How to Improve the Odds of an Offer
1 Price it right. Set a price at the lower end of your property’s realistic price range.
2 Prepare for visitors. Get your house market ready at least two weeks before you begin showing it.
3 Be flexible about showings. It’s often disruptive to have a house ready to show at the spur of the moment. But the more amenable you can be about letting people see your home, the sooner you’ll find a buyer.
4 Anticipate the offers. Decide in advance what price and terms you’ll find acceptable.
5 Don’t refuse to drop the price. If your home has been on the market for more than 30 days without an offer, you should be prepared to at least consider lowering your asking price.
8 Quick Fixes to Increase Value
To attract buyers, sellers must up the ante to convince them that their property offers what many want most — top value for dollar expended. Here are eight fast fixes:
1 Buff up curb appeal. You’ve heard it before, but it’s critical to get buyers to want to look on the inside. Be objective. View your property from the street. Check the condition of the landscaping, paint, roof, shutters, front door, knocker, windows, house number, and even how window treatments look from the outside. Add something special — such as big flower pots or an antique bench — to help viewers remember house A from B.
2 Enrich with color. Paint’s cheap, but forget the adage that it must be white or neutral. Just don’t get too avant-garde with jarring pinks, oranges, and purples. Recommend soft colors that say “welcome,” lead the eye from room to room, and flatter skin tones. Think soft yellows and pale greens. Tint ceilings a lighter shade.
3 Upgrade the kitchen and bathroom. These make-or-break rooms can spur a sale. But besides making each squeaky clean and clutter-free, update the pulls, sinks, and faucets. In a kitchen, add one cool appliance, such as an espresso maker. In the bathroom, hang a flat-screen TV to mimic a hotel. Room service, anyone?
4 Add old-world patina. Make Andrea Palladio proud. Install crown molding at least six to nine inches in depth, proportional to the room’s size, and architecturally compatible. For ceilings nine feet high or higher, add dentil.
5 Screen hardwood floors. Buyers favor wood over carpet, but refinishing is costly and time-consuming. Screening cuts dust, time, and expense. What it entails: a light sanding, not a full stripping of color or polyurethane, then a coat of finish.
6 Clean out, organize closets. Get sorting — organize your piles into “don’t need,” “haven’t worn,” and “keep.” Closets must be only half-full so buyers can visualize fitting their stuff in.
7 Update window treatments. Buyers want light and views, not dated, fancy-schmancy drapes that darken. To diffuse light and add privacy, consider energy-efficient shades and blinds.
8 Hire a home inspector. Do a preemptive strike, since busy home owners seek maintenance-free living. Fix problems before you list your home.
5 Things to do Before Putting Your Home on the Market
1 Have a pre-sale home inspection. Be proactive by arranging for a pre-sale home inspection. An inspector will be able to give you a good indication of the trouble areas that will stand out to potential buyers, and you’ll be able to make repairs before open houses begin.
2 Organize and clean. Pare down clutter and pack up your least-used items, such as large blenders and other kitchen tools, out-of-season clothes, toys, and exercise equipment. Store items off-site or in boxes neatly arranged in the garage or basement. Clean the windows, carpets, walls, lighting fixtures, and baseboards to make the house shine.
3 Get replacement estimates. Do you have big-ticket items that are worn our or will need to be replaced soon, such as your roof or carpeting? Get estimates on how much it would cost to replace them, even if you don’t plan to do it yourself. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home, and will be handy when negotiations begin.
4 Find your warranties. Gather up the warranties, guarantees, and user manuals for the furnace, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and any other items that will remain with the house.
5 Spruce up the curb appeal. Pretend you’re a buyer and stand outside of your home. As you approach the front door, what is your impression of the property? Do the lawn and bushes look neatly manicured? Is the address clearly visible? Are pretty flowers or plants framing the entrance? Is the walkway free from cracks and impediments?
1 Hire a good agent. A professional who knows your community and has a good track record will go a long way in helping find a buyer.
2 Clean out the clutter. Open spaces look best. Clean, and clean some more to make a good first impression.
3 Spiff up your property. Make any improvements that will enhance the way your home shows. When possible, stick with the simplest and less expensive options to be sure the buying price covers your investment.
4 Determine the worth. Know the fair market value of your home. Your REALTOR® can help you assess the cost. You may also want to have your home appraised.
5 Price it right! A REALTOR® can help you objectively set the price so that it reflects the value of your home and the trends of the community.
6 Come up with a plan. Are you set on your price? Eager to move? How low are you willing to go?
7 Get pre-approved for your next move. If you’re looking to buy another house, make sure you know your financial situation.
8 Figure out your selling costs. Commission, ad costs, attorney fees, taxes and prorated costs may all come into play. Real estate agents deal with transactions every day and can give you a very close estimate of seller costs.
9 Set the stage. Before a buyer tours your home, clean the windows, open the curtains, replace light bulbs and turn on the lights, display fresh flowers. A bright, good-smelling home is a welcoming home.
10 It’s show time! Be ready and willing to have your home shown any given day … even with short notice. Making it difficult for buyers to see will make it difficult to sell.
What Not to Overlook on a Final Walk-through
It’s guaranteed to be hectic right before closing, but you should always make time for a final walk-through. Your goal is to make sure that your home is in the same condition you expected it would be. Ideally, the sellers already have moved out. This is your last chance to check that appliances are in working condition and that agreed-upon repairs have been made. Here’s a detailed list of what not to overlook for on your final walk-through. Make sure that:
Repairs you’ve requested have been made. Obtain copies of paid bills and warranties.
There are no major changes to the property since you last viewed it.
All items that were included in the sale price — draperies, lighting fixtures, etc. — are still there.
Screens and storm windows are in place or stored.
All appliances are operating, such as the dishwasher, washer and dryer, oven, etc.
Intercom, doorbell, and alarm are operational.
Hot water heater is working.
No plants or shrubs have been removed from the yard.
Heating and air conditioning system is working.
Garage door opener and other remotes are available.
Instruction books and warranties on appliances and fixtures are available.
All personal items of the sellers and all debris have been removed. Check the basement, attic, and every room, closet, and crawlspace.
Get Your Finances in Order
1 Develop a household budget. Instead of creating a budget of what you’d like to spend, use receipts to create a budget that reflects your actual spending habits over the last several months. This approach will factor in unexpected expenses, such as car repairs, as well as predictable costs such as rent, utility bills, and groceries.
2 Reduce your debt. Lenders generally look for a total debt load of no more than 36 percent of income. This figure includes your mortgage, which typically ranges between 25 and 28 percent of your net household income. So you need to get monthly payments on the rest of your installment debt — car loans, student loans, and revolving balances on credit cards — down to between 8 and 10 percent of your net monthly income.
3 Look for ways to save. You probably know how much you spend on rent and utilities, but little expenses add up, too. Try writing down everything you spend for one month. You’ll probably spot some great ways to save, whether it’s cutting out that morning trip to Starbucks or eating dinner at home more often.
4 Increase your income. Now’s the time to ask for a raise! If that’s not an option, you may want to consider taking on a second job to get your income at a level high enough to qualify for the home you want.
5 Save for a down payment. Designate a certain amount of money each month to put away in your savings account. Although it’s possible to get a mortgage with only 5 percent down, or even less, you can usually get a better rate if you put down a larger percentage of the total purchase. Aim for a 20 percent down payment.
6 Keep your job. While you don’t need to be in the same job forever to qualify for a home loan, having a job for less than two years may mean you have to pay a higher interest rate.
7 Establish a good credit history. Get a credit card and make payments by the due date. Do the same for all your other bills, too. Pay off the entire balance promptly.
5 Common Homebuyer Mistakes
They don’t ask enough questions of their lender and end up missing out on the best deal.
2 They don’t act quickly enough to make a decision and someone else buys the house.
3 They don’t find the right agent who’s willing to help them through the homebuying process.
4 They don’t do enough to make their offer look appealing to a seller.
5 They don’t think about resale before they buy. The average first-time buyer only stays in a home for four years. Will the home you want easily sell without much additional work?
Stay put. Commit yourself to your new home for at least 4 – 7 years before making your next move.
2 Money matters. If you’re considering a mortgage, shore up your credit and get a copy of your credit report.
3 Get pre-approved. Save yourself the time and grief of looking at houses you can’t afford.
4. Determine how large your mortgage can be. Explore different loan options to determine the best scenario for you.
5 Decide what and where you want to buy. Prioritize your needs (location, schools, local amenities, home features).
6 Consider your resale value even if you don’t think you’ll be moving.
7 Do your homework. Write a contract based on current sales trends of similar homes in the neighborhood.
8 Calculate the hidden costs. Property taxes, insurance, maintenance, and homeowner association fees can impact your wallet over time.
9 Don’t be house poor. Double and triple check to be sure you haven’t maxed yourself out on the cost of your home and have nothing left for repairs.
10 Get help. Use a REALTOR® to get the most for your money. It pays to have someone looking out for your interests.
Seven Reasons to Own your Own Home
1 Tax breaks. The U.S. Tax Code lets you deduct the interest you pay on your mortgage, your property taxes, as well as some of the costs involved in buying your home.
2 Appreciation. Real estate has long-term, stable growth in value. While year-to-year fluctuations are normal, median existing-home sale prices have increased on average 6.5 percent each year from 1972 through 2005, and increased 88.5 percent over the last 10 years, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. In addition, the number of U.S. households is expected to rise 15 percent over the next decade, creating continued high demand for housing.
3 Equity. Money paid for rent is money that you’ll never see again, but mortgage payments let you build equity ownership interest in your home.
4 Savings. Building equity in your home is a ready-made savings plan. And when you sell, you can generally take up to $250,000 ($500,000 for a married couple) as gain without owing any federal income tax.
5 Predictability. Unlike rent, your fixed-mortgage payments don’t rise over the years so your housing costs may actually decline as you own the home longer. However, keep in mind that property taxes and insurance costs will increase.
6 Freedom. The home is yours. You can decorate any way you want and benefit from your investment for as long as you own the home.
7 Stability. Remaining in one neighborhood for several years gives you a chance to participate in community activities, lets you and your family establish lasting friendships, and offers your children the benefit of educational continuity.