Category Archives: putting a house on the market

Ready to move? 8 Tips for a Smooth Home Sale

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For Sale Sign Under Home Showing Selling PropertyHave you outgrown your current home? Do you need to move to be closer to a new job or family? You’re not alone.  There are millions of homes sales in the United States every year. Though each sale is different, there are ways you can use to make your home sale process smoother from the day you put your house on the market until your big closing day—and less stressful if you follow the tips in our recent post.

Get a pre-listing home inspection.

Even if you think your home is perfect, and ready for the real estate market, red flags can still come up. For one homeowner, it was a leaking gas line to the furnace that he had to repair. You don’t have to see the problem for it to be there, and you don’t need the stress that comes with surprise issues that could delay, or even kill, your home sale. Hire a home inspector before you put your home on the market. If the home inspector does find an issue, you can control the cost of your repairs and the timeline to get it done—without any pressure to get it done before your closing date.

Find the right realtor for your home sale.

When selling your home, a realtor is your primary source of information and expertise so choose carefully. Talk to past clients about their experience with your potential realtor. Contact an experienced realtor who knows your area to ensure that you list your home at a price that’s fair and sells quickly. For more signs of a good (and bad) real estate agent, read our recent post about selecting the best agent for your home sale. If you don’t want  any financial surprises when you put your home on the market, contact your agent before you list to your home to get a free estimate of what your home is worth.

Give your home a good cleaning, or find someone that can.

gloves and cleaner for getting home ready for saleScrub your tubs. Sweep your floors. Clean your carpets. Give your home a deep clean before you list because cleanliness does matter to potential buyers. If you don’t have the time to give your home a deep cleaning before you put your home on the market, contact a local home cleaner or cleaning service so potential buyers are impressed—and not repelled—from your home.

De-clutter for a good showing.

Rid your home of extra knick knacks and personal items. As precious as those keepsakes are to you, “extra” items in a room can make it appear smaller or inhibit a potential buyer from imagining their furniture and items in the home. Make sure you put those items in a storage unit or another off-site place; don’t put it all in your garage or storage area which could have the same effect on buyers.

Set a fair selling price up front.

Many a buyer has set a selling price saying, “we can always lower the price later.” The truth is you don’t always get a second chance; if your home sits on the market, potential buyers may wonder what’s wrong with it and why it has sat so long on the market. How do you set a fair price? Choose a real estate agent that is knowledgeable in your area and can find a fair sales price from comparable sales prices (we’ve written more about the process for determining a fair price here).

Worry about curb appeal, even during the winter.

Curb appeal is an important part of selling your home; this is, after all, your chance to make a good first impression on potential buyers. While this can seem like an impossible task during winter, make sure your driveway and walks are clean and free of snow. Pressure wash your home during the fall to make sure it looks its best. During spring and summer, keep your flower beds clean and lawn mowed. In essence, keep your home looking neat and clean so buyers want to come in and see more.

Trust the right professionals.

Your home inspector, mortgage lender, and real estate agent are three of the most important professionals in your home sale. The first step in any home sale is to contact a mortgage lender to discuss your financials after you sell your home. If you are purchasing a new home, this is also your chance to discuss the budget of your next property. A good mortgage lender gives you not only a loan, but an education and a smooth home sale process. There are a lot of options for mortgage lenders, so start sifting through your home lending options by asking yourself questions about your expertise securing a home loan, your preferred method of communication, and what lenders can help if you if you have a unique situation (i.e. military or need a specific kind of loan). We’ve outlined the process of picking the right lender in this article.

Your home inspector is invaluable in preventing any unpleasant, pop-up surprises that could arise during your home schedule. We’ve seen home inspectors that have saved home sellers thousands of dollars in time and repairs, so be selective about the home inspector you choose. A good home inspector has past experience in construction, can provide samples of their home inspector report, is a member of a professional association, and can provide testimonials from past clients.

Have your documents ready.

You can cut down on delays and processing time by being one step ahead. There are two separate times during the home sale process when you need to ensure that you have proper documentation: through the pre-approval process and before your closing date. When you first apply for a loan for your new home (if applicable), make sure you have all the necessary documents appropriate for your documentation, such as:

  • Past tax returns
  • Proof of income (W-2, pay stubs, proof of Social Security payments, etc.)
  • Bank statements
  • Any documentation pertinent to your debts, renting history, spousal or child support, or any other information pertinent to your situation as requested by your lender

Just days before your closing date, contact your mortgage lender to make sure they have all the documentation need for your home sale. Your mortgage lender may need another document, pay stub, or guarantee for your closing. Now is the time to find out—before your closing date is canceled or delayed due to inadequate documentation.

5 Terms to Know Before You Sell Your Home

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sell your homeThinking of putting your home up for sale? Before the sign goes up in the front yard, it pays yourself to educate yourself on some key real estate terms that could play a key part in your home sale. A little bit of knowledge, and a good real estate agent, can be the key to selling your home quickly and saving thousands of dollars in the process.

Comparable home sales

A fair sales price is one of the most important factors in determining how fast your home sells. A home priced too high is a home that is going to sit on the real estate market, resulting in price reductions that send all the wrong signals to potential buyers (“Is there something wrong with the property?” “Why has it sat on the market so long?”).

So how do you determine a fair sales price? The fair sales price of your home should not be set by the amount you purchased the home for or by what you owe on the home. Instead, your real estate agent can do a market evaluation from comparable home sales in your area. Your real estate agent uses the actual sale price of other homes that are similar to yours—not the price that the home was listed for. Comparable home sales should include properties that are comparable. For example, if you are selling a condo, find other condos for sale in your area. For more information on sales prices, read our blog post to guide you to the right sales price—the price that sells.

Condition Report

In 1992, Wisconsin became one of the first states requiring sellers to fill out a document disclosing defects that could affect the value or structure of a property. The Condition Report needs to be part of all transactions involving 1-4 properties and has more than 20 categories of disclosures, including important items such as unsafe well water, roof defects and problems within the electrical system. If the property does not have a defect in that category, and has never suffered damage as a result, the seller can indicate that the property is clear in that area.

What do sellers have to include in the report? Everything—and what was done to fix it. If a problem occurred on the property, even for an insignificant length of time, it needs to be included in the report. Include the issue, what was done to fix the problem, and that it never happened again. For instance, if the basement flooded with a foot of water for a just a few hours 10 years ago, the flooding needs to disclosed. Also write down that the problem was caused by a faulty sump pump that was replaced that same day. Same with that leak in the roof. Or the pipe that burst in the bathroom.

The report cannot be completed by a seller’s Real Estate Agent. Truly, the Condition Report is not protecting the Real Estate Agent, it’s protecting the sellers. That’s why sellers need to fill this important document out—and fill it out completely with full disclosure. A completed Condition Report is more than just a piece of paper. It’s a shield for sellers now—and after the sale is complete.

Curb Appeal

First impressions count, especially when selling a home. That’s why the curb appeal of your home matters, such as the neatness of your yard, the cleanliness of your home, even the condition of your roof and windows. This is your chance to make a favorable impression as soon as potential buyers pull up to the home, so make sure you pay attention to:

  • Driveway condition (no cracks or holes),
  • Clean (and no cracks) windows,
  • Well-kept yard & flower beds (if you have any),
  • Painted porch and porch railings in good repair (if applicable),
  • Powerwashed sidewalks and siding.

Buyers see a direct correlation between your lawn care and how well you take care of your home, so don’t skimp on the amount of work you put into the exterior of your home. If you would prefer hiring a professional to give your home the curb appeal (and maintain it), contact your real estate agent for a recommendation.

Offer

Once a potential buyer is serious about your home, they submit an offer (otherwise known as a purchase agreement). An offer contains a price and any contingencies, or conditions, of the sale. For example, a common contingency is a financing contingency which means the loan must go through for the sale to be final. Another common contingency is an inspection contingency where the home must pass a home inspection or both parties come to an agreement on how to handle an issue that arises during the home inspection. There are other contingencies that can be included in the offer; discuss the contingencies in an offer made on your home with your real estate agent so you understand the agreement. An offer is not a binding agreement until both parties have agreed upon the price and contingencies included in the purchase agreement.

Pre-listing home inspection

A pre-listing home inspection is an inspection of your property BEFORE you put your home up for sale. When you’re talking about a pre-listing home inspection, spending money upfront can save you thousands of dollars and time when selling your home, in more ways than one:

No surprises, or delays, during the home sale process. Replacing a broken window or repairing water-damaged drywall can be the difference between a quick sale and a dragged out process. Unfortunately, not all repairs are so obvious, and a pre-listing home inspection can locate potential red flags before your home hits the market—and before a buyers’ home inspector finds them as well.

Opportunity to make repairs at a price you choose. A pre-listing home inspection puts you in control of choosing who makes the repairs and the cost. If your home inspector finds an issue with your home during the pre-listing home inspection, you, as the home owner, can choose what professional and price you pay for repairs. If a potential buyer finds the issue, they can require that you use their home repair professional which may cost you more in the long run.

Better selling price. If a potential buyer finds an issue during the home inspection, they can renegotiate the final selling price to accommodate the cost of repairs. The renegotiation can cut into your bottom line and lower the amount of money you make from your home sale.

If you have any questions about selling your home, or preparing your home for sale, contact an experienced real estate agent that can guide you through the home sale process. They can guide you through the preparations, give you a fair sales price, assist you with the paperwork, answer any questions you might have, and steer you through the closing process once your home sale is a reality.

What is a fair sales price for my home?

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fair selling price for home“What’s my home worth?” and “how much can I list my home for?” are some of the most common questions we hear, and the most misunderstood. The final answer is also crucial to a quick sale, because an improperly priced house is a loss for everyone involved. A house priced too high is a house that is going to sit on the real estate market, resulting in price reductions that send all the wrong signals to potential buyers (“Is there something wrong with the house?” “Why has it sat on the market so long?”). If your home is priced too low, you’re not going to walk away with the top dollar you need, and no one likes to feel like they got ripped off. So how do you determine that sweet spot, a fair sales price?

Use comparable sales as a compass. The best way to determine the price of your home is to compare your home to all area homes for sale, or that have sold, with comparable lot sizes and square footage. A real estate agent can assist with the process, and use their experience to hit upon a fair sales price. Just remember to compare apples to apples, and oranges to oranges. Compare your 2,000 square foot home to another home, or your condo to another condo.

Replacement costs do not count. Just because you need $200,000 from your current home to buy another home does not mean you can ask that of your current home. In the same way, don’t factor the price you owe on your house when determine fair market value. While those numbers should be part of your personal financial calculations, those numbers mean nothing to potential buyers or the current real estate market.

Do not use tax assessments, or a previous sales price, as a guide. Even though your property tax form uses the term “fair market value,” the number is not applicable to your home sale price. That number is based on a formula created by the government. In the same way, whatever your house sold for previously—even just a year or two ago—does not factor into your sales price. To get the fair sales price, contact an experienced realtor who knows your area and local sales prices.

Be realistic. It’s hard to be objective when you’ve been in your home for many years, have raised children in your home, are attached to the property or have spent thousands of dollars in repairs. Unfortunately, none of that matters when agreeing upon a fair sales price for your home.

To get the most for your property, invest in a pre-sale home inspection. A pre-sale home inspection can save you money on repairs, give you a smooth closing process, and guarantee you a higher sales price for your home. We’ve written about the benefits of a pre-sale home inspection before, and would recommend it for any homeowner considering selling their home.

The first step to settling on a market price for your home is contacting a real estate agent. A real estate agent can give you their recommendation for a fair asking price, and list of expenses associated with your home sale. They can also answer any questions you may have about selling your home, and give you tips on preparing your home for the real estate market. The agent can also assist in the next phase of your home selling process—locating a home for the next phase of your life.

Why should I use a realtor?

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sold homeIf you think realtors haven’t heard this question before, you’re wrong. Most realtors have faced this question throughout their career, and have some very good answers for the question, “why should I use a realtor?” Their answer isn’t short, though, because there are many, very good reasons to use a realtor for home selling and buying:

Assistance in navigating through the home selling and buying process. From defining terms like foreclosure and short sale, to identifying home repairs that can sell your home, to assistance with pricing and negotiating, to finding a solution that fits your needs after a bad home inspection report, a realtor’s first priority is to assist you through the home selling and buying process.

Local connections when you need professionals beyond a realtor. Lending services, home inspections, repairs, deep cleans—the home selling and buying process is full of situations where you need professionals beyond your realtor. An experienced realtor has connections in your community to experienced and competent home inspectors, handymen, cleaning services, insurance agents, lenders—everyone you need as you navigate through the home selling and buying process.

Objectivity when you need it. It’s hard when you are so emotionally involved, and close, to the home selling or buying process, or the person going through it. A realtor is unbiased, and can give you advice on challenges, pricing and anything else you encounter during the home selling or buying process.

Expertise when your home selling or buying process goes awry. A bad home inspection. Home negotiations that take a turn for the worst. Complicated communications with a bank selling a foreclosure. Sometimes selling your home or buying a house can seem like a race full or hurdles. A realtor can help you through the challenges that may arise during home selling or buying, so you can buy your new home or sell your property.

Experience to help you save money, price your property or save money to make money. Sounds like a mouthful, doesn’t it? An experienced realtor has seen it all: what home prices convert into quick home sales, how much money you should invest to sell your home (so you don’t overdo it), what you should and shouldn’t do to your home.

Remember, you realtor is looking out for your best interests. Your goals are their goals. They’re working for you, and can use all the experience from the home selling and buying processes they’ve been involved with to make your process successful. So what are you waiting for? Contact a realtor so you can get your home selling or buying process started, and achieve that happy ending.

Is your house ready for sale in the spring?

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3591When it’s the middle of winter, it’s hard to get into the real estate mindset. Even though you’re freezing cold, now is the perfect time to prepare your home for the spring real estate market. While you shouldn’t have to take out a second mortgage for your preparations (unless you have to make major repairs), a few changes in all the right places can make a big difference between your home sitting on the market or generating a quick sale:

  • Update. Buyers want updated countertops and flooring, both relatively inexpensive improvements. Updating doesn’t have to mean renovation, just a few replacements in areas where buyers have strong preferences—the kitchen, living room and bathrooms. Search discount home improvement stores and resale shops for new countertops, laminate flooring and carpeting remnants. These inexpensive changes can be the factors that trigger a quick sale.
  • Deep clean. Just because you have the original tile in the bathroom doesn’t mean you need to replace them. A good deep cleaning on your floors, in bathrooms and kitchens give your home the advantage with less cost. Buyers don’t want to buy a dirty house, or to pay top dollar for a home that needs a lot of work. With a small (tiny, really) investment in cleaning products, you can give your buyers a reason to choose your house over the competition.
  • Don’t let the pick-up stop indoors. A messy lot or lawn that doubles as a garbage dump deters buyers as much as a dirty house. Clean up any debris in your yard.
  • Use the ‘less is more’ concept. Don’t leave your house empty. To the contrary, empty rooms do not give buyers a clear vision of the purpose and potential of each room. However, keep the clutter—personal effects, knick knacks, items on counters and tables, extra furniture—to a minimum. If you need to, rent a temporary storage unit to store excess items. Rooms with less look bigger, while cluttered rooms tend to look smaller. If your house isn’t very big to begin with, you need all the help you can to give buyers the illusion of space.
  • Make the repairs you’ve been putting off. Buyers don’t want a house with holes in the wall, or water stains. Repair your drywall, put a fresh, neutral coat of paint on the wall and fix those leaky pipes. You want your buyers to see a clean, well-cared for property perfect for their situation.

Ask your realtor for recommendations so you don’t go overboard with sale preparations. It’s free, and you can also receive their expert opinion about pricing, as well as information about fees and costs associated with your home sale. These few simple steps can make your home a hot commodity when the temperatures—and the real estate market—heat up.

What to Do When Your House Won’t Sell

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20150108_104624If the sale of your home is as cold as the present Wisconsin temperatures, take a moment and step back to reevaluate your property before the spring real estate rush. With warmer temperatures come new buyers, and you need to have your property ready for them. The good news is that you have many options to improve your chance of a sale:

  1. Clean, clean, clean. A deep clean is essential to a home sale. Take the white glove approach to tile grout, flooring (especially carpeting), bathrooms and sinks. If you can’t take on the task of a deep cleaning, ask your realtor for a recommendation for a company that can. It’ll be worth the investment.
  2. Consider minor home improvements. Don’t feel like you have to break the bank, but remain focused. Bathrooms and kitchens are the two main areas to invest your funds, such as in new updated countertops and refaced cabinets. If you have dry wall damage from a water leak, or a rotten board in the front porch, make the repairs or hire someone who can. Buyers are scared away by homes they consider money pits, even if the repairs are minimal.
  3. Improve your curb appeal. This sounds ridiculous, especially in winter, but a well kept home on the outside is important. Clean up any trash in the yard, and keep the walks clean. You want your house to look well-maintained and inviting.
  4. Reevaluate the price. This is the option no one wants to hear, but a high price tag is one of the hugest obstacles to a quick sale. Look at comparable sales in the area, and be realistic. A house priced too high is a house that is going to stay for sale for the long term.

Don’t feel you have to take on the process of selling your home alone; that’s what a realtor is for. Contact a realtor and ask them for a recommendation on a realistic sales price and any improvements suitable for the area of your home. With your realtors’ assistance, and some help from Mother Nature, hopefully your home sale and temperatures will warm up in the spring.

Home Projects That Make You Money

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brown houseNo one wants to throw money out the window without seeing at least some kind of return on their investment. Whether you bought a fixer upper, plan on selling your house or just want to add value, choosing projects that actually bring money back to your pocket book is not as challenging as it sounds (or in some cases as expensive). While some projects sound like they bring value, such as that home office you’ve always wanted, here’s a list of projects that actually can make you money:

  • Updating kitchen hardware & countertops/full kitchen remodel. If you are on a tight budget or have fully functional cabinets, replacing the hardware on your cabinets and countertops yield a new, updated look that adds value to your home. Have cabinets that won’t close or are poor quality? Consider a full kitchen remodel that is functional and aesthetically appealing. If you are selling your home and want to give yourself an edge, update your appliances to complete the project.
  • Modernizing your bathroom. Blue toilets and goldenrod tubs don’t sell houses or increase your home value. If your tub is still functional, consider reglazing a tub, which can be cheaper than replacement.
  • New windows. New windows are a selling point, and a sure way to add value to your home. When your windows are ready for replacement, having quality windows installed can save you money by lowering your utility bills and giving you other key benefits.
  • Finishing your basement. Extra living space=extra value. Add an extra bedroom or rec room for your use or for resale value.
  • Deck. A well-done deck can bring back 70%+ in value to homeowners, not to mention a great hangout and grilling space.
  • Adding a bedroom in the attic. While this is not possible for all homeowners, an unfinished attic space is untapped potential. If your attic has headroom enough for a bedroom, finish off your attic for extra space and value.

If you have any questions about readying your Wisconsin home for sale, contact an experienced, local real estate agent. In addition to giving you information, your realtor can also give you an estimated value of your home so you can plan ahead and make strategic investments for your future sale. In addition to your projects, also plan on investing in these seven must-haves that ensure you get top dollar. With a little research and elbow grease, as well as education so you don’t make the most common home selling mistake, you can prepare a home that’s appealing to buyers and recoups your investment.

7 Things to Do BEFORE You Put Your House on the Market

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3591When time is on your side and you can prepare your home for sale, your efforts pay dividends—both in sale price and time on the market. Buyers want a turn-key home—a clean, fresh home that doesn’t need extensive repair. By focusing your efforts on seven key areas, you can give them that, and give yourself a higher sale price and a quick sale:

  1. Paint, and paint neutrals. As much as you love that hot pink room, now is not the time to be bold. Paint over bold colors with neutral colors such as a light grey or tan. A new coat of paint can go a long way to making a home feel new and clean—exactly what your buyers want.
  2. Deep clean, or replace, that nasty flooring. A professional carpet cleaning or hard floor cleaner can often give new life to that old flooring, but if you can’t get the stains out, shop around. Carpet remnants are an inexpensive way to make hallways, offices and small rooms look new without breaking the budget. Or upgrade your flooring by installing new laminate or hardwood floors, two kinds of flooring that often adds value to your home.
  3. Do all the repairs you’ve been putting off. Holes in your walls or ceiling do not give buyers a favorable impression. Now is the time to patch the drywall, repair water leaks and replace faulty electrical fixtures and leaky water faucets.
  4. Maximize curb appeal. When it’s muddy or frozen this seems like an impossible task, but this is where advance planning pays big. Contact contractors to get those broken sidewalks repaired, wood trim painted and the driveway sealed in the summer now before anyone else. Then tackle the projects that can be done, even during the coldest months of the year. Keep sidewalks clear and clean, and power wash your home to make it look its best. Make sure that all bulbs are replaced in your outdoor light fixtures.
  5. De-clutter. You don’t have to throw everything away, but you may have to put some of your items in storage. Make sure that potential buyers get a clear picture of the space in your home by clearing out any extra knickknacks or items on the floor. Too much furniture or décor in a room can backfire and make your home look smaller.
  6. Upgrade where it makes cents. Certain upgrades, such as high end countertops and hardwood flooring, add value to a home and can be a deciding factor for potential buyers. Talk to your real estate agent about what upgrades are right for your home and your area.
  7. Clean, clean, clean. Buyers want homes that are clean, even if the house needs a few upgrades. Give your home a deep clean, or hire a professional cleaning service for a thorough cleaning that buyers appreciate.

Want to avoid unpleasant surprises during the sale process? Hire a home inspector to do a full inspection before you put the home on the market. An inspector can identify problem areas that could deter buyers, and give you time to fix the issues. An experienced real estate agent can refer a local home inspector, as well as contractors that can make repairs or install upgrades before you put your home on the market.