5 Questions to ask Before Selling Your Home
By Don Johnston
There comes a time in every homeowner’s life when he or she realizes: “I am not the same person I was when I bought this place.” Maybe your lifestyle or family configuration has changed, or perhaps the house isn’t as appealing as it was when you signed that ream of paperwork on closing day.
If you’re thinking about moving, then there are a few questions you need to ask yourself before you take the plunge and list the house. When you can answer these questions, you’ll know you’re in the right place emotionally and financially to move on to your next home.
“It’s a starting point; it’s not an appraisal. It’s a computer, and we haven’t been in your home. We haven’t seen your new kitchen.” -Zillow
1. What is my home worth?
You can find almost anything on the internet, and that includes the estimated value of your home. How convenient! However, before you go galloping off to Zillow or a random brokerage website to try to figure out how much your house is worth, take a deep breath and resolve to remember one thing: “I shouldn’t believe everything I read on the internet.”
Although it might be possible, an automated estimate is going to be spot-on. Still, those algorithms depend on numbers that may or may not be accurate. In addition, one must understand that these algorithms don’t consider the condition of your property, the square footage, any features or amenities you’ve added (or removed), or recent comparable home sales in your immediate area.
Zillow’s director of communication / reputation management Emily Heffter said, “It’s a starting point; it’s not an appraisal. It’s a computer, and we haven’t been in your home. We haven’t seen your new kitchen.” –Chicago Tribune
I’ll go further and say, it’s not even a Broker Price Opinion (BPO).
A better way to figure out how much your home might be worth is to look at your most recent property tax bill. Your property taxes change with the value of your home. So suppose you look at your property tax rate from last year and figure out your state’s assessment rate.
Understand that this rate is typically not quite the total value of your home; it’s somewhere between 80 percent and 90 percent of the home’s real value—depending on the state and local markets. Nevertheless, this assessment can help you get a little bit closer to pinpointing a realistic value for your home.
You can also talk to a professional about your home’s value. A data-savvy and experienced real estate agent has access to tools that require a real estate license to use. For example, at the Veteran Real Estate Group, we are offer data tools and in-sight not available to the public, which fills in the gaps where the algorithms fail. Thus, we’re able to give you a more accurate idea of the dollar value your home could fetch in the current market.
And a real estate professional can also explain what you can do to your home to help inch that number upward a little bit. Then you make the call as to whether or not you want to make any upgrades or take the estimated price as-is.
2. How can I sell at the highest price possible?
“At the Vets Group, we offer most services in-house at no charge for essential staging, photos including drone content.”
When you’re selling anything, you want to get fair market value for the item you’re releasing, and that’s exponentially truer for your house, which is probably the biggest purchase you’ve ever made.
If you know your neighbor’s house sold for ten figures more than the highest estimate you’ve been able to find for your own home, that can be a harsh reality to swallow. But this is where real estate professionals earn their keep. They can explain why that house was so desirable. For example, if you’re honest with yourself, maybe you can admit that your neighbor’s view is much more attractive than yours, etc. An agent can also show you where you may have some room for price improvement.
If you don’t want to call in a professional, start with things that can spruce up almost any dwelling. One of the first and most important steps to selling your home for top dollar is to get the place deep-cleaned from floor to ceiling, including washing the windows and scrubbing down all your kitchen appliances.
Start by attacking the clutter; it’s much easier to clean a room that doesn’t have a lot of furniture or objects in it, so even if you’re hoping to move up to make space for all your stuff, it’s a good idea to start cleaning out the items that you know you don’t want to move with you. Then, if there’s a lot left, consider a shed or an off-site storage facility where you can stash things without packing them all in your closets (where buyers will most definitely be looking).
Suppose you consider remodeling the kitchen, bathrooms or even adding entire rooms. Those are good opportunities to discuss with a real estate professional, who can share feedback about whether the project will be worth the eventual return on investment when you sell the home and what projects will net you more money for your property.
At the Vets Group, we offer most services in-house at no charge for essential staging, photos including drone content. However, most experienced real estate agents know stagers and home photographers.
When a buyer falls in love with your home, it’s most likely going to be from an online listing, so your listing photos should be as high-quality as possible; that might mean bringing in a stager to spruce up the rooms and a photographer to capture the results.
3. How long will my home be on the market?
“It’s crucial to get the initial list price right if you’d like the home to sell quickly.”
No one can predict the future, but experts who work in the industry can usually come close. If you haven’t called an agent yet, you might need to get the information you’ll need to answer this question. If you’re in New Jersey, click here to schedule some time with me: (Click Here)
Ultimately, it depends on what the housing market is like in your area. Still, there are many anomalies within a local housing market. For example, even in markets that seem red-hot, sometimes sellers make a mistake and overprice a home that then languishes for weeks or even months longer than more realistically priced homes.
Take a look at some of these homes that have been on the market for more than six months. (Click Here)
Some neighborhoods or even specific blocks where buyers seem to be willing to do just about anything to get their foot in the door and other geographies where they might need to be lured in a little more aggressively.
The number of days that homes stay on the market gets shorter and shorter as housing heats up, but that number is contingent on the initial list price. Thus, homes that need to reduce their price to attract qualified buyers will remain on the market significantly longer than homes priced competitively from the start.
It’s crucial to get the initial list price right if you’d like the home to sell quickly. Remember, the longer a house takes to sell, the longer you as the seller will be responsible for keeping it in touring condition for buyers seven days a week.
So even in markets where houses seem to be flying off the shelves, it’s wise to talk to someone who sees those sales up close and personal every day. They can give you an educated estimate about the amount of time it should take your property to get from list to close.
4. How can an agent help?
Selling a home is a huge life event that encroaches on just about every aspect of your existence, from your meals to your work schedule to how often you do laundry and vacuum up pet hair. As a result, it can be an incredibly stressful time. A real estate agent is a personal advisor and service provider that can help sellers make the best decisions possible while keeping track of all the details.
An excellent real estate agent will help you find the best price for your home, list it for you on the MLS, and handle all the marketing– from photos to open houses to glossy brochures to Facebook ads. In addition, a good agent can manage your showing schedule for buyers who want personal tours and can help you decide which offer to accept if you happen to receive more than one offer.
As a certified Real Estate Negotiation Expert (RENE), I say with great conviction that an experienced agent is essential during the negotiation process, especially if the buyer is making demands that the seller isn’t prepared to address. Having a buffer between you and the buyer creates the transaction sustainably more efficient and enjoyable.
A good agent will also know the best plumbers, electricians, and general contractors in the area who might be able to make any repairs or changes to the home before it closes. He or she can manage the transaction timeline, alerting you when an inspection or appraisal is about to happen and keeping you in the loop regarding financing and every other aspect of the deal.
A good agent can also help you do all of this while you’re simultaneously looking for a new place to live and can help you manage the processes. That includes knowing what to do if you find a home before your current house sells.
And depending on your situation, there are real estate agents who specialize in divorce, estate sales, and other tricky life events involving a home transaction.
Selling a home is not as simple as listing it on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and waiting for an appropriate offer to come in; there’s so much more involved that most sellers can’t manage on their own.
Answering these questions will get you a head start, but don’t skip talking to an agent or three when you’re ready to list that home; they’ll be able to point out what you didn’t know you were missing.
Don Johnston is a licensed real estate broker in New Jersey with more than 20 years of experience. He started building houses at a young age and joined the Army Corps of Engineers at the beginning of his career. He started his real estate services business in Manhattan, New York in 2005. He brings a diverse knowledge of captial markets, private equity, construction, development, and a data science which makes him a very unique and powerful choice for your broker.