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Deciding FAQs How-to Guide Virtual Agent

Should I Sell My House? A 3 Step Guide to Deciding

Planting a “for sale” sign in front of a house might seem like the beginning of the home sale process. The truth is, it’s only one step of a journey that typically starts weeks or even months earlier. Setting a price, listing a home for sale and showing the home to potential buyers are all vital steps, but perhaps the most important step is the first one: clarifying your goals and making sure it’s the right time to sell.

Before you move forward with selling your home, start by answering these questions:

• Why do I want to sell?
• What will a new home offer that my existing home does not?
• Do I need to sell within a certain amount of time?
• How much preparation or repair work is needed to sell my home?
• Do I have enough equity in my home to make a down payment on a new house and/or achieve other financial goals?
• Is making a profit on the sale of my home a must? If so, how much of a profit?

The answers to these questions can help you figure out whether you should sell now or wait for a better opportunity. When you get to the financial questions, take these three steps to make a fully informed decision.

Step I: Gauge Your Current Finances

If you’ve paid off all your debt (aside from your mortgage) and have an emergency fund to cover at least six months of your expenses, that’s a good start. However, when you sell your home, you’ll need to cover several upfront costs in the process.

Your first order of business? Do some math to see approximately how much money you’ll have to work with before purchasing your next home. To do that, calculate the equity in your current home. Here’s how:

Current value of your home – What you owe your mortgage lender = Your equity

If you aren’t sure about the value of your home, you’ll need to come up with a solid estimate. There are several ways you can approach this. One is to simply hire a professional appraiser, who will examine all the data on recent nearby sales and factor in your home’s size, features, age, condition, location and other traits to provide an unbiased estimate. Another way is to ask a real estate agent for a comparative market analysis (CMA), which is a detailed report on recently sold homes in your neighborhood. The information in a CMA will help guide you to a competitive asking price. If you’re willing to put in a little time and do the research yourself, you can conduct your own comparative market analysis.

Once you have an estimate, check out your current mortgage bill or other mortgage documents for the amount you owe your lender, including any second mortgage or line of credit you might have as well.

Now you can subtract what you owe from what your house is worth to get a rough idea of your equity. For example: if your home is worth approximately $265,000 and you owe $135,000 to your mortgage lender, you have $130,000 of equity ($265,000 – $135,000 = $130,000).

Your next step is to figure out your net equity, which is your total equity minus the expenses you expect to pay as you move through the selling process, including:

• Home repairs or improvements
• Listing fees if you sell by owner or seller’s agent commissions if hire an agent
• Appraisal fee
• Title insurance and other charges

At this point, take a long look at the condition of your home. Gauge the investment you’ll need to make before listing. Identify the repairs your home needs before you put it on the market and what kinds of upgrades would help you sell more quickly.

Once you have these numbers, add them up on a spreadsheet to see where you stand. If you hire an agent to sell your home, your spreadsheet for that $265,000 home could look something like this:
 
Total equity (ex. $130,000) minus the following:

Home repairs/improvements: $5,000
Traditional Agent Commission: $15,900
Appraisal: $300
Title Insurance: $1,200
Attorneys Fee: $500
Moving: $1,500
Other fees (inspection, etc.): $500

Net equity: $105,100

 

You can save on commission fees and increase your net equity by using The Independent package from ForSaleByOwner.com:

Total equity (ex. $130,000) minus the following

Home repairs/improvements: $5,000
ForSaleByOwner package fee: $0
Buyer’s Agent Commission: $6,625
Appraisal: $300
Title Insurance: $1,200
Attorneys Fee: $500
Moving: $1,500
Other fees (inspection, etc.): $500

Net equity: $114,276

 

Whatever your circumstances are, establishing that net equity number is a critical part of making your home selling decision. This will help determine if you’re in good position to move forward and what the best method for selling your home will be.
 

Step 2: Consider Your Home Selling Options

Should You Sell with an Agent or on Your Own?

Your home-selling strategy and the proceeds you can expect to receive from your sale will revolve around your decision to hire an agent or sell your home on your own.

Hire an agent and your home will likely be seen by a high number of potential home buyers instantly – but you’ll probably need to pay commission fees when your home sells. Sell your home completely on your own and you won’t have to pay commission fees.

Whichever option you decide, chances are the process will involve considerable effort on your part. Either way you’ll be responsible for gathering most of the relevant documents, getting your home ready to sell and ordering and paying for any pre-inspections or appraisals. In some states, you’ll also have to hire (and pay) an attorney or an escrow agent to complete the sale.

If maximizing your profit is key to your decision to sell, becoming a For Sale By Owner may be the way to go. If selling your home fast with minimal effort is more important, hiring an agent is probably a better option.

Should You Sell Your Current Home or Buy a New One First?

A big part of the decision to sell your current home is figuring out when you should buy your next home. There’s no right or wrong answer for whether you should buy or sell first. For some, it boils down to preference. Some people do everything they can to avoid the stress of carrying two mortgages for a time, which is what you’ll probably need to do if you decide to buy before you sell. Others are more resistant to the notion of being “homeless,” which is unavoidable if you sell before you buy.

If you’re open to either scenario, looking at your current housing market can help you decide. In a buyer’s market, you have a better chance of making an offer on a home contingent on the sale of your current home. That means you can secure a purchase and have the home waiting for you while you go through the selling process. If you’re in a seller’s market, homeowners can be a lot more selective about the offers they receive. That means they’ll be far less likely to accept a contingency that forces them to wait around.

When Is the Best Month to Sell a House?

According to a recent study by ATTOM Data Solutions, most people wait until the summer to sell, with June, July and August accounting for the most home sales since 2011. But getting out in front of the crowd tends to yield the best results. The most profitable month was shown to be May, with homes selling at 5.9% above estimated market value.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should rearrange your schedule and wait a year if you start to think about selling in June. There are pros and cons of selling in every season, and every market is different. If you have your choice of any season, however, you may want to plan for a springtime sale.

 

Step 3: Price It Right from the Start

You may have a solid estimate of your home’s value, but setting your asking price will take some research and consideration. One of the advantages of working with an agent is that you’ll have a market expert to help you arrive at a precise, competitive asking price. Without an agent, getting the price right might seem like a major hurdle. It’s true that you’ll need to do a little extra legwork, but determining an optimal price is actually a fairly simple process.

Researching homes that are “comparables” in your local market is the key. Find out what your home is worth using our Pricing Scout tool which can help provide a solid estimate in minutes.

What Makes a Property Comparable?

Both appraisers and real estate agents will base their price opinions on comparable sales, ideally those that occurred within the last three to six months in your neighborhood. When looking for comparable sales to use as a yardstick for pricing your home, consider each home’s condition, age, square footage, location and the number of bedrooms and baths. The sale date is also important since it will reflect the most recent changes in your market.

Typically, the most important home feature to concentrate on is the number of bedrooms and baths, which usually play a bigger role in valuation than square footage. For example, a two-bedroom home in a neighborhood of predominately three-bedroom homes – no matter how ample the square footage – will almost always sell at a discount. The same is true for a home with one bath, since a majority of buyers look for more than a single bath. Along the same lines, if most homes in the neighborhood have a certain feature – like air conditioning – the absence of that feature will drop the price.

Once you identify several recent sales as potential comparables, take the time to drive by them and see how they shape up from the outside. You want to make sure a home’s lot size and landscaping are similar to make sure it’s a true comparable.

Get Down to Pricing

You’ve already taken an important first step toward understanding what your home is worth. Next, seek out additional reliable sources of home pricing trends that you can use to construct your own market analysis. For instance, the Federal Housing Finance Agency has two tools that draw from home sale data pulled from federally insured loan programs.

The FHFA’s House Price Index tracks home prices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and most Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA). If your metropolitan area is included, FHFA’s index is a great gauge of your local market.

FHFA’s House Price Calculator allows you to plug in the price you paid when you purchased your home, so you can get an estimate on the likely market value of that house today. Other good sources of information include local property taxes sites which contain the most recent sale prices of homes like yours in your neighborhood.

You can also scope out information on properties via public records online or scour lists of recently sold properties on a weekly or monthly basis in local newspapers. Add homes that make sense to your database and you will be able to further zone in on your asking price.

Lastly, it’s a good idea to visit comparable homes for sale during open houses. Checking out your competition will help you determine the right asking price, and it might give you an idea of how you can improve your home so you can get an edge.

Resist the Urge to Overprice

The temptation to overprice is strong. Almost everyone believes their home is the exception and will fetch more than similar houses. But that is rarely, if ever, the case. Buyers today are savvy. Chances are anyone who looks at your house — with or without an agent — has spent time both online and offline scoping out properties. Most buyers and real estate agents will know right away if a property is overpriced.

An over-inflated price means your house will be competing against homes that have more bedrooms and baths, or square footage, or a better location. The buyers who are in the market to purchase your home will be less likely to see it since most buyers are searching lower price points. This is the main reason homes sit on the market for months, with the price usually coming down to where it should have been from day one.

 

A Few Other Things to Keep in Mind:

1. Whoever buys your house will most likely need a mortgage, which means their lender will require an appraisal. If your home doesn’t appraise at or above the agreed upon sale price, the buyer will need to come up with the additional funds to close the gap between the appraised price and the actual sale price. Even then, there is no guarantee the lender will underwrite the loan.

So, even if you find a buyer willing to pay your price, unless they are paying cash they most likely will not be able to complete the sale. This will cost you time and put your plans — and your next home purchase — on hold.

2. If you haven’t already, it might be worthwhile to consider paying for a certified appraisal at this point in time. Without question, an appraiser will provide the most authoritative price opinion. Additionally, if your house is unusual or in a neighborhood that is difficult to value, it might be a good idea to have an appraisal done.

Determining your asking price is a tricky balancing act between maximizing your appeal to buyers and attracting offers that reflect the actual value of your home. Once you’re confident you have your home priced perfectly, however, you’ll have a clearer picture of what you stand to gain and when you should sell your house.

 

 

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Deciding How-to Guide Virtual Agent

How to Calculate Average Rate of Appreciation

Before you buy a home or sell a home, it’s always a smart idea to calculate the rate of appreciation first. Real estate appreciation may sound complicated, but it’s not. Think the rate of appreciation as how the value of a home increases with time.

For buyers, this is especially useful in determining what a property might be worth in the future. If you’re able to calculate that number, you’ll know whether or not you’re making a smart investment.

If you’re selling a home, knowing how to calculate the average rate of appreciation can give you a great baseline for determining your asking price.

What You Need to Calculate Your Real Estate Appreciation Rate

To calculate the rate of appreciation on your home, all you need is:

  • The price you purchased your home for
  • The current value of your home
  • How many years it has been since your purchase
  • The ability to calculate exponents on your calculator

1st Step

The first thing you’ll do is divide the current value of your home by the price you purchased your home for. Let’s say you bought your home for $200,000 and it’s now worth $250,000. Your equation will look like this:

Example: 250,000 ÷ 200,000 = 1.25

2nd Step

You’ll now raise the result you received in the first step by the 1/nth where n is the number of years it has been since your purchase. For example, if you purchased your home 10 years ago, then this would be your equation:

Example: 1.25 with the exponent 1/10 (or .10) = 1.0225651825635729

3rd Step

Now you’ll subtract 1 from the result you received in the second step.

Example: 1.0225651825635729 – 1 = 0.0225651825635729

4th Step

Now you’ll multiply the answer from the third step by 100 to find the average annual rate of appreciation.

Example: 0.0225651825635729 X 100 = 2.25 percent

That’s it!

Things to Keep in Mind

Following the steps above will give you a good idea on what your home’s real estate appreciation rate might be, but keep in mind that this is just an estimate. No one can predict the future state of the real estate market. However, calculating an estimate will give you a good idea and can help you set the right price if you’re looking to sell.

If you have any questions or need help, check out our packages for home sellers. We’re always happy to help.

 

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Closing FAQs How-to Guide Virtual Agent

The FSBO Sellers Guide to Closing

The contract is signed and the deal is done — almost. While it might seem there is little to do between contract and closing, this isn’t the time to slack off. Follow these steps to a successful closing experience:

• Work with the buyer’s appraiser and inspector
• Make sure the buyer is making progress
• Hire a closing company
• Schedule your move
• Close the deal

1) Expect an Appraiser and Inspector
The buyer’s lender will have to approve the deal, and that involves validating the sale price through a formal appraisal. The lender will choose the appraiser, but the buyer can request an appraiser who is familiar with your new neighborhood. The appraiser will contact you to arrange a time that is convenient for you. Make sure you settle on a date as near in the future as possible. If the appraisal isn’t favorable you need to know that right away.

Meet the appraiser at the house with the listing sheet and your list of improvements and major maintenance items. Also have copies of recently sold comparable properties and any other factors that you believe support the contract price. Accompany the appraiser as he walks your home and answer any questions honestly. Expect the process to take between an hour or two.

If the appraisal is lower than the agreed-on price, you will have to renegotiate the price or abandon the deal. The buyer can request another appraisal, but understand that appraisers’ opinions are supposed to be independent and cannot be negotiated.

An unraveling deal is upsetting to everyone involved. Though it is a bitter pill, you might have to accept that your property is not worth what you thought it was. The only opinion that ultimately counts is that of the appraiser.

The Inspection Process
The inspection usually takes place within a week of signing the contract. The buyer pays for the inspection. The inspector will pay close attention to disclosures you have listed on the required form, which is intended to flag chronic or potential problems with the house. Once again, the inspector will contact you to arrange a time for the inspection that is convenient for you.

The inspector will flag structural and system problems that might soon need repair. Home inspectors usually do not check to make sure that the house complies with local building codes. If you have not gotten the appropriate permits and inspections for home improvement projects, it is your responsibility to get the projects approved by the local building inspector. This might involve paying fines and fees.

If you do not bring your house into code compliance, the buyer has the legal right to sue you for reimbursement for the fines and fees he had to pay to correct your illegal work. If you are in doubt, request an inspection from the local building code staff.

If the inspector finds substantive problems, the buyer will ask you to cover some or all of the cost of fixing them. It is reasonable to ask you to pay for essential structural and mechanical repairs that you would have to address even if you continued to live in the house.

Expect to negotiate on the cost of the repairs. The buyer will ask to have qualified contractors furnish estimates. The buyers might ask, but it is not customary for the sellers to pay for redecorating, new finishes, new carpet, to refinish floors, put in new landscaping or to address other features that are strictly for their preference.

If you can’t agree with the buyer about fixing substantive flaws, the buyer has the right to cancel the contract.

2) Stay on Top of the Buyer’s Progress
It’s important to stay on top of any dates in the contract to be sure the buyers comply. This is particularly important regarding the financing date. If the date is approaching and the lender still isn’t finished with the underwriting of the loan, make sure your attorney is aware of the situation. It might be necessary to extend the date on the contract. Real estate agents often call this “the do or die date,” because if it passes and the financing isn’t in place, there is a possibility that the contract might not be valid.

If you live in a condo or have a homeowners association that requires approval of new residents, be sure to put the potential buyers in touch with the appropriate people as soon as the contract is finalized so there is enough time for the buyer to comply with the association’s requirements.

3) Hire and Work with a Closing Company
To get your transaction closed you’ll need to hire a local title company or settlement agent (depending on the custom in your area) to do a title search and facilitate the closing. Start by asking your real estate attorney for a recommendation about a good local company to use. (Chances are he or she will have one or two local favorites). But you do not have to go with your attorney’s recommendation.

Find local title companies through the American Land Title Association or your state title association and contact those nearby to find out about pricing, years of experience in the title insurance and closing business and availability around the time that you envision closing.

Once you hire a title company or settlement agent you will work closely with that company and your real estate attorney to be certain that you have filled out the forms you need, fulfilled state requirements for transferring your property to the buyer and getting the deal closed.

4) Schedule Your Move
You’ll want to have your moving company hired and the date arranged a least a month before you move, perhaps even six weeks if your sale will close in the spring or summer when moving companies are busiest.

Research local moving companies with an eye toward finding a company with a good reputation that offers a competitive price. Get recommendations about moving companies from relatives and neighbors, or search in our Moving & Relocation Center.

5) Countdown to Closing Day
A few days before the closing, you stage a final walk-through for the buyer. If the date wasn’t stipulated in the contract, schedule one right before closing, ideally after you have moved out. This is the buyer’s opportunity to see that the house is in the agreed-upon condition and that any negotiated repairs have been made. Final walk-throughs can bring surprises; missing or damaged sheet rock that was covered by a piece of furniture or problems with flooring that were covered by carpeting are only a few. Often these are things the sellers completely forgot about, so don’t be clueless. The house should be clean and any trash removed.

After the walk through, have the buyers sign a statement that everything in the home is as it should be and that all work has been completed to their satisfaction.

At the Closing Table
You may or may not meet with the buyers on the day of closing. And the closing itself can take place at the office of your escrow agents, attorney or registry of deeds. It all depends on local custom. Be sure all owners of the property bring a driver’s license or some photo identification to the closing. Also don’t forget the keys to the home and the garage door opener. Make sure to keep any warranty information and instruction books for the new owners. Check with your escrow agent or attorney to see what other required documents you will need. If you are in a condo or homeowners association, check with the escrow agent to see if you need to bring a copy with you.

For the Western half of the United States the actual closing day refers to the date when all closing documents are recorded instead of the day when the buyer and seller meet to sign all of the necessary documents. Once the recording of the documents has been confirmed, funds and final closing statements will be disbursed.

Lenders are picky so don’t be disturbed if they want some last minute document the day of closing such as a proof of employment. The delay is usually not long and in general escrow agents and attorneys can usually work out a solution.

Pay attention to the property included in the contract. If you agreed to include the curtains, don’t take them. The same goes for light fixtures, built-in appliances and cabinet hardware. Unless they were specifically excluded in the listing and in the contract, anything affixed to the house stays. If you plan on keeping a light fixture, cabinet pulls or any other fixture, replace them before you put the house on the market.

Different areas have different practices regarding when sellers have to vacate the property. In part it depends on how the closing and registering of the new deed is handled. In some places, buyers have 24 hours to vacate after closing. In general, most sellers should plan on moving before the closing date. Sometimes, too, buyers and sellers will negotiate a date to vacate. If you are staying after you close, be sure to check out any insurance issues.

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FAQs How-to Guide Negotiating Virtual Agent

3 Phases of Negotiating Your Home Sale

Let’s be frank. One of the more distasteful tasks an agent normally performs that you will be doing yourself when you sell by owner is negotiating with a buyer. It’s one thing to discuss your response to an offer with an agent then send the agent off to do battle with the other side, and quite another to wade into battle yourself.

Negotiating sounds intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. When you think about it we all spend time negotiating almost every day, with our spouse and children, at work, even at a Saturday morning garage sale.

Take what you’ve learned from those everyday encounters, add preparation time and minimize your emotions to the greatest extent possible, and you’ll be ready to negotiate your way to a great outcome.

Successful negotiation is the art of “getting to yes.” Your negotiating process should flow in three phases:
 
• Preparing
• Assessing an offer
• Getting down to brass tacks
 

1. Good News: You’re Preparing Already

As soon as you seriously begin to think about putting your home on the market, you begin preparing to negotiate the final outcome. That’s just natural. Your first question will no doubt be: How much can I get for my house? From there flows a series of questions about how much you can afford to pay for a new home, what your bottom line is for your house sale, can you afford to carry two houses for a time, when you want to move, etc.

Once your house is listed and you start scheduling open houses and showings, you should begin to more actively prepare for negotiating by creating a list of terms you might end up negotiating with a buyer, then prioritizing those terms from most to least important.

Typical terms of a house sale include:

• Price
• Closing Date
• Inclusions – these can be appliances, grills, patio furniture, rugs, window treatments, light fixtures and other elements that may or may not appear to “go with” the house
• Closing costs
• Contingencies
• Other transaction-related fees

Decide in advance what negotiation points are most important to you. Would you rather stick with a higher price but be flexible on when the sale closes, potentially even renting the house back from the new owners for a few weeks to give them time to move? Or maybe you’d rather offer a garage full of garden equipment in lieu of contributing money to the closing costs. Knowing your own priorities equips you to offer things you don’t want as much and that might be of greater value to your buyer.
 

Update Your Research
Because you did considerable local market research in the process of deciding upon your sale price, you have already have a great feel for how your home and asking price fit into your market place. But now’s the time to update that research so you have up-to-the-moment facts you can use to bolster your argument as you negotiate.

If your home has been on the market for a while, this is especially important since the balance may have tipped in favor of buyers or sellers. A change, one way or another, can affect prospects for future offers as well as prices. Most importantly, it will give you a frame of reference, a context, in which to consider the offer. Answer these questions:

• Is the number of homes on the market on the rise or declining?
• What do the most recent statistics show?
• Are prices holding firm or are they edging up in your neighborhood and for your type of property?
• Take a look at the lending environment. What is happening with interest rates? Are they holding steady or moving up or down?
• How does your home compare to others currently on the market? Condition and location are as important to value as are features typically associated with homes in your area.

These answers will give you a better sense of how your home fits into today’s market in your neighborhood and give you the power to negotiate based on the most current data rather than opinion. For example, if prices are edging up and you set a realistic price in the beginning, it will be much easier to make the case for your price with this information. A declining inventory means the buyer will have fewer properties to select from in the future and there is a good chance that prices will go up in the future.
 

Decide on a Negotiating Strategy
It’s very important to decide on a negotiating strategy before an offer comes in the door. If the offer is great and you jump right on it, you should be all set except for some minor negotiating over a few terms of the contract.

In case you receive an offer that is below par but could be negotiated to be more in your favor, begin developing a negotiating strategy by revisiting your goals, objectives and future plans. Since your listing went live your motivations and goals might have changed based on the time your home has been in the market, activity in the market place and your urgency to move if you have found a new home. All of these factors will affect your bottom line and your negotiating strategy. Review where you stand on acceptable final price and what you are willing to negotiate about as the time you expect to receive an offer nears.

Home sale negotiating strategies for offers that are below asking price basically fall into three categories:

1. My price is firm and my comparables support it. Message to the buyer: “I’m not budging much off my asking price. Improve your offer significantly or move on to another house.”
2. Let’s meet in the middle. Message to the buyer: “Your offer’s not terrible, I like you and I want to get moving; let’s see if we can find a happy place in the middle.”
3. Show your cards. Message to the buyer: “This is what I need to make this work for me; let’s figure out together how to get there.”

Chances are you understand your own motivations better than you did during the run up to listing your home and, consequently you’re likely that much more confident than you were at the start of the process. That will serve you well as you move forward into assessing and negotiating offers.
 

2. Assessing an Offer

When an offer comes in, price grabs the most attention but an offer is actually a bundle of conditions which, in one way or another, usually affect price. Along with price, an offer to purchase will lay out the deposit, financing, time, contingencies and final walkthrough. To arrive at a meeting of the minds with the buyer, both sides typically end up compromising. A contract or an offer to purchase also includes a description of the property and lists fixtures, appliances and any personal property that might be included in the sale. Last minute disputes often revolve around personal property, so pay attention to how these items are stated in the contract.

For example, curtain rods might be fixed or attached to the house but the curtains aren’t. However, the buyer might assume you are leaving the curtains with the rods. Appliances often are another bone of contention. Be sure to spell out what appliances are included in the original property listing. If you aren’t planning on leaving a chandelier or other light fixtures, be sure to include this information on the original listing sheet. Great idea: Remove the temptation for buyers to include it in the offer and install a new fixture in its place before you list the house.

The point is, if you’ve thoroughly considered and decided upon your own priorities, you’re equipped as you enter negotiations to offer things you don’t want that much but that might be of greater value to your buyer. That can help develop trust with the buyer and go a long way toward making negotiations go smoothly.
 

3. Getting Down to Brass Tacks

The buyer, or their agent, will typically present the offer to the seller in writing. This can be done by email, fax or in person. The seller has the option of accepting the offer or rejecting the offer and responding with a counteroffer. Usually the offer or counter will spell out a period of time, 24 hours for example, for the other party to respond.

Don’t be put off by a low price, often called a “lowball offer.” Sometimes that’s all the buyer can afford, but quite often buyers will make a low offer to test the waters and see how the seller reacts or how firm they are with their asking price. This is a business transaction. Give yourself time to cool off but still respond within the timeframe (if it is reasonable) of the offer. If you are not sure why the offer came in as it did, ask the buyer for some context and what comparables were used to arrive at the price.

Frame your counter price in terms of what the market commands rather than what you personally must have. Use your recent market data to justify your counter and present relevant stats such as changes in the number of homes on the market, recent sales of comparable properties, and the number of homes with pending sales. Knowing your local market also helps you be realistic regarding price, and understanding your own goals helps you know when and how much to compromise.

Keep the conversation flowing; don’t rush the process. Even if you are countering on the price, respond to each element of the offer to show that there are some parts you accept. Look to see if there are other aspects of the offer that might be important to you, especially if you are willing to accept a lower price in exchange for an early closing date, the ability to rent the house back after closing, an “as is” purchase or any number of other scenarios. Is there something else you can offer the buyer to make the deal work?

 

Contingency Planning Is a Must
Typically closings are scheduled for 60 days from the date of the contract, but that can vary with the offer. For example, an all-cash offer will not be contingent on a mortgage and can close in short order. Buyers who have a home to sell might want more than 60 days to close and may want to make the purchase contingent on the sale of their existing home. The debate on the wisdom of such a contingency continues. Some believe it reduces interest from other buyers. Make sure it is worded so you can continue to show the property and consider other offers. Additionally, it’s always wise to review any exceptions to a contract such as this type of contingency with your attorney.

If you attract an all-cash offer without any financing contingencies, you might consider closing sooner than anticipated or accepting a lower price. Or would you rather stick with a higher price but be flexible on when the sale closes, potentially even renting the house back from the new owners for a few weeks to give them time to move?

 

Meeting of the Minds
Negotiating can take days. To keep the conversation flowing and not let the negotiations drift off into space, be sure to include a deadline for a response to each counter. But give buyers enough time to consider the offer. Quite often real estate agents will limit that time to 24 or 48 hours.

Compromise can be hard to reach. Sometimes not even the best real estate agents can arrive at what the industry calls “a meeting of the minds.” Stalemates over price do happen, and it’s best to remember that some people are simply looking for a steal rather than a good deal.

Again, if you know the market and have a realistic assessment of your own property, you will know when it’s time to simply keep on marketing the property and let the buyer know they are always welcome to come back with a new price.

 

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FAQs How-to Guide Preparing Virtual Agent

How to Prepare to Sell Your Home FSBO in 5 Stages

There are a lot of details to take care of before you list your home and show it to prospective buyers. To help guide you through preparing yourself and whipping your home into shape, we’ve outlined the five basic stages of preparing:

• Prepare yourself
• Repair and replace
• Declutter
• Stage
• Decide where you’ll live next

It’s time to get yourself focused, then roll up your sleeves and start repairing, improving and staging before you invite buyers into your home.

1. Prepare Yourself
While there’s no doubt that preparing your home (repairing, improving and staging) is at the top of the to-do list when selling on your own, preparing yourself psychologically for the process ahead is really the first step. If you are not ready, chances of your sale proceeding in a smooth fashion greatly diminish.

Keep Your Emotions in Check
Many sellers are surprised by the emotions that surface as they pack up and say goodbye to their homes. It helps to focus on the end goal: finding the right buyer and closing the deal. Think of the process as selling a house, not your home. It will become easier to look at your property objectively as you remove personal items and start staging to attract buyers. When you start showing your home, potential buyers and their realtors may be overly critical. If you can react to those types of comments in a neutral fashion, you can leverage those insights as negotiating tactics, or use the feedback to improve your listing.

Research and Hire a Real Estate Attorney
Just because you’re selling by owner doesn’t mean you’re on your own. Even sellers who hire real estate agents rely on attorneys and title agencies. Educate yourself about the sales process in your state and line up a real estate attorney. You will want someone to review the eventual sales contract but also you need someone to ensure you don’t run afoul of any legal requirements in your state. Avoid legal pitfalls by getting an attorney onboard in the beginning. In some states, such as Massachusetts, buyers’ and sellers’ lawyers typically finalize the sales contracts. In other states, the initial offer to purchase is actually the sales contract so it pays to understand the sales process in your area and to be sure you are legally protected.

Do Your Homework
Start to assemble key documents, such as:
• The original survey from when you purchased the home
• Contractor receipts for home improvements
• Any homeowner association by laws and documents
• Permits for home improvements
• Utility costs
• The most recent property tax bill

Get copies of any property disclosure forms required by your state and town. A majority of states have some type of mandated disclosure for property defects. And it’s not uncommon to have other required disclosures for mold, asbestos or lead paint. Disclosures help sellers make buyers aware of things they should look at and give buyers the opportunity to do their own due diligence. Fill out these forms truthfully because they are your best protection from post-sale claims by the buyer that he didn’t know about defects in the house.

2. Repair and Replace
This is the time to fix all those little items that you’ve had on your “to do” list for years. A latch that doesn’t work, a leaky toilet, a leak under a sink, or an electrical outlet that doesn’t work might seem like small items but potential buyers are apt to see them as a sign that the home hasn’t been properly maintained, which means more work for them if they buy it.

Pre-Sale Home Inspections
Walk your entire property inside and out and identify problem areas that should be repaired or upgraded, then prioritize those fixes within your budget and the time frame you have established for selling. Although buyers will hire a home inspector to evaluate your property before the sale is finalized, sellers can also use a certified pre-sale home inspection to help them identify major problems before they list.

The Work That’s Worth It
There is a big difference between making minor and inexpensive “polishes” and “touch-ups” to your house, such as putting new knobs on cabinets and a fresh coat of neutral paint in the living room, and doing extensive and costly renovations, like installing a new kitchen. In preparing your home for the market, be judicious about how much money you spend. Buyers will be impressed by a brand new roof, but they aren’t likely to give you enough extra money to pay for it. Consider the costs and benefits of upgrades before you hire any contractors.

For repairs that are beyond your reach right now, consider getting a written estimate or two on the cost of the repair. When you complete the seller’s disclosure, acknowledge the deficit and then have the estimates ready to show to the buyer when they make an offer. Typically buyers often estimate a much higher amount (and will want to subtract that from the agreed upon price) than repairs actually cost.

3. Declutter
Decluttering involves “editing” the items in a space so it’s less cluttered and more functional. Home staging involves transforming each room into an attractive “vignette” that appeals to a wide range of prospective buyers. Spend some time evaluating the inside of your home; then make and execute a plan to declutter and stage before you’re ready to show your home.

First, declutter to minimize or eliminate distractions that could otherwise take away their focus on the things that really matter. For example, your kid’s soccer trophies may look impressive as you sit in your family room but really are just going to be in the way of a potential buyer visualizing the potential of the space. Our advice: pack them away.

Decluttering can be tricky. You’re still living in your house so you need your stuff. Decluttering is not converting your house to a campground. It is selectively pruning anything that distracts buyers from seeing what they are getting with your house.

Toss or sell anything you aren’t planning on taking with you. Clear out closets. You might be a packrat but overstuffed closets send a signal to buyers that the house doesn’t have enough storage. Garages, most basements, storage areas and laundry rooms all need similar treatment.

As you declutter, start planning your next task in the home preparation process: staging. Simply put, staging is the art of helping the buyer envision living in your home. This idea is to make the house inviting and welcoming so that buyers see past your furniture and mementoes and envision themselves owning and enjoying the house.

4. Staging
Staging is one of the most powerful ways to make buyers want to buy your home. It can be as simple as cleaning, removing extraneous items and repainting. Or it can require a clean sweep that involves storing belongings off-site, redecorating, and even renting furniture and art to make your place show well. Here are the basics of staging each room in your house, including your outdoor spaces.

Focus on Functionality
Nobody is fooled by clever staging that camouflages worn-out appliances and systems. If your appliances are more than 10 years old, they might look outdated, even if they are perfectly functional. Tour a few open houses in your area to see what finishes and functions are commanding top price and consider upgrading to match them. Focus on the basics: a high quality stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, and solid faucet. Don’t get carried away with gimmicky add-ons such as built-in espresso makers, which are costly and have limited appeal.

Watch Where You Walk
Take a good look at the floors to see what you think needs to be done. Maybe a simple cleaning is all that’s in order but worn wood floors might need to be professionally redone. At least call in a professional to see what they suggest. Also, check with Home Depot or Lowes or your local hardware store to see what products are available if you just need to revive a small section of floor that has had heavy traffic.

Shampoo carpets yourself or have them professionally cleaned. Consider replacing any that are excessively worn. Most importantly, clean carpets help ensure the home is free of odors.

Make It Inviting
Staging helps potential buyers envision your house as theirs. To do that, they need to see the details of your house. Your goal in staging is to entice visitors to linger in each room so they can absorb its features and see its benefits.

• Consider the view from each doorway. How can you encourage visitors to step in each room? A small scenario often works, such as an arrangement of an easy chair and lamp that is partly visible from the door.
• Fresh flowers only partially visible from the door will entice visitors to enter the room.
• Make sure seating is arranged so it is open to visitors, not with backs to them, which can discourage them from entering the room.
• If your furniture is badly outdated or worn, consider storing it and bringing in a few bright, clean rental pieces.

One tenant of successful staging is that it’s best to rid your home of personal items and create as much open space as possible. Placing extra furniture in storage is a great way to free up space while you’re showing your home.

Here’s a tip you might not have thought of: Walk from room to room in your house with one or two other people to replicate the experience of guiding a potential buyer or buyer couple through your home. Note which rooms seem crowded when three people are standing in them and make notes of the ways you could make those rooms seem more spacious. Ask each other what makes crowded rooms seem crowded and remove those items.

Another option is to hire a professional stager to stage your house. If you have already moved, hiring a stager to fill the void in your home by arranging rented furniture is critical since an empty house always shows better with furniture. A consultation may cost around $150, and total cost will depend on the size of your property and the types of services they propose.

For additional guidance, review our decluttering checklist, article and photo gallery.

Clean, Clean and Clean Again
Don’t underestimate the importance of cleaning while you are decluttering and staging. Really scrub and polish every single area from top to bottom, ferreting out dust and dirt in every crevice. When you’re cleaning the windows, don’t forget the sills, space between the window, and the screen or storm window. Pay special attention to bathrooms, especially grout. Use a cleaner formulated for this job. Regrout, or replace broken tiles. Scrub and polish woodwork.

Don’t forget to look up. Remove cobwebs and dust moldings, replace burnt-out light bulbs, dust existing bulbs and polish light fixtures. Doing a thorough job ahead of time will make keeping the house in show-ready shape a breeze later.

5. Where Will You Live Next?
Seems pretty basic, but sellers needs to be just as prepared to move as to sell. Whether you plan to purchase or rent, you need to be on the lookout for your next home as soon as you’ve decided to sell. Take these steps to prepare for your new life:

• Decide on your target neighborhood(s) and start researching properties that are on the market or available for rent.
• Look over listings online and in the local newspaper to help you identify properties you’d like to visit.
• Develop a solid idea of what you will be able to offer when you have identified a home you like.
• Research lenders and their current interest rates.
• Once you’ve selected a lender or two that you feel good about, talk to a loan officer about getting pre-qualified, or better yet, pre-approved for a loan.
• Visit open houses and arrange showings for you as a buyer so you can start to narrow your search.

If you are looking for a new home in the same market where you’re selling your home, you’re buyer research will give you a good idea of what goes into a good listing ad and a solid marketing strategy. Attending open houses and showings will give you insight into your competition and give you pointers about how to (or not to) show your home.

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FAQs How-to Guide Preparing Virtual Agent

6 Ways to Prepare Yourself for Selling By Owner

While there’s no doubt that preparing your home is at the top of the to-do list when selling on your own, preparing yourself psychologically for the process ahead is really step #1. If you’re not ready, chances of your sale proceeding in a smooth fashion greatly diminish.

So take a deep breath, and put these suggestions to work as you delve into your home sale.

1. Don’t underestimate the amount of work this will take. Agents get paid for a reason. The point of the for sale by owner process is not to make life easy on you, it’s for you to keep as high a percentage of the proceeds as possible.

2. Be patient. Your sale could happen quickly once you’ve listed your home, or it could take months depending on market factors, your asking price, your home’s condition and other variables.

Tip: Research the average number of days nearby homes are staying on the market before selling to give yourself a realistic idea of how long your sale might take. Start with NAR’s monthly real estate market data then check with you local Realtors association to see if they have data posted online. Take a look at Redfin and Trulia as well for similar information.

3. Arm yourself with local comparative pricing information from ForSaleByOwner.com, your local Multiple Listing Service, local government units and independent sources such as the S&P Case Schiller Index and FNC. The more you understand about your local market, the more confident you’ll be as you move forward.

4. Stay focused on the details. Taking your eye off the ball and letting needed repairs slip or forgetting to mow the lawn before an open house can be costly.

5. Stick tightly to your minimum sales price —not your asking price, but the lowest amount you feel you can afford to accept — for as long as possible. Other factors may come into play of course, but be of the mindset that there is a buyer out there for your house who will pay close to your asking price or at least meet your minimum.

6. Set aside your emotions. Focus on selling a house, not your home. Removing as many personal items as possible during your decluttering process will help, but you also need to keep your mind focused on selling a property, not the property where your memories were made. And if a buyer denigrates your home, don’t act insulted, just move on.

Your selling process might be quick and smooth, but be prepared to hit some bumps along the way. Focusing on the big picture and reacting in a neutral fashion when those bumps occur will help keep you on track to the outcome you desire.

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FAQs How-to Guide Marketing Virtual Agent

6 Steps to Marketing Your Home

It’s a simple concept: The more people who are interested in your home the greater the likelihood your home will sell quickly and for a fair price. Just like any business, marketing your home is all about creating an interested audience from which your ideal buyer emerges.

In the past, anyone opting to sell without an agent lost out on crucial exposure. As the leading by owner website, ForSaleByOwner.com has leveled this playing field with a range of choices intended to generate maximum exposure and, at the same time, ensure sellers have complete control of their marketing dollars.

How long will it take to create a marketing plan, put it into action and prepare a home for showing? We wish there were a simple answer, but the truth is it depends. All houses and home sellers are different.

By the time you’re ready to roll out your marketing campaign you’ll need to be 100 percent ready to show your home, so the time required to complete your marketing phase is highly dependent on how much time is needed to get everything just right. Here’s how to estimate how much time it will take for you to get your marketing materials together.

1. Create a Marketing Timeline
First, build time into your schedule as appropriate to complete your preparations for showing including cleaning and decluttering your home. That part of the equation will depend heavily on how in-depth your efforts need to be. If the necessary decluttering and cleaning are minimal, you might only need a week or two of additional time to complete those chores. If you need to re-paint rooms, fix doors or windows that don’t work properly, or move a significant amount of furniture and personal items out of your home, that process might take a month.

Next, estimate the time it will take to decide upon the elements of your marketing plan and create/order/receive the materials you need. Include time to:

• Choose your marketing tools
• Write a listing ad
• Take and edit photos
• Post listing live on the Internet

Estimated time: 2 weeks (3 weeks if your plan is complicated)

The key is to make your timeline realistic. If it seems tight, add a few days or a week just to be sure you’re ready to show so when your first visitor arrives your house is your greatest marketing asset.

2. Write a Great Listing Ad
Nothing entices potential buyers more than how you describe and display your home. According to NAR, in 2013 nearly 80 percent of buyers rated photos and detailed information about properties for sale the most useful website features. (See Step 4 regarding photos).

Typically a listing sheet will include all the basics such as price, location, age of the home and the number of rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms. It highlights the most important features of your home and it’s the place to play up aspects of the property that might not be obvious, such as an idyllic backyard or the potential to house multiple generations.

The listing description is also the heart of your marketing both online and off. You might have to shorten it for some uses but the description will play into every marketing effort from the listing sheet you will hand out at showings to online descriptions to property brochures and flyers.

Once you have a good property description, you will find it easy to create any of these marketing tools since you’ve already done the hard work. So spending time to come up with the best property description you can devise is worth the effort. Play up the best features of the house. Also be sure to emphasize recent upgrades and improvements. If you have a unique location, make sure to note that as well.

The number one rule of writing a great ad is to be direct and to-the-point. Leading with the home’s selling price will immediately attract serious buyers to your ad. In addition to the selling price and terms, this first line should include the home’s location since many home buyers only skim through property listings looking for homes in areas of their liking. Include terms that will appeal to both search engines and knowledgeable neighbors: the zip code; a nearby well-known street or intersection; the nickname of the neighborhood; the name of the historic district, if your house is in one.

The next phase of writing your ad is describing the qualities of the house itself. First, mention the number of bedrooms in your house, then dive into the attributes that make your house stand out. And really focus in on features (e.g., a large updated kitchen that leads into a backyard deck) rather than positive maintenance factors (new roof, newly painted bedrooms, etc.). An appraiser will acknowledge your positive maintenance record. Your listing needs to sell buyers on how terrific the home is at its heart.

When you are finished, step away from your computer for a while, then come back and review what you wrote with a critical eye. Edit your ad in ways that you feel make it stronger, then enlist a relative, neighbor or friend to look over the ad and give you feedback. Hint: it might be especially effective to have someone who has recently bought a new home review your ad.

You’re now ready to tell the world about your home by posting your listing ad on ForSalebyOwner.com, social media sites and the Multiple Listing Service. (See related articles for advice about listing online and using the MLS).

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3. Select Your Additional Marketing Tools
Our site is chock-full of marketing ideas you can put to use in your selling process. Check out our Marketing Toolkit to get started, then choose the marketing and options that are a fit for you. For a very small investment, we’ll get you the signs, brochures and other visible marketing tools you’ll need to put your best foot forward with potential buyers.

4. Take Photos, Inside and Out
As you build a marketing plan that will put your home front and center in buyers’ eyes, there’s no substitute for taking great photos of your home, inside and out. When a home buyer first makes contact with your home (online, no doubt), if your price, location and features are attractive, displaying your home in its best light will go a long way toward sealing that buyer’s desire to visit your home.

Here’s the most important Do: Take Photos. And the most important Don’t: Include family members and pets in your photos. It’s about your home, not how your family fits into your home. Before you start, review our preparing how-to guide to be certain you’ve covered all your bases in preparing your home inside and out before taking photos.

Unless you are a solid amateur photographer consider hiring a pro, it’s well worth spending a few hundred dollars to have photos taken by a professional who has experience photographing homes. If hiring a pro is not in your budget, maybe you have a friend who’s good at taking photos who’ll do you a favor.

If you handle your own photography, before you shoot view photos from featured homes on ForSaleByOwner.com to get ideas for the types of photos that appeal to buyers. And don’t skimp on the number of photos you take. Set aside several hours to do a thorough job taking photos from many angles inside and out, and fill your camera’s photo gallery with lots of options for you to choose from when you select photos to include with your listing. For more guidance, read “Great Photos Make Buyers Respond,” and review our photography checklist and gallery.

5. Choose Your Routes to Get Online
Your journey starts online, no surprise in this day and age. But would it surprise you to find out that more than half of home buyers begin their home search online and 89 percent use the Internet in their home search? As a result of viewing a home online, 66 percent took the next step and toured the property. Of all the different sources of information regarding homes, the Internet was the one buyers relied upon most frequently.

Start with ForSaleByOwner, of course. Our listing page will take you step by step through the process and help you choose the listing/marketing package that is right for you. ForSaleByOwner.com is the #1 ranked self-seller website in the world, based on traffic, and one of the nation’s top real estate sites.

All ForSaleByOwner packages Include:

• High-quality online property listing placed on ForSaleByOwner.com, with nearly 2 million visitors per month
• Ability to post 6 color photos and add a virtual tour link
• Online guidance for writing a property description up to 1,000 words
• Access to our new interactive tools that guide you through the sale by owner process
• Additional options and guidance

Consider an MLS Listing
Here’s a statistic you should know: More than 80 percent of homes are sold through the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). You could be among the one in five sellers who don’t sell through the MLS, but if you decide not to go this route you are decreasing your odds of a successful sale within a desirable time frame.

When you choose ForSaleByOwner’s MLS listing service for a flat fee your home will be listed on our site and you gain access to the predominant real estate listing system while still saving thousands of dollars through selling by owner. What does listing on the MLS bring you? More exposure. And not just a little more exposure. A lot more exposure. Many buyers use real estate agents, and these agents use the MLS as their main tool to find homes for their buyers.

In addition to ForSaleByOwner and the MLS, your property then will be listed on Realtor.com through their affiliation with the Multiple Listing Service. The combined number of potential buyers who visit this group of websites is estimated at over 10 million per month.

After you upgrade, ForSaleByOwner.com refers your property to a member of our network who handles your local area. The agent does not charge a commission and will not accept a commission for the service (we pay our network real estate agents a flat fee to list your property). With the listing agent’s commission out of the picture only the buyer’s agent is left to pay, obligating you to pay only 2-3 percent when the property sells.

For an investment that is less than one half of one percent of the median price of homes sold in the U.S. in 2013 ($210,000 according to the National Association of Realtors), ForSaleByOwner customers can reap the benefits of not paying a seller’s agent commission while exposing their listing to a vast audience. And, of course, if a buyer contacts you through ForSaleByOwner you don’t have to pay any commission whatsoever.

Use Social Media
Once your listing is live on ForSaleByOwner (and the MLS if you choose), broaden your reach even further by taking advantage of various social media sites with high visibility and volume. Consider Facebook, Craigslist and other on-line services to spread the word about your listing. Let people know via Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Someone you know may know someone else who’d be a great fit for your home, so spread the word far and wide.

6. Keep It Fresh (the care and feeding of your marketing plan)
You’re ready to put your marketing plan into action. But that doesn’t mean you become passive once it’s live.

Once your home listing is posted on ForSalebyOwner.com and the Internet sites you feel will work best for you, monitor visitor traffic to your online listing and update your ad as circumstances change. A static listing ad becomes stale quickly. Update often as you move through the selling journey, particularly as you get feedback directly from buyers during showings and through ForSaleByOwner.com’s Buyer Feedback tool.

Good luck on your selling journey. We’re confident our tools and guidance will help make it a success.

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FAQs How-to Guide Marketing Virtual Agent

6 Step Guide to Showing Your Home

The time is fast approaching when buyers will be taking your tour and giving serious consideration to buying your home. You’ve priced your home, written a great description, decluttered and staged, taken great photos and deployed a solid marketing plan. You are now ON. How you conduct your home showings and open houses will have a major impact on how quickly your home sells. Follow our six “B”s of showing and we’re confident you’ll do great.

1. Be Organized
Ready, Set, Show
No last minute surprise showings is one benefit of selling the home yourself. Although potential buyers could just ring your doorbell, in most instances you will be scheduling showings and will have some lead time as well as the opportunity to find out a little bit about buyers via the Internet before they arrive.

As you decide what hours to offer visitors and how many time slots per day or week you will make available, keep several things in mind:

a) Offer timing that works for you, but put some thought into stretching your availability into as many time slots as possible to accommodate buyers. Flexibility is the key.
b) On the other hand, don’t over schedule yourself. Make sure you have time between showings to record your impressions about your visitors and decompress a bit before the next appointment. This will be especially crucial to keep in mind on weekends when you might be tempted to offer back-to-back slots all day Saturday and Sunday. Leave yourself time, too, to replenish refreshments and make sure all is in order in the house before your next showing.
c) Consider offering showing opportunities on so-called “bank” holidays like President’s Day and Veteran’s Day, even if you have to take the day off of work. Many school, government and financial services industry employees are off those days and might want to use the time for house hunting.

Showing Know How
Selling by owner means you can extend a warm greeting to buyers. Ask them what characteristics are most important to them in a home. Then, as you show the house point out features that match their characteristics. Also, offer suggestions if a room could be adapted to meet their needs. Point out areas with the potential for multiple uses such as spaces that could become a homework hub, a reading corner or place to pay bills.

Show the buyers supporting documentation on the property such as the disclosure statement as well as any homeowner association and condo documents. Keep copies of your utility bills on hand so you can show potential home buyers what those costs might be if they buy your home. Have a copy of the survey available in case they ask about lot lines.

As you take people through the house, let them enter the room first. Be ready to answer questions and offer information but also give them a chance to react to the space. Keep the discussions centered on the house rather than your relationship with the house. You want buyers to begin envisioning building their own memories in the home.

Host an Open House or Two
Pick a time when open houses are typically held in your area. In many places Sunday afternoons are typical. Let your neighbors know you are holding an open house. Gather directional signs to put up at intersections directing people to your house.

Follow all the protocols for a showing with a few additional steps.

• Make sure you have copies of listing sheets and any brochures ready for viewers. If possible have your spouse or a friend on hand, so you have an extra person in the house. Station them in a location other than the front door or have them move between the rooms.
• Have anyone attending fill out the signup sheet before going through the house. And be sure to follow up with a phone call or an email the next week.
• Consider having another open house just for your neighbors. Plan on refreshments and make it a neighborhood event.

2. Be Informed
• Buyers usually ask a lot of questions, especially regarding schools and crime. Answer with facts rather than opinions. For example, if your local district or schools have won awards point them out. ForSaleByOwner.com has links to sources of information on schools as well as crime statistics.
• Become familiar with the Fair Housing Act so you don’t inadvertently violate its statutes.
• If you are under any duress to sell or have a tight deadline, don’t volunteer this information in your conversations with potential buyers. You don’t want to invite a lowball offer which might come if buyers think you are selling under stress.
• If the buyers are accompanied by a buyer agent, ask the agent if the buyers are prequalified; what their timeline is and what other houses they’ve seen or are considering.
• Be sure you have the correct spelling of buyers’ names and their phone numbers and follow up by phone of email the next day. Offer to answer any additional questions they may have.

3. Be Ready
If every space isn’t sparkling, clean again or have a professional cleaning done. The key to readying your house for showings is all the deep cleaning, which you’ve already done, and advance planning to make it easier to keep it “buyer ready” day-to-day.

For example, if you don’t have a place to keep dirty laundry, decide ahead of time where you will stash your gym clothes or your child’s soccer uniform. In bathrooms, decide where you can keep toiletries out of sight during showings. If you can, purchase a new set of towels for each bathroom and only bring them out when buyers are coming through or for an open house. Consider dark colored towels and belt them with drapery cords. It creates a pristine look since the decorative ties imply the towels are untouched and also conveys the feeling that the entire room is in the same condition. Double check bathrooms. They really do have to sparkle. Right before a showing, give fixtures and faucets a quick once over to renew the shine. Make sure counters and sinks are clean.

Be sure the view from any doorway is attractive, especially powder rooms and small bathrooms since many buyers won’t actually go into the room. Make sure what they can see is bright and appealing. Don’t forget what’s reflected in the mirror too.

Right before a showing, open the shades and turn on the lights (even during the day). General advice is to make everything light and bright, but also let common sense be your guide. If the lights in your kitchen can be as bright as an operating room, you might want to bring them down a bit.

Furniture That Flows
Arrange furniture so there is a flow to the home but also so buyers stop and take notice of important features. Create focal points or furniture groupings around places you want to highlight. If your rooms are crammed with furniture, rearrange items and, if necessary, store them off site while the house is on the market. The goal is to create a feeling of effortless movement from one space to another.

Before an open house or showing, put valuables, jewelry, passports, financial information, bank statements and other financial information out of sight. The same goes for medications. Tour through the house to detect and correct any tripping hazards or other impediments to free movement.

Clean Sweep in the Kitchen
Make a clean sweep of kitchen counters before showings. This might sound daunting but planning ahead of time where to stow countertop appliances out of sight makes this task easier. Kitchen counters are usually magnets for paper — mail, kid’s notices from schools, newspapers. Corral these items in a basket or clear out a drawer that you can use to keep them during showings. And don’t forget buyers will look in kitchen drawers and cabinets as well as appliances.

Children and Pets: Out of Sight
During showings and open houses, make care arrangements for children and pets ahead of time. If possible, have someone watch your children, preferably off the premises. If you are unable to have your pets off the property, consider crating them. Then they won’t be in the way and there won’t be a chance that someone will inadvertently let them out the door. Better yet, set up a secure corner or space for their crates. Dress it up with new bedding and a few toys in coordinating colors. Be sure water bowls are sparkling. If necessary, buy new ones and, yes, make sure they blend with the color scheme.

Maximize Curb Appeal
Curb appeal sells, especially when you consider that 75 percent of buyers who found a home that appealed to them on the Internet followed up by driving by or viewing the home. You want to ensure they don’t discard your home as a potential by what they see from the curb. It’s not uncommon to hear reports from agents of buyers who refuse to get out of the car based on what the home looks like on the outside.

As a seller, the challenge is to see your house as a buyer does. The best place to begin, say professional home stagers, is across the street from your house. Even take a picture. You will be surprised how much objectivity you gain.

Remove anything that distracts or makes it seem the property is not well maintained. Make sure the lawn is raked and shrubs are trimmed. Foundation plants should be below the windows, which will also enhance the amount of light inside the house. Make sure the pathway to the front door is visible, so trim overgrown ground cover. Add dark mulch for a pleasing contrast to green grass and add seasonal plants for a pop of color and to visually lead viewers to the entry.

The entry really sets the tone for the house. Stage this area just as you do the rest of the home. A planter coordinated with the color of the house and seasonal plants is a welcoming accessory.

Ensure the front door operates smoothly. Make sure it is clean or repaint it to make the house pop. Shine or replace house numbers and replace a cracked door bell. Basically, you will want to replace anything that looks worn, since this is where buyers set their expectations for the rest of the house.

If the house needs paint, consider repainting if your budget and time allow. Some stagers swear by rich and interesting colors. Paint retailers have lots of color information and recommended colors for various architectural styles. Explore online apps from manufacturers such as Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Behr and others that allow you to virtually experiment with colors on your entire house or just one part, such as the trim.

And don’t forget to paint the mailbox if it needs it and if possible move trash cans out of the sight.

4. Be Enthused
That’s a commodity that real estate agents typically possess in mass quantity. It’s practically a requirement for the job. Channel your inner agent by being certain that you maintain a high level of enthusiasm whenever you interact with a potential buyer. Very few people will respond to a dreary showing presentation. You don’t want to pretend your love for your home knows no bounds (if it did, why would you sell it?), but you want all potential buyers to know that you view your home as a real asset and a great place to live.

5. Be an Advocate

No one knows your home better than you. From the time you sit down to write your listing ad through the showing process and negotiating an offer, stand firm behind your view of what you home is worth and what its strengths are, and tell the world. Be prepared to answer the challenging questions about your home by putting even your home’s weaknesses in their best light. Look through your home receipts and warranties as appropriate, and do Internet research to bolster you knowledge base.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your home’s heat source is a 20-year-old boiler. Home buyers could be wary of a furnace that old, but in reality the lifetime for boilers is 50 years or more, and water-based heating systems are very efficient. A little time spent researching the pluses of such system will help prepare to answer any question about your boiler with a positive spin.

And when you’re done…

Nothing is more important than following up an open house or a showing with a call to anyone who has viewed your house. Be courteous. This is an opportunity to start a conversation about the property, especially if they seem willing to talk. The important thing is to gauge your questions based on the type of response you are getting. Ask if they have any questions regarding the home. Find out it if it suits their needs. If they are not interested, you could ask why.

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If you do end up reducing the price, you can also call to tell them about the price reduction and ask if they would be interested in seeing the property again.

6. Be Safe
In today’s world, you just never know. You’d like to trust anyone who comes to view your home, but when strangers are involved trust needs to end at your front door. For your personal safety and to secure possessions as best as possible, follow these suggestions and read our article about safety during showings. By doing so, you will vastly improve the security of your home showings and open houses.

Rule #1: Don’t show your home or conduct open houses alone. There’s just too much risk involved if an unstable person shows up at your door.
Rule #2: Coordinate you schedule with your neighbors if possible so they are alert to any odd happenings while you have visitors in your home.
Rule #3: Store out of sight (or even off premises) as much of your stuff as possible throughout the showing process.
Rule #4: Create a plan for securing/hiding/removing any items of value that remain in the home before each showing and open house.