How to Sell Your Own Home
A guide for Albuquerque homeowners
Maybe it’s not in my best interest to teach homeowners on selling their own homes. After all, selling houses for other people is how I make my living. But I do believe that everybody benefits from transparency in our industry, and I would also rather see sellers informed about their options. I don’t like seeing people getting hurt. Plus, I think in reading this, you’ll get a sense for what I do and how my expertise can add value for you.
(Hint: we don’t just throw a sign in the yard and enter some stuff in the MLS. Well, some of us do. But I do a lot more than that.)
Pricing your home to sell
There are a few ways to determine a sale price on a home. Generally, real estate agents determine a suggested price range by looking at comparable homes sold within the same neighborhood and adjust based on differences between the sold homes and home being listed. And to be honest, most of us struggle with this process, too. Creating a really strong comparative/competitive market analysis is an art and science, and it takes a lot of us quite a bit of practice before we learn to do it correctly.
Many homes being listed without an agent are overpriced by a significant amount, often because sellers want to leave themselves “room for negotiation.” I have to discourage that. Homes will nearly always sell for their market value in the end.
Overpriced homes will not get much interest, while under-priced homes will receive many offers (which can also be a bad thing – each offer is many, many pages of details that must be read and understood). Further, if buyers are getting financing on the home, their home will be appraised. If a home appraises at a lower price than the sale price, this could mean a lost sale unless you are willing to make concessions. Overpricing is simply not a strategy that works and under-pricing is a great way to get overwhelmed with stacks of paperwork.
Preparing your home for sale
This is one of the more challenging stages of the sales process. Making a home marketable could mean hiring an inspector to identify major issues that will be of concern to buyers (water heaters being up to code, foundation and structural issues, or electrical or plumbing issues are major ones). It also means finding cost-effective ways to increase the curb appeal of the home, both inside and out. Staging is important. It is how agents ensure that a home will be sold at its market value. Consider reaching out to design consultants to advise you on improvements you could make to the aesthetic appeal of your home.
You’ll also want to think about other options that can make your home more attractive to buyers, like offering home warranties or making major overhauls. Does your home have one bathroom in a neighborhood where every other house has three? Is it a possibility that your home contains lead-based paint?
This is also where you’ll want to do some legal legwork, like making sure you have clear and marketable title on your home, obtaining surveys or improvement location reports, and resolving any issues that arise in the process.
Preparing marketing materials for your home
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Many homes that sit on the market for far too long remain unsold because of bad photos. Even if your home is beautiful, spacious, and perfect for hundreds of qualified buyers, if your photos don’t do it justice, buyers have little reason to give it a chance. Describing your home can also be challenging. Descriptions should make a home sound comfortable for a specific audience. Are you focusing on who you’re trying to reach when you post your ads on Craigslist? Consider reaching out to a professional photographer to ask for rates to put together 8-10 photos showcasing the best features of your home.
Currently, due to recent events, there’s been an extra emphasis on being able to provide a lot of information about your home online. Virtual walkthroughs, 3D images, virtual staging, drone videos and photos, and other tech are changing the industry – in a good way, in my opinion. But it does mean sellers will be expected to provide the same level of professional, high-quality detail as real estate professionals can.
Finding places to list your home
Once you have put together an advertisement for your home, where you place those ads becomes important. Many owners place for sale signs in their front yards and call it a day. Others may take it a step or two further – telling their friends that they are selling their home, or even posting it on Craigslist. The technically savvy may even post it to Facebook’s marketplace. How many eyes can you get on your advertisement per day? Is the audience full of people who are actually interested in buying your home? For many, the answer is unclear until the phone begins to ring.
Most good agents pay close attention to marketing analytics. We like to see how many people have looked at a home, where the traffic is coming from, and what kind of people appear interested. We like to see which ad had which effect (if any) and continue to push the things that worked well.
It’s always exciting to get interest in your property, but, unfortunately, as I have learned over the years, many buyers are simply unprepared to purchase the homes they are touring. Agents generally try to vet buyers for financial viability before we take them to showings because we don’t want to waste the time of our clients, nor our own.
Prepare a way to vet buyers, both with and without pre-approval letters, and perhaps learn to calculate things like debt-to-income ratios and down payment percentages on the fly with information you receive. There may be certain laws about fair housing and equal opportunities that you will need to comply with, as well, in the process (disclosure laws and contractual obligations may also apply when it comes to discussing your home and its facts). You should certainly consult an attorney to find out what you are and are not allowed to do, say, and require.
Evaluating offers and signing purchase agreements
If you have found an interested, qualified buyer, chances are, they will want to put in an offer on your home. Generally, you will want this to be in writing. The document will include important information, such as a closing deadline, the earnest money deposit (and any other upfront payments required), and contingencies such as inspections and financing, as well as the date you will need to vacate the premises. From your side, you want to ensure the contract details what consequences the buyers will face for backing out of the deal. Consider asking an attorney to review the purchase agreement before signing, although you will likely be operating on a limited schedule for this step.
Before closing, you will need to address each contingency spelled out in the purchase agreement. This likely means meeting with the buyer’s home, termite, sewer, and other inspectors, as well as the lender’s appraiser and the buyer for a final walk through shortly before closing.
Where Agents Add Value
(Well, where I, personally, add value)
I understand how people have gotten the impression that my work is easy. A lot of buyers seem to think agents just open doors to homes that buyers have found on their own. A lot of sellers seem to think we stick signs in the yard, slap a lockbox on the door, throw it in the MLS, and wait for the money to flood in.
And to be honest, some agents do exactly that. Our industry frankly has low barriers to entry and few requirements, so it’s attractive to all types of people from all walks of life. Some of us got into it because we wanted easy money with little work. Some of us come from strong customer service backgrounds and wanted a career path that would let us teach dance classes on the side and volunteer for whatever cause we want whenever we want (I’ll let you figure out which one I am on your own).
I will say that I make it a point to add value in every conversation I have with a client, no matter how brief the conversation is and how disinterested you are in working with me. I think the world operates a little better when people are educated on the goings on in this industry (literally the entire universe is theoretically considered real estate, so it’s kind of a big deal).
I also prefer to work for my money.
As a listing agent for your property, I owe you a few duties: honesty, transparency, professionalism, and confidentiality, to be specific. But I also consider it a personal duty to make sure you understand what’s happening with your home. I try to use my professional expertise to help you find the ideal price range for your home. I find good vendors to provide strong marketing materials, which I then distribute through the appropriate channels that I have learned will attract qualified buyers (and only qualified buyers) to your home. I minimize the risks of your home getting shopworn in the process. I help you understand the ins and outs of every offer that comes in, and then help you choose the offer that will work best for you. Once we have a signed contract, I help you follow the contract to the letter, whether it’s meeting deadlines or meeting inspectors (so that you can continue to enjoy working, relaxing, or whatever it is you do with your day). I ensure the transaction continues to go smoothly so that you can avoid the heartache and frustration that often arises in these transactions.
And that’s why I want you to give me a call.
Even if you’re absolutely dead-set and hellbent on selling your home yourself, I want you to give me a call so that I can tell you about what I have to offer, and figure out whether we can create a partnership that will work for your particular needs.
So call me. Today. Right now.