Seller tactics get top dollar for real estate

Spring is traditionally the best time of year to sell yourhouse or condominium. The reason is that March through June is the peak homesales season when the largest numbers of prospective buyers are in the marketplace.

But 2006 started out differently. For some unexplainedreason, the numbers of houses and condos listed for sale in most communitiestook a sudden jump in January and February, far earlier than usual. Maybe thesehome sellers just wanted to get a head start on what promises to be anexcellent sales season with mortgage interest rates still very affordable forbuyers.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

HOW TO SELL YOUR HOME FOR TOP DOLLAR. If youare thinking about selling your house or condo, this is the best time of yearto do so. However, a successful home sale requires preparation and planning.

The first step is to get your residence into near”model home” condition. That means cleaning, repairing and painting.But don’t go overboard with renovations. Let your buyers remodel to theirtaste. Most home improvements rarely bring in as much in additional sales priceas they cost.

However, modest-cost cosmetic improvements usually pay off.Profitable examples include fresh paint inside and outside (paint is the mostprofitable dollar-for-dollar improvement you can make), new light fixtures, newfloor coverings (if needed) such as wall-to-wall carpets, and outdoor landscapingspruce-up.

THE BEST WAYS TO DETERMINE YOUR HOME’S MARKET VALUE. Homesales prices depend on recent sales prices of nearby comparable residenceswithin the last few months. A good place to start is on the Internet todetermine your home’s approximate market value.

A brand-new Internet Web site that provides free”guesstimates” of home values is www.Zillow.com.When I checked my home, I was amazed to see an aerial photo of my house,including the lot boundaries. The Zillow estimate of my home’s market value wasremarkably accurate. However, this remarkable new Web site doesn’t yet coverthe entire nation.

Other free Internet home-value-estimate Web sites include www.HomeGain.com, www.HouseValues.com, www.OurHomesPrice.com, www.Domania.com and www.PriceAHomeOneline.com. TheseWeb sites will often refer you to a local realty agent.

After you have had fun with the Internet estimates of yourhome’s market value, if you are a serious home seller, the best way to obtain amore accurate market value estimate is to interview at least three successfullocal real estate sales agents.

Even if you are thinking about selling your home alone(known as “for sale by owner” or “fizzbo”) the agents youinterview won’t mind giving you their listing presentations. The reason is theyknow most “for sale by owners” give up and list with a professionalagent within 30 to 60 days.

KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK EACH LISTING AGENT YOU INTERVIEW. Thereason it is so important to interview at least three local agents is tocompare their sales abilities and their CMAs (comparative market analysis) ofyour home’s market value.

Each interview, including the agent’s inspection of yourhome, should take about an hour. These will be the three most profitable hoursyou ever spend.

The reason is each agent should prepare a written CMAshowing the agent’s estimate of your home’s market value. The CMA will includerecent sales prices of comparable nearby homes, the asking prices ofneighborhood homes now listed for sale (your competition), a list of recentlyexpired nearby listings which didn’t sell, and the agent’s estimate of yourhome’s market value.

In addition to receiving each interviewed agent’s CMA, hereis a list of key questions to ask each agent (the best agents anticipate thesequestions as part of their listing presentations):

1.) What are the names, addresses, and phones of your fivemost recent home sales listings?

Before you decide to list with one of the agentsinterviewed, be sure to phone those recent sellers to ask, “Were you inany way unhappy with your listing agent?” and, “Would you listanother home for sale with the same agent?”

2.) How long have you been selling homes in this area? Doyou sell real estate full-time? What professional courses and designations haveyou completed?

Some agents will resent these questions, realizing you are awell-educated home seller. But the best agents will have anticipated theseimportant questions.

Occasionally, you will find a successful part-time agent whocomes highly recommended by recent home sellers. Or you might encounter apromising new licensee who has lots of time to devote to selling your homelisting.

3.) What is your minimum listing term? The best answer is 90days so you won’t tie up your home for a long time with a lazy or ineffectiveagent. However, some agents insist on 180-day listings.

They usually justify such a long term by saying, “Theaverage number of days on the market for homes in this area is 150 days (orwhatever).” But your reply should be, “I don’t want just an averageagent. I want an outstanding agent who has confidence in his or her ability toget my home sold within three months for top dollar.”

If the agent you think is best still insists on a six-monthlisting, after checking his or her references, an acceptable alternative is a180-day listing with an unconditional cancellation clause after 90 days writteninto the listing contract. Then, just in case you chose a “bad agent”you won’t be stuck more than 90 days.

4.) What is your marketing plan for my home? The best agentswill have anticipated this question by providing a written marketing plan aspart of their listing presentation.

Each written marketing plan should include at a minimum a) aweekday open house tour for all MLS (multiple listing service) member localagents, b) Internet promotion on the agent’s personal Web site and at www.Realtor.com (where 70 percent of today’shome buyers begin their search), c) weekend open houses once or twice a month,d) newspaper ads at least once every week, e) brochures (ask to see samples ofthe agent’s past brochures for other listings), and e) depending on the salesprice, advertising in additional publications.

5.) How many listings do you have now? What are theiraddresses? Do you have an office assistant? What percentage of your listingsdidn’t sell last year? What day of the week do you take off and who covers foryou when you are gone? Are you planning any vacations during the next threemonths?

If the agent you are considering has too many listings, heor she might not be able to devote enough time to your home sale. Watch out for”numbers agents” who take many listings, have several assistants, butsell a low percentage of their listings. However, consider it a bonus if twoagents work as a “team” to handle a large percentage of theirlistings.

Having an office assistant is another bonus to free theagent’s time for sales while the assistant handles the details such asarranging inspections, appraisals, and sales closings.

6.) What sales commission do you charge for a home likemine?

You should be aware, according to a recent survey by RealTrends, the average home sales commission is 5.1 percent. However, many agentstry to get the traditional 6 percent sales commission, especially for homespriced below $500,000.

If the listing commission is competitive, this is not thetime to cut the agent’s commission and incentive to get your home sold.Presuming the agent’s references and success record are satisfactory, a salescommission up to 6 percent is acceptable.

However, if the listing agent produces a low purchase offer,that is the time to say, “Well, since you didn’t produce a purchase offerat your recommended asking price, if you will lower your sales commission,maybe I can accept this low purchase offer.”

The most important part of the sales commission is theportion that will go to the buyer’s agent. To illustrate, if your home salelisting offers only a 2 percent commission to the buyer’s agent, but otherlocal listings offer a 3 percent commission, agents representing buyers arelikely to show those homes before yours.

In addition to the sales commission, at the time of listingbe sure to ask if there are any additional fees for you or your buyer. Somebrokerages try to charge “transaction” or “administration”fees in addition to the sales commission.

SUMMARY: Spring is the best time of year to sell your houseor condo to earn top dollar. But before listing your home for sale with thebest agent for your situation, be sure to interview at least three successfullocal agents before selecting the best agent.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

Copyright 2006 Inman News

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