By Vicki de Vries
What are the best ways to come out on top when making that all-important decision to buy or sell a house? We asked several top producers at William Raveis in Chappaqua–Sena Baron, Bonnie Golub, and Ellen Grollman–to share their “top ten tips.”
10. Be a “smart” seller or buyer by finding a reliable, seasoned real-estate agent with a proven track record of integrity and successful sales.
Sellers first need to decide whether to sell on their own or secure the services of a real-estate agent. The advantage of working with seasoned, licensed professionals includes their knowledge of the local housing market and the community at large, as well as the ability to negotiate a real-estate deal.
Working with a licensed professional also helps to ensure accurate list pricing, which is the “key to success.” An honest agent will give you a price estimate he or she can justify, rather than appealing to your vanity. An “inflated” list price might be so unrealistic that your house will stay on the market for more months than it should have. As part of their servicing, real-estate agents do property comparisons to further ensure accurate pricing. So, unless you have beaucoup time to do market research, you simply cannot beat the services of a rock-solid real-estate agent. Be a smart seller.
Likewise, whether you’re a first-time buyer or seasoned buyer, be a smart buyer. As with sellers, finding a licensed professional agent with extensive market knowledge and integrity is paramount. Buyers should ask for references at the start of the relationship, along with information about the agent’s sales history and track record. Essentially, “if you don’t trust your agent, you are working with the wrong one.”
9. Buyers and sellers need
patience with the process.
Don’t expect every step to be smooth sailing, but trust your instincts, as well as your agent, who is there to guide you. Ask questions along the way, and remember that good decisions take time and effort. So, take a deep breath and be patient–the universe is not rushing you, even if people are.
8. Sellers need to be realistic about their selling price.
If you start to question a real-estate agent’s pricing, get a second, even third, opinion and compare them. This effort will help settle your mind and either give you confidence in your agent or impel you to find another one. Keep in mind your agent has to answer to the client/seller–you. Sometimes, sellers become enamored with a certain selling price. To avoid that, ask yourself, “How did I really arrive at this price?” If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll likely admit you’ve been thinking about the original house price and/or have been mulling over what housing values were before the economic tsunami hit the nation. Keep in mind the price you want for your home may have absolutely nothing to do with what a buyer will actually pay–
7. Sellers need to prepare a list of needed improvements to make before putting a house on the market.
Sellers have a natural tendency to overlook flaws in the house they have called “home” for X number of years. So, if you perceive your home as a great ship of state that needs no improvement, think again. Buyers will see defects your eyes have ignored. If you fail to consider how critical and cautious buyers are, you run the risk of having your house “sell your competition”–a prospect to avoid!
As with life, first impressions count. You have only one chance to make an impression; so, make sure it’s a good one. Make a list of what needs to be done before putting your house on the market.
6. Sellers need to make improvements buyers will expect and appreciate, starting with de-cluttering.
Imagine yourself as a buyer walking into your home. What do you see? A pile of boots, gloves, and coats scattered about? Piles of newspapers, magazines or books thrown on the coffee table in search of a shelf or circular file? Organize what you have, and store or give away what does not contribute to a crisp, clean look.
Plan your sprucing steps carefully. Do the oak floors need refinishing? Are the windows dusty? When was the last time you had the carpets cleaned or the cabinets inside and out? Make necessary repairs such as fixing torn screens or tightening those ceramic knobs on your kitchen cabinets. Of course, if serious repairs need to be made, fix them or obtain estimates from reliable vendors. Do you have a possible inspection issue? If so, get a pre-marketing inspection done. Perhaps it’s time to paint inside and/or out. Make it easier for a buyer to imagine living in your home by painting over bright primary colors and opting for more neutral shades.
While these kinds of improvements to your home will not guarantee a sale, buyers, especially first-time buyers, will gain a certain level of comfort since you have made some basic improvements they won’t have to make.
5. Sellers should plan on leaving the premises before an agent and a buyer visit the house. Before showing your home to a buyer, the agent should let you know. Rather than staying in your house when they walk in the front door, leave the house ahead of time. Balking? Buyers tend to feel inhibited around sellers. It stands to reason. If you feel you must meet and greet the buyers because no one else can sell your home as well as you can since you know it “inside and out,” reconsider. The best thing you can do is allow the buyer to dream and imagine the home as his/her own. And that will happen only if you’re physically out of the picture when they arrive.
4. Buyers need to get their price range for buying a house qualified by their real-estate agent.
Your agent should “qualify your price range,” which simply means matching the level of your financial ability with houses that you can reasonably afford. Early on, buyers also should consult with a mortgage broker and secure a “pre-approval letter,” which can be presented to the sellers when you are ready to make an offer.
3. Buyers need to make a list of the 10 most important features they must have in a new home.
Caveat emptor: the buyer beware. In this case, beware of your own priorities, regardless of the price range of houses for which you financially qualify. There are “tradeoffs and compromises” you might have to make in the process of buying a house. Perhaps you’ve always lusted after that Tudor-style home, but it’s out of your price range. Happily, perhaps that more reasonably priced Dutch colonial is too irresistible to turn down.
Keep your head from swimming in the wrong backyard by writing down the ten most important features your new home must have, “in descending order.” Once you (and your partner, if you have one,) have each made your own list and compared them, create a “master list” to guide your search for that perfect castle. If a house fails to meet the top five features on your master list, why waste your time? If you can compromise on the bottom two or three features, you might have a deal in the making. A key insight: “Sometimes it takes many visits to many properties to understand what compromises you can accept.”
2. Buyers should keep mum about their search.
This sounds silly. Why the secrecy? Simply because your best friends might be in the buying mood too. If they learn from you that it’s on the market, they might want to look at it and bid on it. In that case, you could stand to lose both the house and your friends. Then again, you would know who your real friends are.
1. Buyers would be wise to get a flavor of the local scene before making an offer on a house. After often much trial-and-error, buyers eventually will find one or more houses “of serious interest.” If new to an area, feeling unsure about the new community is normal. The antidote is spending time in the environs. Get a map, drive around the local roads, and visit the local sites. Check out a few restaurants and observe the clientele. Is the local supermarket one you would feel comfortable shopping at?
If you have children, stop by a park or a playground. Visit the school your child would attend. Observe the traffic pattern near the house at various times of the day. In short, do you like what you see? Can you imagine your family fitting in to this setting? If you sense some uneasiness, settle it or find another house and/or another community.
Will following these top tips for buying and selling a home automatically guarantee a smooth experience? No, but they certainly will help to put buyers and sellers in a better position for achieving that goal.
Vicki de Vries is a writer/editor and educator who enjoyed working as a realtor in the Midwest for a magical ten months before moving to