Tips On Selling Your Home

A Buyers or Sellers Market

If you are going to sell your present home, the market conditions will play a crucial role in determining the asking price. Market conditions change constantly, so it is important that you get solid advice from a professional who is familiar with your specific area.

A good real estate agent will know how houses in your area are selling, as well as the other factors that may influence the sale. Nearby commercial development, which may create congestion and noise, may also mean a greater demand for housing from people who will be working in the new office buildings. A new bus route that cuts commuting time could make your home more valuable and highways close by can be an issue with the price. The economic conditions have a strong impact on the real estate market. Real estate professionals can help you consider all of the issues and assist you in setting a fair price for your home.

A Disappointed Seller

Many home sellers are disappointed by the first offer they receive. For example, when your agent calls to say that she has an offer on your home, your adrenaline might start flowing profusely. You get really excited, but your happy bubble bursts when you are presented with the contract. It's just not enough! The buyers asked for your new washing machine, and they also want to postpone the closing for three months. You don't see how it can work! 

Before rejecting any offer on your property, you should consider making a counter offer. Rarely does an offer look the way it would if you had written it yourself. Consider the good and bad points of the offer, and work with the agents to find a middle ground that you and buyers can live with. You may have to go back and forth several times, and there will probably be compromises on both sides. Unless you are lucky enough to be selling in a strong sellers' market, the buyers will expect to do some bargaining. With a little patience, you and your agent can create a "win-win" situation for you and the buyers.

An Empty House

There are two schools of thought about whether it is better to show a house empty or with the furnishings in it. An empty house is like a blank canvas, and prospective buyers can more easily imagine what their things would look like in it. But buyers could take the fact that the house is vacant as a sign that the sellers are very anxious to sell and, therefore, might entertain a low offer.

Our recommendations are usually based on how the house would look. Personal taste is highly subjective. Unless your furniture looks really wonderful and is neutral in color and conservative in style, it could distract buyers from the most attractive qualities of your home. The fact that your home is vacant could give it a competitive edge when they make their final selection. Will it attract low offers? It might, but if the price is right, it will attract reasonable offers, too.

Brighter is Better

Sometimes a real estate agent will walk into a home that is basically attractive, yet communicates the feeling that something is lacking. Then the agent notices that all of the drapes are closed, interior lights are off and there is a lot of overgrown shrubbery blocking the sunlight that might otherwise pour through the windows.

A dark house is not as appealing to most buyers as one that is flooded with light. As a part of your preparations to market your home, try to maximize the light in your home. Make sure that all the windows are clean and the drapes are open when the house is being shown. A fresh coat of light paint can do a lot to brighten up the interior. If your house has very dark paneling, and you do not wish to repaint the walls, you may want to consider adding additional lamps. Your real estate agent may be able to provide other simple and cost-effective ideas about how to maximize your home's appeal.

Child Proof Before Showing

As you prepare your home for the market, keep in mind that some of the people who will look at your home may bring along small children. Families with children may be looking for a larger home with more bedrooms and a bigger yard.

Prospective buyers will be accompanied by a real estate agent while touring your home, but that doesn't guarantee that the children will be supervised the entire time they are in your home. Every real estate agent has a story of a little person grabbing a Steuben apple from a low shelf, or of a toddler running full speed to the edge of a high deck. 

Preparing your home to show involves common sense, such as removing sharp or breakable objects from low shelves and making sure that electric appliances don't have dangling cords that little hands can reach. If there is a possibility of falling from a porch or deck, place a visible note advising parents to supervise small children. Some sellers keep a few toys around to entertain young house hunters while their parents are looking at the home.

Deal with the Defects

If you are selling a home, the buyers will probably include a home inspection clause in the offer. This will allow them to hire an expert to make sure that the house is structurally sound and all the systems are working properly.

The time to get ready for the home inspection is before you sell your house! Owners usually know about most of the defects in their house, such as plumbing or electrical problems or leaks that occur when it rains. When you decide to put your home on the market, you should repair any defects immediately. Most purchase agreements require sellers to convey the property with all systems and appliances in working order. You won't save money by delaying repairs, and buyers may be frightened away by an inspection report that contains a long list of needed repairs. 

Eliminating maintenance as a potential issue in the sale can help you ensure that the transaction goes as smoothly as possible. This is especially important when there is active construction of brand-new homes in the area.

Doing What Comes Unnaturally

The most inconvenient aspect of having your house on the market is the constant housekeeping required. Even if you are naturally neat, it requires a lot of hard work to constantly keep your home in top "showing" condition.

Do whatever it takes to make your home shine and to keep it looking beautiful. It may mean getting extra help from the children or hiring short-term professional help. The importance of making a good impression on the real estate agents and buyers who come through your home cannot be overstated. Many interested buyers may call for last-minute appointments to see your home. Buyers may associate a messy home with poor maintenance of the structure, systems and appliances, which can discourage offers or result in a lower offer than the house might otherwise bring.

Dress For Success

Looking good is important when you want to make a great impression, whether for a job interview or a social function. The same is true of a home that is on the market. When the "For Sale" sign goes up in front of your home, it should be "dressed" for the occasion.

Since the first impression will be of the front of the house, a well-groomed exterior is crucial, from the landscaping to the paint. The interior of your home should be clean and tastefully decorated. Take care of any minor cosmetic repairs that are needed, such as cracked plaster or peeling paint. A sparkling kitchen and shiny bathrooms, clean windows, and the absence of clutter will help your home "show well". Keeping your home looking good at all times is hard work, especially if you have children and are packing for a move. However, the dividends are impressive, because a home that looks well cared for has an excellent chance of selling quickly and for the best price.

Effective Marketing

If your home has been listed for a number of weeks and you have only seen it featured in one newspaper ad, you may start feeling anxious. Although your house is being shown regularly, you wonder if the agent is doing enough.

Home sellers often equate effective marketing with classified ads in the weekend Sunday real estate section. However, the most skilled real estate agents know the market well enough to be aware of where the prospective buyers for your home are likely to come from. They will look for the best ways to reach those people through direct mail, telephone contact or specialized ads in neighborhood publications. They will also work to get their colleagues excited about your house, especially agents who have many listings or sales in your neighborhood. And remember--it is important for you and your agent to communicate often so you will know exactly what is being done to sell your home.

Finding A Buyer

Selling a home is one of the most complex transactions that people are ever involved in. Finding a buyer is often the easy part! When you find someone who wants your home and who has the money to buy it, it is still a long way to the closing table.

You must first negotiate a purchase contract that covers the price and all the terms of the agreement. How much of a deposit will the buyer put down? When and how will the transfer of title occur? Under what conditions can either the buyer or seller back out of the contract? A professional home inspection will inform all parties about the condition of the property. 

Having a good agent to handle the details after a home inspection can make the difference between a successful transaction and a failure. The buyer must obtain financing, and the lender's appraiser will have to agree with the sale price. When clear title has been established, you can sign all the necessary papers to finalize the sale.

Finding A Real Estate Agent

Finding an experienced, reliable real estate agent whom you like and trust is the first step in locating your new home. Here is an approach to finding the right agent. 

Call or stop by a real estate office and ask to speak with the manager. Describe the type of home you are looking for. The manager can refer you to an agent who knows that market very well. You might also use weekend "open houses" as opportunities to look for a real estate agent, as well as a new home. It is really a matter of chemistry! If you meet someone who is knowledgeable and with whom you feel comfortable, call that person!

Once you establish a strong working relationship with a real estate agent, your agent can show you a number of homes for sale, even if they are listed with other companies. Often the agent can show you a property as soon as it is placed on the market. Many of the best homes never even make it to the weekend classified section of the newspaper!

Full Disclosure

If you are about to list a home that you have lived there for many years, you know that it is not perfect. For example, there might be a leak in the basement that is noticeable only after a heavy rain. Your garage door might stick, and the dishwasher may be prone to work stoppages. 

Every home has a few quirks. When it is time to sell your home, you have a choice of either making the necessary repairs or letting the buyers know about the problems. Material defects must be fully disclosed. Some buyers will order a structural inspection in order to learn exactly what they will be getting. Even if the buyers don't ask for an expert to look at the house, it is the seller's responsibility to disclose any known defects in the property. The seller's agent will provide the disclosure form, wherein the seller may itemize any problems. Sellers may avoid any real estate lawsuits over undisclosed defects by making repairs before the sale or agreeing to a price adjustment during the transaction if defects are discovered.

Getting Ready To Sell

Here is a scenario that you may encounter when you sell your home. You make a listing appointment with a real estate agent who shows up with a detailed market analysis and a list of all the advantages of listing with his or her company. The agent then walks through your home with you, making suggestions about how you can present your home at its best.

The real estate agent's recommendations about cosmetic "fix-ups" make some sellers feel a little uncomfortable. They realize how long they have put off all of those "little" projects. If the suggestions about the cat box, spider webs, kitchen and bathroom cleanup, and removal of clutter make you feel a little defensive, remember that none of this is personal! Most sellers need a little coaching to make their homes show well. Providing suggestions for home staging is an important part of an agents job. The better your home looks while it's on the market, the more likely it is to sell quickly, and for top dollar.

Hard Sell

Many real estate listings come from individuals who thought they had sold their homes. Sellers who try to sell their own home learn the hard way that selling a home is not easy. Keeping it sold and getting to the closing table is even more difficult. What are the pitfalls involved in selling your own home?

Face-to-face negotiations can be difficult, even when the buyer really wants the house. Then there is the paperwork. Standard contract forms rarely cover all of the local requirements regarding disclosure laws. Such contracts may provide loopholes which could allow a buyer with cold feet to back out at the last minute. 

When you have finally come to an agreement, how can you be sure that your buyers will engage competent professionals to handle their loan and complete the closing? What if structural problems are discovered or property boundary problems are revealed? The experience and expertise of a professional real estate agent is your greatest asset in concluding a successful transaction.

Help Your Real Estate Agent

Once your home is listed for sale, it may be difficult for you to step aside and let your agent take over. When prospective buyers arrive, you may want to stand by to point out the closet extenders, the hidden spice cabinet behind the kitchen door, the energy-saving storm windows or the updated copper plumbing. If you really want to help, however, you will leave the house whenever it is being shown!

We have found that the sales process does not really begin until buyers have begun to voice their objections about a property. Sometimes these concerns are serious enough to remove your house from consideration. Often, however, people voice objections as an automatic response when they really love the house and want to buy it. Real estate professionals are trained to know the difference. 

If a seller is standing at the agent's elbow, the buyer won't be comfortable enough to allow the process of raising objections take place. If the buyer feels intimidated or suppressed, we could lose the sale. The best way to help is to give your real estate agent room to make the sale.

House Odors

What is "H.O."? You can probably guess--it means "house odors".

Be careful of odors in your home. If your family room smells stuffy and stale, or if your cat or dog has left a distinctive odor in the hallway, take action by eliminating the source of the odor rather than merely treating the effects. 

Smells have a powerful effect on the way people react to a house, and no amount of room freshener or vanilla on the light bulbs can mask a serious odor problem. In fact, such remedies may draw attention to the problem. Real estate agents have seen homes with an odor problem languish unsold on the market for months or sell for significantly less than comparable homes in the neighborhood.

If you think that you may have a problem, talk candidly with your real estate agent. Your agent should be able to offer some constructive suggestions, and perhaps refer you to a professional who can help banish H.O. from your home!

Houses and Pets

Many real estate agents are animal lovers and have pets of our own, but we have all shared stories of having our fingers or ankles nipped by furry creatures during a showing. We have opened the front door to the home we are showing only to have a purebred Persian kitten scoot toward the nearest busy street. 

If you have pets and are going to put your house on the market, be sure to work out the showing arrangements carefully. It is important for us to be able to communicate to our colleagues what to expect when they pass through your front door. It is rare for pets to pose significant problems, but big dogs can be menacing. Buyers or agents may be allergic or even a little phobic about dogs or cats. 

It is difficult to get a buyer excited about your home if he or she is sneezing continuously or unwilling to cross the threshold because your dog is barking away intruders. If your agent knows there might be a problem, they can arrange ahead of time for you to walk the dog, vacuum the cat dander or do whatever is necessary to make sure that the showing goes smoothly.

If It Is Broken Fix It

Most houses have a few "little" problems, like leaking faucets, a stove burner that won't light, or electrical outlets with too much "spark". These defects may not seem very important--unless your house is about to go on the market.

We rarely have difficulty getting sellers to agree to paint, replace worn carpets or plant a few flowers in the front yard. These kinds of repairs obviously increase the overall appeal of the property. However, if any of the major systems in your home need maintenance, it is also prudent to have the necessary repairs made. Have your furnace, central air-conditioning system, plumbing and wiring checked as part of your pre-marketing efforts. The best rule is--if it's broken, fix it!

The purchase agreement requires that a house be conveyed with all the systems in working order, and most buyers will bring in a home inspector to identify any potential problems. During the period of time between the "meeting of the minds" and the removal of the inspection contingencies, the buyers are the most vulnerable to an attack of buyer's remorse. This is also the time when anything that hasn't been repaired could become a major issue.

Improving To Sell

Many homeowners wait until they are ready to put their home on the market before painting, planting flowers, and making other improvements to their homes. After completing these improvements, they may be so delighted with the results that they wish they had done the work on their home sooner in order to enjoy the changes.

Whether you have recently purchased a home or have been settled in your home for several years, you should consider evaluating the condition of your house as if you planned to sell it soon. Maximize your home's "curb appeal" now, so that you will reap the benefits every time you pull into your driveway. Plant those flowers and bulbs and you will have your fresh flowers on your own dining room table. Add new window treatments to freshen the appearance of the main rooms. If your house needs an upgraded kitchen, go ahead with the renovation. You will enhance your whole neighborhood and experience the pleasure of living in a more beautiful and fully functional home.

Inspection Repairs

When you sell a house, the buyers will probably have a home inspection before they sign a contract to purchase the home. The inspector may turn up something that needs attention or repair, and after the inspection, the buyers may produce a list of items they want repaired as a condition for moving forward on the sale.

When you get the buyers' list, remember that some of the items may be negotiable. Sales contracts usually require that all the systems be in working condition. Some buyers may make requests that go beyond the normal obligations of the seller. They may ask for a new roof or certain structural repairs that you may not want to make. Your agent can help you to assess the risks of just saying "no" to buyers who are making demands you consider to be unreasonable. You may decide to decline the requests, but the buyers may also decide to back out of the deal as a result. 

When you agree to make repairs, hire licensed professionals who will guarantee their work, and give copies of the reports to the buyers. Arrange to have the repairs made as far ahead of time to avoid last-minute complications which could compromise the transaction.

Keeping Your House Safe

Home safety precautions are always important, but it is especially important to make your home "accident-proof" while it is on the market. Many strangers will be coming through your home who won't be aware of the minor hazards that you and your family instinctively avoid.

Go through your home with an eye for potential hazards. Remove the obstacles that you can and post "watch your head" or "watch your step" signs where they are needed. Look for loose banisters, uneven steps, precariously placed plants, art objects or anything else that could fall on someone, wet spots on bath or kitchen floors, toys that someone might fall over and anything that you have to step over or duck under. Make sure that rugs will not slip, especially those at the bottom of stairs. There aren't many things that will more quickly dampen a buyer's enthusiasm for a house than a bump on the head or an unexpected trip down a flight of stairs.

Kitchen Clutter

The kitchen is usually very important to prospective buyers. Your kitchen may not be new and state-of-the-art, but it should look its best.

Your kitchen should be spotlessly clean and well organized while your home is on the market. The counter tops should be clean and free of clutter, and the floor should shine. Appliances should be clean and in good working order. You may want to add a few decorator touches or replace cabinets, flooring, and even appliances for a small investment. Dollars spent on kitchen improvements usually pay major dividends when you sell your home. If you are planning to sell your home and need some advice in this area, an agent will be happy to discuss your options with you.

Liens Against the Title

Occasionally homeowners who are trying to sell their home are surprised to learn that their title is encumbered by a lien. There are several types of liens; the most common are mechanic's or contractor's liens.

The lien (or debt) must be paid off in order to be cleared. If the owner prefers to challenge the lien, he can release it by posting a bond, pending adjudication. In some types of liens, a title search may disclose claims against the property by an ex-spouse or long-ago heir of a former owner. A simple "quitclaim" deed may be used in these cases. By signing the deed, the person involved signs over whatever rights he or she might have, without laying any claim to the property.

Most real estate transactions involve at least some minor unresolved issues on the part of either the buyer or the seller. This is where an experienced real estate agent can provide solutions to resolve the issues and conclude the sale.

Lighting Up the Sale

Lighting is an important factor to take into account when you are selling your home. Natural and artificial lighting can create a mood that buyers notice when they walk into your home, so don't overlook this significant factor which can favorably influence a potential buyer.

Before your house is shown, walk through each room with an eye to creating a pleasant ambiance through lighting. Accentuate the natural light by keeping curtains open and windows sparkling clean. Arrange your furniture to take advantage of the best view. You may want to install indirect lighting to highlight a vaulted ceiling or to draw attention to indoor plants. Dimmer switches can create simple and inexpensive lighting appeal. Place a lamp and table arrangement in a dark alcove or corner to brighten up the area.

Locating A Buyer

Listing your home with our agency gives you the advantage of having a team of experts apply themselves to the task of finding you a buyer as quickly as possible. In the process, we try to arrange showing appointments that are convenient to both parties, but it does not always work out that way.

Last-minute appointments are sometimes necessary because buyers who are relocating from other areas are often on tight schedules. This can be annoying to sellers unless they understand the nature of the real estate agent's job. When selling homes, we sometimes have to rely on our intuition. Many sales have been consummated as the result of last-minute appointments.

The prospective buyer who is on a very short house hunting trip may need a house now! In this kind of situation, the real estate agent can make things can happen fast! So when the phone rings at the last-minute, keep in mind that the appointment represents an opportunity for the sale.


When you list your home for sale, you and your agent must work as partners to ensure it sells as quickly as possible, and for the best price. While you take the necessary steps to make your property look good inside and out, your real estate agent will go to work to make sure your home is exposed to qualified buyers.

Real estate agents work with each seller to develop a written marketing plan. This enables you to know what your agent is doing to sell your home and what you can expect to happen while your property is on the market. It will also include suggestions on how to make your home sell. There will be regular communication between you and your real estate agent from the day the listing agreement is signed. The agent will give you progress reports and feedback from the people who have seen your home. You will also have frequent opportunities to ask questions and discuss changes in the marketing strategy.

Marketing Techniques

When a seller lists a home with a real estate agent, a lot of brainstorming follows. Who are the potential buyers, where do they live and work? How can they be reached effectively with information that will attract them to this particular property?

In addition to advertising each home on the widely used Multiple Listing Service, professional real estate agents employ marketing techniques tailored to the individual home they are selling. An agent will review various buyer lists to find potential purchasers. They will use telephone and direct mail marketing, produce property flyers and advertise on the Internet, in the newspaper, in community publications and in real estate magazines. Contacts will be made to other agents who sell homes in the area to encourage them to show the home to prospective buyers. 

Real estate agents combine pro-active marketing with realistic pricing to generate results for their home sellers.

Multiple Listing Service

When you list your house with a real estate agent who participates in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), you get a lot of service for your money. Depending upon the MLS region, there may be hundreds of participating members.

The real estate agent who lists your home works to get it sold. This is done by marketing directly to home buyers, but an even more powerful tool is marketing your home to other agents who have buyers. Your real estate agent makes all the crucial information about your home available to the other members through the MLS. Information such as your home's location, size, the number of rooms, the style of architecture, what personal property is included, and any other special features is posted. The MLS description will also contain information about any special financing that might be available, showing instructions, and special needs you may have with respect to closing. The MLS is a powerful tool for real estate matchmakers.

Net Sheet for Sellers

When you consider what price you should accept when selling your home, there are two important factors that will influence your decision. The first factor is the basic sales price. The second, and more important, is the amount you will actually receive from the proceeds at the closing.

Your real estate agent will prepare a seller's "net sheet" showing what your expenses will be. This will aid you in determining who pays what and when. It can help you to focus on the details of the sale.

A seller's expenses will include brokerage fees, real estate settlement fees, title insurance fees and special assessments. In some cases the buyer may ask you to pay some of the loan fees. Local real estate taxes will be pro-rated for you and the buyer, and you may be asked to place funds in escrow for payment of your final water bill. Subtract your mortgage balance any home improvement loans and other liens against the property that will be paid at the closing to come up with your final figures.

Your real estate agent can go over all of these factors with you when you list your home for sale and again as offers come in.

No Risk Listing

Here is a seller scenario that may help you make your next move. Once you have decided to sell, you might be afraid to put your present home on the market until you have found a new one and completed purchase negotiations. You are concerned that most sellers are reluctant to finalize offers from buyers who must include a contingency calling for the sale of a current residence before buying the new one.

If you are in such a dilemma, the first step is to contact a professional real estate agent. The agent can show you how to list your home without the risk of putting your family out on the street. When you have a firm contract from a qualified buyer, you will become much more attractive to sellers. When you do find the perfect home, you will greatly increase your chances of being able to buy it.

No Smoking

One of the issues that may come up during the sale of a home is pervasive odors, particularly cigarette smoke. If your home is on the market, it may sell more quickly if you temporarily make it a smoke-free zone. Many non-smokers are highly sensitive to the lingering presence of smoke. 

The sense of smell is the most powerful of all the five senses. Be sure to keep your home aired out while it is on the market. If the weather is good, you can smoke outside or while taking a walk or a drive. Avoid heavily-scented room fresheners which combined with the smoke can be worse than the smoke alone. It helps to wash the walls and have drapes and upholstered furniture professionally cleaned. This is really a serious issue for many buyers, so don't limit your market by turning away non-smokers.

Open House

If your home has been on the market for a few weeks, your real estate agent may suggest an "open house." Your agent puts up signs, gives you some pointers about how to prepare your home for showing and shows up early on Sunday morning. You may be tempted to stay around, but the best advice is to leave while your home is being shown! 

When sellers are present at an open house, they can hamper the sales professional's ability to cultivate interested buyers, and can even squelch a sale. What would your response be, for instance, if someone strolls into your kitchen and says, "What awful wallpaper!" If prospective buyers know that you as the owner are present, they might feel reluctant to express their objections and concerns openly and directly to your agent. If your objective is to get your home SOLD, the best thing to do is to get out of the way and let the sales professional do the job.

Owner Financing

If you are selling a house in which you have a lot of equity, and you don't need that equity to buy a new home, an owner-financing agreement may benefit you and your buyers.

Seller financing arrangements usually involve the buyers securing the largest portion of their purchase money from a mortgage company and getting a smaller second loan from the sellers. For example, they may finance 75% from a lender, put in 15% from savings, and ask the sellers to finance the remaining amount. The terms and interest rates on seller carry-backs are negotiated on a case-by-case basis. 

Sellers may be able to negotiate a note that provides a better return on their money than 1-to-5 year CD's or treasury notes. They should ensure that the note protects them to the fullest. Use common sense when considering such a loan, and verify the buyers' income, credit history, and job stability before making your final decision.

Playing It Safe

Conduct a thorough check for any safety hazards when you are getting your house ready to put on the market. You may be accustomed to the worn tread on the stairs, toys in the hallway, or closets that deposit their contents at your feet when the door is opened, but strangers won't be as intuitive as you are. They will be vulnerable to those little "hazards" as they walk through your home, turning on the faucets, opening closet doors, and going up and down the stairs.

The stairs are a good place to begin your safety check. Could someone tall accidentally bang their head on a beam, pipe or the ceiling as they go up or down? Is the carpeting on the stairs securely fastened? An area rug should have a non-slip mat underneath.

Safety is important because someone who is injured in your home could sue you for damages. This doesn't happen often, but if it does, it can be extremely unpleasant. "Better safe than sorry" applies to homes as well--especially when they are for sale and open to visits from potential buyers.

Plumbing Preparations

The plumbing is one of your home's most mysterious systems. The pipes are hidden in the wall, and when you have a problem, you have to call in a plumber. Since plumbers' rates are hefty, prospective buyers are often frightened away by evidence of leaky pipes, ceiling stains below shower pans, or antiquated bathroom fixtures.

If you are planning to sell your home, it is a good idea to solve your plumbing issues before you place it on the market. Take care of any cosmetic damage that leaks may have caused after the plumber has finished his work. Plumbing repairs are cost-effective, because most sales agreements call for all systems, including the plumbing, to be in working order. If you have a problem, you will probably have to repair it before the closing anyway, so by doing it ahead of time, you eliminate that issue. Plumbing that is in top condition will make your home appear to be well cared for and will make it more attractive to potential buyers.

Preparing For Sale

When preparing to sell your home, it is useful to know how homebuyers respond when they look at a house. Very few people will buy a home because they are attracted by fantastic bathrooms. Buyers do react to bathrooms that are not cared for, however, because they view them as a reflection of the overall condition of the property.

Many buyers know that plumbing repairs potentially represent a major expense. They get nervous about dripping faucets, loose tiles, and running toilets. Your pre-marketing preparations should include making sure that your plumbing is working properly and that any cosmetic damage caused by former leaks has been repaired.

Keep the bathroom spotless while your home is on the market. Remove any traces of mold or mildew and scour away any build-up on the bathtub and basin. Re-caulk around the tub and shower, if necessary. A new shower curtain, bath mat, plush towels and scented soap can help give the buyer one more positive reason for liking your home!

Price and Condition

Pricing a house is one of the most important parts of the marketing process. You want to get as much for the property as you can, but if you set the price too high, you can turn away qualified buyers. Your real estate agent can tell you the selling price of homes comparable to yours. Pricing strategy depends on market conditions, and it is different in a buyers' market than it is in a sellers' market.

If your home is overpriced, the marketplace will reflect that to you. When a property fails to sell in a reasonable period of time, you and your real estate agent should have a frank discussion to determine whether too high a price tag is the reason. Your real estate agent will also be getting feedback from other agents who have shown your home. 

Remember that price is only one factor. Consider ways you can make the property more attractive to show by handling needed repairs, improving curb appeal or making cosmetic improvements. Improve the condition of your home and you will improve its chances of selling.

Real Estate Agent Advantages

How do real estate agents sell homes? When a professional real estate agent is retained to sell a home, the agent will develop a marketing plan that has proven effective for selling homes quickly and for the maximum sale price.

The real estate agent will perform a market analysis, comparing the home with similar homes in your neighborhood that have recently sold. Your agent will evaluate the current real estate market in order to develop a price opinion for your home. The next step will be to make recommendations about preparing your home so that it is presented to its best advantage. A description of the home will be uploaded into the local Multiple Listing Service, and your agent will implement a marketing plan tailored to your home. 

By listing your property, you expose it to thousands of real estate agents throughout the region. MLS exposure is one of the most valuable services a real estate agent can provide sellers. Real estate professionals aslo network with other agents in their office when they bring new listings to the market. Does this system work? 85% of the homes sold today use this method. Enough said!

Reviving the Listing

In every town there are homes that sell rather quickly, while others linger on the market. Real estate professionals suggest numerous approaches to maximizing a home's curb appeal -- everything from fresh paint to new landscaping. But if the "For Sale" sign in front of your house has become a neighborhood fixture, it is important to work with your real estate agent to keep your listing fresh. 

Whenever your house is shown, the real estate agent will get feedback from the buyers or other agents about what they liked about your house and what did not work for them. Allow your agent to be completely frank with you about any feedback he or she receives. Listen with an open mind and with the understanding that there is nothing personal about these comments. Don't delay in implementing any of the ideas that make sense to you. 

Your real estate agent's job is to come up with new ideas for marketing your home in order to get buyers inside. Your job is to ensure that your house looks its best.

Scents and Home Sense

Prospective buyers may react to the way a home smells. Cigarette smoke, strong disinfectants, insecticides, kitty litter, and french fries have all been known to dampen the enthusiasm of buyers who might otherwise respond positively to a house that would meet their needs.

Be sure that your home passes the sniff test when it is on the market. Many people have a particular reaction to smoke and pet odors, so consider a temporary smoking ban inside your home while it is on the market. If you have a cat box, be meticulous about cleaning it. If your new puppy has ruined a chair, replace the stained chair with a spot-free one. 

There are cleaning services which specialize in stain and odor removal. They may suggest carpet steaming and other techniques to remove the offensive smell. Even if buyers are themselves smokers or have pets of their own, they will react differently to the same odors lingering in a home they are considering.

Sellers Beware

Here is a scenario for sellers to avoid. You contact a real estate agent to list your home and the agent suggests that you might get more for your house than comparable homes on the market. The agent assures you that it only takes finding one person who is willing to pay your price! 

Some agents approach a listing appointment as if they are bidding for your home. The unfortunate result is that you start out with an unrealistic opinion of your home's value. There is often a strong temptation to work with a person who says what you want to hear. An experienced, reputable real estate agent will back up their opinion of your home's value with hard data. The agent should give you information about the listing price of homes that are currently on the market, and recent selling prices of similar properties in your immediate area. 

Even the most heroic marketing efforts won't work on a property that is obviously overpriced, (except in the most exaggerated of seller's markets.) Even if you find a buyer who is willing to pay more than your home is worth, the sale could fall apart when the appraisal comes in lower than the agreed-upon price. Listen to everything, but be careful!

Selling and Lock Boxes

Having your house on the market involves a certain invasion of your privacy. Real estate agents will be previewing it and showing it to buyers with some regularity. While you want to make your home reasonably accessible to the real estate professionals and their prospects, you don't want to run the risk of stepping out of your shower just as a broker is ushering in buyers.

In many areas real estate agents use a handy little tool of the trade called a "lock box". When a property is occupied, the agent first calls to let the owner know when they will be coming by. If no one is at home, the agent can get into the house with a key stored in the lock box.

The other extreme of accessibility is to require a day's notice before a showing, and to insist that your real estate agent be present at each one. This will eliminate a lot of the inconvenience to you, but it may also eliminate a lot of showings of your house. Whatever arrangements you work out, keep in mind that the easier you make it for real estate agents to open and show your home, the easier it will be to sell it quickly.

Selling and What Really Works

If you are trying to sell your home quickly, some real estate agents may recommend that you offer a bonus to the agent who brings in the buyer. They feel that a monetary incentive will cause an agent to push your house over the one down the street. Do such bonuses work?

You cannot expect a bonus to sell an overpriced house or overcome housekeeping shortcomings that detract from your home's overall appeal. If your house looks great and is priced right, offering a bonus to the real estate agent could help it sell more quickly. Agents earn their reputations by helping people find homes that they love. When deciding which homes to show prospective buyers, their decision will be based on whether the home will meet their needs. If the Multiple Listing Service indicates that a bonus is being offered, it could encourage more agents to preview the house and result in more showings.

Selling Before Buying

Timing can sometimes be difficult if you have to sell a home before you can buy another one. Most people need the equity from the sale of their first home for the down payment on the new house. If your present home goes on the market first, you may be concerned that it will sell before you find the one you want to buy. On the other hand, if you find the perfect home before your present home is under contract, the sellers may be reluctant to accept your offer, and you may be too nervous to sign a contract.

It is a good idea to sit down with a good real estate agent for some professional advice before you begin your search. It will probably be necessary to be flexible on the closing date, because it can be easier to find a home that you want to buy than to sell your present home. After finding the house you want, you can ask the lender about arranging a short-term bridge loan that can make the purchase possible before you sell your current residence.

Selling For Top Dollar

When you get serious about selling your home, the chances of your selling it quickly for top dollar will improve considerably if you list it with a real estate sales professional. If you doubt this, consider the fact that eight out of ten homes sold today--more in some markets--are listed with a professional real estate agent.

Listing your home places it on the local Multiple Listing Service that is subscribed to by a majority of real estate sales professionals. Through the MLS listing, your home is assured of getting the widest possible exposure to the market place.

Some buyers shop the home market on their own, but most save time and money by using the services of a real estate sales professional. Ask yourself which homes the real estate agent is going to show the prospective buyers--homes listed on the MLS or those that are not?

If you still want to try to sell your own home, be aware that you will face stiff competition when it comes to attracting qualified buyers!

Selling Selling Sold

Although your real estate agent is responsible for marketing your property, it requires a joint effort to get your home sold.

How can you empower your agent? It is very important that you feel absolutely confident in your agent's ability to produce results--no matter what the market is like in your area! This may sound like stating the obvious, but it is important to let your real estate agent know you trust them to get the job done. Support that trust by putting a realistic price tag on the property and keeping it in prime showing condition. Work out showing agreements that will make it easy for agents to preview or show your home. Meet periodically to discuss any feedback from buyers who have seen your home to determine how you can improve its appeal. 

Don't hesitate to share any ideas you may have about marketing your home. I will try anything that works, and have received some very good suggestions from clients.

Selling the Details

It is the little things--both positive and negative--that can make a big difference to prospective buyers. Pay close attention to detail when you prepare your home to sell.

Before you list your home, go through the house with a careful eye. Fix any loose door knobs, popped screen doors, and loose grout around the tub and shower. A coat of fresh paint can work wonders to dress up a house. Wash the windows, hang a healthy plant from the bathroom skylight, and clean out the closets. Arrange the furniture to make the room look larger. If the rooms look cluttered, put your extra furniture into storage. You can brighten up a room by increasing the wattage of the light bulbs. 

Going the extra mile to showcase your home will pay significant dividends when it's time to show it to buyers.

Selling Your Kitchen

Most buyers rate an attractive kitchen very high on their priority list when they are looking for a new home. The layout of the kitchen, the amount of counter space and storage, and the age and overall condition of the appliances are all important to them. The kitchen area is basically viewed as the center of nourishment and an important place of family interaction.

Take a discriminating look at your kitchen and consider what you can do to make it a real asset. Repair any plumbing leaks or broken appliances. Scrub the room thoroughly, paying special attention to the range and oven. Clean the refrigerator and place a box of baking soda inside to absorb odors. Simple improvements can sometimes work wonders. Hang some colorful pot holders over the stove or install a new stainless steel or copper exhaust hood. Brighten the windows with new curtains and clear all clutter off the countertops.

You don't need a brand new, high-tech kitchen to impress buyers, but do whatever you can to make your kitchen look as efficient and well-maintained as possible.

Show And Sell

Real estate agents are often asked "What is the best way to show and sell a home?" Almost every agent can tell you a story about meeting with a prospective seller who has just completed a lot of work to prepare their home for the market. It can be difficult for a real estate agent to tell the seller that their renovations were not the best changes to effectively market their home.

If you are considering making any improvements prior to selling your home, the best advice is to consult with your agent before you make any changes. An experienced real estate agent can provide you with information that can help you decide what kind of improvements will set the stage for a sale. Whether it is paint and wallpaper, remodeling the bathrooms, or updating the kitchen, your real estate agent can guide you toward "neutral" choices which can assist the buyer's imagination.

Showing Your Home

Real estate agents typically want the properties we market to look spotless and wonderful. However, the sellers eventually find that keeping their house in prime showing condition begins to wear thin after a few weeks for even the most impeccable housekeepers.

It is a lot of work to keep the beds perpetually made, the kitchen and bathrooms spotless and closets neat. Is it worth the effort? It is--if you want to sell your house for top dollar in a reasonable amount of time. Buyers often see normal clutter, and what registers is "this house hasn't been maintained." They see bathtub rings and think "plumber's bills." Dirt under the radiators causes them to imagine having to replace the entire heating and air conditioning system. People are often functioning more on emotion than logic when selecting a house. You can help your broker by minimizing the amount of imagination that buyers will need in order to fall in love with your home.


Does your home have more than its share of dust bunnies? Do you have a "noticeable" kitty litter box and closets whose contents tumble toward your feet when opened? If you are planning to sell your home, please don't be offended by your real estate agent's suggestions about what you should do to prepare your home for the market.

One of the major challenges that sellers face is keeping their home in top showing condition while it is on the market. Many sellers have difficulty incorporating this necessity into their already busy lives. In such situations we strongly recommend that you get professional help. 

If you already have a cleaning person, you may want to increase the cleaning frequency. Remember that not all buyers want to use their imagination to visualize a well-kept home. They usually react emotionally to exactly what they see, rather than to the possibilities that your home represents. If your home looks like it will require a lot of work, buyers may elect to keep looking. 

For most sellers, the goal is to get the home sold as quickly as possible, and for the best price. Hiring a professional cleaner can pay high dividends.


Some things are hard to measure, and others are easy. Success in a real estate sale is easy. It occurs when the "SOLD" sign is in your front yard. And having that occur as quickly as possible is the goal of every real estate agent and every home seller.

You have undoubtedly heard that old saying about the "hard way" and the "easy way" to do something. The hard way to get the "SOLD" sign up is to try and sell it yourself. The easy way is to use the services of a real estate sales professional, someone who is not only trained to get it sold, but to get as much for your home as the market will bear.

Remember, the agent doesn't get paid until your home is "SOLD". And the amount they earn in commission is dependent upon the amount of the sale. That's a lot of genuine motivation to do the job right. Save yourself headaches and frustration when you are ready to sell--call a professional real estate agent.

Spotless Homes Sell

Ideally, real estate agents want the properties we market to look spotless, but even the most impeccable housekeepers find it difficult to keep the house in prime showing condition all the time.

Keeping the beds perpetually made, dishes washed, bathrooms spotless and the closets neat is a lot of work. Is it worth it? Yes, it is -- if you want to get your house sold in a reasonable amount of time for the best price. 

Often when buyers see normal household clutter, what registers is "this place hasn't been maintained." They see bathtub rings and think "plumber's bills." They see lint under the refrigerator and grease on the electric range and imagine having to replace all of the appliances. It isn't particularly logical, but people often respond with their feelings when buying a house. When making their final selection, buyers may be going on emotion and adrenaline rather than reason and logic. You can help your real estate agent by minimizing the amount of imagination they will need to fall in love with your home.

Storage Priorities

No matter how much storage space a home provides, most people feel that it's never enough. Buyers typically place storage space high on their list of priorities for a new home. Sellers must often face the minor indignity of having prospective buyers open all of their closets to determine the size and capacity of each one.

Even an enormous closet looks small if it is cluttered. Your closets should be as organized as possible while your property is on the market. If you have excess belongings stuffed in your closets, hold a yard sale, rent a storage unit temporarily, or make a tax deductible donation to a local charity. When you finish cleaning and organizing all of your closets, move on to the other storage areas. Your home's storage spaces will look more impressive if they are neat and well-organized.

Sunshine Sells

When your home is being shown, you want prospective buyers to feel good as soon as they step into the living room. It pays to give special attention to maximizing the amount of light in your home because dark homes are depressing to many people. When prospective buyers give real estate agents feedback on the homes that we show, they often cite a light, airy feeling as a major attraction.

Begin your preparation for showing your home by cleaning the windows and curtains thoroughly. Open the drapes and blinds to let the sunshine in. Even on a bright day it helps to turn on some lights in the main rooms of the house. If you are using shades or heavy drapes to eliminate a less-than-perfect view, you may want to consider replacing them with translucent curtains in a light color. Sunshine definitely helps to sell homes!

Taking It With You

Before you list your home for sale, take a careful look around. Are there some items you will want to take with you? There may be a dining room chandelier that has been in your family for three generations, a ceiling fan in the master bedroom, or the bookcases in the den that look built-in but are not.

Normally all fixtures are conveyed to the new owners when a house is sold. This includes anything that is attached to walls or ceilings and, in some areas, all major appliances that are installed in the house. If you have fixtures that you don't want to convey, tell your agent what you want excluded from the agreement at the time you list your property for sale. 

If it is convenient, it is best to remove any light fixtures or ceiling fans you plan to take with you and replace them before the property is shown to prospective buyers. List all items that are not being sold with the house on your home fact sheet to ensure that they will not become an issue when a buyer makes an offer.

The Asking Price

Picture this...

Your house has been on the market for four weeks. There have been a lot of showings but no offers, so you are wondering if you should consider a price reduction. You want to get as much as you can for your home, but more importantly you want it to sell!

This may be the time to have a frank discussion with your real estate agent. While price may be a major factor, it may not be the only consideration. Are you making your house easy for agents to show? Have you completed the necessary maintenance and cleaning so that your property is as appealing as possible? Review with your agent the current market conditions and the prices of other homes in your neighborhood before determining that a price reduction is in order.

Even though your price may be competitive, the marketplace may be telling you that buyers just won't pay what you would like to get. If all indicators point to a price reduction, it is better to do it sooner rather than later.

The Best Real Estate Agents

The best real estate agents in today's marketplace are becoming even better about marketing the homes they list to the public, as well as to other agents who have potential buyers.

When you are interviewing prospective real estate agents to help you sell your home, ask how they find buyers. In the past, a "For Sale" sign would go into the ground, the basic information went into the Multiple Listing Service, and then there was an occasional Sunday classified ad and an "open house". If the house did not sell right away, the agent might recommend a price reduction. 

Agents today are much more sophisticated and pro-active about getting people into their homes. They rely on computers, direct mail, telemarketing, and just plain clever ideas that no one else has tried. Ask prospective listing agents for two things--a written analysis of what is happening with housing prices in your area and a marketing plan which outlines how they would get your home from "For Sale" to "Sold".

The Pheromone Factor

Pheromones are mysterious little chemical sensors that are supposed to have a lot to do with whether or not we are attracted to people. They may also play a big part in the way people react to houses.

If you have a house on the market, it will be important to ensure that the pheromone factor is as high as possible--so that the prospects who come inside will involuntarily pull out their checkbooks and offer to pay your asking price. A good real estate agent can give you some important hints about maximizing your home's ability to attract buyers. This could mean completely airing out every room to eliminate musty odors, or allowing enough time for freshly painted walls to lose that telltale toxic smell. 

Unless you are already compulsively neat, you may need to make temporary changes in your housekeeping habits to ensure that your home is both fresh-smelling and sparkling clean. Sometimes this will involve hiring a professional cleaning service. Give your real estate agent the space to speak candidly about what you need to do to make your house looks its best.

The Season for Selling Houses

We hear a lot of talk about which months are the most lively ones for getting our listings sold. Many people think the ideal time to put a house on the market is when the azaleas are in bloom and the grass is the greenest. In many parts of the country, the "spring market" is thought of as the real estate industry's Christmas season.

There are important factors that strongly influence the sale of houses. Interest rates, the availability of local employment, tax rates, and the overall economic health of the community all play a large part in determining how quickly homes move and how well the sellers will do at the closing table. Your home may sell quickly during a month when the weather is gloomy but the interest rates are low. Waiting for spring flowers to bloom before planting your "For Sale" sign may improve your home's curb appeal, but may not have as much effect on the sale of your home as interest rates that go up as quickly as your tulips.

The Value of Your House

One of the sayings from the "gold-rush" days--"Them that's got the gold, sets the price!"--is also a principle that applies to real estate. We say that a house is only worth what someone will pay for it, even though the owner, the bank, and the agent all have their own opinions about the "market value" of a home. In other words, no sale ever takes place until the buyer agrees with the price.

How can sellers arrive at the maximum "fair" price that buyers are willing to pay? Buyers (and appraisers) make their decision based on comparisons. While shopping for a home, buyers will visit many similar homes in their price range and measure the features of each one against the price. They decide which house offers them the maximum value for the price. Buyers do not expect a home to be a "steal" or dramatically under-priced, but they do expect it to be a fair value.

Sellers must determine the value that their home offers in order to arrive at the right price. The real estate agent will advise the sellers what buyers should be willing to pay for their home, but the asking price is set by the seller.

Tiny Bugs and Big Problems

Tiny insects can create huge problems when a house is on the market. Whether the bugs are fleas, ants or roaches, their presence can turn away prospective buyers. And so can the odor of insects.

If you have an insect problem, handle it before you place your home on the market. Consider calling in a professional to advise you on the most effective and least toxic way to exterminate your home. Be very careful if you have an expectant mother, children, or pets in your household. Air the house thoroughly to eliminate any lingering bug spray odors. Consider replacing moth balls with cedar chips and using boric acid or some other odorless ant and roach killers. If this sounds like a lot of trouble, remember that even if they love your house, a single cockroach can frighten off prospective buyers.

Upgrade Before You Sell

Real estate agents sometimes receive calls from homeowners asking for advice on what they should do to prepare their house to go on the market. They may have settled for living in a "less than optimal" circumstance for years, and are now going to spend money to make it nice for someone else to enjoy.

If you are considering painting, updating the kitchen, landscaping, or making any other improvements that will increase your home's re-sale value, think about making those improvements while you are still there to enjoy them. Create your own dream kitchen, master suite or spa, build an outdoor living room or restore your wood floors now. Improving your property will make your home more enjoyable, help maintain the property values in your neighborhood, and expedite the sale of your home when you are ready for a move.

Walk Through Woes

Buyers can be a little cranky on closing day if things go wrong during the walk-through inspection. For example, the sellers' dependable old dishwasher might stop midway through its cycle and the bathroom sink might clog unexpectedly. These situations can create anxiety for the buyers and sellers, but such problems are quite common and usually simple to resolve.

Most purchase agreements require that the major mechanical systems and the appliances being conveyed are in working order at the time of the closing. Defects are often discovered during the structural inspection, allowing the sellers plenty of time to have the repairs made. Occasionally there are last-minute breakdowns or defects that are not spotted until the walk-through inspection. In that case, an agreement can be made with the sellers at the closing to escrow funds for the repair or replacement of the items in question.

Water Problems

Sometimes there are defects in a house that the homeowners no longer notice, such as small leaks in the roof or a basement that only gets damp when it rains. When the house is on the market, they don't have a real sense of urgency about having such defects repaired. The real estate agent feels quite differently, however.

When buyers are deciding which houses deserve serious consideration, any kind of water problem may appear to be much more detrimental than it really is. The sellers may regard a damp basement as simply a sign that it's time to clean the gutters or check the soil buildup around the house or a leaking roof as a call for new flashing. But to someone who has never owned a home, these defects can be taken as signs that the house may not fulfill their primary need for shelter from "the elements." Renters may be perfectly willing to live in a home with minor water problems, but buyers are likely to pass up the same house if they think it won't keep them perfectly dry.

What Would Mama Think

There's no doubt about it--the kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the whole house for many prospective buyers. Smart sellers will take a close look at how they can make their kitchen a real asset when it is time to sell.

Your kitchen doesn't need to be state-of-the-art to be attractive. The first step toward enhancing your kitchen's appeal is a thorough cleaning. This includes scrubbing the walls, cabinets (inside and out), floors, and appliances. Keep the counter tops as clear as possible of small appliances and gadgets. Consider low-cost improvements which can make a big difference, such as a coat of paint, fresh wallpaper, or new floor covering. Be sure to keep the kitchen sparkling when the house is being shown. This means no dirty dishes in the sink or moldy cucumbers in the refrigerator. This extra effort will pay great dividends!

When it is Time to Sell

Sometimes the need for a move is obvious. For example, if your work requires you to transfer to a new city, you know it is time to relocate to a new home. The impact of other life changes, such as having twins, your last child leaving home, or a big salary increase, may not be so obvious.

When you notice that your house or condominium is no longer serving your needs, it may be time to call in a professional real estate agent for some expert advice. Your agent may suggest that you remodel your present home or find one that is more suitable to your current lifestyle.

If you decide that a move is necessary, what should you consider before listing your present home for sale and beginning the search for a new one? You will want to know how much you can expect to get for your present home and what you can afford to spend on a new one. You will also need information about financing and the many loan programs that are now available. A professional real estate agent can be an invaluable asset to you as you make these important decisions.

When to Take a Walk

Your agent calls to say he is bringing prospective buyers to see your home at 2:00 p.m. You quickly straighten up the house and run the dishwasher. What should you do then? If you have to let them into the house--then take a drive or walk the dog!

Many owners think they should linger close by while their home is being shown. They are afraid that the real estate agent might miss the storage shelves in the basement or forget to point out the beautiful new floor in the kitchen. It is better for the agent to miss something than for you to be ushering the buyers around, so resist the temptation to stay while your house is being shown.

Buyers usually base their decision to buy on an attraction that often has more to do with emotions than pure logic, and a lot goes on between buyer and agent during a showing. The buyer needs to evaluate the home's pluses and minuses, and the agent needs the opportunity to work with the buyer's objections. This process cannot take place comfortably if the seller is on the scene.

Why Is It Not Selling

If you are selling your home and it has been on the market for several months, you might start to wonder why it just isn't moving. How can you introduce some extra energy into the sale?

The first thing you should do is have a frank talk with your real estate agent in order to get feedback from prospective buyers who have seen your home, and other agents who have shown it. Does your home look its best? Is it accessible for agents to show on short notice? Is the price in line with the rest of the market? Do you need to consider neutralizing any strong decorating features that may not have wide appeal? 

Getting your home sold is a collaborative effort between you and your real estate agent. It is important for your agent to market your property aggressively, but you must do your part to ensure that buyers see a home that is as appealing as it can be. Ask your agent for any new ideas that will create results.

Your Selling Strategy

Have your housing needs expanded along with your income? Are you are thinking about selling your property and looking for a new home? The transition can be accomplished smoothly by using a systematic approach. 

As part of your selling strategy, it is advantageous to have your present house under contract before you begin a serious search for a new home. This will make you attractive to sellers in two ways. You won't have to include a contingency in your offer to cover the sale of your present home. You will strengthen your negotiating position by improving your financial circumstance with an accepted offer. In a situation where there are multiple offers on the new home, the chances of your offer being accepted are better if it isn't dependent on selling another house before you can make a move.

Shirl A Thornton
Shirl A Thornton