Monday, January 26, 2009

How to Sell a House - Part Four - The Visit

Now the Realtor arrives! You've done your best, the house is immaculate, and you have set aside a couple hours without the TV and minimal distractions to speak with a professional. This is an important moment - to go forth and sell or back off and think some more. But if you've done what I suggested up to this point then you will more than likely continue the process.

I can only speak for myself about this part. I know some Realtors come in with the list of what they've sold, tell you what to do and sign you up on the spot. They tell you the price your house will sell for and for the life of me I don't know how they do that. It always seems odd to me that anyone can know, but many Realtors say they do. Not getting that price 99% of the time doesn't seem to faze them.

If you've decided that I am The One, I will tour the house, make suggestions minimally (because after all, you probably have done it already) and listen to your suggestions. If you are willing to get rid of the old refrigerator and buy a new one I will agree. Who wouldn't? When it comes to granite and new bathrooms, numbers must be checked to see if it's worthwhile. Often the time it takes to do a construction job, no matter how worthy, might mean the sale. Waiting until the snow flies is not a good option. But no one sees into the future - all you know are the present conditions.

After touring I will sit with the homeowners and go over the paperwork. I want everyone to know what is being contracted for here. No guarantees, but I promise to do what I say I will. Often there's a timelime - brokers open, public open house, ads in the Journal and the Post-Standard (Sunday and Thursday), post cards to my past, present and future clients and referral agents. Since the RE/MAX office is in Skaneateles we have window displays and a booklet offered to people passing by (especially on Fridays when Doug's has a line out the door!)

The contracts I write are usually for six months, longer if it's land. I say that if my services are not what you want you can withdraw - then I hold myself accountable to make sure I provide excellent service. I can't guarantee a house will sell - I wish I could!

I also offer a home inspection for listings. I think it's important to know if there's anything major that needs correcting now. Repairs always balloon in price in negotiations. Last fall we learned that a roof needed replacing. One potential buyer estimated $15,000, but we were prepared and showed her a $7,000 estimate that the roofer guaranteed for three months. And the best part is if an inspection comes back with only minor adjustments needed. Buyers then feel safe in buying. (Of course the option is always there for them to get their own inspection, and some do. But we then have talking points.)

Part of the paperwork is a sellers' property disclosure which asks wonderful questions like "What is the amperage?" "Are these public or private poles?" "How often do you pump your septic system?" "Is anything buried on your property?" New York State has deemed these three pages, legal size, are necessary. If you do not complete them the buyer receives a $500 credit at closing. Downstate sellers are more often told by their attorneys not to complete them; upstate everyone generally does. The fourth page is additional information - the meat, as it were: "How old is the furnace?" "How much do you pay in utilities?" "What improvements have you made in the past five years?"

The latter is what you, the seller, uses to justify pricing. Homes have increased in value - but how much? Just because you paid $180,000 five years ago does not mean that your home is automatically worth 5% more. Show why it is, what you did..... But here's the rub! Even if you put in $20,000 worth of improvements, that does not automatically mean you will get it back in the sales price. The best thing you can do is list what you did and let the market tell you if it's enough. But list everything!

At the end of the two hours I leave with a plan in hand of how to sell the house. It's not always smooth - in fact, it rarely is, especially in these times. I want my listings to sell in the first month and if it goes beyond that I get impatient, as do most sellers. But we must work together to bring about the sale. By the way - now is an EXCELLENT time to buy!