feedback. This can be a difficult pill to swallow. But if your home is stop #2 on a day-long tour, it’s going to take at least a day for the buyers agent to get back to your agent. Not all agents are great at communication, either. Hash out a plan with your agent – I like to do a weekly recap with my sellers if we have multiple showings within a week, but some want feedback as soon as the prospective buyers leave their home… which is frankly quite impossible, because you tell me when the buyers agent would have the time to sneak away from their clients to call me and take an educated guess at what they thought? People need time to think and process, and a good agent will regroup with their clients at the end of the day and then pass along feedback to the sellers agent.
- Have a bottom line. What is the lowest offer you’re willing to take and how long are you willing to wait for the perfect buyer to come along that is willing to make your number? Unfortunately it’s happened more than once where I’ve had a seller turn down a reasonable offer in order to wait it out only to accept an even lower one months later. Engage with buyers. As my parents say, “no offer is a bad one.” Your agent will negotiate on your behalf, and 99% of the time a buyer never comes right out with their highest and best offer. They go in with wiggle room – use that to your advantage.
- Consider your timing. Do you need to have an accepted offer on your house and contracts signed before searching for your next home? You might want to consider a 90 day closing period as opposed to the typical 60. Are your finances in order? Get pre-qualified if you’ll be taking out a mortgage to make your own bidding process go more smoothly. These are all things your agent should be helping you with, which is another reason why working with someone who is able to provide referrals to trusted professionals is a great asset.
Moving can stressful, but also fun! Who doesn’t love a fresh start and the chance to make new memories under a new roof? Have other questions about listing your home or beginning to search for one? Feel free to shoot me an email, I’m always happy to talk houses (and horses!)