The paperwork required from home sellers has become rather complex, a good agent will help you navigate your home sale. Seller disclosure statements and jurisdictional forms include and inform of any known defects to the home as well as airports, new roads and forest protection areas as well as actual taxes, future estimated taxes and a range of environmental concerns. To protect yourself from liability, it is important to fill out these forms thoroughly and accurately. Your realtor will help you to navigate the correct forms and required paperwork.
Find the right realtor
In the maze of forms, financing, inspections, marketing, pricing, and negotiating, it makes sense to work with a professional who knows the community, has experience with the process and who you can trust to navigate your home sale.
Price it right- from the start
Several factors, including market conditions, your home’s condition and recent neighborhood home sales will determine how you should price your home. In other words, home selling is part art, part science, part marketing, and part negotiation. A house that starts out over priced takes longer to sell and likely sells for less. Your real estate agent will supply you will the latest stats and help you to price your home right.
Plan your move
UNCLUTTER! (and pack) Cleaning out closets, the basement, and the attic, you will have less to do once the home is under contract. Your agent will share resources for junk haulers, and charity organizations for donations .
Market your house for maximum exposure
Your Realtor should share a marketing plan with you, the more you know about the process of selling your home the easier it is to support your Realtor’s efforts. The photo’s and brochures, internet and print ad should be in place before the big launch of making your house active on the market.
Repair, Prepare, and Move
Your Realtor will help you stage your home- which sometimes means removing furniture, and will suggest landscaping and other improvements. She will also help you find great licensed contractors, a mover and other professionals you may need to facilitate the moving process.
Negotiate the offer
Whether you have one offer or several to consider, your agent will help you bottom line the offer and present your options to you- accept, counter-offer or reject.
Your Realtor will help you with finding great licensed contractors, movers, and finally — find you a great new house!!!
If you are serious about selling your home, you have to take your listing photo shoot very seriously. If your photos don’t excite buyers, they may not step foot inside.
You should prepare for your photo shoot as much as you would for an open house or private showing. Work alongside an excellent local real estate agent , and follow these tips to make sure your home looks its best.
Never list your home online without photos
Today’s buyers get email and text alerts when a new home that matches their criteria hits the market. There is nothing more frustrating than to see the desired address come across as an alert, only for the listing to be incomplete.
Buyers (and agents) will punish you for jumping the gun. Will they go back later and look again, once you have the photos up? Maybe — but maybe not.
You’re adding an extra step for them, and it comes across like you don’t have your ducks in a row. That’s not a great way to start out with your future customer.
Clean, declutter, organize and remove
You should spend a good amount of time preparing for your photo shoot. This means that you fluff the pillows, put toilet seats down, put Fido’s bowl and toys away, and ensure the home is in impeccable condition.
A tidy home free of clutter appeals to buyers. Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
People can zoom in, zoom out and play with photos in online listings. They’ll notice everything. If your photos don’t show your home well, it sends a message to the buyer that you don’t care, and that you are not a serious seller.
The buyer is your customer. You have a product for sale. Take the time to present it in the best possible light.
Poor photos won’t cut it
Images that are blurry, poorly lit, or distorted are not going to sell your home.
It’s a good idea to hire a professional photographer who will take high-resolution photos, and even bring extra lighting or equipment to enhance their work. They’ll also take dozens of pictures and work tirelessly to show your home in the right light and from the best angles.
Well-lit photos show off your home’s assets. Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Don’t skimp on the number of photos
When it comes to photos, the more, the merrier. You want to make it easy on buyers to get comfortable with and learn more about your home.
Not only are the listing photos their initial impression, but they serve to help orient the buyer after the first or second showing. Once they have been through the home in person, they are better able to relate to the floor plan and how it flows. Going back to the listing photos allows them to make connections and dig deeper. Encourage them to do so by posting plenty of photos.
It’s standard practice in real estate to give a home a fresh coat of paint before putting it on the market. Nine out of 10 times, the intention is to show the property at its best. But every so often, the seller paints the house in hopes of covering something up.
In most parts of the country, sellers (and agents) are required to document any known defects — whether current or past — to potential buyers. But some sellers don’t play by the rules and will try to get one past a buyer.
Disclosure statements, which can come in a variety of forms, are the buyer’s opportunity to learn as much as they can about the property and the seller’s experience in it.
Potential seller disclosures range from knowledge of leaky windows to work done without the benefit of a permit, to information about a major construction or development project nearby.
Not only do disclosure documents serve to inform buyers, but they can also protect the sellers from future legal action. It is the seller’s chance to reveal anything that can negatively affect the value, usefulness or enjoyment of the property.
How does a seller make a disclosure?
Disclosure laws vary from state to state, even down to the city and county level. California has some of the most stringent disclosure requirements. The law requires that sellers (and their agents) complete or sign off on dozens of documents, such as a Natural Hazards Disclosure Statement, Local and State Transfer Disclosure Statements, Advisories about Market Conditions and even Megan’s Law Disclosures.
Disclosure typically comes in the form of boilerplate documents (put together by the local or state real estate association), where the seller answers a series of yes/no questions about their home and their experience there.
Additionally, sellers must present any documented communication (between neighbors, previous owners, the seller or the agents) about a substantial defect or item that could have an adverse impact on value.
Depending on where you live, sellers can be on the hook for what they disclose (or fail to) for up to 10 years. Sellers should err on the side of caution. If you know it, put it out there. If you try to hide something, it can come back to haunt you in the form of an expensive lawsuit.
What do sellers disclose to potential buyers?
Previous improvements, renovations or upgrades done by sellers are typical disclosures, as well as whether work was done with or without permits.
Buyers should cross check the seller’s disclosures with the city building permit and zoning reports. Work completed without a permit, or approval by the municipality, may not have been performed to code, which could result in a fire or health hazard.
Other standard disclosures include the existence of pets, termite problems, neighborhood nuisances, any history of property line disputes, and defects or malfunctions with major systems or appliances. Disclosure documents often ask sellers if they are involved in bankruptcy proceedings, if there any liens on the property, and so on.
Is a disclosure the same as an inspection?
Disclosure is something given to the buyer by the seller documenting their knowledge of the property. It is not the same thing as an independent inspection by a third party. An examination may reveal defects that the seller may not have been aware of.
The buyer should always do a full property inspection, before moving forward with the purchase. The inspector checks all systems and components from the roof to the basement. Often, in the interest of the ultimate in full disclosure, a seller hires a property inspector before going on the market and supplies the written report to the buyer.
When does the buyer receive disclosure statements?
In most markets, disclosure documents are provided to buyers once the seller has accepted their offer. In addition to their inspections or loan contingency, the buyer has an opportunity to review the seller’s disclosures. If the buyer discovers something negative about the property through disclosure, she can usually back out.
In some markets, sellers provide these disclosures to the customers before an offer. Smart sellers let buyers know everything they need to know up front. It’s smart because it saves everyone time, hassle and expense by preventing deals from falling apart once they’re in escrow.
Buyers must sign off on all disclosures and reports. So it’s important to review them carefully and ask questions if you need to. Full disclosure upfront is the way to go. Providing full disclosure can help a seller. By laying their cards out, sellers can give buyers a sense of comfort or peace of mind, making their home more desirable than a competing one.
The things we consider to be must-have home features are constantly changing—less than a half-century ago, plush, “can’t see my feet” shag carpeting (in bold colors such as gold, orange, and purple) was all the rage, and kitchen appliances came in coordinating hues. A quarter-century ago there was no HGTV to tell us to knock down a wall to open up the kitchen or swap out bathroom vanities. And just a few years back, tiny homes were just, well, really small homes.
We wondered what home qualities are must-haves right now, what the up-and-comers are, and what’s heading straight for the dustbin of home features history. To find out, our data team dug deep into our millions of listings and sifted out the most commonly used phrases for home features, going back five years.
Voila! Here are the 20 features that are most often touted in our listings. These are the stuff that home dreams are made of—a mixture of classic favorites and rising stars.
At first glance, the results aren’t too surprising. After all, who doesn’t love fireplaces and wood floors? (Well, other than those who prefer carpet, which is No. 3.)
“Rather than a barometer of trends, those are really adoptioncycles,” says Javier Vivas, data analyst at realtor.com®. “It’s more about how long it takes a particular new feature to become prevalent. It’s like car technology: First you see the cutting-edge stuff in luxury cars, then it spreads into the mainstream.”
Listings have gotten ever-more detailed and adorned in recent years, and certain features appear more and more often as selling points. So popularity among listing descriptions is kind of like being listed on the S&P 500—it shows that a feature is no passing trend. For example, granite countertops, once a splurge, are now a go-to feature—they’ve shot up from being mentioned in 8% of listings in 2011 to 13% today.
Got it? Good. Let’s go home shopping! Don’t forget to bring your checkbook.
Fireplace (No. 1)
On a chilly night, nothing competes with snuggling up near a crackling fire—or maybe it’s the hissing, considering that the leading type of fireplace mentioned in 3.2% of our listings is gas. After all, it’s easy to clean and maintain and comes in some cool modern designs. Still, there’s nothing like the charm of a wood-burning fireplace, and its popularity is picking up fast.
And in total, fireplaces—wood-burning, gas, brick, stone, or kiva—are the stars of 23.8% of our listings.
Always popular, the classic elegance of a wood floor continues to gain ground, particularly since last year. Not surprisingly, carpeting’s popularity seems to rise and fall in opposition to wood. It’s made a comeback before, but wood seems to be pulling ahead. In 2015, wood floors appeared in 15% of listing descriptions, 2 percentage points ahead of carpet.
Meanwhile, the tile floor—though never a major contender for the top spot—has slipped from No. 4 in 2011 (when it beat out walk-in closet and open floor plan) to today’s No.10. Still, it will probably hold onto its niche in humid, warm climates such as that of Florida.
Granite counter (No. 4)
Once a rare luxury, granite has become more affordable and is now practically standard for anyone who gives a hoot about kitchen design. It shot to fame quickly over the past five years, making its slick presence felt in 13% of all listings. For those who think all this trendy granite craziness is on the wane, reports of its death, as Mark Twain might (or might not!) have said, are greatly exaggerated—at least according to our listings data.
Stainless-steel appliances (No. 5)
With their elegant and modern appearance fitting into almost any kitchen design, stainless-steel appliances have made their way into more and more households since the 1990s. “Stainless” is now mentioned in 9% of all listings, almost double its share of five years ago.
Open floor plan (No. 6) vs. formal dining room (No. 8)
A house divided? Not these days. Separate living rooms, dining areas, and kitchens have been edged out by the open floor plan, which knocks down or eliminates walls to create a sense of spaciousness and light.
The open floor plan has seen a rapid increase in popularity, and in 2014 it surpassed the formal dining room for the first time. In 2015, an open floor plan is the fifth most popular feature, representing 8% of listings. The much-debated open kitchen, which encompasses the dining as well as the cooking area, also made it onto the list at No. 9.
Walk-in closet (No. 7)
In a time of over-the-top “glam rooms” dedicated to, um, getting ready, the walk-in closet is another feature that has seemingly gone from luxe to a near necessity. Stashing all your clothes in a shallow closet with hangers crammed together and no shelves? How primitive! It’s no wonder 7% of home listings mention walk-in closets as a big selling point.
Chef’s kitchen (No. 16) vs. open kitchen (No. 10)
The kitchen used to be all business—a place to churn out meals, nothing more. Again, we’ll point the finger at TV—not just HGTV, but also the Food Network—for fueling homeowners’ desire for a kitchen worthy of a chef, featuring a center island, a large stove/oven with hood, and granite or marble counters (see No. 3).
And it’s not just for cooking, but also for hanging out while you prepare the meal—especially if you have an open kitchen, touted in 5.7% of listings. We’ll also point out that five of the top 20 home features are kitchen-related.
Garden tub (No. 20)
No, a garden tub is not set amid the lovely and fragrant rose beds so you can bathe in the open air (and get bitten by insects). The term generally refers to a wider and deeper bathtub that usually has steps but no jets. Nice! Providing a relaxing soaking experience with less cost and cleaning difficulty, the garden tub has gained popularity over the years, but it’s still a niche feature.
We’ve talked about features that have made their way into the mainstream, but we also saw a couple that are clearly on their way out:
House with vinyl siding
Vinyl siding was once one of the most popular cladding choices, because it’s affordable, long-lasting, and virtually maintenance-free. But over the years it’s become something of a gauche punch line in some quarters. It’s no wonder its lead has slipped substantially in recent years, while fiber cement is gaining ground, according to PlasticsNews.com.
Oak and cherry cabinets
The last time honey oak cabinets were trending, Monica-gate was a thing, Will Smith was the prince of Bel-Air, and Y2K loomed as the biggest threat the world faced. Yes, the ’90s were particularly friendly to oak cabinetry and cherry wasn’t far behind, popularitywise, but those days are long past. Today you’ll be hard-pressed to find either in listings or in new home construction. But maple cabinets? Welcome to the future!
A home sale typically comes as a result of a life change or a major decision. These decisions don’t usually happen overnight, providing homeowners with years to plan for a successful home sale. By using your time wisely, you will maximize your home’s value when you want to list and sell.
On your way to this point, you should be open to spending money in getting ready to sell. Investing in strategic home improvements will help facilitate a quicker and more profitable sale.
Selling a home is a large financial and emotional transaction — likely the largest in a lifetime. This makes strategic planning and counsel vital. Here are some steps you should take a year or more before you plan to list your home.
Connect with a local real estate agent
Real estate agents shouldn’t just show up, list a home, hold an open house and move on. Instead, they should be valuable assets to you years before listing. Connecting with a local agent and developing a relationship well in advance allows you to start learning the market and transitioning from the mindset of a homeowner to that of a seller.
A good agent will provide helpful information, advice and assistance on an ongoing basis, in hopes of working with you on the eventual sale. Work with an agent who can connect you to local resources like inspectors, painters and other service providers.
An agent can also assess your home’s condition and suggest small to medium-sized improvements that will help boost your home’s value. Prioritize these projects for the months or years leading up to the sale.
Have a formal property inspection
For a few hundred dollars, you can have a licensed property inspector assess the home’s major systems and components. You can take this step up to two years before you will list your home.
Why would you want to have someone come and point out your home’s flaws before selling? Because it’s better to know about any issues upfront so you can address them before your potential buyer discovers them.
Additionally, you can put a financial plan in place to pay for any needed fixes. Dry rot on your back deck could cost $500 to remedy now, but you’d be better off handling it now than having a buyer see it as a major decking/structural issue and request $5,000 when you are weeks away from closing and your back’s against the wall.
A year before you will list, spend the extra time and money ensuring that your home both appeals to mainstream buyers and passes a potential buyer’s property inspection.
If your agent suggests cosmetic fixes like laying new carpet, painting cabinets or cleaning the yellow grout in the bathroom, put a plan in place to tackle each of the projects. Waiting to the last minute will be too stressful, plus you won’t get the enjoyment out of the cosmetic fixes.
If you know your roof is at the end of its life, it might be more economical to replace it so that you can advertise a new roof. Today’s buyers want homes that are move-in ready. They don’t have the time or resources to take on projects. The more issues you can resolve for them, the more successful your sale.
Get a home warranty
A home warranty is like a one-year insurance policy that addresses your major (and minor) appliances and most systems. If something breaks, you can call the home warranty company, not the appliance repair technician or plumber. For a small co-pay, they will come out and repair or replace the item swiftly.
If your home has some issues, a home warranty is a great way to address them without having to spend weeks or months shopping around, getting bids for work and seeing through each repair. A warranty works well when you list the home and are too busy to call around getting bids.
Moving is tough, in and of itself. Add prepping a home for sale and your move becomes more emotional and stressful. Planning ahead can help you address issues in advance.
Don’t wait until the last minute, or you risk leaving money on the table. Meet with an agent early on and put a timeline in place to get the most of your home’s sale — fast.
First impressions mean everything — especially when it comes to viewing a potential home. As visual beings, a cluttered space or a jarring wall color can be enough to make us turn around and walk out the door.
Successfully staged spaces provide two effects: they give a home an aesthetic appeal, and offer buyers an opportunity to dream themselves into the space.
If there’s one thing professional stagers know about designing spaces that appeal to buyers, it’s the art of selecting great decor pieces while utilizing space. The goal is making the most positive impact.
Here are five helpful staging tips a professional interior designer used to turn a listing into a sold home in no time.
Know your audience
Staging is less about your personal style, and all about the buyer or renter you’re trying to attract. You must always know your audience in order to create a successful staging design.
Discuss this matter with the broker, and research the neighborhood to understand the demographic that will be looking to purchase or rent your home.
Pack up the photos first
You want the potential buyer or renter to be able to envision themselves living in the space, but that’s a bit difficult when someone else’s family photos line the walls. Put all family photos away in a safe place to allow room for visitors to imagine themselves in the space.
Don’t be afraid of trends
While it’s true that some trends have a short lifespan, in staging the risk may be worth it. The timeline for renting or selling is typically short enough for design trends to thrive while a home is on the market.
So, if you’re itching to try out all the Mediterranean Santorini blue accents popping up lately, go for it. Trendy designs and colors will give the home a current, fresh look.
A little color goes a long way
The goal in staging is to enhance a space, not distract from it. Usually a safe bet is to create a neutral space that any person, regardless of their taste, can appreciate. Bold colors and daring decor could be loved by some and loathed by others.
For instance, walking into an overwhelming yellow bedroom can make potential buyers forget all about those beautiful marble counters in your kitchen. The last thing you want is for buyers to remember your staged space as “the one with that tacky yellow room.”
That said, you shouldn’t be afraid of color. A trendy color applied in a tasteful way could leave buyers referring to the home as “the one with the gorgeous teal wall.”
Show how livable the space is
The most important reason for staging is to show the full potential of how a space can be used. You should try to bring in as many functional pieces as possible while not overcrowding the space.
Steer clear of oversized or bulky furniture. Details like this make a space feel cluttered and dysfunctional. Opt for full size beds with two night stands, armless side chairs, lifted case goods and round, pedestal-base tables.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to complete the picture. Even if you think a dining table crowds the space, at least show a two-seat dining set, as it’s more important to show that it could work than leave it out entirely.
The final thing to keep in mind is that staging doesn’t have to break the bank. Be creative and consider DIY options when you’re designing your space. In most cases, just keep these tips in mind and remember: Less is more. A few simple changes and you’ll be on your way to a space that other people are eager to live in.
Photos courtesy of Rayon Richards Photography. BY ZILLOW
Today nearly all home searches begin on a mobile phone or tablet— not on the Web, and not using the newspaper.
If you want to get the right kind of buyer activity on your home, you need to make sure that you optimize your listing and your photos for mobile devices.
2) Be ready to separate your “home” from your “investment”
Many sellers make the mistake of letting their emotions get the best of them. Selling a home is not like selling a used car — it holds memories and occupies a special place in your heart.
When it comes time to sell, however, it’s important to realize that your home is also an investment. Being able to change your homeowner hat to your investor hat is crucial.
If you are too sentimentally attached to your home, you may reject a good price or fail to negotiate with a serious buyer. Don’t let your emotions sabotage your sale.
3) Don’t list your home until you’re serious about selling
Do you have a place to go if you sell? Have you fully cleaned and de-cluttered your home? Have you taken your agent’s advice on staging and pricing?
Many sellers list their home before they are truly ready to sell, only to shoot themselves in the foot by overpricing it or not presenting it to the market in its best possible light. A stale listing is often overlooked by buyers and real estate agent alike.
4) Make the best impression online
Nothing frustrates an active and aggressive buyer more than getting an email or mobile notification alert for a new property listing only to get to the listing and not see any photos.
Buyer first impressions today are on the Internet. If you list your home without complete information — including photos, description and accurate data — not only will you turn them off, but they may simply not come back later.
5) Be ready to leave- with your pet!
Keep your home neat and clean and odor free and be ready to leave when an agent wants to show it to a prospective buyer, whether it is convenient or not. Listen to your agent’s advice and tips for selling your house. Your goal is to sell your home and move forward.
The single most important factor to consider when selling a house is pricing the house correctly; it’s choosing the right list price: how much your house is worth. Over pricing the house will cause it to sit on the market and lose the freshness of the home’s appeal after the first two to three weeks of showings. After a month on the market, demand and interest can wane and after that a listing can become stale to potential buyers. It is a tough concept, because no one wants to chance leaving money on the table, but pricing the home just below fair market value will often cause a seller to receive multiple offers, which will then drive up the price to market price or above. Pricing is all about supply and demand. It’s part art and part science. Beware of the realtor that advises a list price way above the range of sold home prices in your neighborhood, choosing to list with that agent may be setting you up for the delay or even failure to sell your home.
Pricing your home to sell may not be as simple as you think. Looking at what similar homes in your immediate neighborhood that have sold for in the past 6 months to a year will give you some, but not all of the data you will need to calculate the list price. It is important to compare apples to apples when looking at the comparable recently sold homes. Compare and consider not just how many bedrooms or bathrooms, but also is the basement finished, is the yard nicely landscaped, how many garage spaces are offered? Look at homes’ sizes (square feet), style, condition and if updates and renovations have been done. A good real estate professional will format all of the information for you and help you to make the comparisons to come to the right listing price that will get you the most money possible for your home sale.
Using a real estate professional, like Washington Homes Group, can save you money in the end by helping in pricing your home to sell quickly and for the best sale price. A good agent or even better- a good team, will assess what improvements should be made prior to putting your house on the market. Many times the first step is to de-clutter; when selling your home, the less-is-more concept is the way to go. Your agent should be honest and direct in telling you what needs painting and repair or replacing before making your listing “active on the market”. You only have one chance to make a good impression, and that goes for the list price and your homes presentation.
It can be a challenge to sell a house these days. That’s why many home sellers are hiring professional stagers to help them hike the odds of attracting a buyer. Here are some of the tricks the pros use to help homes sell quickly and for more than the asking price.
By Anne Krueger
301-437-8722/ 202-364-1700 Real Estate Professional Licensed in Maryland, Virginia & Washington, DC