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Is there a 'best time' to put my house on the market?
  The best time to list your house is actually as soon as you decide to sell it.

Along with economic factors such as supply and demand, the time of year you choose to sell can impact both the length of time it takes to sell your home and its ultimate selling price. Weather conditions are more or less of a consideration depending upon where you live. Typically, however, the real estate market picks up around February, continues strong through late May and June, and tapers off during July and August. September through November generally marks a rally not as strong as late winter and spring, followed by a slowdown from Thanksgiving through and beyond the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

For example, late spring and early fall are the prime listing seasons in many areas because houses tend to "show" better in those months than they do in the heat of summer or the cold of winter. And of course, people like to do their house shopping when the weather is pleasant. But keep in mind that there are also more houses on the market during these peak seasons, so you'll have more competition. So while there are peak seasons in the real estate market, it's not something that should dominate your decision on when to sell. If you want to get the best price for your house, the key is to give yourself as much time as possible to sell it. More time means more potential buyers will probably see the house. This should result in more offers; it also gives you time to consider more options if the market is slow or initial interest is low.
How long should it take to sell my home?
  Average times vary from 30 to 180 days, according to market conditions in a particular region, town, or even neighborhood; and of course, price, terms, condition, location and exposure play an even greater role. If your home is priced right and in good condition, you should be able to expect the minimum market time in your area. On the other hand, if your home is overpriced and needs work, the opposite likely will be true. Selling in any market is easier if you keep time on your side. Most professionals will tell you that allowing yourself at least six months will put you in a position to get a better return from their marketing efforts.
What makes a house sell?
  An entire section could be devoted to answering this question. But to be as concise as possible, a successful sale requires that you concentrate on six considerations: your sale price, your terms of sale, the condition of your house, its location, its accessibility, and the extent of marketing exposure your house receives. While some of these factors are beyond your control (such as the actual sale price), you can compensate by taking advantage of others (like a new paint job) to make your property as attractive as possible to prospective buyers.
How should I price my home?
  In a word, sensibly.

It is important to be realistic about your home's value and price it accordingly. You must take into account the prevailing state of the real estate market and especially local market conditions. The real estate market continually changes, and market fluctuations affect property values. So it is critical to determine your listing price based on the most recent comparable sales in your neighborhood. A real estate professional can supply information on comparable homes that have sold or gone under contract in your area.
What is 'fair market value', and how do I determine mine?
  Simply put, the fair market value of a house is the highest price an informed buyer will pay, assuming there is no unusual pressure to complete the purchase. It is usually not the asking price. To get an estimate of fair market value, call a local appraiser and ask for an appraisal of your house. Most appraisers provide this service for a nominal fee. The appraisal will give you a realistic figure based on the most salient points of the local real estate market. It should provide information about recent sales of similar houses, including how much they sold for and how long it took.
What is the difference between fair market value and asking price?
  You should assume that some negotiation will be necessary to reach an agreement with a buyer. The professional who presents you with the results of your competitive market analysis will provide all the data that establishes the fair market value. Then, based on timing and marketplace variables, your real estate professional will assist you in establishing a competitive pricing strategy. Generally speaking, the asking price - the advertised price of a house when it goes on the market - is set slightly higher than fair market value.
How flexible should I be about the asking price?
  Typically, the first few weeks will be the test period of your initial asking price. If you see showings drop off and very few return visits, you may want to consider repositioning your asking price. Most buyers leave room for negotiation when they make an offer. Thus, a certain degree of flexibility is usually called for on the part of both the buyer and seller. While it is ultimately your decision to accept or reject an offer, or present a counter-proposal, a good sales professional can be of great assistance to you during the negotiating process. In fact, negotiation is one of the valuable skills a real estate professional can offer you. As negotiations proceed - whether in writing, face-to-face, or by phone - your sales professional will inform you of your options in responding to each offer from the buyer, so you can make an educated decision as to how you want to proceed.
What's the downside, if any, of pricing my home on the high side?
  Several factors may come into play:
  • You might help sell similar homes that are priced lower.
  • Your home may be on the market longer.
  • You could lose market interest and qualified buyers.
  • You might create a negative impression of the property.
  • You may have to accept less money.
  • A potential buyer may face appraisal and financing problems resulting from the inflated price.
  • You could lose money as a result of making extra mortgage payments while incurring taxes, insurance and unplanned maintenance costs.
How can I prepare my house for sale?
  The selling process usually starts months before a property is actually put on the market. It is a good idea to look at your home through the eyes of a potential buyer. This will help you decide what needs to be cleaned, painted, repaired or tossed out. Your real estate professional can help you make these decisions and list your home at a fair price when it's ready. There are many things you can do to make your home show better without spending a lot of money. Following are some things you can do to make sure would-be buyers are impressed when they arrive:
  • Paint your front door, shutters, trim and any other outside features showing signs of wear.
  • Wash windows inside and out, replace screens or glass as needed.
  • Replace faded wallpaper and/or glue areas that have come loose.
  • Repair worn woodwork.
  • Repaint scarred or dirty walls in a neutral color.
  • Steam clean carpeting or replace it, if necessary.
  • Repair loose knobs, sticking doors and windows, warped cabinet draws, broken light switches and other minor flaws.
  • Check and repair caulking in bathtubs and showers.
  • Open draperies and curtains to let the light in during the showing.
  • Keep fresh, clean towels in the bathroom.
  • Use candles or air freshener to give rooms a pleasant scent.
  • Strategically light your home, even during daytime showings, to create a cozy mood and highlight positive attributes of each room.
What is "curb appeal", and how do I create it?
  "Curb appeal" is a common real estate term for everything prospective buyers can see from the street that might make them want to turn in and take a look. Improving curb appeal is critical to generating traffic. While it does take time, it needn't be difficult or expensive, provided you keep two key words in mind: neat and neutral. Neatness sells. New paint, an immaculate lawn, picture-perfect shrubbery, a newly sealed driveway, potted plants at the front door - put them all together, and drive-by shoppers will probably want to see the rest of the house. If you're going to repaint, choose neutral colors. Keep clutter and personal knick-knacks, photos, etc. to a minimum. Remember, when a family looks at a house, they're trying to paint a picture of what it would be like as their home. You want to give them as clean a canvas as possible.
Should I fix my house up before it goes on the market?
  Unless your house is nearly new, chances are you'll want to do some work to get it ready to market. The type and amount of work depend largely on the price you're asking, the time you have to sell, and of course, the present condition of the house. If you're in a hurry to sell, do the "little things" that make your house look better from the outside and show better inside.
Should I make any major home improvements?
  Certain home improvements that are useful to almost everyone have proven to add value or speed the sale of houses. These include adding central air conditioning to the heating system; building a deck or patio; finishing the basement; doing some kitchen remodeling (updating colors on cabinets, countertops, appliances, panels, etc.); and adding new floor and/or wall coverings, especially in bathrooms. On the other hand, improvements that return less than what they cost are generally ones that appeal to personal tastes that not everyone may share, like adding fireplaces, wet bars and swimming pools, or converting the garage into an extra room. The challenge that comes with any home improvement designed to help sell your house is recouping your investment. There's always the risk of over-improving your house that is, putting more money into it than neighborhood prices will support. So how much is too much? Professional renovators have found that, no matter how much you improve any given house, you're unlikely to sell it for more than 15 percent above the median price of other houses in the neighborhood, whether you do $1,000 worth of work or $50,000. That's why you might want to ask your sales professional's opinion about the viability of recouping the cost of any major renovation you have in mind before you start the work.
Should I do the work myself?
  If you have the time and talent, do-it-yourself improvements are the most cost-effective way to go. Painting, wallpapering, replacing cracked trim and old plumbing fixtures - the difference between work done by a competent amateur and a professional is usually time and money. Just make sure you don't tackle something you can't handle - this is no time for "on-the-job learning!" If you're not experienced, it may be worth calling in a professional. Larger jobs involving mechanical systems (heating, electrical, plumbing, etc.) or work that must meet local building codes are another story. Even if you or the family handyman knows exactly what you're doing, it's not a good idea to engage in this type of work unless you're licensed to do so. Your efforts could make you responsible for more than you realize if something you worked on goes wrong after you sell.
Who is responsible for making repairs, if any, as a result of home inspection reports conducted for the buyer?
  Because the buyer orders one or more home inspections doesn't obligate the seller to make repairs or modifications as a result of those inspections. Typically, however, inspection reports are used to negotiate repairs of major problems, or environmental or safety hazards that may be noted. The purchase contract should provide guidance for these negotiations.
Am I liable for repairs after I sell?
  Yes. If the buyer's inspection reveals major problems with your house's structure or mechanical systems (heating, electrical, plumbing, etc.), the buyer may wish to negotiate the price downward on the basis of anticipated repair costs. So even though the repairs won't be made until after the sale, practically speaking, you'll be paying for them. Sometimes, repairs may be required before the transfer of title takes place. This is especially true in sales that involve financing that's insured or guaranteed by the government (FHA/VA loans, for example). You may also have heard about lawsuits involving sellers who failed to disclose major problems before the sale - like an addition to the house that wasn't built to code. Most states now maintain very specific disclosure laws that require sellers to disclose any pertinent information related to the condition of the property. For example, most states require sellers to notify buyers about the presence of any lead-based paint. It is important for you to be knowledgeable about your state's disclosure laws. These are just a few good reasons to retain a lawyer or sales professional who know as much about the condition of your property as you do. It's also a good idea to get the buyer's written acknowledgment of any major problems when you accept their offer.
As a seller, what do I have to disclose about the condition of my property?
  Truth is the best policy when it comes to disclosing the condition of your property. You must disclose all known material defects of the property. Normally, these are noted on a Seller Disclosure Form (SDF). This is a form completed by the seller and real estate professional. For example, you are required to indicate any significant defects of which you are aware about the home's major systems, the presence of environmental hazards, room additions or repairs made without the necessary permits or not in compliance with building codes, zoning violations and much more. If an item is not covered on the SDF, you must still make disclosures about known material defects. Even if a matter has been repaired, you should still disclose the previous defect and a report of the repairs completed. By disclosing all problems up front, you can avoid any surprises that many times provoke a lawsuit.
What should I expect from an open house?
  The open house is valuable part of the marketing process, offering prospective buyers the chance to view houses in a low-pressure, "browsing" atmosphere. With that in mind, you shouldn't expect it to generate a sale, at least not directly. What you should look for is interest expressed and requests for private showings made to your sales professional in the days following the open house. Open houses are always valuable. If many prospective buyers attend, it shows you that the property is attractive and saleable. If very few people show up, it can indicate that the price is too high, and cause you to look for ways to improve curb appeal. Try not to draw your own conclusions - your sales professional will give you a full report on open-house activity and offer a professional assessment of its results.
What can I do to make the house show better?
  First, make your house look as clean and spacious as possible. Remember that people may look behind your doors - closet and crawlspace doors as well as those to the bedrooms and bathrooms. So get rid of all the clutter; rent a storage space if you need to, hold a garage sale or donate items to a local charity. After you've cleaned, try to correct any cosmetic flaws you've noticed. Paint rooms that need it, re-grout tile walls and floors, remove or replace any worn-out carpets. Replace dated faucets, light fixtures, and the handles and knobs on your kitchen drawers and cabinets. Clear as much from your walls, shelves, and countertops as you can. Give your prospective buyers plenty of room to imagine your house as their new home.
Should I try to avoid being at home when my house is shown?
  You should definitely plan to be out of the house during any open house your sales professional has scheduled; the same goes for first showings to prospective buyers. People often feel uncomfortable speaking candidly and asking questions in front of current owners. You want them to feel as free as possible to picture your house as their "dream home."
Should I sell my home myself?
  Many people believe they can save a considerable amount of money by selling on their own. They look at the average commission on a house and remember stories of friends or relatives who managed to get through the process with seemingly little trouble. Approximately 10 percent of American homeowners handle their own sales. But in order to do this, you'll need to realistically assess exactly what's involved. The routine parts of the job involve pricing your house accurately, determining whether or not a buyer is qualified, creating and paying for your own advertising, familiarizing yourself with enough basic real estate regulations to understand (and possibly even prepare) a real estate contract, and coordinating the details of a closing. These are serious responsibilities to take on, and they include the concerns that your house is only on the market when you're home, your marketplace is limited to those you can reach locally, and a mistake may cost you the money you're trying to save. The best reason for working with a real estate professional is the enormous amount of information they have at their disposal - information that can help make your house sell faster and easier. Professionals know about market trends, houses in your neighborhood, and the people most likely to buy in such neighborhoods. They also know how to reach the largest number of people who may be interested in your house (both through old-fashioned sales skill and the Internet resources of a reputable real estate company), and are trained in areas like screening potential buyers and negotiating with them. Finally, they're always "on-call," and willing to do the things most of us don't: working on the weekends and answering the phone at all hours.
How do I calculate the net proceeds on the sale of my home?
  From the proposed purchase price you typically subtract:
  • Balance on your present mortgage.
  • Other liens, if any, such as equity loans and judgments.
  • Broker's commission.
  • Legal costs of selling, such as escrow agent's and attorney's fees.
  • Transfer taxes.
  • Unpaid property taxes and water bills.
  • If required by the contract, items such as the cost of survey, termite and other inspections, necessary repairs, buyer's closing costs and more.
Who actually sells my house a broker or a sales professional?
  Both. In legal terms, a real estate sales professional is an individual trained and licensed to act for other people looking to buy or sell a piece of property. While that definition applies to both, the broker is permitted to collect fees and/or commission for such work. Thus, the sales professional with whom you have most of your day-to-day contact works on behalf of, and is compensated by, the broker.
What if I can't sell my old house before I have to move?
  This situation can arise for any number of reasons. For instance, getting the job promotion you've been waiting for may mean having to relocate very quickly. Another example: you finally find your "dream home", and need to get it under contract before it sells to another buyer. Whatever the reason, don't panic. You have some viable alternatives to the worrisome possibility of double mortgage payments. If you don't have to sell in order to buy a new home, consider the advantages and disadvantages of renting your old house. If you're being transferred before you've had a chance to decide on the new house, you may be able to obtain a short-term rental while you're becoming familiar with the new area. Either way, a local real estate professional can usually help by advising you how much you can expect to pay for rent in your new city, or what you need to charge for your current home to both cover your mortgage payments and take care of other costs you'll entail as a landlord.
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