1. How much is my house worth?
The value of your house has nothing to do with how much you paid for it, how much you owe on it, or how much it's assessed for taxes. How much a buyer is willing to pay for your house will depend on several things, some of which you can control, and some that you can't.
Your home's style, construction, size (square footage), floor plan, number of bedrooms and baths, and condition are important factors in how much a buyer is willing to pay.
Although automated value systems are not always accurate, some buyers may rely on them calculate your home’s worth. Pay attention to these online “values” and correct the number of bedrooms and baths, square footage, etc. to make sure that a buyer won't assess the house based on inaccurate information.
Some exterior features that may negatively affect a home’s value include being situated on a busy road; having power lines on the property; being on a steep lot; having a steep or difficult driveway; being below street level; and being in a flood zone (which may require additional annual flood insurance payments).
The style of the home may also influence its value and how long it will take to sell.
For example, in certain parts of the country, a Southwestern-style, prairie-style, or contemporary-style home may be in high demand, while those styles may have limited appeal in other areas. Features such as bedroom configuration, renovations, the quality of the work and finishes, and the showing condition all matter when selling your home.
Even though your furnishings aren't part of the sale, if they don't match the style of your home or if they detract from showing it off in its best light, this may affect the offers you receive.
2. How long will it take to sell my home?
The real estate industry tracks the number of days it takes to sell your home from the time it goes on the market to the day you have a signed contract. Realtors can tell you the average number of days for selling a home in your price range and your neighborhood. This number is a good guide.
Your asking price will affect the number of days it takes to get an acceptable offer. For example, fewer people will look at your home if you price it too high. As a result, it will generally take longer to obtain an acceptable offer — unless, of course, the location is attractive to real estate investors and you've correctly factored that condition into the price.
A home that's move-in ready will typically sell faster than one that needs a lot of work.
Most people don’t have the time, money, or inclination to move and then undertake major projects. Painting will usually provide the most bang for your buck by increasing price and decreasing the time on the market. The time of year may also affect your sale time.
Spring usually brings the most buyers and the most sellers. During holidays — Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s — and in the summer, many buyers are traveling or otherwise busy, so demand may be lower and days on market longer.
3. What do I need to get my home ready to sell?
It’s what we call staging. It can vary from just “editing” (removing items that clutter up a house) to sprucing up rooms with new paint, light fixtures and furniture, and improving curb appeal.
Don’t underestimate curb appeal!
While the buyer’s agent is opening up the lockbox, the buyers are standing at the front door, with nothing to do but look around. Make sure to clean away cobwebs, touch up any paint, and put out some nice plants (no fake ones). Is your mailbox leaning? Is your front mat worn? You want the entryway to feel inviting.
Your agent can help you stage your home when getting ready to list. Make sure you run any paint colors by them or a decorator.
Also, keep doorways and walkways clear, not blocked by furniture or other items.
Show each room off and highlight its purpose. Don’t forget your exterior rooms. It’s not just about the interior – have a yard? Show it off by keeping the grass and bushes trimmed and clearing weeds from the beds and lawn.
4. Will I be able to move directly from my current home to my new one?
You will no doubt have started looking at properties to make sure that you'll be able to purchase your next home based on your expected proceeds from your sale. Once you put your home on the market, it's a good idea to keep a list of your top two or three choices so that once your home goes under contract, you can move forward on an offer, contingent upon the closing of your current home.
Different parts of the country have local customs concerning whether and for how long you can stay in your home after closing. To some extent, this is related to how much money you put down as earnest money at the time of contract.
For example, in Georgia, many buyers put down between one and two percent of the purchase price at the time of contract. That, in turn, gets applied to the purchase price at closing. In other states, the earnest money may be closer to 10 percent.
So if you're selling your home for $200,000, and the buyer has put only $2,000 in a trust account to assure performance under the contract, you may be reluctant to move out before closing, in case the buyer defaults. That $2,000 may not even cover your moving expenses. For that reason alone, you may have negotiated that you stay a few days after closing.
On the other hand, if there is $20,000 at stake, you may feel more confident that the buyer will perform – and if not, that you'll have the money to cover your expenses.
Another way to help make the move smoother is to negotiate a rent back after closing. That way, you have your money from the closing, which will allow you to close on your new home without an interim move.
5. Should you hire an agent when selling your home?
An agent can help you prepare your home for sale and price it correctly. She can also help you understand and perform under the contract and sell within the planned length of time. Depending on your market area, some agents may sell between 10 and 50 homes per year (sometimes more), so they can anticipate and resolve issues.
Agents and Realtors attend continuing education classes, training courses, and seminars to stay on top of compliance with the law and with changes in the market, as well as new technology and safety regulations.
In Georgia, for example, the sales contracts change twice a year. Mortgage guidelines change frequently, too.
Agents help you to avoid potential pitfalls that could derail your closing.
Having a thorough knowledge of contract terms — including financing, inspection, and other contingencies — can help make or break a deal.
When navigating the sale of a property, you want to make sure that you're protected; that you disclose what you need to disclose to buyers; and that you stay on track for a smooth closing.
Between financing contingencies, due diligence or inspection periods, appraisals, and more, there's a lot to do.
An agent can guide you through the process and ensure that you stay protected at every step.
Multiple list services syndicate to real-estate websites around the globe, giving you the best exposure, both to buyers and to other agents. The more buyers who view your home, the better the chance of finding your buyer.
An agent can also market to other agents who specifically work and sell in your location or price range to increase the chances of finding a buyer. Many companies have enhanced profiles on Realtor.com, and those listings have higher priority in search results.
Chances are high that a buyer will come with their own agent (according to the National Association of Realtors, 87 percent of buyers recently used an agent to purchase a home). This means that you'll likely end up negotiating with a professional on the other end of the table, as well.
Home prices include the commission, and buyers will expect a discount if you don’t have an agent, so with a professional on your side, your net — or how much you walk away with — probably won't be any lower than doing it yourself.