The “Sold” sign on our lawn was a sight of beauty to us and a sign of our relief. Finally, we are free from paying double mortgages. There is no more paying double utilities, HOA fee, home insurance, gardener…, etc. Best of all, we do not need to deal with any roller coaster of false hopes and disappointments from buyers. It was a rough 6 months of journey of selling house. This is the toughest time to sell houses that favors the buyers and lengthy and difficult loan processing from the lenders. We are lucky to sell our house less than a year within 90% of our asking prince. If we sell it during the late 90’s early 2000’s, it would have sold within a week (no exaggeration). It is a 4 bedrooms 3 bathrooms house that locates in great neighborhood and school district. We thought that it would be sold in a few months for the worse case. Unfortunately, we were wrong. A couple escrow fell outs and changed in realtors, had put us on the market longer than we anticipated. Out of desperation, we hired handymen and contractors to give our house a cosmetic face lift – new paint inside and outside, cleaned the tiles and carpet, and new kitchen appliances and reconsider our asking price. It was not only financially draining; it was also very emotionally draining.
Here is what we have done to help us finally sell the house:
1) Hire the right realtor as your seller’s agent
Hire the right realtor is very important. Our first seller’s agent was a busy man. He was out of town frequently and hard to reach. Not to mention that he was not very motivated and focus in selling our house. As soon as our 1 month contract was up, we moved on to next agent. Our second agent was the nicest person. He worked alone for his own company from home. However, he was too mellow and when he was on vacation, his back up agent-colleagues were not very helpful, many good potential buyers were slipped away…. We moved on again after our 3 months contract was up with him. Finally, my husband decided to take a chance with the agent who is known as “the realtor for our area”. He buys and sells houses in our neighborhood for 20+ years. You could see his signs of ‘Open House’ every weekend. We were shy away from him originally because we thought he might be too aggressive for us. Turned out, yes, he was aggressive but not to us. He was aggressive in how he marketed our house to others, how he increased the flow of his clients and other agents to view our house, and how he worked so hard to put in the first house offer for the first weekend of open house. He was extremely knowledgeable in his field and an excellent sales person. He understood the buyers’ needs and concerns and he was able to communicate and made suggestions to us. Moreover, he and his team were always reachable and available. That really made a difference, especially if we needed to make decision quickly.
2) Price your house realistically with the market price
All right, we all make this kind of mistake – we prize our house because we all had emotional tie to it, we tend to put the asking price too high. The past 3 – 6 months sales report from your neighborhood and some online websites like the Zillow and Redfin will give you a fair idea of what is your house current value. All buyers are smart and resourceful, thanks to the internet. So do your homework and put a ‘realistic’ price tag to your house, it will help you to sell your house quicker instead of sitting on the market for a long time. Current time, many buyers want to take an advantage of low interest rates and lower housing price. Therefore, if your house does not seem to be a ‘good buy’, the buyers will pass and go for the next available house with a better price. After few months on the market, we dropped our asking price close to the market price. Then, we received more reasonable rather the low ball offers and the multiple offers started to work in our favor.
3) Give your house an updated look
If there are several homes for sales in your neighborhood, the buyers are more attracted the home that has more updated look and appliances. The minimum update we did for our home with less than $10,000 budget were upgrade of our kitchen appliances – the range/stove, dishwasher, steam cleaning the carpet, new caulking to all bath tubs and sinks, and new coat of neutral color paint both inside and outside of our house, and planted new flowers in the front and in the backyard.
4) Consider the all cash buyer even if their offers are lower than the convention loan buyers
The advantage of having all cash buyer are: the length of escrow is usually much shorter (less than 30 days to 14 days), lower risk than the conventional loan buyers (if the loan does not approve, escrow will fell out), the length of escrow time of conventional loan buyers is longer than before – usually 45 to 60 days (the bank nowadays require longer period of time to process all the loan documents and home appraisal since they are using third party vendor due to the regulation). Couple fell out of escrow were conventional loan buyers. We had one fell out 5 days before closing day and it was hard for us to go back to square one. Our house finally got sold to an all cash buyer even though their offer was lower than the other offers; we decided to go with them to minimum the risk of loan not being approved and a shorter escrow period (21 days).
5) A healthy report of your house would attract buyers
If your house inspection report and termite report are good and showed that your house is in good condition, it will help you to attract buyers (assuming you price your house realistically). As I mentioned before, the current buyers are looking good value of the home, they are less willing to ‘fix’ up the house if there are many big ticket items. The plentiful of inventory out there, give the buyers more choices and being choosey. Although we experiences escrow fell out, we did not delay fixing termite repairs and follow up with items found in the home inspection report. We kept our repair document updated and ready for the next buyers and had helped us moved along more smoothly.
Other factors like when to put your house on market can also affect the flow of potential buyers. Generally, the ideal time to put your house on the market is spring time. People plan to move will start shopping and looking around that time for moving during summer time. Winter time is the toughest time to sell or show houses. Everyone (including your agent and buyers) is busy with holidays.
Basically, the buyers in current market are looking for a good value home and good condition to buy. They are unwilling to buy a fix a upper if it is not a super good deal. They can afford to be choosey because supplies are high and demands are lower. Selling a house will take team work of you and your realtor plus timing and luck. If you have any questions what may work the best in marketing your house, talk to your local realtors. Good luck!