10 Tips For Selling Your Home
The following are 10 tips for selling your home. These tips will help you likely earn far more than you thought possible, and sell quickly even in a buyer’s market. Sometimes they pay off simply by getting it sold in a tough market, and sometimes they pay off with 10’s of thousands of dollars more than some “experts” tell you your home is worth.
Tip 1 for Selling Your Home: Decide if you want to use a Realtor, or Sell it Yourself
If you like to learn and feel confident to sell by yourself, then you can do for sale by owner (often abbreviated FSBO). If so, then you need to determine your home’s market price, and find the proper channels to market your home. For example, you can put it on Zillow or Julia, etc. In most states of the USA, with online searching, you may be able to find an Realtor who agrees to put your home on MLS for a flat fee which is usually a few hundred dollars. MLS is still the primary marketing channel for homes in the USA. You can also get real estate sales contract template and other necessary templates online for free. You can shop for an escrow company or use the one the buyer’s agent recommends.
On the other hand, if you don’t have the time or feel like to do all these by yourself, then take time to find the best Realtor around.
In the case you aren’t totally feel comfortable to sell by yourself but really want to save that 6%, you could give yourself a chance to start from for sale by owner, for a period of time and later switch to the Realtor if that doesn’t work out well for you.
In the situation you really want to sell your home ASAP, you could consider using ibuyer or similar services, but expect to get less or potentially much less than a traditional sale.
2. Find a Great Realtor (if you decide not to sell it yourself)
When interviewing Realtors for the job of selling your home, you can identify the best ones by asking some key questions:
- How many homes did you sell last year? Average Realtors sell about 10-13 homes a year.
- Do you offer professional photography or videography?
- Do you use drone for the video?
- Can I have a look at your other listings’ photos/videos?
- Do you offer staging?
- Where and how do you market the listings?
- Are you flexible to work at off hours or weekend?
- Can I talk to a few your clients and ask their experience?
- Would you agree to not also represent the buyer? Realtors love it when they can represent both sides of a transaction, and make a double commission. However, if they represent both parties, you no longer have an advocate who is entirely obligated to represent your interests.
- Can I cancel the contract at any time? Good Realtors are comfortable with this arrangement, knowing they can always do a good job, rather than relying on your obligation to keep them as your listing agent.
- With the questions above, you can find and hire an outstanding Realtor.
3. Decide on a Sale Price.
Even if you are hiring a Realtor, it is still highly recommended that you do your own research to find the best asking price. Assessors use what they call “comps,” which are nearby similar houses that have recently sold. Their sales price will help you to determine the actual market value of your home.
Find about 6 other houses nearby that have sold in the last 6 months or so. The more recent, the better. Find some that are not as big and/or nice as your home, and some that are bigger and with more features than your home. Then for each recent sale, adjust the price to match the size and features of your home. For size, you can add or subtract according to the average price per square foot in your neighborhood. You can add or subtract according to the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, lot size, and major features such as pool, landscaping, solar panels, major appliances, etc.
Websites like Zillow will help a lot with finding recent sales and details of the comp, but don’t automatically trust the estimates they give you. Then you can compare your research to what your Realtor found. You know your upgrades, expansions, neighborhood and nearby places better than anyone else. Realtors can easily make mistakes or overlook details.
4. Deep Clean Your Home
This is SO important! Most of people prefer to buy brand new merchandise over the used one, if they could.
If you can make your home look and feel like a brand new home, you stand above your competitions and that means you can ask for a higher price!
Even details that are not easily noticed consciously by people touring your home are ALWAYS noticed subconsciously.
And here is a key thing to know about the buying decision process: People make their decisions mostly subconsciously, and afterward think of reasons to justify consciously what they have already decided subconsciously.
So you have to make your home appeal to everyone’s subconscious. That means making it beautiful in such detail that it’s too much for the conscious mind to notice, but it just gives a beautiful “feeling.”
That includes detailed cleaning, like you may have never done before.
The cleaning list includes:
- Professional shampoo your carpet
- Steam clean your tiles
- Touch up paint on the walls, doors, including exterior and garage
- Deodorize your home if it doesn’t smell fresh.
- Repair or replace damaged furniture
- Clean and polish furniture, kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets.
- Not a pet hair in sight.
- Drawers and shelves are all cleaned and touch up paint.
- Eliminate all stains in drawers, shelves, walls, everywhere.
- Windows, mirrors shine.
- Clean all deposits off the glass doors in shower. Make them clear as new.
- All faucets, sinks are clean and shine.
- All toilets are cleaned without yellow ring (lime stone will scratch off the yellow ring) and keep lid closed.
- Fridge, microwave, oven, stove are all cleaned so they look new.
- Front and backyard no weeds, no dead plants, no pet droppings, no bird droppings.
- Leave some cleaning materials in a closet if you don’t live there. You can make a quick clean right before showing your home if it is needed.
- Repair or replace anything that’s broken.
5. Upgrade Your Home
There are some upgrades that usually pay you back in a higher sales price, and sometimes pay back many times more (cha-ching!) Among those high payback upgrades are:
- Landscaping. This is at the top of the list for a reason. It’s usually the highest payback item. Flowers, potted and/or planted are cheap and lift up the appearance a lot. It’s not too expensive to plant new sod if your lawn is looking substandard. You can put a few flowers pots in front of your door to welcome buyers and plant some flowers/bushes in different height, color, variation in groups, hanging flower baskets or plants around patio.
- Replace old carpet. New carpet can be cheap. Tile and wood are more expensive, but will still pay back if there is too much carpet in the house.
- Repaint the interior if any paint does not look new.
- Replace plumbing fixtures if they’re very old and/or won’t shine up nicely.
- Replace wall plates and/or light switches and/or electrical outlets if they’re old or look not new.
- Replace light fixtures if they look at all old.
- Stainless steel appliances.
- Replace cabinet fixtures (handles/knobs)
- If your cabinets look old and/or beat up, they can be resurfaced and restained to look new again.
- Nice new patio furniture
6. Stage Your Home
The goal is to make your home beautiful and desirable. If you have already moved out, leave behind a few of your nicest decorations and furniture items. If you still live there, you need to do an extreme declutter.
Staging an Empty House
It doesn’t have to be expensive and it can be easy and simple too. You can get ideas from magazines and online interior design pictures, or tour model homes in your area. Ideally, pick a style that takes advantage of materials you already have. Start from adding decorations of lower cost but most beautiful first, and add more according to your budget.
You can consider:
Very fluffy luxury looking bedding, especially many pillows
Plants and flowers, fake or real, on tables and/or counter tops.
Fake trees to fill corners. One tree per room is plenty.
Paintings on the walls
Rugs on the floor
Small decorations in the kitchen and bathroom.
Decorate your dining table(s) with fancy plates/silverware, etc.
Staging a House You Live In
The key concept is to mostly hide all your stuff, except a bare minimum that makes your home look like a model home. This includes your family pictures, your hobby stuff, your pet stuff, and more. For example, if you have a high end stainless steel cooking ware set, keep just one piece on the stove and put away the rest.
Make sure you neatly organize all the closets, drawers, and pantry. They should be about half full. A full closet feels like clutter. Make sure all the clothes are folded or hung nicely.
If you have many things, you can consider moving most things to a storage unit, and/or have a garage sale.
7. Hire a Professional Photographer
If your Realtor doesn’t offer this for free, you would really benefit from hiring your own photographer. It will cost you a few hundred bucks, but it is well worth it as it almost always gets more interest. You might also want to consider hiring a videographer because data shows that a video, especially with drone footage, will sell your home about 60% faster.
Beware of photography companies that have beautiful real estate pictures displayed on their website, but the photographer you get is a beginner, without proper gear, lights, and sometimes not even a tripod.
You need to see an individual photographer’s own work before hiring them, and ask them some questions in an interview:
- Do you use a tripod to take multiple exposures for a single scene?
- Do you use a powerful flash (or two) with which to light up darker corners of a scene?
- Do you know how to blend exposures digitally?
- Can you do window pulls? (If they can’t explain what a window pull is, consider another photographer).
- (Optional) Can you do twilight photos? (These usually cost more, but are awesome for the outdoor photos.
- Can you swap the sky for outdoor photos if it’s a cloudy or rainy day? They might want to charge more for this service, but it’s often worth it.
There are private photographers are offering great work with good price.
Before the photographer comes:
- Turn on all the lights, inside and outside. Don’t forget the patio, swimming pool, and yard.
- Keep all the fans turned off, because the running fan will cause blur on photos.
- Light fires if you have fireplace (indoor and outdoor)
- Light candles, tiki torches, etc.
- Turn off the TV, unless you display a nice still picture.
- Park your cars away from driveway or garage if you want to show garage pictures.
- Hide your big trash bins.
- Make sure your pets won’t disturb or get in the way of the photographer.
If you can part a few more tens of bucks, you can have a twilight shoot which is around sunset time, when the interior and exterior light is about equal, with a good photographer, your home will look really amazing.
In general, try to avoid noon time when the sun is too bright. A bright sun leaves harsh shadows, and makes bright places too bright and dark places too dark. A good photographer can partially correct that in their touch up software, but it is still better if you can schedule the shoot around 4 to 5pm when the sunlight is very soft.
8. Show Your Home Professionally
Try to schedule a few hours before a buyer’s visit to touch up your home, especially if you live there.
- Put away any clutter that snuck in after your big decluttering, such as dirty laundry, shampoo bottles, etc.
- Turn on AC or heater to a pleasant temperature if you haven’t already.
- Turn on all the lights, inside and outside, fireplaces, inside and ouside (if it is safe and pleasent to leave on).
- Difuse or spray some nice essential oils
- Play some delightful music
- Cut some fresh flowers from your yard and put them in vases on differrent tables/countertops.
- Keep some cookie dough ready to bake, and put some cookies in the oven, about half an hour before their arrival, such that the smell of baked cookies permeates your home. Put the cookies out on a plate and leave a note for your visitors to please enjoy them. The goal is to make your potential buyers have the best feeling of “home.”
- If you have a lot of upgrades, prepare a slideshow which you can display on a TV or something like a digital picture frame to show the details and benefits of the upgrades to your home.
A lot of buyers enjoy to see your home by themselves. So if this is comfortable for you, it is better to bring your family and pets away before their visits and let the agent to notify you after they leave.
9. Why I don't get offers?
Say you did everything, and you showed to more than 10 potential buyers in a normal market, but still no offers. Usually that means something is less than desirable. You need to get feedback from the buyers who toured your home, their agents and your agent if you are using one.
You can also ask your agent to invite their network agents to visit your home and diagnosis the problem(s). You don’t always have to just lower the price. There could be a problem you didn’t know of that is making people not feel great about your home, and feedback can be very valuable.
10. Is it a problem I have renters living in my home while I am selling it?
Trying to sell your home with renters living in it will make the tips above virtually impossible to carry out well, and therefore difficult to get even average prices in a buyer’s market. In a seller’s market, you may be OK, but still unable to get as much as you could with a beautifully staged, empty house.
The only people who might like that you have renters living in your home are investors, but they are much more price sensitive. All the tips above to make people fall in love with your home do not work as well on investors who are looking first and foremost at the dollar figures. So in general, renters living in your house while you’re trying to sell it is a liability.
Getting renters to move out can be a relatively painless experience if you’re willing to work with them, even if the current contract has not expired. Usually with an offer of the last month or two rent free is plenty for renters to be willing to move out without protest.
At this point you may be telling yourself, “These tips are crazy! They cost so much time and money. Maybe I’ll do a few of these part way, but that’s it. I don’t want to bust my behind.”
In our personal experience, following these tips completely, we’ve consistently gotten a sales price above the typical market price for houses in the area. Two of our houses sold at full asking price, from the first family that came to look. This was in a buyer’s market at the time, selling FSBO. One of them sold at $80,000 above suggested market price, paid in cash. They just fell in love at first site.
For our example of the house that sold $80,000 above the suggested market price, we invested about $20,000 in upgrades and landscaping, and worked about 3 months worth of weekends for two people, or about 400 hours of our own labor. That gave us an hourly wage of $150/hr per person, so we were very glad to have made that investment! Another house we sold about $70,000 above suggested market price, after investing about $8000 and putting in 400 hours of our own labor, which gave us a wage of $155/hr. We didn’t get those spectacular results every time, but we were able to sell relatively quickly (in 8 or fewer viewings) for above market prices every time, all in a buyer’s market.
That said, perhaps your personal situation just won’t allow you to invest the time and money. In that case, you can perhaps get by with asking a bit over suggested market price and only doing things like a deep cleaning, staging, and planting a few flowers. You might end up with a similar return per hour of your time, which is good, but the more you follow the above tips, the more you’ll get back in general.
In a buyer’s market, this will help you get your home sold in a much shorter time, and with a modestly higher price. In a seller’s market, these tips could help you get above your asking price, and far above the market price, much more than competing home sales.
Good luck in your home sale, and we wish you the best returns! If you found these tips useful, please share this blog with your friends. We bring these tips to you for free, and supporting us by sharing is greatly appreciated!
If you’re considering a move to Panama, we’d love to hear from you. You can reach us at Garrett@PanamaSunRealty.com