Competition is fierce. Stroll down any neighborhood street and you probably will see at least one "House for Sale" sign. With so many choices, how can you make sure that a buyer will be drawn to your home at a price close to what you need? A big advantage for the home seller is that owning a home is still considered the American dream. A recent survey by Pew Research Center reveals that 8 in 10 adults "agree that buying a home is the best long-term investment a person can make."
Most real estate agents will offer a standard list of basics to make your home more attractive, including clean up the clutter, improve the landscaping, wash your windows and screens, clean your gutter, get rid of smells in your home, shine doorknobs, and wipe fingerprints off light switches. Now is the time you might want to consider renting a small storage unit to "hide" excess furniture, books, clothing or pots and pans.
Don't overlook making minor repairs, such as repairing driveway cracks and potholes and patching cracks in the walls, staircases, etc. Making sure that your lawn looks tidy will help to give the impression that your home is well-cared-for. Even minor blemishes can make a house look in disrepair. Putting higher-wattage lighting in your fixtures will make your rooms look larger, airier and "fresher."
The real estate market is still in flux, according to Walter Molony, public affairs director at the National Association of Realtors. "We're projecting existing-home sales to rise about 5 percent in 2011, with additional gains in 2012, but are expecting little movement in home prices because we're still working off excess supply," Molony says. "Conditions are expected to become more balanced next year as loan resets decline, but the timing of the recovery will vary greatly by market area -- tied much to growth in jobs."
Molony also offers the following suggestions before you sell your home:
--Get estimates from a reliable repairman on items that need to be replaced soon, e.g., a roof or worn carpeting; buyers will have a better sense of how much these needed repairs will affect their costs.
--Have a termite inspection to prove to buyers that the property is not infested.
--Get a pre-sale home inspection so you'll be able to make repairs and eliminate prospective buyers' concerns.
--Gather together warranties and guarantees on the furnace, appliances and other items that will remain with the house.
--Fill out a disclosure form provided by your Realtor. Take the time to be sure that you don't forget problems, however minor, that might create liability for you after the sale.
Retailers know to offer exciting incentives to draw potential customers. If you are ready to list your home, consider offering incentives -- such as paying points or closing costs, homeowners fees, or pool or lawn maintenance for a season. A home warranty on appliances is another good inducement.
It is recommended to list your home with a reputable real estate agent rather than do it yourself. Agents share listings, and people new to an area go to them for their expertise. Also, a conscientious real estate agent can offer you guidance in preparing your home for sale. Know your local market, and price your home competitively. Make your improvements and include incentives before listing; the longer you are on the market the less attractive your home becomes to prospective purchasers and the lower you will have to go in your asking price.
Finally, Molony lists things to watch for in a purchase contract:
--The closing date.
--Date of possession.
--Look for the largest earnest money deposit possible, because it is forfeited if the buyer backs out.
--What items the buyer expects to remain with the property.
--Requested repairs and their cost.
--What the buyer wants to be met before the contract is final -- e.g., inspections, selling a home, obtaining a mortgage or an attorney's review of the contract.
--How long you have to make a decision on the offer.