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Lives of Doctor Wives: Survivor Saturdays: Selling a Home Like a Pro

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Survivor Saturdays: Selling a Home Like a Pro

Have you lost sleep over trying to sell a home as you move to the next location for your spouse's career? I have some tips on how to beat the odds in this economy. These tricks worked for me, and hopefully they will work for you, too!

Make some home improvements. Only make improvements that significantly improve the appearance, or fix things that are wrong. For example, change out a broken appliance but don't bother putting in new cabinets. Paint the exterior door, but don't seal the cement patio. That kind of stuff. If your carpet is old, advertise that you are giving a carpet allowance as part of the sale. People love to be in control of what color and quality goes on the floor. Make it reasonable, though, like $2000-4000 dollars. Also, paint walls a neutral color. Fresh paint makes a house smell new and gives it a real pick-me-up.

Consider selling the home yourself before listing with an agent. Craigslist.org and ebay.com are great sites for advertising a home for sale, but you must include photos. Ebay has a special section for home ads that don't include an auction. It's around $200, but craigslist.org is free. If you're going to try to sell it yourself, put together professional flyers that tell all the stuff MLS lists. Also include room dimensions, date of the new items and replacements, and what's near you that is worth mentioning (exercise gyms, spas, shopping, restaurants, grocery stores, schools). Put in bold letters that you are only selling by owner until XXX XX (date) so buyers don't think they can contact you after they exhaust other options.

Design a simple webpage to refer to when you advertise your home. Short ads pointing to a website and phone are cheaper. Also, list your website with the big search engines like google, yahoo, and bing. This is usually free. If that seems too complicated, post an ad in one of the popular fsbo sites (like forsalebyowner.com or fsbo.com) and include a link to your own site. These sites pay to be on the top of search engine lists, so your home will be found quickly. Make sure all ads you create include city, state, and other buzz words people might google when shopping for your area.

Promote desirables. Some people (like myself) will only look at a non-smoker's home or a home that didn't have pets. I am very allergic to cats, and my son is very allergic to dogs. If you've had any tests or inspections done that gave good results, list them. Pest inspections, Radon tests, and other extras make the difference. Energy efficient or eco-friendly features also matter to some people. Houses with tall showers and vanities, or well-lit homes are also important.

Be different. Offer something unique with your home. When I sold my home (yes, by owner), I offered a new HHR for any buyer who paid full asking price. If you're selling a $367,000 house, that's the cost of a realtor fee. Wouldn't you pay a realtor 6% if they got asking price?! When I got my ad up and running and appearing on search engines, I created a press release about myself as if someone else was writing about my unique sales approach. I emailed a copy of the press release to all the local media outlets. It got me a local radio interview and free advertising. My ebay ad got over 4000 hits that day.

Offer a finder's fee for references that result in a home sale. Offer a 3% finder's fee to anyone who refers a buyer that closes a deal. You can negotiate your price based on whether or not a finder's fee in involved. Any realtor who represents a buyer will want their portion (which is 3%) and you will still save the remaining 3% you would have paid to YOUR realtor. If you choose to offer a finder's fee, tell your friends and any realtors to email or call you with the name and telephone number of the person they referred, in order to get the fee after the sale. Use this information to follow up. Keep a log, though, so you don't forget when a referral took place.

Have open houses every Saturday and Sunday you can. Advertise them in the paper, on craigslist.org and on your website. Put a sign in your yard and down the street during those days. During the open house, have coffee and small appetizers out with nice music playing and candles burning. show them what the house would look like when they entertained there. Have your guests sign in, and then don't follow them around unless they want you to. The guest list not only allows you to follow up, but it documents when someone went through the house so a realtor can't approach them later and claim a referral. I don't care what realtors say, I had my best hits during open houses. I had a lot of realtors attempt to sell me their services during open houses, but I handed them a flyer and told them a finder's fee was theirs to be had if they found a buyer. I showed them around the home so they could tell others. (note: few realtors will show a fsbo home.)

Negotiate before listing with a realtor. If you aren't successful in selling the home yourself (or you don't want to), negotiate the heck out of your realtor. You should never sign a contract more than 3 months long, and if your home is listed for more than $200, try to get them to take 4% on the first $200k, and 7% on anything above that. That will motivate them to get the best price for you. If they tell you they aren't negotiable in their fees, walk away. A good realtor will be flexible and knows they don't do any more work for a $500k home than a $150k home. Also, read all contracts thoroughly. Some questionable realtors try to slip in "dual agent" or "exclusivity agreement" or longer terms without you noticing. Once you find a good realtor, be clear that you expect a weekly report of how many showings took place and what their comments were. If they seem to be doing their job, you can renew their contract with you for another 1-3 months until you feel it's time to try someone new.

Don't show an empty house. If you have to move out, buy some cheap blowup mattresses and cover them with nice bedding you can temporarily do without. Borrow furniture from friends, or ask a local furniture store (not a chain) if they would be willing to furnish your home for display purposes in return for posting a sign or price tags advertising where the items can be purchased. It's good for you, and it's good for the retailer. If you're really desperate, buy some non-stinky thrift store sofas/chairs and pin some nice covers on them. If you're moving too far away to show the house, then it's time to look for a realtor. Your home will be listed as NEW in the MLS and more realtors will see it.

Don't rely on a realtor to protect you. I can't tell you how many times our realtors have failed to include agreed items in a contract, or put a charge on the correct side of the closing statement. In fact, our last sale resulted in a law suit because our realtor's title company calculated the wrong tax amount, even after we questioned it. Now we proved we had communicated, but it turned into a real mess. Insist on a title company that you heard good things about, or better yet, use an attorney to close. They cost about the same but you'll have someone looking out for you. When we sold our own home, we paid an attorney to draw up the contract. It was sweet and simple, and we took the contract to the buyer's bank and asked them to close for us. I couldn't believe it was so simple. They took care of paying off the old mortgage, transferred title, and everything. I followed up by calling the city later to be sure they had the new owners on file for tax purposes.

Selling a house can be stressful, but it's quite rewarding when you do it successfully, and for a price you can live with. Have fun with it and meet some people in the process.

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OpenID joz1234 said...

A common problem people who For Sale By Owner run into is pricing incorrectly. To remedy this, interview a couple of realtors who will give you a price range before signing a contract. Tell them you then plan on trying FSBO and will contact them if you change their minds. Yes, it is not good for them, but if they do a good job and your house is not selling, then they will likely get your house as a listing. I was a realtor, and this is what I will likely do in order to price my home correctly before going with a REaltor. Also, you can get your house put into MLS without signing with a realtor. They have flat fee places that will list your house for you for $500. WEll worth it if it saves you 3% of realtors fees on your side.

December 12, 2009 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Paul Howard, Broker, NJHomeBuyer.com Realty said...

You might want to check your state's law before paying a referral or 'finders' fee to someone that does not hold a real estate broker's license.

December 12, 2009 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger Timani said...

I sure could have used this a few months ago. Tried FSBO and it wasn't going as well as I wanted, you have some great tips here I didn't think of. I had the website, fliers, craigs list, offered to pay their realtor, but I didn't get it into search engines, MLS or didn't hold any Open Houses. But now I've signed with a Realtor and it's gotten worse!

Anyone know how to fire a realtor? My realtor emailed me and told me personally that if he isn't doing what I wanted I could fire him...sounded easy enough. Although I've recently found out that it's more than a verbal "it's not working out" and don't want to get stuck at closing paying two realtors. Quite honestly, he sucks!

I'd just like to sell my house and move. My husband moved 7 months ago for residency and I've been a single mom of 8 kids for far too long!

If you ask me, you can pay whomever you want what you want, who cares of they don't hold a real estate license.

December 14, 2009 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger Paul Howard, Broker, NJHomeBuyer.com Realty said...

Who cares? Most (maybe all) real estate commissions care because in most states it is against the law to give a referral fee to someone without a license and it is against the law to collect a fee if you don't have a license.

If your Realtor isn't doing what was promised tell the office broker to release you (not just withdraw your listing from the MLS) and allow you to choose a different company without having to worry about 2 commissions or you will report them to consumers affairs and the BBB and well as posting on public sites your experience - and name names.

December 14, 2009 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Timani said...

Paul, thanks for help with trying to break contract.

With the referral fees, is it the same with a FSBO and referral by a friend? Or are you talking about referral fees from use of a Realtor?

December 14, 2009 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger wingspouse.com said...

Many states have exemptions for individual home sales, especially if you call it a referral fee. I know some states specifically forbid referral/finder fees between attorneys, builders, or contractors, but that's a whole different ethical issue. I googled for quite a while and couldn't find any mention of states forbidding an individual home owner from paying a referral fee... Look here to start http://www.mortgagenewsdaily.com/wiki/Real_Estate_Referrals.asp and then check with your state (cya statement).

December 14, 2009 at 10:47 PM  

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