Do I need to hire a real estate professional to sell my home?

While the prospect of eliminating a listing agent’s commission from a future sale of your home might sound very appealing, this is something prospective home sellers should give another thought to. The home selling process can be quite complex, where the services of a knowledgeable REALTOR® or real estate professional could come in quite handy.

This process typically takes time and patience, an understanding of local market trends and conditions as well as negotiating skills, just to name a few. By having these skill sets, an agent can properly price your home to showcase it on the market.

There are many reasons why it’s more beneficial to have a real estate agent working for you, if you’re attempting to sell. A typical agent-assisted home sale sold for 32.5% more than home sales where a professional wasn’t used. Some of the biggest challenges for homeowners who don’t use the services of a real estate agent or “for sale by owners” (FSBO) are: Pricing their home right, navigating the paperwork and selling within a fixed length of time.*

*2018 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

How long will it take to sell my home? Can it be sold quickly?

Not in all cases, but most of the time sellers are very eager to sell their home as quickly as possible. This, of course, is dependent on a number of different variables from the home’s initial offering on the market to its settlement date. Some of variables include the listing price of the home, the present state of the market, the customized marketing action plan to showcase the home, the contingencies in the sale (such as inspections), the lending approval process and the review of the closing disclosure/documents.

Your home can be sold quickly and that usually entails making it appealing to prospective buyers. Guided by your REALTOR®, the home should be staged, if applicable, to give the impression that the home is move-in ready. When a home has a clean and compelling feel, it has better opportunities for minimal market time.

How can I determine the value of my home?

This is as loaded a question as you’ll find in real estate! One of the goals for any real estate professional is to ensure the seller gets the fair market value of his/her home. One way to determine a home’s value is to have your agent research comparable home sales in the area over the past six months or more. This process will help in setting the listing price.

Your agent will also look at the square footage (size) of your home, its age, its neighborhood, its general condition, if there have been any upgrades (specifically to the kitchen, flooring, windows), when the roof was installed, the size of the lot and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

When is the best time of the year to sell my home?

Generally speaking, the best time to showcase a home is late winter, early spring. Again, there are many factors which determine what the “best time” is for a particular seller. Every life situation is different. Certain sellers find themselves in a variety of circumstances which may not even allow them to hold off their home’s market release. Weather can also play a major role in determining what the optimal time may be. In Northeastern Pennsylvania, typically the months of April and May see the largest jump in housing supply.

Your story might be different, and therefore, timing is a conversation you should be having with your REALTOR®.

In certain cases, a fall or winter release date can be appealing to homebuyers. These buyers are serious about purchasing a home and with less competition from other sellers, your home may be incredibly appealing. Serious buyers are always lurking! A lower supply of homes (less competition) in the colder months of the year means a higher probability of showings for you, the seller.

Furthermore, if an agent is telling you the fall and winter months are a bad time of the year to sell, you would do best to walk away. That would not be the agent you want marketing your home. Successful agents sell regardless of the time of year or the market conditions. They adapt and adjust; they are up for the challenge!

What costs would I, the seller, be responsible for when selling my home?

Some homeowners don’t realize there are costs associated with selling a home. Some of the most common costs associated with selling a home are: Real estate commission, transfer tax, deed preparation and costs of repairs associated with inspections or appraisals. Seller concessions, home warranty, survey, capital gains and home equity loans may also come into play for select sellers.

What should I include or avoid when selling my home?

As a general rule of thumb, you want prospective buyers to visualize themselves in your home.  Therefore, depersonalizing is usually a wise choice. There are certain things you might want to avoid conveying to homebuyers. Your real estate agent will be able to provide perspective on this too.

Other things you should avoid as a homeowner include selecting the wrong REALTOR®, not accommodating showings, overpricing your home and being unrealistic when the time comes to negotiate a sale.

As a homeowner, you’ll want to include those fixtures which are attached to the property, built-ins, window blinds, appliances which are firmly fixed, etc. If you don’t want something included, you can specify any exclusions in the listing contract or remove the items before the showing period begins. These excluded items can and should appear on the agreement of sale when the time comes.

Can I price my home higher in order to leave room for negotiations?

Today’s homebuyers are well-educated. Many have been actively searching for months online and perhaps have even seen their fair share of homes (actively on the market, not selling). Serious buyers, utilizing their agent’s guidance, have a very good idea of current market value. Thus, there’s no reason to overprice your home to provide a cushion for the negotiation process. This would be a pricing error that many sellers often make. A properly-priced home will sell for close to the list price. Overpricing can actually result in hurting the homeowner as it can cost him/her more money, time and resources.

What are seller concessions and how do they affect me?

Seller concessions (aka seller assist) are anything that will sweeten the deal as cash back to the homebuyer. It’s the money paid toward the closing on behalf of the buyer. Generally, this is the legal way to allow buyers to roll their closing costs into their loan. Although the seller is offering what appears to be a gift, he/she is actually only providing the assist above what he/she is going to net in the deal.

They create a situation where the purchase price has now been inflated, because of the included seller concessions. This wouldn’t pose a problem, unless the home didn’t appraise at the higher purchase price. A seller assist can be a significant amount of money and can be the difference between a seller being able to sell his/her home or a homebuyer being able to afford one.

How much commission do you charge?

Commission is always, always, always negotiable. With that being said, as the cliche goes, “you get what you pay for.” In effect, the seller is paying for the services being offered by the listing agency/agent. If you select a real estate agent based upon a lower commission, you’ll make a critical error toward your success. If you were forced to work for a lower wage than what you normally would make at a job, would you work as hard?

What should I be disclosing to potential buyers?

When you’re putting your home on the market, you’ll want to make sure that you’re clearly defining any potential defects of your home (material ones, especially) to homebuyers. It’s best to be upfront and honest. Buyers appreciate that and it can save you from anxiety and a lawsuit in the future. Think of it as though you’re selling an item on eBay: you want to give buyers the truest picture of what you’re actually selling.

Is the Zestimate on my home’s value accurate?

A Zestimate, as defined by Zillow, is their “estimated market value for a home, computed using a proprietary formula,…calculated from public and user-submitted data.” If you search for your home address on their website, you’ll discover your home’s Zestimate. Although the Zestimate algorithm has improved somewhat over the years, it still lacks consistent accurate home valuation. And this makes sense, how can a computer formula halfway across the country correctly determine a home’s worth through public tax data?

When attempting to determine your home’s value and price it right for the market, it’s vital that you seek the advice of an experienced REALTOR® on the ground floor and not an Internet genie.