18 Steps to take BEFORE you sell your home or condo

In Buyers, closing, florida, home sellers, HUD, IRS, miami, miami beach, Military, real estate, Sellers, Short Sales on June 3, 2010 at 1:43 pm

After twirling it in your mind for weeks, possibly months or even from time to time over years, you’ve decided to sell your house or condo. CONGRATS! This is a BIG decision.

If you’ve decided to sell on your own, below are a few important pointers to guide you. If you’ve decided to employ the services of a professional, the information below should help you formulate some questions for your agent and determine what to expect and how to contribute to the outcome.

Note that, whether you decide to sell on your own (For Sale By Owner or FSBO), or you choose to work with an agent, it is imperative that you actively participate and become an informed homeowner and fully cooperate with your agent. Yes, you are in control and choose the direction and often play a big role in the outcome. From the price you choose, to whether you choose to make the property accessible for showings even when is not convenient for you (but rather when is convenient to buyers), to whether you keep the home tidy and clean or choose to defer maintenance and upkeep will all play a roll and all are typically within YOUR control.

You need to understand what it will take to attractively price and actively market your home to successfully attract potential buyers in spite of market conditions.

To accomplish this let’s take a look at 18 things you must consider before you sell:

1. Be honest, objective and open minded about the process

Many sellers today think that selling their home is as simple as sticking a sign on the yard and/or running a couple of online or print ads. They feel that, their home is the best, that all those improvements made over time are valuable and will command top dollar, etc., while forgetting the process that went into finding and ultimately deciding to buy the very property they now call home or even that the improvements made all those years ago, may not be obsolete and require updating or upgrading.

They forget that, more likely than not, they did not just wake up one morning and out of the blue said…’I’m buying a home today’. In fact, this process may have started at a conversation, while reading an article or in some way, a thought was implanted in their mind. Much like your decision to sell today.

This thought probably lead to some research, looking around, reading, talking to friends and family and even others who their reticular activator (that part of your brain that suddenly makes you aware that you are not alone as a buyer or seller), has found for you and with whom you can suddenly speak to about their experiences and listen to their advice.

Buyers coming to your home today are probably going through or went through a similar process and are at different stages in the process. Some are more ready than others to pull the trigger today and you need to find the ‘one’.

The ‘one’, will make the purchasing decision on a number of levels, the first of which is probably emotional. They need to connect with the property, just like you did when you found it. If the place is outdated or run down and not priced accordingly, it will generate a logical answer to their emotions. PASS (unless they are an investor testing your motivation level), or make a LOW BALL offer to match the property condition as they see it. They may otherwise just be tire kickers or HGTV shoppers who’s ‘just looking’ and aren’t going to buy anyway.

For them to feel an emotional connection, the property has to start working for them from the moment they drive by and are lured by the curb appeal or call for more information from your ad and the way their called is handled, all of which will be considered next.

You then, need to know what kind of buyer do you want to attract? Do you want to attract the buyer who will make a visceral, emotional connection with your home and LOVE IT and make an offer accordingly or the bargain hunter looking for a ‘fixer-upper’ (who’s also going to make an offer accordingly)?

To find out how your home stacks up and what is worth in Miami / Miami Beach, visit: or http://GetMyBeachHomeValue.Info.

2. Set the right price

Today’s buyers are much more sophisticated and savvy. They use the internet for information and research (these day’s version of ‘let your fingers do the walking’). and compare notes from many online sources before they begin spending time and gas driving around areas they either can’t afford or don’t like. Therefore, these buyers are more focused by the time they get in front of your house and so, your property condition and price needs to reflect that you’ve objectively looked at the sale of your hone and balanced what you want against what the market says you can sell for.

Take the time to do the research any savvy buyer will do by looking with ‘buyer’s eyes’ and reviewing the sold inventory, the active inventory, and the current market statistics in your area. This is probably the same exercise you will do when looking for your next home and will serve you well then too.

Use the web to your advantage, drive your own neighborhood, find out who is selling and who sold recently (within no more than 6 months), compare the curb appeal of your home to theirs and if possible, go to open houses in your neighborhood AND other similarly priced nearby areas and do all this OBJECTIVELY. If you are in a condominium, remember that units in one line are identical and may also be very similar or identical to units in another line with a different view. Buyers are often not willing to pay high premiums for improvements in condo units if the spread between yours and another can mean that the upgrades or updates they do after buying a cheaper unit can be done to their taste and still save them money. The same thing happens in certain neighborhoods with ‘cookie cutter’ type homes. Similar models may be improved and still save the buyer money if yours is priced too high.

3. Prepare your product

A typical buyer will view 10-15 homes before making a decision. As suggested above, this means you need to start from the curb and work your way inside. If possible, don’t do this alone, use the ‘honest’ input from people you know and don’t take their comments as negative criticism – but as recommendations and pointers of what buyers will see. Notice everything from the way the grass and landscape and lighting looks, fence condition, whether you have a new or worn mat and even if the doorbell works or the front door needs painting. These may all be potential red flags that a buyer may use to eliminate your home from consideration, often even subconsciously thinking that the exterior is a reflection of the interior. Some studies show that you have less than 30 seconds to impress a buyer when they arrive at your door and you may not get a second change to make a great first impression. Try exploring home improvement stores, websites or t.v. channels like HGTV to get ideas and address issues as inexpensively as you can while making sure to eliminate all the excuses for passing your house up versus keeping it on their short list of properties to consider or even making an offer.

4. Plan your marketing

If you decide to go solo and not hire a professional, you have given up a key component of a successful marketing plan – the exposure that a local Multiple Listing Service provides to bring your home to the attention of many agents across your town and often even nationwide and internationally. These agents may be working with several buyers each, one of whom may be your buyer. To overcome this handicap, try using online ads, FSBO dedicated websites, and local print media to attract attention. Remember that today’s buyers look online first over 90% of the time and they value the availability of more quality photos, virtual tours and detailed information. One site to explore for syndicated posting of your online ad is Postlets. Keep in mind that discount brokers that just place the property on the MLS provide no additional benefit to you and you must still ensure your marketing and property condition matches proper pricing, showings, etc.

5. Address problems now

It is highly recommended that you have your home pre-inspected. An argument for doing this is that the inspection will give you a ‘heads up’ to items the buyer’s inspector is likely to find anyway. This will allow you to address them early and once again, reduce reasons or excuses for passing up your house as a potential candidate. An argument against it by some is that, anything you learn about the home may need to be disclosed to the buyer even if you decide not to go ahead with the repairs. However, there are items that, if were to ever come to question in court, a judge may determine you should have known and find in favor of the buyer anyway. In my humble opinion, I would rather know than not know. It’s like not going to the doctor just because I don’t want to know what’s killing me, even if there is a cure that could save my live or help me reasonably live longer. You may visit the American Society of Home Inspectors website to find one near you or consult your local phone directory.

6. Address communications early and efficiently

Decide early on who and how calls or door knocks and call backs to notes left at the door will be handled. To avoid hesitating while responding to a call, keep your home details handy and a pre-typed and ready to cut and paste email ready to send at a moment’s notice. Remember that upon first contact, your goal is to generate a showing NOT to sell the house over the phone or email. A great way to avoid keeping your private email private is to set up a separate email account for buyer emails. Over the phone, use an answering machine to record general information about the house and elicit the buyer to leave their contact info. This ensures that your blurb sounds the same and is not influenced by your mood. By all means, respond quickly and in a friendly manner to all inquiries. You never know who they might tell about your home.

7. Identify financing options your buyers might consider

Interview at least three lenders in your market and ask them to consider interviewing and qualifying potential buyers and choose one you can work with. Even if the buyer claims to be working with a lender and insists on using their lender (which they are entitled to do), this may be a business or lead generation source to the lender in exchange for providing you a financing options matrix you can share with your buyers. This will help buyers see in dollars and cents how they can qualify to buy your home. This can be a great tool for converting a showing into a sale. Refer buyers to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website (, for answers to financing questions.

8. Be creative

Consider creative ways to sell your home such as carrying a mortgage, accepting a trade or exchange (1031 – visit for more), a lease option agreement (consult an attorney and private lenders). How far you are willing to go to get your home sold and your willingness to think outside of the box may mean the difference between selling your home and having the home for sale, helping others get theirs sold first and wishing you had sold your home before they did.

9. Consider incentives

Incentives can include offering contributions for closing costs, buy down the buyer’s interest rate, paying for prepaid costs like maintenance fees or assessments, crediting money back for repairs like paint or carpet replacement, new appliances and even a home warranty. A home warranty is a service contract that protects buyers for up to one year for any major mechanical failures in the home like a/c, pool equipment and/or major appliances. Check out the American Home Shields website and research this option to stand above your competition.

10. Your For Sale sign

Many real estate firms attribute as many as 30% of buyer calls to their signs. Therefore, consider avoiding hand-made or cheap signs and order a professional sign instead, used in conjunction with properly done informational flyers. When placing your sign, set it perpendicular to the road for better visibility. Always check with local regulations and ordinances since some restrict the type and size of signs you can use. Consult your local government office and surf the net to find sign companies for ideas or to purchase yours.

11. Take safety seriously

Be careful when opening your home. We are in a recession and there are some scammers and down-right thieves lurking and looking for opportunities to strike. Before inviting someone over (specially if you have a big home), make sure you’re not alone so that someone can stay watchful while you show the home. Often FSBO shoppers may come in pairs or small groups, brake the group while one or more search for jewelry, cash or other valuables and maybe even figure out what protections if any (alarms, cameras, etc), you may or may not have in place. In other words, in a tough economy, there are some scouting for opportunities – just not the kind you want, which is a buyer for your home.

12. Differentiate between buyers and others

Consider that often, bargain hunters, looky-lous and investors seek out FSBO’s so, be prepared. While you should be friendly while firm every step of the way (entertaining the first phone call, making the appointment, receiving them and showing your pristine product, negotiating, addressing all legal issues, etc), remember that, although none of them may be the buyer for your home, one of them may tell someone who may.

13. Seek to hire critical team members

Consider the use of a good real estate attorney and/or title agent. Although the buyer is certainly entitled to use their own, you should have someone represent you at closing NO MATTER WHAT.

14. Improve your chances by cooperating with brokers

If you accept the suggestion to consider paying a buyer’s agent fee, also consider that, this agent is representing the buyer, not you. If you will concede to do this, then you should also consider that having a professional represent and look after YOUR best interest and free up your time do do all the chores required of the job of selling your home must be carefully considered.

15. Staging

Staging has been found to help sell homes faster. Staging is all about making your home appeal the the widest number of potential buyers possible. This goes with point number one above in many levels. From the way the house looks at the curb, to the way it or your condo looks the ‘second’ they step in the front door. Is it too cluttered or does it look spacious and allows potential buyers to ‘see themselves’ living there? Is it clean or dusty with hair and spiderwebs all around? Does it have smells of food, pets, sweaty/dirty laundry or dipers or does it smell fresh and clean? How is the lighting? Is it bright and well ventilated or is it dark and damp feeling? Is the temperature just right or is it too cold or hot? Is the color of cabinets, walls, carpet neutral and inviting or is it quite particular to YOUR taste?

Remember that selling a home is a bit like selling that precious car. You wash it, vacuum it, clean it thoroughly, polish it, buff it, clean the engine, change the oil and filter, check tire pressure, make sure the brakes and a/c works and are certain that it is in great working order as you show it with pride and often, even let prospective buyers ride it.

Selling a house or condo that was once your home and castle should be done with the same sense of pride and care to detail in order to stand above the competition, keeping in mind that what you are selling is no longer your home but a possession where you built memories in. Now, you must provide room for the potential buyers to see themselves building memories in a new place they want to call home.

16. Be Ready to execute

So, you did your homework, corrected issues, prepared your home, priced it right, took and handled the call and lured a potential buyer in, they knocked on your door, you graciously showed it, and you hit it off. Now what?! ASK FOR THE SALE. So…what if they say ‘OK’? Are you prepared? Do you have all the legal paperwork necessary to complete the sale? How do you address sensitive issues like financing, down payment and others? This is why you must be prepared and before you start…have the end in mind. This is the moment you were waiting for. Know what to do and how to ask for the sale, get the paperwork and disclosures properly completed and signed, know what to do with the down payment, when are inspections and appraisal necessary, what dates are important to remember under the contract, and what to do when things don’t go smoothly. This is when great team members typically earn their keep. A great attorney and professional Realtor usually worry about and handle all this on your behalf. Hiring the right professionals for this job is usually well worth the fees and often, may even help negotiate and net you more money in your pocket. Consider interviewing several professionals when determining whether you will sell on your own or allow a professional to represent you and choose.

17. Let go of ‘hangups’

Some sellers get hung up on price. They feel they must get a certain number or they just wont sell. This may be fine if your motivation to sell is not clear or not even there. You’re just fishing to see how it goes and you just want to test the waters. If someone bites, you might sell. If on the other hand you are ready to sell to be closer to family, job relocation, downsize, upsize or any other ‘real’ reason, then consider that the perceived money you may give up selling in a down market will also help you buy right…even at a more attractive price than you would if you wait. In the end, if you wait until home prices recover, you may get more for your home, but you are also likely to pay more for the home you buy. The net effect may be the same, or a smaller net difference between the price you sell and the price you buy. Therefore, let go of hangups and stay focused on the outcome and clear about ‘why’ you want to sell.

18. If you need help…GET IT

There is no shame in recognizing you need help or asking for help. 7 out of 10 homeowners facing foreclosure loose their home because they failed to seek the help they needed. If you are not ready, willing or able to handle the sale of your home on your own, you are typically better served by hiring a professional Realtor (c) (note that not all real estate agents are Realtors – members of the National Association of Realtors who adhere to a strict Code of Ethics). You may also be facing foreclosure due to serious consequences to a hardship situation like loss of your job, earning less due to less work hours or drop in business, health issues or death of a wage earner in the household or spouse, birth of a child, military and others. Know that there are several ways to avoid loosing your home to foreclosure and you can find more information by visiting

If you follow the above suggestions, one of two things are likely to happen: You will have showings and sell or you won’t. Few or no showings often indicate that the market is rejecting your price. In addition, the National Association of Realtors also suggests that, 10 or more showings without an offer calls for a price adjustment.

There may be issues with the home as it compares to others in a number of ways. Perhaps it is too close to a busy street, railroad, airport landing or take-off traffic pattern, its functionality, level of repairs or updating or upgrading necessary, etc. If this is the case, revisit the advise provided above and make adjustments to create a successful sale. Listen to comments and don’t take negatives personal. Change what you can and find ways to play down the negatives and play up the positives.

To stay up to date on your competition, sign up for email alerts about your market area at http://GetMyBeachHomeValue.Info.

Selling your home can reap big rewards, but it does take commitment and a lot of hard work if you are selling on your own. Even when using a professional, this is a team effort and your cooperation by taking their advise, keeping the property clean, availability for showings, etc, will be critical in your success or failure.

Take the time to use these 18 tips to ensure that you are able sell your home fast and for top dollar.

Your comments or questions welcomed. Contact Wenceslao for more specifics.


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