WHAT TO KNOW 7 Reasons to Work With a REALTOR ®
REALTORS ® aren’t just agents. They’re professional members of the National Association of REALTORS ® and subscribe to its strict code of ethics. This is the REALTOR ® difference for home buyers:
1. An expert guide. Selling a home usually requires dozens of forms, reports, disclosures, and other technical documents. A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best deal, and avoid delays or costly mistakes. Also, there’s a lot of jargon involved, so you want to work with a professional who can speak the language.
2. Objective information and opinions. REALTORS ® can provide local information on utilities, zoning, schools, and more. They also have objective information about each property. REALTORs ® can use that data to help you determine if the property has what you need.
3. Property marketing power. Property doesn’t sell due to advertising alone. A large share of real estate sales comes as the result of a practitioner’s contacts with previous clients, friends, and family. When a property is marketed by a REALTOR ® , you do not have to allow strangers into your home. Your REALTOR ® will generally prescreen and accompany qualified prospects through your property.
4. Negotiation knowledge. There are many factors up for discussion in a deal. A REALTOR ® will look at every angle from your perspective, including crafting a purchase agreement that allows you the flexibility you need to take that next step.
5. Up-to-date experience. Most people sell only a few homes in a lifetime, usually with quite a few years in between each sale. Even if you’ve done it before, laws and regulations change. REALTORS ® handle hundreds of transactions over the course of their career.
6. Your rock during emotional moments. A home is so much more than four walls and a roof. And for most people, property represents the biggest purchase they’ll ever make. Having a concerned, but objective, third party helps you stay focused on the issues most important to you.
7. Ethical treatment. Every REALTOR ® must adhere to a strict code of ethics, which is based on professionalism and protection of the public. As a REALTOR ® ’s client, you can expect honest and ethical treatment in all transaction-related matters.
Before Putting Your Home up for Sale
Here are a few items to take care of before listing your home. This can make the sale process quicker and easier in the long run.
Consider a pre-sale home inspection.
An inspector will be able to give you a good indication of the trouble areas that will stand out to potential buyers, and you’ll be able to make repairs before open houses begin.
Organize and clean.
Pare down clutter and pack up your least-used items, such as large blenders and other kitchen tools, out-of-season clothes, toys, and seasonal items. Store items off-site or in boxes neatly arranged in the garage or basement. Clean the windows, carpets, walls, lighting fixtures, and baseboards to make the house shine.
Get replacement estimates.
Do you have big-ticket items that will need to be replaced soon? Find out how much it will cost to repair an older roof or replace worn carpeting, even if you don’t plan to do so. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home, and they’ll be handy when negotiations begin.
Gather up the warranties, guarantees, and user manuals for the furnace, washer/dryer, dishwasher, and any other items that will remain with the house. It may seem like this task can be left until closing, but you don’t want lost paperwork or last-minute scrambling to cause the deal to fall through.
Spruce up the curb appeal.
Walk out to the front of your home, close your eyes, and pretend you’re a prospective buyer seeing the property for the first time. As you approach the front door, what is your impression of the property? Do the lawn and bushes look neatly manicured? Is the address clearly visible? What do you see framing the entrance, if anything? Is the walkway free of cracks and impediments?
Add Curb Appeal
Trim bushes and branches so they don’t block windows or architectural details.
Set a pot of bright flowers (or a small evergreen in winter) on your porch or front walkway.
Install new, matching locks and knobs on your front door.
Repair any cracks or holes in the driveway, and clean oil spots with degreaser and a steel brush.
Edge the grass around walkways and trees.
Stow your garden tools and hoses out of sight, and clear kids’ toys from the lawn.
Buy a new mailbox.
Upgrade your outdoor lighting.
Purchase a new doormat for outside your front door.
Clean your windows, inside and out.
Polish or replace your house numbers.
Mow your lawn. Also, turning on the sprinklers for 30 minutes before the showing will make
the whole yard sparkle.
Remove Snow from your drive way and walkways
Place a seasonal wreath on your door.
Clean When Your Home is For Sale
Executing a deep clean before putting your home on the market will not only help it shine, but it will make tidiness easier to maintain between showings. Here are some power-cleaning tips to try.
Clean windows make a huge difference.
Remove window screens and place them outside on a tarp or other clean, waterproof surface. Use a garden hose, an all-purpose cleaner, and a soft brush to gently clean the screens. You don’t need anything special to polish up window glass; just mix a solution of one part white vinegar to eight parts water, plus a drop or two of dishwashing liquid in a spray bottle. Wipe with newspaper to avoid streaks. (Washing on a cloudy day also reduces streaking.)
The fridge is the most common source of kitchen smells.
Check the drip tray underneath your refrigerator and wash out any standing water from defrosting. Scrub the inside of the fridge with a baking soda and water solution. Activated charcoal in the fridge can help keep odors at bay.
Think outside the house.
It’s amazing the difference a sparkling entryway makes to your home’s curb appeal. Wipe down your front door, give the doormat a good shake/vacuum, and make sure dust and dirt haven’t collected on outdoor furniture. Use a pressure washer to give your driveway and garage floor a good cleaning. The acidity in dark cola drinks can help remove oil, rust, and grease stains, along with a little elbow grease.
Target the Bathroom.
For tile floors, apply your usual cleaner and then run a wet/dry vac, which will suck contaminants out of the grout. Pour a quarter cup each of baking soda and vinegar down the drains, leaving the concoction overnight, then flush with boiling water. Clean soap scum and mildew from plastic shower curtains by tossing them into your washer on the gentle cycle in cold water, with detergent and ½ cup vinegar (if mildew is present, add ½ cup of bleach instead of vinegar). Put a couple of large towels into the machine to act as scrubbers. Allow the curtain to drip-dry on the rod.
Make your bed better.
Vacuum mattresses and box springs, and then rotate and flip over. Do the same for removable furniture cushions. This is also a great time to wash or dry-clean the dust ruffle and mattress pad. Add new loft to a lumpy comforter by having two people vigorously shake the quilt up and down to redistribute stuffing.
Wash the walls.
Grease, smoke, and dust can adhere to walls and make even the best decorating look dingy. Resist the temptation to spot-clean since it will make the rest of the wall look dirtier. Mop walls using a general-purpose cleaner diluted with hot water. Start at the top corner of the wall to avoid drips. Don’t press too hard, and rinse the mop head frequently in clean water. Use melamine foam cleaner to erase scuffs and stains.
Prepare for the Photoshoot
With the majority of buyers shopping for homes online, high-resolution slide shows and video tours are a must. Here’s how to make your home shine on camera.
Understand the camera’s perspective.
The camera’s eye is different from the human eye. It magnifies clutter and poor furniture arrangement so that even a home that feels comfortable in person can look jumbled online.
Make it spotless.
Cameras also tend to magnify grime. Don’t forget floor coverings and walls; a spot on a rug might be overlooked during a regular home showing, but it could become a focal point online.
Know what to leave.
You want to avoid clutter, but try to have three items of varying heights on each surface. On an end table you can place a tall lamp (high), a small plant (medium), and a book (low).
Snap practice pictures with your own camera.
This will give you an idea of what the home will look like on camera before the photographer shows up. Examine the photos and make changes to improve each room’s appearance, such as opening blinds to let in natural light, removing magnets from the refrigerator, or taking down distracting art.
Removing one or two pieces of furniture from each room, even if just for the shoot, can make your space appear larger on screen.
Spotlight the flow of your space by creating a focal point on the furthest wall from the doorway and arranging the other pieces of furniture to make a triangle shape. The focal point may be a bed in a bedroom or a china cabinet in a dining room.
Include a healthy plant in every room; the camera loves greenery. Energize bland decor by placing a bright vase on a mantle or draping an afghan over a couch.
Keep the home in shape.
Buyers who liked what they saw online expect to encounter the same home in person.
Attract More Buyers
These tips will help you convince buyers your property offers top value for their dollar.
Amp up curb appeal.
Look at your home objectively from the street. Check the condition of the landscaping, paint, roof, shutters, front door, knocker, windows, and house number. Observe how your window treatments look from the outside. Something special—such as big flowerpots or an antique bench—can help your property stand out after a long day of house hunting.
Enrich with color.
Paint is cheap, but it can make a big impression. The shade doesn’t have to be white or beige, but stay away from jarring pinks, oranges, and purples. Soft yellows and pale greens say “welcome,” lead the eye from room to room, and flatter skin tones. Tint ceilings in a lighter shade.
Upgrade the kitchen and bathrooms.
These are make-or-break rooms. Make sure they’re squeaky clean and clutter-free, and update the pulls, sinks, and faucets. In a kitchen, add one cool appliance, such as an espresso maker.
Add old-world patina to walls.
Crown molding that’s at least six to nine inches deep and proportional to the room’s size can add great detail on a budget. For ceilings nine feet high or higher, consider dentil detailing, which is comprised of small, tooth-shaped blocks in a repeating ornamentation.
Screen hardwood floors.
Refinishing is costly, messy, and time-consuming, so consider screening instead. This entails a light sanding — not a full stripping of color or polyurethane — then a coat of finish.
Clean out and organize closets.
Remove anything you don’t need or haven’t worn in a while. Closets should only be half-full so buyers can visualize fitting their stuff in.
Update window treatments.
Buyers want light and views, not dated, heavy drapes. To diffuse light and add privacy, consider energy-efficient shades and blinds.
Hire a home inspector.
Do a preemptive strike to find and fix problems before you sell your home. Then you can show receipts to buyers, demonstrating your detailed care for their future home.
For Better a Home Showing
Remove clutter. Clear off counters and pack unnecessary decorative items. Put extra furniture in storage, and remove out-of-season items. Don’t forget to clean out the garage, too.
Let it shine. Cleaning windows and screens will help bring more light into your home. Replace burnt bulbs, and consider higher wattage in low-light areas. Clean the walls or brush on a fresh coat of bright, neutral paint. Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones and show off your view.
Keep it clean. A deep clean before listing your home will make upkeep easier. Consider hiring a cleaning service to help.
Maximize comfort. In summer, shut A/C vents on the first floor so more air will get upstairs. Reverse the process in winter.
Perform a sniff test. Clean carpeting and drapes to eliminate odors. Open the windows to air out the house. Consider potpourri or scented candles and diffusers. For quick fixes in the kitchen, cotton balls soaked in vanilla extract or orange juice can instantly make the fridge a nicer-smelling place. Boil lemon juice in your microwave, then add it to your dishwasher to eliminate odors. You can also run lemon rinds through the garbage disposal for a similar effect.
Take care of minor repairs. Sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, or a dripping faucet may seem trivial, but they’ll give buyers the impression that the house isn’t well-maintained.
Tidy up outdoors. Cut the grass, rake the leaves, add new mulch, trim the bushes, edge the walkways, and clean the gutters. A pot of bright flowers near the entryway adds great curb appeal.
Set the scene. A bright afghan or new accent pillows easily jazz up a dull room. Pretty dishes or a simple centerpiece on the tables can help buyers picture themselves living there. Try staging a chess game in progress. If you have a fireplace, lay fresh logs or a basket of flowers there.
Make the bath luxurious. Make sure your personal toiletry items are out of sight, along with old towels and toothbrushes. Add a new shower curtain and fancy guest soaps.
Send the pets to the neighbors. If that’s not possible, crate or confine them to one room, and let the real estate practitioner know where they’ll be to eliminate surprises.
Lock up valuables and medication. Agents can’t watch everyone all the time.
Head out. It can be awkward for everyone if you’re home at the time of a showing.
Use Feng Shui Concepts in Staging
Feng Shui is a Chinese system of beliefs that govern spatial arrangement in relation to the flow of energy or “life force” (known as chi or qi) in a building. Learn how to appeal to buyers who follow such principles.
Chi flows in.
Pay special attention to the front door, which is considered the “mouth of chi” and one of the most powerful aspects of the entire property. Make sure the area is swept clean and free of cobwebs and clutter. Ensure all lighting is straight and properly hung. Consider lighting the path leading up to the front door to create an inviting atmosphere.
Chi can flow out, too.
Energy can be flushed away wherever there are drains in the home. To keep the good forces of a home inside, always keep the toilet seats down and close the doors to bathrooms.
Consider the bedroom carefully.
The master bed should be in a place of honor, power, and protection. Place it farthest from and facing toward the entryway of the room. The optimal placement is diagonal in the farthest corner of the room. Paint the room in colors that promote serenity, relaxation, and romance, such as soft tones of green, blue, and lavender.
Offer a formal dining space.
The dining room symbolizes the energy and power of family togetherness. Make sure the table is clear and uncluttered during showings. Use an attractive tablecloth to enhance the look of the table while also softening sharp corners.
Get a clear perspective.
Windows are considered to be the eyes of the home. Getting your windows professionally cleaned is a good idea anyway, but for buyers, your home will sparkle all the more brightly and your view will be optimally displayed.
Property disclosure form
This form requires you to reveal all known defects to your property. Your real estate agent will let you know if there is a special form required in your state.
Purchasers’ access to premises agreement
This agreement sets conditions for permitting the buyer to enter your home for activities such as measuring for draperies before you move.
This is the agreement between the buyer and seller, which outlines the terms and conditions of sale. Your agent or your state’s real estate department can tell you if a specific form is required.
Sales contract contingency clauses
In addition to the contract, you may need to add one or more attachments to the contract to address special contingencies — such as the buyer’s need to sell a home before purchasing.
Pre- and post-occupancy agreements
Unless you’re planning on “moving day” being on or before “closing day,” you’ll need an agreement on the terms and costs of occupancy once the sale closes.
Lead-based paint disclosure pamphlet
If your home was built before 1978, you must provide this pamphlet. The buyers will also have to sign a statement indicating they received the pamphlet.
This document officially transfers ownership of the property to the buyers or their lender.
These are binding statements by either party. For example, you may end up signing an affidavit stating that you haven’t incurred any liens on your home.
These are amendments to the sales contract that affect your rights. For example, you may wish to negotiate to stay in the home for a specified period after closing, paying rent to the buyers during that period.
Prepare for Your Move
Update your mailing address at usps.com or fill out a change-of-address form at your local post office.
Change your address with important service providers, such as your bank(s), credit companies, magazine subscriptions, and others.
Create a list of people who will need your new address.
Whether you plan on sending formal change-of-address notices in the mail or just e-mailing the family members, friends, and colleagues who should be informed, a list will ensure no one gets left out.
Contact utility companies.
Make sure they’re aware of your move date, and arrange for service at your new home if the service provider will remain the same.
Check insurance coverage.
The insurance your moving company provides will generally only cover the items they transport for you. Ensure you have coverage for any items you’ll be moving yourself.
Unplug, disassemble, and clean out appliances.
This will make them easier to pack, move, and plug in at your new place.
Check with the condo board or HOA about any restrictions on using the elevator or particular exits or entrances for moving, if applicable
Pack an “Open First” box.
Include items you’ll need most, such as toilet paper, soap, trash bags, chargers, box cutters, scissors, hammer, screwdriver, pens and paper, cups and plates, water, snacks, towels, and basic toiletries.
If you’re moving a long distance:
Obtain copies of important records from your doctor, dentist, pharmacy, veterinarian, and children’s schools.
E-mail a copy of your driving route to a family member or friend.
Empty your safe deposit box.