Some evidence is beginning to trickle in of a rebound in housing. How much of an improvement depends largely on where you live, though it seems that most markets continue to be sluggish. It’s still a tough time to sell a house!
So if you need to sell your home, either to move to another one or maybe in an attempt to lower your living expenses, what can you do to stack the deck in your favor?
Several things actually:
1. Use a real estate agent
It’s typical that in a slow housing market, sellers will attempt to sell their homes without using a real estate agent. As a matter of dollars and sense, this seems logical—after all, why pay a real estate agent 6% of the sale price if you can sell it yourself without having to pay it at all?
The reason you shouldn’t try to sell it yourself can be summed up in one word: exposure.
Even if a real estate agent doesn’t work as hard as you’d like to sell your property, she can do one thing you can’t do, and that’s get the property listed on the local multiple listing service. Usually, those services have national tie-ins as well, meaning that your home will appear on listings across the country, in addition to all over the local area.
You can’t get that exposure on your own, and one of the best parts of it is that you won’t have to pay for any of it unless the home sells. Working without this benefit—especially in a slow market—is like selling your home with both hands tied behind your back.
2. Continue to market the home yourself
I know what you’re thinking, “If I’m hiring a real estate agent, why should I have to market the house?” Answer: because you want to sell it! Recognize that an agent is just one component in your plan to market and sell your home—and you should employ every method available.
While the agent lists your home on the multiple listing service, you can work to help your own cause by posting flyers around town, advertising in your local newspaper or on Craigslist, and sending out periodic messages to everyone on your personal and business email lists.
There’s a strong possibility that your agent will get the commission even if you sell the home yourself. Most agents will have you sign a listing agreement that will provide that they’ll get paid no matter who sells the home during the term of the agreement. You can get around this by including a clause in the listing agreement that specifically nullifies the payment of a commission if you sell your home by your own efforts. (The agent will kick and tell you it isn’t possible, but keep looking until you find an agent who will.)
3. “Stage” the house
Even in a slow market, the condition of the home makes a difference. Real estate agents can recommend “stagers” who come into your home and make suggestions on how to arrange and maintain your home in a way that will maximize both buyer interest and offering prices. They normally charge several hundred dollars for this service, but it can be the difference between selling quickly or not selling at all.
4. Set the price a little below market
Usually, when a person first lists his or her home for sale, there’s a tendency to price the home at the upper end of the market range. While this can work in strong markets, it can doom your home to months of sitting on the market with few lookers and no offers.
It’s a reality that the longer a home sits on the market the less likely it will be to sell. Price it a little below market if you’d like to sell quickly, and be prepared to cut still further as conditions warrant. A house is worth no more than a willing buyer is willing to pay for it, no matter how much we think is should sell for.
5. Offer to pay closing costs and escrows
Money is always the primary issue in the purchase of a home, so the more affordable you can make yours the more likely you’ll be to sell it. By offering to pay closing costs and escrows, you’re reducing the amount of cash that the buyer needs to bring to closing.
This is especially attractive for first time home buyers, many of whom have had to work hard just to come up with a minimum down payment and will need to rely on gifts from family members for everything else. The more you can lighten this burden, the more attractive your home will be. Remember too that by paying closing costs and escrows, you can be in a position to hold on for a higher sale price.
6. Be prepared to be flexible
Finally, bring an attitude of flexibility to the sale of your home. It’s a buyers market—which means the buyer is in control. If he’s not pleased with the deal you’re offering, he can move down the street and talk to someone else. Just signaling a willingness to be flexible can give the buyer a good feeling about you and about your home.
This means being flexible not only with regard to price and closing costs, but also showing a willingness to complete repairs the buyer may ask for, or in scheduling the closing date. The more “user friendly” you can be, the more attractive the deal will be for the buyer—especially if he’s already had experience with sellers who played hard ball.
Selling your home is all about sales—and if you’ve never been in sales in your life, you’ll need to adopt that mindset in a hurry.
Have you sold your home in the past couple of years? What worked for you? What didn’t? What can you advise others looking to sell their homes?
(photo credit: Casey Serin)
This post is from FiscalGeek staff writer: Kevin Mercadante. I’m very excited to have him contributing to the site. You can find out more about him at his own blog OutOfYourRut.com.