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Selling FAQ

Is Spring the Best Time to Put My Home on the Market?

Many sellers believe that spring is the best time to put a home on the market – that’s a myth.  Market timing is an important consideration to maximize success, but you can’t make assumptions that may be false depending on other factors.

Because many sellers believe that spring is the best time to put a home on the market, inventory often spikes greatly beginning in March – that creates more competition for a limited pool of buyers.  November through January tends to be the months with the lowest inventory (thus, less competition).  Although there are fewer buyers in the market during the winter months, they are generally serious.  In many ways, that’s an ideal situation – fewer showings to fool with, with a higher likelihood of getting an offer from a ready, willing, and able buyer.

Your Liz Moore agent can help you evaluate the right timing for you.  They will assess current active listings in your price and area segment, as well as pending sale trends, to arm you with information to make a wise decision.

Should I Price High to Leave Negotiating Room?

Pricing high is generally not an advisable strategy, for a number of reasons.  

  • First, if you position too high, your listing may well be invisible to potential buyers.  Let’s say you price at $355,000, but would really accept $340,000, in order to leave yourself a margin to negotiate.  But, if prospective buyers in the $340,000 range are searching in a parameter of $325,000 to $350,000, then your listing is not even going to come up on their search.
  • And, let’s say they do find it.  They’re going to be comparing your homes to others in the $350,000 to $375,000 range, in which case it’s likely to come up short on features.  Whereas, if they were comparing it to listings in the $325,000 to $350,000 range, your home would shine as the best value in its category.  Because buyer’s purchase by comparison shopping, it’s critical that you position your listing among true competition.                 
  • Another reason not to start out high is that statistics show that listings that have had one or more price reductions and have been on the market longer tend to bring a significantly lower final sales price than a listing that sells quickly.  Often the spread is as much as 8%.
  • Lastly, the majority of showings take place on a new listing within the first 30 days.  That’s because there is always a group of existing buyers in the marketplace when a new listing comes on the market.  After that initial 30 day marketing period, showings are limited to new buyers in the market.  Accordingly, it’s important to put your best foot forward right from the start (the same is true of making sure that condition issues are addressed before a home hits the market).
Prospective buyers will pay more for a perceived value than a listing that seems overpriced.   Accordingly, we recommend that you position your home aggressively and hold firm on price when it comes time to negotiate.
 
How Long Should a House be on the Market Before a Price Reduction?

That really depends on the situation.  As a rule of thumb, you should consider re-positioning at 30 days if you haven’t had an offer, or after 10 showings that haven’t produced an offer, whichever happens first.

If you’re not getting showings, that tells us that agents are rejecting your listing in favor of other listings that are a better value for your client.

If you’re getting showings – but no nibbles – then that tells us that buyers are rejecting your listing in favor of other homes that are a better value.

Markets are dynamic – and it’s critical to be constantly monitoring changes in activity.  At Liz Moore & Associates, our agents sign our sellers up for “get the scoop,” which enables our sellers to receive e-mail alerts every time a new listing hits the market, a home goes under contract (or closes, or expires) in their neighborhood.  That way we can watch the market together, so that we can immediately take action if re-positioning becomes necessary.

How Much Can I Expect to Net?

Your Liz Moore agent will prepare a “net proceeds” form for you, using our exclusive Quick Costs software.  This form details all of the expenses related to the sale, including brokerage fees, settlement costs, tax prorations, etc.  As a very rough rule of thumb estimate, your costs will average around 7% of the sale price, excluding any seller concessions you pay on the buyers’ behalf.

How Do I Prepare My Home to Go On the Market?

Getting your home market ready is a very important first step in the listing process.  Together with your Liz Moore agent, you’ll work as a team to make sure that your listing stands out as a great value compared to other listings in your price segment.

There are several steps to prepare your home for the market:
  • We will conduct a pre-listing home inspection, at our expense, so that you are prepared for any condition issues that may arise during the transaction.  Once we have the inspection results, we’ll review them together and evaluate if it makes sense to complete any repairs prior to putting your home on the market.  In that case, we will recommend service providers for you that we work with frequently, that can offer affordable pricing and good, reliable workmanship.
  • We offer a complimentary consultation with a professional stager at our expense.  She may also make recommendations in order to make your home show better; commonly she suggests de-cluttering and thinning out furniture and knick knacks to make rooms appear larger and to help prospective buyers focus on the “bones” of your house.  You’ll get a complete checklist which you and your agent can review to decide what are the most important tasks to tackle.
  • One of the first steps in the marketing process is photography, and so you want to be sure your home is ready for the camera lens.  Any painting, staging, de-cluttering should be completed in advance of photography.  Another important step is to make sure your curb appeal is ideal – lawns mowed, beds weeded and freshly mulched, the front door freshly painted and welcoming.  We often recommend that sellers remove screens from the front of the home, as windows sparkle more without screens (especially notable in pictures).
 
Should I have a Lockbox?

In most cases, absolutely.  Making sure that your home is easy to show is a fundamental first step in making sure your home is market ready.  While it is sometimes inconvenient to have your home on the market, it is important that it is ready to show when a potential buyer is ready to look.  Lockboxes make showings convenient for agents who are trying to schedule a series of showings.

Is a For Sale Sign Important?

Yes.  Approximately 11% of buyers come from sign calls, according to National Association of Realtors’ research.  Especially if your home has good curb appeal, this can be an effective marketing tool.  One reason they are important is that if a buyer is looking at other homes in your community, you want to be sure that they are aware that yours is on the market.

Is it better to sell a home furnished or vacant?

That is a great question, and the answer is “it depends.” There are really two factors to consider in order to answer this question:  first, what does your “stuff” look like?  If you have nice furnishings, and not too much clutter, your home will probably show best furnished.  However, if you have over-sized furniture, and/or lots of clutter, you may be better served to move first, and then sell.

As long as your flooring (whether carpet, tile, or hardwood floors) is in good shape, and walls are freshly painted, there are some advantages to selling a vacant home.  For a prospective buyer who is looking to relocate quickly, a vacant home signals that they can most likely negotiate a quick close.  Another advantage is that the prospective buyer will be able to easily see “the bones” of your home, without being distracted by your belongings and/or art on your walls (or without worrying how many holes there will be to patch, fill and paint, once you move).

There is also an “in between” answer.  One of our Stager’s favorite mantra’s is “pack it now or pack it later!”  Since you have to move, it might make sense to begin the packing up process sooner than later.  By thinning out closets, and packing up treasures to create a de-cluttered look in your home, you will help your home show better.  Rent a storage space short term to place boxes, wardrobes and large pieces of furniture.

Your Liz Moore agent will hire a professional stager for a consultation before your home goes live on the market, and that is the ideal time to explore which options in terms of your move timetable will benefit your bottom line the most.

Is it important to update, and can I get my money back?

This is a classic home seller’s dilemma.  And, like so many questions, it really depends on your specific situation.  There are a number of improvements that are “no brainers”…so, let’s take a look at those first.  The least expensive investments with the greatest returns are undoubtedly the following:  

  1. Fresh paint.  Choose a neutral color, and give the interior a bright new look.  You may want to consider doing some early packing, and not re-hang all of your pictures.  Less clutter will make rooms appear larger, and the new owner will appreciate not having to fill holes.
  2. Landscaping.  A carefully manicured lawn, and weed-free beds are an indication that the property is well cared for.  Mulch and some color in the flower beds go a long way toward creating that important curb appeal.
  3. Replace carpet and vinyl.  New flooring in a neutral color allows the buyer to feel that they are moving into a “new” home.
All three of those improvements tend to encourage a stronger offer on your property, because the prospective buyer is not moving in with a laundry list of “to-do’s” which are likely to be estimated at a higher cost than you’ll actually pay.  By doing them in advance, you preclude a buyer for reducing his offer price by the amount he feels he’ll need to invest.
 
Other additions that aid in marketability are minor kitchen and bathroom remodeling, such as replacing dated counter tops and appliances, and refacing/replacing out of style cabinets.  Because these improvements can be a bit more pricey than painting and landscaping, be sure to include your Liz Moore REALTOR in the decision making process.  Not only will your agent be able to advise you whether or not the project makes sense, he or she will also be able to guide you to affordable and reputable contractors to do the work.
 
Carefully consider any major renovations such as room additions, garage conversions, swimming pools, etc.  It’s important that you make those investments to enjoy while you are living in the home, because chances are that you will not recoup but a fraction of your cost.  Garage conversions, for instance, may add a great bonus room or extra bedroom, but when it comes time to sell, you’ll have to subtract the value of the garage that you no longer have.  If garages are customary in your area, the loss will most likely exceed the gain.
What is the Difference between Appraised Value and Assessed Value?

Answer:  A lot.  Many consumers confuse a “home appraisal” with a “tax assessment.”   Actually, there are a number of different kinds of value, and they are all quite different.  Yet, it is important to understand each type of value, and the part it plays in determining what your home is worth.

Home Appraisal

Let’s begin with a home appraisal.  Because most buyers today get a mortgage, home sellers need to consider what lenders are willing to lend when they determine a sales price.  Lenders do that by ordering a home appraisal by a licensed, independent appraiser.  Home appraisals in this area (Newport News, Hampton, Yorktown, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City County, Gloucester and surrounding areas) generally run between $350 and $450, depending on the size of the home and the scope of the appraisal.

Because appraisers approach value in an entirely different way than buyers (they look backward up to 6 months for sold comparable sales, rather than considering the current competition), home sellers are often surprised (and not always pleasantly!) at the home value numbers reached by appraisers.  Professional appraisers typically select 3 to 6 of the most similar properties that have sold within a several mile radius of the subject property in the past 3 to 6 months (with more weight given to more recent comparable sales), and then make value adjustments for any differences (square footage, updated kitchen, special features like fireplaces and porches, etc.).

At Liz Moore & Associates, we offer a complimentary pre-listing appraisal as part of our “No Surprises” program, to help homeowners answer the question “What is my home worth?”

Tax Assessment

A tax assessment, on the other hand, is a totally different benchmark of value.  Your assessment is the value that your local government (city or county, depending on where you live) assigns to your property in order to calculate the basis for the property tax it will charge you.  In this area (Newport News, Hampton, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City County, Gloucester and surrounding localities), assessments are generally revisited every 2 years.  That is one reason that assessed values often lag behind the market during times (like 2003-2013) when markets are very dynamic and shifting quickly.

Because most Assessor’s offices are understaffed, it is not feasible for them to visit homes and review the interiors before making an assessment, in the same way that home appraisers and real estate agents do.  Accordingly, they derive their information from a combination of sources such as a drive by of the property, the last sale price, and permitting information that they have on file.

Experience has taught us that although assessed values can be used as a benchmark, they are rarely an accurate reflection of what a home is really worth based on today’s market conditions.

Does Staging Really Work?

Home Staging is a cottage industry that has really gained some prominence in recent years.  I must admit that the first time I heard of the concept of “home staging” that I surmised it was somewhat of a racket.  It just didn’t make sense to me that someone would come into a house, shift furniture around, and make a profit doing it.

Boy, was I wrong!  First, I was wrong about what home staging entails.  It is about way more than simply re-arranging furniture.  And, secondly, I underestimated the power of home staging to get a home sold…for more money, in less time…which is what every home seller wants.
 
What does a home stager do?  One of Trez Robinson’s (Staged2SellVA.com) favorite mantra’s is that she is a “de-decorator.”  I laughed the first time I heard her say it, but it actually makes perfect sense.  Trez’s role is to take away the personality and style of the current owner, so that prospective purchasers can more easily visualize themselves moving in.  There are a number of ways that stagers accomplish this:
  • Remove personal photos and effects
  • De-clutter so that buyers focus on the “bones” of a house rather than the distractions of the stuff in the house
  • Neutralize colors, so that prospective buyers don’t object to the current owner’s personal taste, or be turned off that they will need to invest time and money in repainting before they move in (need to neutralize and curious about what color?  Trez recommends Sherwin Williams Believable Buff)
  • Remove any “extra” furniture, so that rooms look and feel more spacious.  Same goes for things on shelves, mantles and tables – minimalize, so that lookers are seeing the room, not your things.
  • Remove window treatments, and let the light shine in!
In today’s real estate market, the first showing always takes place online.  That means that your photographs are the first impression of your property to a prospective buyer or agent.  For that reason, at Liz Moore & Associates, our agents hire a professional photographer when appropriate to insure that we are making the best possible first impression of our listings.  When you look at listings online, you’ll quickly see the difference between a home that was professionally staged and photographed, and one that was not.
Curious to see the whole checklist that stagers use when they visit a property?  Download one below, or call or email us today to learn more (contact info).
 
Where Do Buyers Come From ?

Every year, the National Association of REALTORs does a study called the “Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers” that provides us with a plethora of information gathered from consumers and real estate professionals across the country. As part of this research project, they detail “Where Buyers Found the Home they Purchased” as a percentage distribution. Here are the results, based on the latest data:

Accordingly, your Liz Moore agent will create a marketing strategy that is designed to specifically target buyers using each of these resources proportionately.

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