Thinking of selling your house? The experience and knowledge that I have gained over the years has helped many Princeton owners sell their homes. Read on to find out my best advice and what’s involved in selling your house for top dollar.
STEP #1: DECIDE WHEN TO SELL YOUR HOUSE
Depending on your specific situation, there are many important considerations when asking yourself when is the best time to sell my house:
Time of year: Real estate in Princeton is seasonal, with December, January and February historically being the slowest months. Typically, the best months to list a house for sale in Princeton are March - May when Buyers, including recreation Buyers are motivated.
Current competition: Supply & demand is important when it comes to real estate. If so many Buyers have a big selection of houses like yours to look at, you can expect to have fewer showings and fewer offers, generally resulting in a lower price. Conversely, if you’re the only renovated 3 bedroom house with a garage for sale in your neighbourhood, Buyers will flock to your house.
State of the market: Interest rates, job availability and consumer confidence affect prices, and the Princeton market, like other markets, go up and down. What’s going on in the market right now?
Personal Motivation: If you’re moving out of the town or have already bought a new house, then that timing will likely override everything else. Likewise, an upcoming baby, downsizing, wedding or divorce might dictate your timing too.
STEP #2: DECLUTTER, STAGE AND CLEAN
When preparing your house for sale, keep these 3 goals in mind:
1. Declutter: Maximize the space you have and allow potential Buyers to imagine living in your home. Remove personal items, excess furniture and anything that could distract potential Buyers. Smaller furniture will make the rooms look bigger. Clear out closets, donate items you don’t use, and store some of your belongings offsite during the sale.
2. Staging: Make sure every room is staged to its optimal use. Buyers are usually unable to visualize themselves in your home, but it helps when you have furniture that fits the size of the rooms. Some examples when staging and decorating are needed most:
- When the home is very dated, to the point that existing furniture detracts from the home itself.
- When an investment property has been tenanted and the common areas are poorly maintained (if the tenants consent to having their space changed temporarily of course).
- When the property is vacant. Just as clutter can overwhelm potential buyers, so can total emptiness.
3. Clean: Clean and then clean again! The cleaner your house is, the faster it will sell. Buyers won’t just look at surfaces, they’ll look inside your closets, your kitchen cupboards and your bathroom vanity. Make sure everything sparkles!
STEP #3: REPAIR & UPDATE
Though cosmetic issues are not necessarily a sign of a badly maintained home, Buyers sometimes place a lot of emphasis on a property’s presentation. First time Buyers can be especially concerned with making such a big purchase and they want everything to be, or at least, to look – perfect.
Curb Appeal: More than once I've had Buyers pull up to the front of a house they were going to view, only to move on without seeing the inside. How your home looks from the outside – the entry, siding, walkway, gardens – will set the tone for how a Buyer feels about your home. Don't forget about this important first impression.
The Hidden Mechanics: While Buyers are often swayed by granite counters, high end floors and fancy appliances, the mechanics of your house matter too. The furnace, hot water appliance, electrical, plumbing, roof, windows and insulation are all important: make sure your real estate agent knows every unsexy detail about your house.
The Small Repairs: We all do it to our homes but it's time to stop procrastinating. Hiring a handyman for a day or two can help with the Buyer's overall perception that your home was well maintained. This will keep them focused on all the positive aspects of your home. (instead of the leaky faucet in the kitchen).
Pre–list Inspection: Before putting your house on the market consider completing a pre-list home inspection. If the report identify's any issues with your home, for example: the home inspector determines that your house needs a new roof. You can choose to either a) fix the roof before putting the house up for sale, or b) factor it into your asking price. Either way, having accurate information will reduce surprise objections from Buyers later in an offer. A positive inspection report with minimal deficiencies can be advertised in you listing and offered to prospective Buyers to encourage them to make offers.
Renovating For Resale: Renovations don’t have to be expensive or extensive to offer you a good rate of return. In fact, don't underestimate the power of paint. A quick coat can go a long way to boosting your selling price as it can turn stale, old rooms into fresh, clean living spaces! Just make sure your new décor is tasteful, with neutral shades and tame versions of popular colours.
A good REALTOR can help you decide if a specific update is a good idea. If you do renovate, the kitchen and bathroom are your best bets for renovation with the highest payback. Take a look at these average rates of return for home upgrades:
- Kitchen renovation: 70-100%
- Bathroom renovation: 75-100%
- Interior painting and décor: 73-100%
- Exterior paint: 50-100%
- Flooring upgrades: 62%
- Vinyl window replacement: 71%
- Front door replacement: 85%
- Attic bedroom: 73%
- Basement renovation: 70%
- Garage door replacement: 75%
- Siding (vinyl): 73%
- Deck addition: 77%
STEP #4: MORE PREP WORK
Get your documents together: Your agent will be asking you for copies of your utility bills, tax bills, upgrade receipts, permits and survey maps. Take the time to photocopy them along with any current warranties and manuals.
Make a list of renovations and repairs: Compile a list of all the renovations and repairs that have been completed since you have owned the house. Be prepared to discuss with your REALTOR any current issues with the house – it’s better to disclose any ongoing issues then get sued later.
Make an extra set of keys: Your REALTOR will need a set of keys so that real estate agents can show your home to their Buyers.
STEP #5: PRICING YOUR HOUSE FOR SALE
Pricing a house in Princeton is both a science and an art, especially if there are few comparable properties available. Should your listing price be a whole number (500,000) or end in 9’s (499,900) and does that even matter? What should you include in the price? When is it time to lower the price? Should you price your home high and plan to negotiate? Price your home aggressively for a bidding war? Or price your home at market value?
Your asking price is equivalent to naming the first number in a negotiation. Understanding current market conditions is important to selecting the right asking price. Price too high and you risk being on the market for a long time and getting less than you might have (had you priced at market value). Price too low and you’re leaving money on the table. Your REALTOR will discuss with you the pros and cons of each strategy.
Ultimately, the Buyers in the market will decide how much you home is worth by identifying how much value you're offering compared to other properties. Details Buyers will consider before making an offer:
- Recent sales in your neighbourhood
- Recent sales of similar properties in nearby neighbourhoods
- Properties currently listed for sale
- Current market conditions
- The size, finishes and condition of your home
Other things that can be important to Princeton Buyers include:
- How far property is from town
- RV parking and/or a garage
- Access to recreation amenities
- Size and/or privacy of property
- Style (modern vs character, etc.)
STEP #6: MARKETING
One of your real estate agent’s most important jobs will be making sure potential Buyers see your house. A comprehensive marketing campaign for your house should include both traditional and digital marketing and aim to make people fall in love with your house. Real estate marketing should include:
- Photography/Videography: Professional photography is a must! Most Buyers will see your home for the first time online, and if the photos don’t capture their attention, they’ll move on to the next house and be lost to you forever. I've also had tremendous success in producing videos that offer Buyers a unique perspective of your house inside and out.
- For Sale Signs: It’s not unusual for Buyers to cruise their target neighbourhoods in search of their perfect house, so a For Sale sign on the lawn is always recommended.
- Online Marketing: – With at least 92% of Buyers starting their search on the web, being found online is critical! And….there’s a lot more to being found online than being listed on realtor.ca. Make sure you’re working with a real estate agent who has heavy Buyer traffic on their website and who knows how to use other websites to your and your house’s advantage.
- Email Marketing/Social Media: Top REALTORS promote their listings to other agents via email and have a network of potential Buyers they can reach via Facebook, Twitter and more. Don’t forget, you can help with the sale of your house by sharing the link to your listing too!
- Print Marketing: Most agents will print feature sheets for your home so that the potential Buyers who see it will have a takeaway of information and photos. Depending on your Property and your ideal Buyer, your home might also be promoted with postcards or in real estate magazines.
- Your ideal Buyer is out there: they may be first time buyers, the parents of first time buyers, an international investor, a recent divorcee, a newly married couple, seniors who’ve just sold their family home or a young couple with a baby on the way. Smart real estate agents will go to great lengths to profile your target Buyer and create a marketing campaign to reach them.
STEP #7: SHOWINGS
When Buyers make an appointment to see your house, keep the following in mind:
- Leave your house: There’s nothing more distracting for a Buyer than having to walk around the owner. Buyers feel rushed and don't ask the important questions while the owner is in the home.
- Be flexible with showing times: There's no denying the inconvenience of selling your home. But if you want top dollar, you'll want to be flexible with Buyers and prepare yourself for the occasional short notice showing. Most Buyers look at properties in the evening or on the weekends.
- Board the dogs: Not everyone will love your dog as much as you do. At minimum, crate them during showings. Ideally, take them for a walk or board them.
- Let there be light: Open up all the windows to let in natural light and turn on all interior lights to warm up the space. A bright and cheery room looks bigger and more inviting.
- Cleanliness matters: Although it's understandable that your house may be lived in, it still isn’t enough to clean and stage on day 1. Before every showing and ideally every day, you’ll need to wash the dishes, make the beds, wash the floors, weed the gardens and more.
- Feedback: What Buyers are seeing and feeling after viewing your home is what really matters in getting it sold. Responding to their concerns and objections in a timely matter will go a long way to reducing how long your home is on the market.
STEP #8: OFFERS
Once you receive an offer, you can expect to see at least the following two conditions:
- A financing condition: This allows the Buyer to confirm their mortgage qualifications with a lender.
- A home inspection condition: This allows the Buyer to bring in a home inspector of their choosing to go through the entire home for any hidden deficiencies. Home inspections generally last 3 hours.
There are generally many other conditions and a lot of other factors to negotiate: there’s price, completion & possession dates, inclusions (appliances, big screen TV’s, etc.) and deposit. Other factors that may be negotiated will depend on your specific property and/or situation.
STEP #9: CLOSING DAY
As closing day approaches, you or your lawyer will need to make sure to:
- Inform the utility companies of your impending move
- Inform the city so that you don’t continue to pay property taxes
- Cancel your home insurance (to take effect after you have confirmation that the sale has closed)
- A day or two before closing day, you’ll need to visit your lawyer and sign a lot of paperwork. When the property is transferred to the new owner, you will get the money via your lawyer (less real estate commissions, legal fees and any adjustments).
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