Courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS®
- The value of your home relates to local sale prices. The same home, located elsewhere, would likely have a different value.
- Sale prices are a product of supply and demand. If you live in a community with an expanding job base, a growing population and a limited housing supply, it’s likely that prices will rise. Alternatively, it’s important to be realistic. If the local community is losing jobs and people are moving out, then you’ll likely have a buyer’s market.
- Owner needs can impact sale values. If owner Smith “must” sell quickly, he will have less leverage in the marketplace. Buyers may think that Smith is willing to trade a quick closing for a lower price — and they may be right. If Smith has no incentive to sell quickly, he may have more marketplace strength.
- Sale prices are not based on what owners “need.” When an owner says, “I must sell for $300,000 because I need $100,000 in cash to buy my next home,” buyers will quickly ask if $300,000 is a reasonable price for the property. If similar homes in the same community are selling for $250,000, the seller will not be successful.
- Sale prices are NOT the whole deal. Which would you rather have: A sale price of $200,000, or a sale price of $205,000 but where you agree to make a “seller contribution” of $5,000 to offset the buyer’s closing costs, pay a $2,000 allowance for roof repairs, fund two mortgage points, re-paint the entire house and leave the washer and dryer?
How much is too much? Because all transactions are unique there is flexibility in the marketplace. The amount of flexibility depends on local conditions. For example, suppose you’re selling a townhouse. Suppose also that there have been five recent sales of the model you own and that sale values have ranged between $200,000 and $210,000. You now have an idea of how your home might be priced. In a strong market perhaps you can ask for $210,000 or a little more. If the market has slowed, $210,000 may be a reasonable asking price, but perhaps more than the final sale price. Here’s another scenario. Imagine that you live in a community of Victorian-style homes, most of which were built in the 1920s. All the homes are different in terms of size, condition, modernization, style and features. In such a neighborhood, an average sale price is just a statistic without much practical meaning. On a single block one home may sell for $400,000 while another is priced at more than $1 million. The average price may be outrageously high for one home and staggeringly low for another. Who can help? Experienced REALTORS® are active in the local marketplace and can provide assistance with pricing, marketing, negotiation and closing. Because experienced REALTORS® have handled many transactions, they’re familiar with the terms and conditions that went into individual sales, not just published sale prices which may not reflect various premiums, discounts and adjustments.
- Preparation: Before being placed on the market, homes must be in “show” condition. Your Realtor® can explain what repairs and upgrades are required for individual homes which are most likely to produce the best results.
- Pricing: Brokers do more than price homes for sale, they also construct sale terms designed to speed the selling process. It may be, for example, that a home priced at $150,000 with a 2 percent seller credit to the buyer at closing will be far more attractive to purchasers than a home priced at $147,000. Why? That 2 percent credit is worth $3,000 to the purchaser at closing — the time when buyers are most likely strapped for cash.
- Marketing:Your Realtor® will execute strategies and programs to get the home sold. Typically this includes placement on the local MLS as well as related marketing, advertising and networking.
- Negotiation:Your Realtor® will assist owners in the bargaining process, offering advice and counsel as offers are received and by working closely with legal counsel, tax specialists and inspectors as required.
- Closing: Once a contract for the purchase of a home has been accepted, a series of inspections and checks are typically required to satisfy buyers and lenders. Your Realtor® can help owners complete the transaction process by assisting with the many requirements found in a typical sale agreement.
How to hold an open house. There are no universal marketing standards for real estate because marketplaces are localized. For instance, open houses may be common in some communities but rarely used in others. In the case of an open house, a REALTOR® typically advertises that the home will be open for a given period (2-5 p.m. on Sunday). During the open period, the REALTOR® hosts the home while the owners leave for a few hours. At the open house, the REALTOR® will provide literature, maintain a visitor log and answer questions. By interacting with visitors, the REALTOR® will seek feedback regarding the home and opportunities to follow up with prospective purchasers.
- Is the offer at or near the asking price? Is the offer above the asking price?
- Has the buyer accepted the asking price or something close? Has the buyer then buried thousands of dollars in discounts and seller costs within tiny clauses and contract additions?
- What is the alternative to the buyer’s offer? If a home has not attracted an offer in months, then sellers need to determine if a better deal is possible — recognizing that each month costs are being incurred for mortgage payments, taxes and insurance.
- Does the owner have enough time to wait for other offers?
- What if no other offers are received?
- What if several offers are received? Do you choose the high offer from the purchaser with questionable finances who may not be able to close, or a somewhat lesser offer from a buyer with preapproved financing?
In each case, owners — with assistance from your Realtor® — you will need to carefully review offers, consider marketplace options and then determine whether an offer is acceptable. What is a counter-offer? When a home is made available for sale the owner is essentially making an offer to buyers: For a given number of dollars and other terms you can acquire this home. Buyers, in turn, can respond with several options:
- Not interested.
- Yes, we’ll buy on the owner’s terms.
- We’re interested and here’s our counter-offer.
A counter-offer is nothing more than a new offer. And just as the buyer had three options in response to the owner’s original price and terms, the seller can now choose one of three reactions: accept the offer, decline the offer or make a fresh counter-offer. Offers and counter-offers reflect the back-and-forth activity of the marketplace. It’s an efficient and practical process — but also one that may contain tricky clauses and hidden costs. The REALTOR® who lists your home can explain the local bargaining process in detail and assist in the actual negotiations. How do you negotiate? It’s sometimes argued that negotiation must produce one “winner” and one “loser.” Others suggest that a “win/win” situation is possible where each side gets something of value. Real estate bargaining typically involves compromises by both sides. It’s not war; it’s not winner-take-all; and it’s not the time to take personally any comments made by purchasers. Instead, negotiating should be seen as a natural business process; buyers should be treated with respect; and owners should never lose sight of either their best interests or their baseline transaction requirements. These are the standards unique to each owner, which must be met before the home can be sold.
- Contracts routinely depend on the ability of a buyer to obtain financing, which is why most sellers prefer buyers with preapproval letters from lenders.
- A growing percentage of transactions involve a home inspection, or a physical review of the home by a trained and independent observer.
- Lenders will establish numerous conditions before granting a loan. They will want a title exam, title insurance to protect against title errors, termite inspections, surveys and an appraisal to assure that the home has sufficient value to secure the loan.
The REALTOR® typically arranges required inspections and helps the owner prepare for closing. When should you close? With automation now available, closings can occur within a week in some areas — at least in theory. In practice, it takes time to arrange financing, conduct inspections, obtain appraisals, locate replacement housing, contact movers, pack and actually move. While instant closings are not practical, neither are closings too far in the future. The problem with closings much past 60 days is that loan rates are difficult to lock in. If mortgage rates go up, it’s possible that the buyer will no longer be able to afford the home and thus the deal may fall through. The result of these considerations is that most homes close 30 to 45 days after a sale agreement has been signed. What happens? Closing — or “settlement” or “escrow” as it is known in some areas — is essentially a meeting where the closing agent (the party who conducts settlement) takes in money from the buyers, pays out money to the owner and makes sure that the purchaser’s title is properly recorded in local records along with any mortgage liens. The closing agent reviews the sale agreement to determine what payments and credits the owner should receive and what amounts are due from the buyer. The closing agent also assures that certain transaction costs are paid (taxes and title searches). Closing is also the time when “adjustments” will be made. For instance, suppose you’ve pre-paid taxes four months in advance. In this case, the closing agent will compensate you for the prepayment at closing by having the buyer pay you additional money. It could also work in reverse. If you are behind on property taxes, the closing agent will reduce the money due to you at settlement by the amount of the unpaid taxes. How do you prepare to sell? It’s important to look at the sale agreement and review your obligations. For instance, if you have agreed to paint a room or replace the dishwasher, such work must be completed before closing. Your REALTOR® can discuss your agreement and the steps which must be taken to complete the transaction. The closing agent will handle both the settlement papers and related documents.
- Are you moving a long distance? If yes, you’ll likely require an interstate mover and the use of a large van.
- Moving internationally. Contact the embassy in Washington, D.C., for information. Be aware that items which may be entirely common in the United States can be prohibited in foreign countries. Ask about customs protocols, duties and taxes.
- Moving locally? If so, will you move yourself? You’ll need to consider packing boxes, peanuts, blankets or padding and a van rental.
- Planning is key. Stock up on boxes, packing materials, tape and markers. Always mark boxes so that movers will know where goods should be placed.
Who should you use? The decision of who to use can begin with a visit to REALTOR.com’s® moving center and discussions with the REALTOR® who is marketing your home. There are a number of factors to consider. Money is one issue: You’ll want to spend as little as possible, but choosing only on the basis of cost can be a mistake. Movers must have the right equipment, training and experience to do a good job. A mover, no matter how large or small, should be able to provide recent references for homesellers with a similar volume of goods to transport. Get mover estimates in writing. Be aware that it’s possible to get discounts through membership organizations and, sometimes, on the basis of your profession: Clergy, for example, sometimes qualify for a discount. Always confirm mover credentials. Movers should be licensed and bonded as required in your state, and employees should have workman’s comp insurance. Get a checklist. Moving is a big job and checklists can make it more organized and easier. Here are some of the major items to consider:
- Money. If you’re moving more than a few miles then you should have enough cash or credit to cover travel, food, transportation and lodging.
- Medicine. Keep medicines and related prescriptions in a place where they will be available during the move.
- Number boxes so that all items can be counted on arrival. Make a list of boxes by number and indicate their contents.
- If moving with children, make sure that each has a favorite toy or toys, blankets, games, music and other goods.
- Moving historic, breakable or valued items? Such goods routinely require special handling and packaging.
- Have address books readily available in case you need help.
- If you have a laptop computer with a modem, make it accessible during your trip to pick up business and personal e-mail.