Advice For Sellers
Tips & tricks for how to handle the sale of your property
Selling your home is an emotional experience regardless of the circumstances of the move. You may be looking forward to moving up to a larger home, downsizing for an empty nest, or facing the uncertainty of a major move across the country. The mood of your move drives the emotions that go along with this major life event and we are here to help you navigate the process. The following information is provided to help you make good choices that will ease the emotional burden of a home sale.
Getting Your House Ready To Sell
When visiting with real estate agents, you will find that when they talk about buying real estate, they refer to your purchase as a “home.” Yet if you are selling property, they will refer to it as a “house.” There is a reason for this. Buying real estate is often an emotional decision, but when selling real estate you need to remove emotion from the equation. You need to think of your house as a marketable commodity. Property. Real estate. Your goal is to get others to see it as their potential home, not yours. If you do not consciously make this decision, you can inadvertently create a situation where it takes longer to sell your property. The first step in getting your house ready to sell is to “de-personalize” it.
The reason you need to “de-personalize” your house is that you want buyers to view it as their potential home. When a homebuyer sees your family photos hanging on the wall, it puts your brand on the house and can cloud their vision of making it their home. Try to neutralize the house by putting away family photos, sports trophies, collectible items, knick-knacks, and souvenirs. Rent a storage unit for a few months, box up the items and store them until the house sells. Don't just put the boxes in the attic, basement, garage or a closet. Part of preparing the house for sale is to remove “clutter,” which is the next step in preparing your house for sale.
One of the hardest things for most people is decluttering because they are emotionally attached to everything in the house. After years of living in the same place, clutter collects in ways that may not be obvious to the homeowner. However, it seriously affects the way buyers see the house, even if you do not realize it. Clutter collects on shelves, countertops, in drawers, closets, garages, attics, and basements. One seller's treasure may be a buyer's clutter!
Take a step back and pretend you are a buyer. Let a friend help point out areas of clutter, as long as you can accept their views without getting offended. Your real estate agent can be a great source of help and guidance in this process as well.
Begin with the kitchen because it is an easy place to start. Clear everything off the counters. Everything. Even the toaster. Put it in a cabinet and take it out when you use it. Find a place to store everything in cabinets and drawers. You may realize there is not enough space to put everything. This is a great time to downsize and get rid of those items that you do not use. Donate them to charity, sell them at a garage sale or second-hand shop, or gift them to family or friends. If you still have things that won't fit, box them up and put them in storage as well.
Potential homebuyers will open all your cabinets and drawers, especially in the kitchen. They want to be sure there is enough room for their “stuff.” If your kitchen cabinets, pantries, and drawers look jammed full, it sends a negative message to the buyer and does not promote an image of plentiful storage space. The best way to do that is to have as much “empty space” as possible.
If you have a “junk drawer,” empty that too. Create as much open space as possible to show buyers that there is plenty of space for their belongings.
If your pantry or food storage cabinets are crammed full, this is a good time to begin using them – especially canned goods. Canned goods are heavy and increase the load that you have to move to your new home.
The cabinets below the sink are important too. Remove all extra cleaning supplies, scrub the area down, and determine if there are any tell-tale signs of water leaks that may cause a homebuyer to hesitate in buying your house.
Closets are natural clutter centers. You may not think of it as clutter. Those half dozen pairs of shoes that you might need to wear one day or those clothes that you might fit back into one day. Yeah, those. This is the time to part company with the extras that are just taking up space and making your closets appear overstuffed to buyers!
If you can't seem to part with these items, box them up and put them in the storage unit too. After a couple of months of them not hanging around, you may find it easier to part with them.
Many people have too much furniture in certain rooms – not too much for your own personal living needs – but too much to give the illusion of space that a homebuyer would like to see. You may want to tour some builders’ models to see how they place furniture in the model homes. Observe how they place furniture in the models so you get some ideas on what to remove and what to leave in your house.
Plumbing and Fixtures
All of the plumbing fixtures should look shiny and new. If this cannot be accomplished by cleaning, replace them with new ones. This can be accomplished inexpensively and they are fairly easy to install. Make sure all the hot and cold water knobs are easy to turn and that the faucets do not leak. If they do, replace the washers.
Check that there is good water pressure and that the sinks, tubs, and showers are free of stains. Some sellers find it easier to hire a cleaning crew to do a one-time deep cleaning of the house.
Ceilings, Walls, and Painting
Check the ceilings for water stains. Sometimes old leaks leave stains, even after the leak has been repaired. If you have a current leak, have it repaired, whether it is a plumbing issue or a leaky roof.
Do the same for the walls, looking for not only stains but also areas where dirt has accumulated.
Painting can be your best investment when selling your house. It is an inexpensive update that you can often do yourself. Don't choose colors based on your own taste, but make neutral color choices that will appeal to the majority of buyers. Light neutral colors also make the rooms appear more spacious.
Carpet and Flooring
Unless the carpet appears old, worn, badly stained or outdated just hire a reputable carpet cleaning company. If the best thing to do is replace it choose an inexpensive carpet in a neutral color. Due to allergies and pets, many people are opting to remove carpet from their homes entirely. Instead of replacing the carpet, perhaps consider an alternative flooring type.
Repair or replace broken floor tiles, but do not spend a lot of money doing so. You are not fixing up the place for yourself. Your goal is to reduce the negative impressions to potential buyers.
Windows and Doors
Check all of the windows to make sure they open and close easily. A quick spray of WD-40 often helps. Any cracked or broken windows should be replaced before the for sale sign goes up.
Also, check the doors. Do they open and close properly and quietly? Do the doorknobs turn easily. Are the doors and knobs clean? As buyers go from room to room, someone opens each door and you want to do everything necessary to create a positive impression.
If someone in the house smokes, do not smoke indoors while trying to sell. Purchase an ozone spray that helps to remove odors without just masking the odor.
Pets of all kinds create odors that we become accustomed to but are immediately noticeable to those with a more finely tuned sense of smell. Cat owners, empty kitty litter boxes daily and use products below the litter that helps control odor. Dog owners, keep your dog(s) outdoors as much as possible. Sprinkling carpet freshener on the carpet on a periodic basis helps to reduce pet smells.
A lot of real estate advice tells you to work on the outside of the house first. But unless there is a major project to be done, we believe it is best to address the outside of the house last. There are two main reasons for this. First, preparing the interior of the house is easier. It also develops the proper mindset required for selling – beginning to think of your “home” as a marketable commodity. Second, the exterior is the most important. A homebuyer’s first impression is based on his or her view of the house from the curb.
Walk across the street and take a good look at your house. Look at the surrounding houses, too, and see how yours compares.
Is your landscaping at least average for the neighborhood? If not, plant a few bushes and flowers to add warmth and color. Don't add trees. Mature trees are expensive, and you will not get your money back and immature trees don't add much to the appearance value of the house.
If you have flowerbeds, plant mature colorful flowers. Adding a splash of vibrancy and color creates a favorable first impression.
The lawn should be evenly cut, edged, well watered, and free of brown spots. Clean up leaves, grass clippings, and debris. If there are problems with the lawn, take care of them before working on the inside of your house. Some areas may need re-sodding and need a chance to grow so those areas are not obvious. Plus, you might want to give fertilizer enough time to be effective.
To paint or not to paint? This is the question. When you look at your house from across the street, does it look blah and faded? If so, a paint job may be a great investment and it spruces up the appearance of a house, adding dollars to offers from potential homebuyers.
When choosing a color, it should not be something wild and unusual, but a color that fits well in the neighborhood. Of course, the color also depends on the style of the house, too. For some reason, shades of yellow seem to create the best response in homebuyers, whether it is in the trim or the basic color of the house.
As for the roof, if you know the house has an aging leaky roof, replace it. If you do not replace a leaky roof, you will have to disclose it and the buyer will want a new roof, anyway. Otherwise, wait and see what the home inspector says. Why spend money unnecessarily?
The Back Yard
The back yard should be tidy. If you have a pool or spa, keep it freshly maintained and constantly cleaned. For those that have dogs, be sure to constantly keep the area clear of “debris.” If you have playscapes for the kids, remove them unless you plan to leave it with the house. These items take up space and make the yard look smaller than it actually is.
Front Door & Entryway
The front door should look inviting and neat since it is the entryway into the house. Polish the door fixtures. If the door needs refinishing or repainting, make sure to get that done.
Remove personalized items from the front porch/door it. You can put them up once you move. Adding a new doormat is a nice touch.
Thinking of Starting at a Higher Price? Beware!
You’ve decided to sell your house and have an idea of what you think it is worth. Being a sensible seller, you schedule appointments with three local listing agents who’ve been hanging stuff on your front for years.
Each agent comes prepared with a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) and each recommends a listing price. Perhaps a couple of them have presented you with a suggested listing price that is lower than you expected. Although they back up their recommendation with recent sales data of similar homes, nearby comparable listings currently on the market and market trends for the area, you remain convinced your house is worth more.
The third agent’s suggested listing price, it is more in line with your own anticipated value, or maybe even higher. Suddenly, you are a happy and excited home seller, already counting the money.
If you’re like many people, you might pick REALTOR® number three. This agent seems willing to listen to your input and work with you. This agent cares about putting the most money in your pocket. This agent is willing to start out at your price and drop it later if need be.
You may have just met an agent engaging in a questionable sales practice called “buying a listing.” He “bought” the listing by suggesting you might be able to get a higher sales price than the other agents recommended. Most likely, he knows your home won't sell at that price. The intention from the beginning is to eventually talk you into lowering the price.
Why do agents “buy” listings? A well-meaning and hardworking agent can feel pressure from a homeowner who has an inflated perception of his home’s value. On the other hand, there are some agents who engage in this sales practice routinely. At the end of the day, it is the seller who loses in this situation. Overpriced listings sit on the market longer and take a hit on the final sales price after becoming "shopworn" in the marketplace.
Starting out with an elevated listing price on your home will only add to the stress of the sale process. There will be a lot of “behind the scenes” action taking place.
Contrary to popular opinion, the listing agent does not usually attempt to sell your house to a buyer. Listing agents market your house to local agents who do work with homebuyers, dramatically increasing your personal sales force. During the first couple of weeks your home should be a flurry of activity with buyer’s agents coming to preview your home so they can sell it to their clients…if the price is right.
If the price is right.
If you and your agent have overpriced, fewer agents will preview your home. After all, they are REALTORS® too, and it is their job to know local market conditions and home values. If your house is priced above the market, most agents will not bother showing it to their qualified buyers. Most buyer agents do not want to put their clients through the stress of falling in love with a home that is beyond their means. Their time is better spent previewing homes that are priced realistically.
Later on, when you finally drop your listing price to where it should be, your house is old news. You will never recapture that flurry of initial activity you would have had with a realistic price. Your house will take longer to sell and typically at a lower price point than where you should have been priced, to begin with.
If you do find a buyer willing to pay the inflated price, the buyer will most likely be getting a mortgage which requires an appraisal. If comparable sales data for the last six months and current market conditions do not support your sales price, the house won’t appraise and the deal falls apart. You can attempt to renegotiate the price if the buyer is willing to listen or your house can go “back on the market.” Once your home has fallen out of escrow or sits on the market awhile, it is harder to get a good offer.
Potential buyers will think you might be getting desperate, so they will make lower offers. Overpricing is never a good idea, remember to ask yourself this question:
When do I want my money?
Putting Your Best Foot Forward - Are You Ready to Show?
Your house should always be available for showings, even though it may occasionally be inconvenient for you. Allow your listing agent put a lock box in a convenient place, making it easy for other agents to show your house to buyers. Otherwise, agents will have to schedule appointments, which is an inconvenience. Most will just skip your house and show one with a more cooperative owner.
Typically agents will call in advance and give at least a couple of hours notice before showing your property. If you refuse to let them show it at that time, they will just skip your house. Even if they come back another time, it will probably be with different buyers and you may have just lost a chance to sell your home.
Homebuyers will feel like intruders if you are home when they visit, and they might not be as receptive toward viewing your home. Visit the local coffee house, yogurt shop, or take the kids to the local park. If you absolutely cannot leave, try to remain in an out of the way area of the house and do not move from room to room. Do not volunteer any information, but answer any questions the agent may ask.
When you know someone is coming to tour your house, turn on all indoor and outdoor lights – even during the day. At night, a lit house gives a “homey” impression when viewed from the street. During the daytime, turning on the lights prevents harsh shadows from sunlight and it brightens up any dim areas. Your house looks more homey and cheerful with the lights on.
Do not use scented sprays to prepare for showings. It is too obvious and many people find the smells of those sprays offensive, not to mention that some may be allergic. If you want to have a pleasant aroma in your house, use an essential oil diffuser, plug-in device or scented wax burner.
If you have pets, make sure your listing agent makes a note in the showing instructions and in the multiple listing service (MLS). No one wants your family pet escaping out the front door and getting lost or worse. If you know someone is coming to look at your house take the pets with you while the house is being shown. If this is not possible, keep the pets in a pen or kennel. Keep indoor cats in a specific room when you expect a showing, and put a sign on the door. Most of the time, an indoor cat will hide when buyers come to view your property, but they may panic and try to escape.
Not everyone makes the bed every day, but when you are trying to sell your house, it is recommended that you develop the habit. Pick up papers, do not leave empty glasses in the family room, keep everything freshly dusted and vacuumed. Try your best to have it look like a model home – a home with furniture but looking like no one really lives there.
Types of Listing Contracts
The “Open Listing” is mostly used by people trying to sell their home by owner who are also willing to work with real estate agents. Basically, it gives a real estate agent the right to show buyers your home. If that client buys your home, the agent earns a commission. There is nothing exclusive about an open listing and the seller can give the listing to every agent in town. For that reason, no agent is going to market your home or put it in the Multiple Listing Service. If your home fits the criteria for one of their buyers and is convenient, they may be willing to show it.
A “One-Time Show” is similar to an open listing in many respects, as it is most often used by real estate agents who are showing a FSBO (For Sale By Owner) to one of their buyers. The home seller signs the agreement, that identifies the potential buyer and guarantees the agent a commission should that buyer purchase the home. This prevents the buyer and seller from negotiating directly later and trying to avoid paying the agent’s commission. As with an open listing, agents will not be spending money on marketing your home and it will not be placed in the Multiple Listing System.
An “Exclusive Agency” listing allows an agent to list and market your home, guaranteeing them a commission if the house sells through any real estate agent or company. It also allows sellers to seek out buyers on their own. This type of listing agreement is not popular among agents since there is no incentive for agents to spend time and money marketing your home. If you come up with your own buyer, they have spent money they cannot earn back through the sales commission. Plus, it is too easy for a greedy buyer to go around the agent and negotiate directly with the seller.
If you find an agent willing to accept such a listing, do not expect too much from them. Most agents are commission salespeople and will not invest their time and marketing dollars into promoting a property where they will likely not see a return on their investment.
Giving a real estate agent the “Exclusive Right To Sell” your property does not mean that there will not be other agents involved. Your agent is the listing agent and part of his or her job is to market your home to other agents who work with buyers. Those agents will show your home to their clients. Regardless of who sells the home, even if you sell it yourself to a friend at work, your listing agent will earn a commission. The exclusive right to sell is the only type of listing agreement an effective real estate agent will accept. This is because they have a reasonable expectation of earning back any money they spend on promoting and marketing your property.
Listing Commissions and Related Issues
The commission amount is a percentage of the sales price that is determined when the listing agreement is signed. Some brokerage firms charge a flat fee for their services. Like many things in real estate, the commission rate is negotiable.
The listing agreement specifies a listing price. Your agent’s job is to present an offer from a “ready, willing and able” buyer. Once you reach an agreement with the buyer, the agent has done his job and earned the commission. When the sale closes, the real estate broker is paid from the proceeds of the sale.
If the buyer is unable or unwilling to conclude the sale, the house is put back on the market and the agent has to begin earning his or her commission all over again.
However, if the seller backs out or does not accept an offer that meets the price and terms of the listing agreement, the listing broker has still earned the commission. They may want to be paid, even though you did not actually sell your home. Therefore, it is very important to carefully consider every detail when completing the listing agreement and accepting an offer to sell your property.
During a “hot market” there is a certain marketing tactic which is effective but could cause trouble because of the way the contract is written. The practice of “under-pricing” the home in a hot market gets a lot of attention from other agents creating a flurry of showing activity. Often this leads to multiple offers being presented and a bidding war ensues, driving the sales price up. You may end up selling the house above the list price and perhaps above what you could have received if you had priced it traditionally.
This tactic has the potential to backfire, so you should be cover yourself to prevent having to pay a commission “just in case.”
The listing agreement usually states that if an offer is received that meets the terms presented in the contract (including price), the real estate agent has earned the commission – even if you decide not to sell. A reputable agent would not attempt to collect a commission if they were using the “under-pricing” tactic and it backfired, even if they are technically entitled to one. For that reason, you should specify your target price in the listing agreement noting when the agent has earned the commission.
The Listing Agent:
Marketing Your House
When you bought your house, you probably used the services of a real estate agent. Perhaps you were referred to that agent by a friend or family member, or as a result of advertising or marketing. The agent helped you find the house of your dreams, made an offer, closed the deal, and moved on.
Now its time to sell and you need a real estate agent again. Many sellers, especially those selling their first home, tend to think all agents are the same as the one that helped them buy their home.
Although real estate agents can (and do) work with both buyers and sellers, most tend to concentrate more on one than the other. They specialize. When you bought your home, you probably worked with a “buyer's agent” – an agent that represents mostly buyers. Public perception leads the general public think of real estate from the perspective of the Buyer's Agent.
As a result, many homeowners expect their listing agent to do the same things that a buyer's agent does – find someone to buy their home. After all, they do the things you would expect if they were searching for buyers. The for sale sign goes up in the front yard, advertising and marketing are put in place, and maybe the agent holds and open house or two.
But this is only “surface” marketing. Most of the important activity leading to a successful sale occurs behind the scenes.
Obviously when you put your house up for sale your agent will put a “for sale” sign in the front yard. The sign will identify the brokerage firm, the listing agent, and display contact information so prospective buyers can get more information.
Signs are great at generating phone calls, even if very few buyers actually purchase the home they call about. However, you might be one of the lucky ones. For that reason, you should determine what happens when someone calls the number on the sign. Does a live person answer the phone or does the call go to a voicemail or a recording?
You want someone to answer the phone while the caller is “hot.” When buyers call the number on the sign, the call should go to a live person who can answer questions immediately. A potential buyer may be on the street in front of your house.
Some for sale signs will have a flyer box attached that contains printed flyers outlining the details of the property. With today's high tech offerings, many brokerages are including QR codes on the sign that can be scanned offering a potential buyer the ability to contact the agent, see a virtual tour, schedule a showing or visit the website listing.
Another technology that is widely used is a code that buyers can text to and be provided with information about the property. A for sale sign isn't just a sign in the yard anymore, it is a virtual information station.
The Listing Agent:
Marketing Your House to Other Agents
The MLS is a database of all properties listed by local real estate agents who are members of the service, which is practically all local agents.
Important information about your property is listed here, from general data such as square footage, number of rooms, lot size, features, and amenities. There should be photos, associated documents and a short description describing the property.
Agents use the MLS to search for homes that fit the criteria of their buyers, paying special attention to homes that are new to the market. This is why you get a lot of activity right after the house goes on the market. Many agents want to preview the house before they show it to their clients.
Having your house listed in the MLS expands your sales force exponentially by the number of MLS members. Instead of one agent working to get your house sold, you now have hundreds or more, depending on the size of the community.
The listing agent’s main job to make sure that other agents know about your house. This is accomplished through the Multiple Listing Service, broker previews and marketing targeted toward agents, not just buyers.
One of the best sources of buyers for your home is other agents. Many offices will do office previews where they tour your house as a group. This allows the agents closest to your agent the chance to share your listing with their buyers first. There are also tours of new listings that are put on by REALTOR® organizations and affiliates that will include agents from many different offices.
They go through pretty quickly as they are looking for anything memorable or different and to determine if your house is a fit for any of the buyers they are working with
A broker preview is similar to an open house, except it is open to all agents. It usually occurs within the first week your house hits the market.
Nothing seems to attract a real estate agent like the offer of free food. If your agent offers snacks at a broker preview, you are likely to draw a bigger crowd.
Announcing a broker preview that offers breakfast treats, a brunch or lunch fare is sure to bring out the agents.
Some agents actually to come to look at your house – whether food is offered or not.
Marketing flyers feature photos and facts so that prospective buyers and other agents are provided with information about your house.
The flyers are shared with other real estate offices in the area. Some agents keep the flyers and bring buyers to your house.
Your agent probably belongs to a local REALTOR® association that holds regular meetings, networking opportunities, and special events. These get-togethers offer chances for your agent to tell about their listings and other agents stand up and tell about their buyers. Your listing agent has an opportunity to “pitch” your house at these events.
The Listing Agent:
Marketing Your House to Home Buyers
Sellers like to be assured that their agent and/or brokerage will run ads featuring their home. Newspaper, magazine and internet advertising are all usually part of a marketing plan, but not for the reason you expect.
The main purpose of advertising is not to sell your house directly. Advertising creates phone calls and some of the callers become buyer clients of the agents taking the calls. This creates a pool of buyers in general, all represented by buyer's agents. Multiply that by all the agents and companies who also advertise homes, and there is a sizable pool of buyers in the market at any given time – represented by buyer's agents.
The agents representing these buyers know about your home because it is listed in the Multiple Listing Service, has been on office and broker preview, and because your agent may have also sent flyers to other real estate offices.
They match their buyers with available homes, one of which may be yours. They show the homes to their buyers, who eventually make an offer and that is how your house gets sold.
Advertising your home in newspapers and magazines rarely sells your home. More likely than not, the buyer who eventually purchases your home will have called on a totally different house. The same thing happens with buyers who call on your house. They will probably buy something else.
But you may be one of the lucky ones – someone calling about your house may actually end up buying it!
You should also realize that when a brokerage advertises the homes they have for sale, there is more than one objective. Sure, the real estate office wants to generate phone calls and sell houses, but the advertising also shows home sellers how effectively they market properties. This impresses not only you but others who may be thinking of selling their home.
The advertising brings in more listings, which generate more ad calls, which produces more buyers….and that is how real estate advertising really works.
Individual agents may advertise your home for the same reasons as their brokerage does. These ads rarely sell your home because once again, the main goals of advertising are to attract homebuyers as clients and to show you and future home sellers with how they market their listings. Some agents actually do sell their own listings, but more often than not, it is another agent who brings the buyer.
It's more productive and beneficial for your listing agent to direct their marketing efforts toward other agents. This is “behind the scenes” marketing that makes it difficult for you to measure how hard the agent is working for you.
It is a mistake to measure your agent’s effectiveness solely by counting the number of newspaper and magazine ads featuring your property.
When your home first hits the market many agents send “announcements” to the other houses in your neighborhood. This can be done in the form of postcards, a letter, or flyers. These are important because your neighbors might have family or friends who are looking to buy a house.
The announcements create “word of mouth” advertising, which is the best kind.
Hosting an open house when your property is first hits the market can be very important, but not for the reasons you might think. Just as with advertising, most visitors to open houses rarely buy the house they come to look at. They may not even know the price of your home when they stop by to take a look – they probably just followed the “Open House” signs to your door.
The open house performs a similar function to the neighborhood announcements – it lets all of your neighbors know that your house is for sale, and invites them to come “take a look.” Being generally nosy, many neighbors take advantage of the invitation.
They may tell their friends about your house, creating more “word of mouth” advertising.
There are other reasons for hosting an open house. Listing agents who “farm” a particular neighborhood use them as an opportunity to meet with area homeowners who may someday be selling their home. Your agent may hope to list those homes in the future.
The open house held after your home has been on the market awhile is not usually helpful in selling it. Your neighbors already know your house is for sale and open house visitors rarely buy the homes they visit.
The Listing Agreement
The price is always the main concern when determining the terms of sale. You have a basic idea of what your home is worth and you have probably interviewed a couple of real estate agents and have their recommendation. Exercise care in setting your list price, making sure not to set it too high or too low.
In addition to the list price, you will disclose what personal property, if any, goes with the house when you sell it. Personal property is anything that is not attached or fixed to the home, such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, etc.
There may be some item that is considered “real property” that you do not intend to include in the sale. Real property is anything that is attached to the home. For example, you may have a chandelier that has been in your family for generations and you take it from home to home when you move. Since the chandelier is attached to the house, it is considered “real property” and a reasonable buyer would normally expect it to go with the house. It is important to notate those items in the listing agreement and contract as exclusions. It is even better to remove the item and replace it with something else before your house goes on the market.
A lockbox is a basically a padlock with a cavity inside where a key to your home can be placed. Only someone with an electronic key or the combination can get into the lockbox and access the key. Having a lockbox available at your house makes it easy for other agents to get access to your house for showings.
Without the lockbox, agents representing buyers would have to set appointments to meet you or your agent at the house so they could gain access and view the home. This is inconvenient. Almost every other house does have a lockbox and not allowing one will cause many agents to pass you over resulting in missed showings.
The listing agreement specifies whether you allow a lockbox or not. Only other agents can access the key that is located within the lockbox.
The listing agreement will specify that your agent is acting as a “seller’s agent.” This means that, in the sale of your house, they are working for you and only you. However, there may be times when your listing agent has a client who wants to buy your home. In this case, there is a section of the in the listing agreement that explains the duties of your listing agent and can authorize them to work with a buyer as well.
The contract also provides permission for your listing agent to act as an agent for others on other transactions. They can continue to list other properties, and represent buyers looking at other homes.
There may be a time when you and your agent have a disagreement that you cannot resolve by yourselves. Maybe you feel the agent did a poor job or misrepresented something. Maybe your agent was really doing their job correctly, but you did not understand. Perhaps the agent has a dispute with you.
The listing agreement specifies the methods available to settle disputes. Options include binding arbitration, which is usually cheaper than hiring a lawyer and going to court. Usually, matters that can go to small claims court are excluded from binding arbitration.
You are not required to sign or initial the binding arbitration clause. This would leave you free to hire an attorney and pursue disputes in civil court instead of binding arbitration. Consult your attorney for advice on this legal matter.
Moving is ranked as one of the top five sources of stress. How you handle your children before and during the sale of your home can help reduce some of their stress – and yours! Experts recommend the following for a smoother transition:
Children should only be told of a planned move once the decision has been made. Discussing the possibility of a move beforehand causes unnecessary anxiety, according to many child psychologists.
Minimize the stress your children feel when moving by getting them involved in their favorite activities – athletic, academic or artistic – BEFORE the move occurs. Children can use the Internet to find out about their favorite activities, events or teams, as well as other interesting facts about their new area.
Another way to help children adjust to a new environment is to allow them to become familiar with the area before the move. Take a vacation, or short trip to your new location to allow them to get to know the area.
Let your children stay with relatives or friends during the actual packing and loading process. That will relieve the stress of seeing their possessions packed into boxes and taken away.
You may have about “exchanging” an investment property to avoid taxes being taken out of their sale proceeds. An exchange of real property can be a valuable tool to defer or avoid capital gains tax on real estate transactions.
Section 1031 of the IRS Code offers real estate investors a great investment opportunity to build wealth and save taxes. By completing a 1031 tax-deferred exchange, you sell an investment property, use all or part of the equity to acquire a replacement investment property, defer the capital gains tax that would ordinarily be paid, and leverage all of your equity into a replacement property.
Replacement property acquired in an exchange must be of “like-kind” or similar to the property being sold. The following are examples of properties that could be eligible for a 1031 exchange:
- Single Family Rental
- Multi-Family Rentals
- Raw Land
- Retail Offices
- Golf Course
- Leases of 30 years or more
You’ve probably spent so much time and effort on making sure your home sells for the best price possible that you may not realize there’s more to do! Now that the SOLD sign is in your yard, here are some things you can do to get ready for the move.
Stop by your local post office to pick up a change of address form so your mail will be forwarded to your new home. If you’re not sure of your next permanent address, consider renting a post office box for a few months to guarantee your mail delivery will not be interrupted.
Be sure to notify anyone who provides you with service at your home that you are moving – landscapers, home cleaners or window washers. If you are moving out of the area, ask for recommendations of service providers you could use at your new home.
It’s time to decide now which belongings have sentimental value, and which you can part with. Set a weekend aside to have a moving sale and arrange for a local charity to come by and pick up whatever doesn’t sell. This will make it much easier to pack and will also save you money, since movers generally charge by the pound.
Getting started on these activities will ensure that you and your family experience a smooth transition to your next property.
Call and schedule a date for termination of utilities, phone and cable services so you don’t pay for service after you move.
Give children a job to do during moving preparations. Boxing up their books or toys gets them involved with, and excited about, the move.
Exchanges usually involve slightly greater costs than sales, so not every transaction should be an exchange.
Your personal tax advisor can offer information specific to your situation and help you determine if a 1031 is right for you.
Don’t pack your child’s security blanket or other favorite toy. It should travel with your child instead.
Moving during the middle of the school year allows your children to make new friends right away.
- Make sure your entranceway says “Hey, look at me!”
- Paint (or touch up) exterior, and repair screens and windows.
- Check A/C and heating systems.
- Fix leaky faucets, toilets, and faulty lights.
- Repair wall cracks, re-caulk bathrooms and kitchen.
- Mow lawn, edge driveway and walkways.
- Throw out junk from garage and storage areas.
- Prune dead limbs from trees.
- Clean your windows.
- Vacuum drapes and carpets.
- Clear out closets.
- Remove excess furniture.
- Ensure windows, doors, and locks work smoothly.
- Weed flowerbeds and trim shrubs.
- If you have a pool, make it crystal clear.
Buying or selling a home is a major decision in your life. Before you begin, find a professional you can trust. Your REALTOR® will be an important advisor during one of the most personal and exciting experiences of your life. It is OK to be very careful about choosing someone you feel comfortable with.
Look for the word “REALTOR®”
The first factor to understand is the difference between a REALTOR® and a real estate agent. The word “REALTOR®” can only be used by professionals who are members of the National Association of REALTOR®s (and, locally, the Houston Association of REALTOR®s).
In order to be a member, an agent must agree to abide by a strict code of ethics based on values of competency, fairness, and high integrity. Among other strict standards, REALTOR®s can not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
An agent who has become a REALTOR® has committed to a higher standard of service and professionalism.
Interview potential REALTOR®s
When you meet a potential REALTOR®, be ready to interview him or her just as you would interview any person you might be hiring for a job. Here are some good questions to ask:
1. How long have you worked in real estate? Is real estate your full-time job? Real estate is a complex business. Experience and commitment definitely count.
2. Are you a licensed REALTOR®? Are you a member of the Houston Association of REALTOR®s? Do you belong to the HAR MLS? Agents who cannot actually call themselves REALTOR®s have not sworn to uphold the profession’s code of ethics. REALTOR® members of HAR have access to all of the most current information and training on the real estate business. Members of HAR’s MLS (Multiple Listing Service) can search through thousands of properties in Greater Houston to find a list of those that meet your specific needs.
3. How many buyers and sellers have you worked with this year? How many of them have “closed a deal” with you? “Closing” on a home means seeing the process through to the final details of the contract and the transaction. The average agent closes 10 to 15 transactions a year. A REALTOR® who closes on a lot of homes may be able to help you buy or sell a property much quicker than others. On the other hand, a REALTOR® who only closes a few transactions a year may have more time to spend with you. The choice is yours.
4. Do you have any assistants who work with you? What do they do? Some REALTOR®s have a team of staff people to help meet customers’ needs faster and more efficiently. If your REALTOR® does enough business to have assistants, make sure that the REALTOR® personally handles any negotiations including the contract and closing. It is perfectly OK for an assistant to handle paperwork and home tours.
5. Do you have any designations, certifications or special training? REALTOR®s learn as much as they can about the real estate business with continuing education. Some kinds of education result in special designations for the REALTOR®. For example, if you are interested in a historic home, there are agents who have special designations and understand the unique market conditions of the older home.
6. How do you stay in touch with your clients? If your REALTOR® prefers to send e-mail, but you wa