When it comes to homes, this is still a buyer’s market. Interest rates are still at record lows and home sales are slow. To compete and achieve top dollar, sellers must be prepared.
Our biggest mistake in selling our house was timing. We considered selling the house in 2007 at the peak of the market, when it had almost doubled from our purchase price. My wife and I were healthy at the time, and should have sold the house, taken a nice profit and moved closer to our children. We were able to achieve a good price, but still substantially less than if we had made the move in 2007.
In our last home selling, we made the huge mistake of buying a new house before selling the old one. We found a new place we liked and made an offer, then the offer for our home fell through, while our offer went forward. We had to carry two mortgages until the original home finally sold, something we were not financially prepared for.
Learning from those mistakes, we did two key things this time that helped sell our home quickly and for a strong price. In May 2010 we decided, along with our adult children, that it was time to sell our home in Tucson, Arizona and move to Los Angeles. My wife and I experienced some health issues and it was clear the long distance could be an issue as we both got older. We had lived in our home in Tucson for almost twenty years and although clean, it was filled with the normal accumulations of life.
We made two key decisions that helped sell our home even in this difficult market and we would recommend both to other sellers. The first move was to research the local real estate agents and find the best. We found the local Realtor who specializes in our area, the foothill communities of Tucson.
She consistently is the top seller and wins many sales awards. She has full page ads in all the big local magazines and is also very active in the community. She has been selling real estate here for a long time and has a great reputation for results. She is not the cheapest, nor is she easy to deal with. She wants things done her way, but her way brings results.
Her first advice was to do a total overhaul. Clean everything, paint everything, install new appliances in the kitchen, fix all minor problems. We did it all, even installing a new central air conditioning system. The idea was literally to make the house turn-key for a buyer. New, fresh, everything working perfectly, just move in and have fun. In today’s buyer’s market, you must offer this level of home, if you want to achieve top dollar.
The first step was to clean the entire house and store all personal items in the closets. We boxed most things up and threw away 20 years of stuff that we just didn’t need. We gave away huge amounts of clothes and other goods to local charities. We had other local charities come and haul away excess couches, beds and other furniture.
Next step was to have a full team come in and paint the house, inside and out. A nice modern color. Before painting, room dividers were removed and the space was opened up. Curtains and window coverings were replaced, along with faucets, showers and other bath hardware. After the inside was renovated, the outside landscaping was redone by a team of professionals. After the work, yet another team from our Realtor came in and staged the house, using mainly our existing furniture and some other items they brought, like lamps, vases, etc.
Once they were finished, it was literally like a new house. The space was fresh, clean, open and modern. It was like a new house and someone could walk in and see a blank slate. We wish we had done the cleaning a long time ago, it would have been nice to live there, but we had to move. We had an open house immediately, and there was one serious buyer who put down a deposit. The transaction fell through when it became clear the buyer was finding minor problems to negotiate the price down.
The delay bothered us a bit, as the house is not available to other potential buyers while we dealt with the initial potential buyer. Once the transaction fell through we were able to re-list the house immediately. The preparation we did allowed us to move to Los Angeles per our plan, while the sale process was going on.
The Realtor held another open house and another buyer stepped up with an offer within our price range. After some negotiation we agreed on a price we could both be happy with. The transaction went smoothly and quickly and the house was sold. While you may always be limited to the comparable sale prices in your area and the general local market, the changes we made and our choice of a top Realtor allowed us to attain the top end of the prices. The changes, cleaning and updates cost about $5,000, but probably raised the selling price we achieved by $25,000.
And, with our careful planning, by the time the sale was finalized we were already settled in our new apartment in Los Angeles and ready to begin to look for a new place to buy.
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