10 Tips for First Time Sellers

Last week, I wrote a lot of content to help first time home buyers prepare to buy their first home.  I provided information about “hidden costs” of owning your own home, budgeting tips for first time home buyers, and information on how people with bad credit can still purchase a home.  But sellers are important, too.  More to the point, what if you’re a first time home seller?  With inexperience and a sluggish real estate market making headlines nationwide, I could understand why selling a home for the first time could seem daunting. Here are some tips especially for those who may be trying to sell a home for the first time.
  1. It Can Be Done. Some 5.25 million existing homes were sold in 2001. 5.65 million existing home were sold even in 2007, the fifth highest year on record, though that was 12.8% short of the 6.48 million sold in 2006.  Even in this down market, other owners have sold their homes and you can, too!
  2. Don’t Go It Alone.  Though you knew it was important to have representation when you bought the house, it’s especially important to have a Realtor looking out for your best interests when you sell a home.  After all, it is your equity. And don’t just choose your cousin or best friend from high school, who happen to be Realtors, sell your house.  For your home sale to truly be successful, you must have a strong negotiator in your corner to help you get the both the best price and terms. This takes some research and interviewing multiple real estate agents until you find the right one for you.
  3. Times Have Changed. If it has been a while since you purchase your home, know that today's real estate market is a radically different place. Potential home buyers are very informed through use of the Internet, ask for seller disclosure forms, get professional home inspections, and are often represented by buyer agents. Because buyers are better prepared than they may have been in the past, it may take some extra preparation and marketing practices to attract just the right buyer.
  4. Polished to a Shine. One thing which hasn’t changed is “First impressions are everything.”  That applies to what a home looks like inside and out.  Giving a good impression from street-level in the real estate world is known as “curb appeal.”  If your house is attractive to people from the outside, it makes it more likely that people will want to take a look inside.  But that also means that the house has to make a good first impression once people step in the door. Completely clean a home inside and out before putting it on the market.  This could also include doing minor home improvements like interior and exterior painting and other cosmetic enhancements.
  5. Everything in Working Order. That doesn’t mean that cosmetic improvements are all that you’ll need.  When most people decide to purchase a house, they expect everything to work and be in fair condition. If there are problems with the house, when a potential home buyer misses it, the professional home inspector they hire probably won’t. Mend anything which may need repairs now, before the home is on the market.  That way, you can choose who fill fix it and how much you will spend on it, not the potential buyer.
  6. Less is More. When you present your home to potential buyers, you want to help them imagine themselves living there. It’s hard to do this when the house is filled with very personal item.  You know what houses look like in magazines?  Yes, this is something to aspire to.  Remove as many personal items as you can and try to reduce the amount of furniture you have in each room. When deciding what types of decorations to leave, remember that simple is better.
  7. Know Your Market. Real estate is highly local. Your Realtor, real estate agent, or broker can explain current market trends in your specific community, including what's selling, what isn't selling, and why. This information is important in order for you to get the best possible price and terms when you sell your home.
  8. Know the Competition. Yes, in a way, selling a home is a competition right now.  Let’s face it, it’s a buyers market.  Buyers are taking their time, picking and choosing just the right home.  Research other properties in the area which are up for sale, and therefore competing for buyer attention. You can ask your Realtor about what it will take to be competitive in your specific market.  They should also be able to tell you if your property has an edge over others which may be nearby.
  9. Know the Timing.  Location and competition are one thing, timing is a whole different topic altogether.  When interest rates are low like they are now, it's great to be a seller. But when the credit market is being crunched like it is right home, well, homes still sell.  The goal is to be realistic and sell your home for as much as market conditions will allow. That could mean waiting until a better time to sell in drastic cases.
  10. Understand The Plan. Marketing a home to potential buyers takes much, much more than putting a sign in the yard, some pictures on the internet, and an ad in the paper. A successful Realtor will use a variety of methods to attract prospective home buyers. Your Realtor will discuss with you what the specific strategy is going to be for your particular home.
It is important to remember that selling a first home is an emotional process.  You will have attachments to the property, because it is your first home.  It’s exciting to move on to bigger and better houses once you’ve outgrown your current property, though.  Remember the reasons your selling and it should be much easier to find the motivation to sell your first home.

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