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14 Real Estate Tips for First-Time Home Sellers

Sure, you know that you should stage your home, but what else should a first-time home seller expect when listing their house on the market? Here are fourteen tips that will prepare you for the home selling process.
Sure, you know that you should stage your home, but what else should a first-time home seller expect when listing their house on the market? Here are fourteen tips that will prepare you for the home selling process.

If it’s your first time selling a house, you’ll have a lot of questions both going into it and during the home selling process. The better prepared you are before listing your home, the better it will go.

Here are fourteen tips to prepare you to sell your home, and your real estate agent will give you advice any time you need it.

Know Why You Want to Sell

This may sound basic, but before you even start the home selling process, make sure that you’re 100% clear on why you want to sell. Your reasons will guide all of your decisions going forward.

Are you trying to cash in on your home’s equity, and upgrade to a bigger home? Make sure that you can make enough on your sale to afford that bigger place. Are you moving for a new job opportunity? Knowing why you’re selling will help you with pricing decisions and help you avoid seller’s remorse.

List at the Best Time of Year

The time of year that you list your home can command up to a $3,000 premium on sale price. Zillow analyzed nationwide sales data and determined that the best month to list a house is May and the best day is Saturday. But this can vary by city and region.

A local, experienced realtor will have their finger on the pulse of your market and know when is the best time for you to list your home to get top dollar. Don’t be afraid to reach out and get input from a realtor for a free, no-obligation consultation before you’re ready to list. They’re happy to help, knowing it will secure the listing for them later on down the road.

Start Two Months in Advance

Once you know the best time of year to list your home, work backwards. On average, it can take two months to prepare your home to go on the market. It’s wise to take care of small repairs, such as touching up paint or fixing a broken light switch, before even listing your home.

It will take time to get handymen and contractors into the house, if needed, and to do any work you plan on tackling yourself.

Find the Best Agent

Your real estate agent is your ally in the home selling process. An experienced agent will know how to market to buyers in your area, how to handle negotiations to get you the highest price and the best deal for your home, and be an invaluable resource.

Not all real estate agents have the same experience or offer the same service. Clever Partner Agents join our network from nationally-recognized brokerages such as Century 21 and Keller Williams. They’re the top-rated sellers in their offices, with years of experience that they can draw on when working with you. And, while they work for a discount, they offer full-service.

Price Your Home Accurately

Yes, you want to make money. But pricing your home above or below what the market will bear works against you.

If your home is priced much higher than other, comparable homes, buyers won’t put it on their list. It won’t show up in online searches which are filtered by price range, either.

If your home is priced too low buyers will likely assume that something is wrong with it. They may think it needs a lot of repairs, or that you’re hiding something.

Pricing your home accurately works to help you make a faster sale. Your real estate agent will prepare a free comparative market analysis which analyzes recent home sales in your neighborhood, price discounts, time they sat on the market and more to land on the best price for your house.

Stage Your Home

Don’t just tidy up and mop the floors, staging your home if an effective tool to entice buyers.

Rearranging the furniture can open up the space. Taking down photographs de-personalizes your home and helps buyers see themselves living in it.

 

If you decide that you don’t want to hire a professional stager, there are budget-friendly tips that you can try to stage your home yourself.

Hire a Professional Photographer

In addition to staging, the photographs that accompany your listing must show your home in its best light. According to statistics, homes with high-quality pictures sell 32% faster. Having more photographs also helps your home sell faster, and luxury home sellers get more for their house if they use professional photographers.

 

In short, don’t underestimate the importance of hiring a professional photographer. Knowing the difference this can make, many real estate agents include the cost of a photographer as part of their services. They view the expense as being worthwhile to help them close a sale faster.

If you truly can’t afford a professional photographer, read our tips for budget-friendly photos for home sellers to get some advice before pointing and shooting yourself.

Review the Listing

Once your house is listed on the MLS and various websites take the time to review all the details. If the wrong amount of bedrooms or bathrooms is listed again, it won’t show up in buyer’s searches.

Use the “claim my house” feature on Zillow to take ownership of your house and add information. If you recently replaced the roof or furnace, add that to the home’s description. Make sure that all online listings of your home contain accurate and up-to-date information.

Be Flexible with Showings

You could have ten interested buyers but if none of them can get into your house for a showing, no one will make an offer.

Plan on spending weekends at the grandparents’ house or out running errands. Go out to dinner and leave the home vacant on weeknights. Being flexible about allowing potential buyers access to your home will help your home sell faster.

And, yes, you should try to be gone from the house when people come to see it. Many home buyers feel uncomfortable freely discussing a home’s pluses and minuses when the current owner is standing right there, or is just a room away.

Respond to all Offers

Eventually, you’ll get an offer for your house. Your agent will sit down with you and explain what it means, and how each of the offer’s components will impact your sale.

It’s important to respond to all offers even if you already have one on the table. Offers can fall through for many reasons, including the buyer not being able to obtain financing. You can accept back-up offers just in case. And having multiple offers allows you to negotiate between buyers for the best deal.

If an offer does fall through, if you’ve been polite and responded to past offers you can go back to those buyers and ask if they’re still interested. Responding to all offers keeps your options open.

Prepare for the Home Inspection

If you didn’t have time to take care of paint touch-ups or small repairs prior to listing your home on the market, do it now. Most buyers put a “contingent upon inspection” clause in their purchase agreements. This allows them to back out if a home inspection reveals any major, expensive flaws.

Prior to the inspector’s visit, walk through your home and try to take care of anything small that could go on their report as a negative. You won’t have time to fix anything major but the idea is to offset any major issues by having the rest of the house in tip-top shape.

Negotiate Successfully

After the home inspection, it’s likely that there will be further negotiations. The buyer could ask you to fix some minor issues before the closing. If the home inspector found something major the buyer has the option to ask for a price reduction or to back out of the sale.

It’s important to try to keep from getting offended during this process and to carefully weigh your options. If you decide not to grant any concessions and the buyer backs out, another buyer’s home inspector will find the same issue. If the deal falls through and you have to relist your home you may miss the best window for home sellers.

Your realtor will know what reasonable requests are at this stage, and has the negotiation skills to handle requests, preserve your profit, and keep everybody happy.

Book the Movers

Don’t wait until a few weeks before closing to book your movers, particularly if you’re moving in the spring or summer. Movers can book up quickly, and you’ll need to be fully out of your house before the closing.

The moment that it looks like your deal will go through, typically after a home inspection, start packing up your stuff and calling around.

Have a Contingency Plan

In real estate, timing is everything. But this also includes getting into a new home. If one of the reasons you’re selling is because you need more space you might not have found your next home by the time your current home sells. Have a back-up plan in place.

In a seller’s market, sellers don’t like accepting offers that are contingent upon the sale of your current home. There could be a gap between closing and being able to buy your next residence. Have a contingency plan in place, whether it’s booking into an extended stay hotel or staying with family.

An experienced Clever Partner Agent can walk first-time home sellers through the process and get you the most money for your home. If you’re thinking about selling your house, reach out to Clever today. One of our representatives can put you in touch with a local agent in your market.

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Andrew Schmeerbauch

Andrew Schmeerbauch is the Director of Marketing at Clever Real Estate, the free online service that connects you top agents to save on commission. His focus is educating home buyers and sellers on navigating the complex world of real estate with confidence and ease. Andrew has worked on projects for the United Nations and USC and has a particular passion for investing and finance. Andrew's writing has been featured in Mashvisor, L&T, Ideal REI, and Rentometer.

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