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Cover story: How not to sabotage a timely sale
“If an offer comes in very low after only a few days on the market, the sellers are sometimes insulted and will not make a reasonable counteroffer,” Mrs. Fales says. “In a couple of cases I know of, the buyers never came back, and both of those homes are still on the market months later. They will end up selling eventually, but the sellers have already had to drop the listing price below those original offers.”
Flexibility can close a sale even when a good offer is made.
“Sellers need to price their home so that it is the best value compared to other comparable properties,” Mr. Burgess says. “They also need to be prepared to negotiate. For example, buyers recently gave a full-price offer to my sellers, but they needed closing-cost assistance. The sellers were able to negotiate an increased sales price but gave back the extra money to the buyers as a closing cost credit.”
Not looking at the competition
“I always suggest that sellers look at the competition before they put their home on the market so they know what they will be up against and can price accordingly,” Mrs. Elias says. “Every seller thinks their home is the best, so it can be helpful to see the types of amenities other homes offer, such as a deck or a newer kitchen.”
Not keeping the home clean
“Most sellers are not prepared for the inconvenience of selling their home,” Mr. Burgess says. “I always stress with them upfront that they are not likely to be able to live they way they normally do. But the sellers that keep their home meticulously clean every day that it is on the market will end up selling faster.”
Mrs. Elias recommends hiring a professional cleaning service before putting a home on the market and, if needed, before an open house.
Failing to declutter and depersonalize the home
“You hear a lot about staging for a reason,” Ms. Casey says. “You have one chance to make a first impression on buyers. It should start with curb appeal. You need to present your home in the best light, with neutral paint colors, all deferred repairs remedied and all clutter and personal effects removed.”
Mrs. Fales says sellers can enhance their property value just by getting rid of things, particularly family photographs and children’s belongings.
“Buyers don’t want to see your stuff; they want to be able to visualize their own stuff in your home,” Ms. Bernstein says.
Mrs. Elias suggests that sellers pay for a portable storage container for any seasonal items, such as extra clothing or holiday decorations. The storage container can then deliver those items to the sellers’ new home. In the meantime, the closets in their listed home are emptier, and they can get rid of some of the clutter in their rooms.
Making too few or too many home improvements
“I find that a lot of homeowners have either very high expectations for what they need to do before putting their home on the market or really low expectations,” Mrs. Elias says. “Some people call me a year or more before they think they will put their place on the market and ask me what they should do to make their home more competitive. Getting professional advice can make a big difference in deciding how much you need to do.”
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By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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