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Preparing To List Your Home

Selling Your Home

So, you are considering selling your house. If it’s been a while since you last put a house on the market, well, times have changed. Information, the market, and marketing are all very different than they once were.

What a seller needs to know before listing a house has changed, the type of market many folks had been used to for decades has changed, and how all this information is marketed to the best advantage has also changed.

In preparing to sell your house and property, use a Guide who is familiar with these myriad changes, and who can seamlessly walk you through the complicated process.

Below are some helpful tabs to get you started. Remember, if you have any questions about the process, I’m only a phone call or email/text away!

Preparing To List Your Home

Introduction: Emotion vs. Reason
When conversing with real estate agents, you will often find that when they talk to you about buying real estate, they will refer to your purchase as a “home.” Yet if you are selling property, they will often refer to it as a “house.” There is a reason for this. Buying real estate is often an emotional decision, but when selling real estate you need to remove emotion from the equation.

You need to think of your house as a marketable commodity. Property. Real estate. Your goal is to get others to see it as their potential home, not yours. If you do not consciously make this decision, you can inadvertently create a situation where it takes longer to sell your property.

The first step in getting your home ready to sell is to “de-personalize” it.

The reason you want to ‘de-personalize’ your home is because you want buyers to view it as their potential home. When a potential homebuyer sees your family photos hanging on the wall, it puts your own brand on the home and momentarily shatters their illusions about it being their house. Therefore, put away family photos, sports trophies, collectible items, knick-knacks, and souvenirs. Put them in a box. Rent a storage area for a few months and put the box in the storage unit. Remember the ‘Rule of Threes’: No more than three items on any one surface. That means your countertops, a wall with artwork, shelves and nichos. More than three items on one surface often feels cluttered and smaller.

Do not just put the box in the attic, basement, garage or a closet. Part of preparing a house for sale is to remove “clutter,” and that is the next step in preparing your house for sale.

This is the hardest thing for most people to do because they are emotionally attached to everything in the house. After years of living in the same home, clutter collects in such a way that may not be evident to the homeowner. However, it does affect the way buyers see the home, even if you do not realize it. Clutter collects on shelves, counter tops, drawers, closets, garages, attics, and basements. Take a step back and pretend you are a buyer. Let a friend help point out areas of clutter. Let your agent help you, too.

Kitchen Clutter
The kitchen is a good place to start removing clutter, because it is an easy place to start. First, get everything you can off the counters. Everything. Even the toaster. Put the toaster in a cabinet and take it out when you use it. Find a place where you can store everything in cabinets and drawers. Of course, you may notice that you do not have cabinet space to put everything. Clean them out. The dishes, pots and pans that rarely get used? Put them in a box and put that box in storage, too.

You see, homebuyers will open all your cabinets and drawers, especially in the kitchen. They want to be sure there is enough room for their “stuff.” If your kitchen cabinets, pantries, and drawers look jammed full, it sends a negative message to the buyer and does not promote an image of plentiful storage space. The best way to do that is to have as much “empty space” as possible.

For that reason, if you have a “junk drawer,” get rid of the junk. If you have a rarely used crock pot, put it in storage. Do this with every cabinet and drawer. Create open space.

If you have a large amount of foodstuffs crammed into the shelves or pantry, begin using them – especially canned goods. Canned goods are heavy and you don’t want to be lugging them to a new house, anyway – or paying a mover to do so.

Beneath the sink is very critical, too. Make sure the area beneath the sink is as empty as possible, removing all extra cleaning supplies. You should scrub the area down as well, and determine if there are any tell-tale signs of water leaks that may cause a homebuyer to hesitate in buying your home.

Now, you may not be able to do all of this. That is okay—do what you can, and it will make a huge difference.

Closet Clutter
Closets are great for accumulating clutter, though you may not think of it as clutter. We are talking about extra clothes and shoes – things you rarely wear but cannot bear to be without. Do without these items for a couple of months by putting them in a box, because these items can make your closets look “crammed full.” Sometimes there are shoeboxes full of “stuff” or other accumulated personal items, too.

Furniture Clutter
Many people have too much furniture in certain rooms – not too much for your own personal living needs – but too much to give the illusion of space that a homebuyer would like to see. You may want to tour some builders’ models to see how they place furniture in the model homes. Observe how they place furniture in the models so you get some ideas on what to remove and what to leave in your house.

Staging may also be a good idea. We can discuss if Staging is necessary…it is not necessary for most houses. I can guide you toward successful stagers if you are open to that.

Storage Area Clutter
Basements, garages, attics, and sheds accumulate not only clutter, but junk. These areas should be as empty as possible so that buyers can imagine what they would do with the space. Remove anything that is not essential and take it to the storage area. Or have a garage sale.

Plumbing and Fixtures
All your sink fixtures should look shiny and new. If this cannot be accomplished by cleaning, buy new ones where needed. If you don’t buy something fancy, this can be accomplished inexpensively and they are fairly easy to install. Make sure all the hot and cold water knobs are easy to turn and that the faucets do not leak. If they do, replace the washers. It is not difficult at all.

Check to make sure you have good water pressure and that there are no stains on the porcelain. If you have a difficult stain to remove, one trick is to hire a cleaning crew to go through and clean your home on a one-time basis. They seem to be wonderful at making stains go away.

Ceilings, Walls and Painting
Check all the ceilings for water stains. Sometimes old leaks leave stains, even after you have repaired the leak. Of course, if you do have a leak, you will have to get it repaired, whether it is a plumbing problem or the roof leaks.

You should do the same for walls, looking for not only stains, but also areas where dirt has accumulated and you just may not have noticed. Plus, you may have an outdated color scheme.

Painting can be your best investment when selling your home. It is not a very expensive operation and often you can do it yourself. Do not choose colors based on your own preferences, but based on what would appeal to the widest possible number of buyers. You should almost always choose an off-white color because white helps your rooms appear bright and spacious.

Carpet and Flooring
Unless your carpet appears old and worn, or it is definitely an outdated style or color, you probably should do nothing more than hire a good carpet cleaner. If you do choose to replace it, do so with something inexpensive in a fairly neutral color.

Repair or replace broken floor tiles, but do not spend a lot of money on anything. Remember, you are not fixing up the place for yourself. You want to move. Your goal is simply to have as few negative impressions upon those who may want to purchase your property.

Windows and Doors
Check all of your windows to make sure they open and close easily. If not, a spray of WD40 often helps. Make sure there are no cracked or broken windowpanes. If there are, replace them before you begin showing your home.

Do the same things with the doors – make sure they open and close properly, without creaking. If they do, a shot of WD40 on the hinges usually makes the creak go away. Be sure the doorknobs turn easily, and that they are cleaned and polished to look sharp. As buyers go from room to room, someone opens each door and you want to do everything necessary to create a positive impression.

Odor Control
For those who smoke, you might want to minimize smoking indoors while trying to sell your home. You could also purchase an ozone spray that helps to remove odors without creating a masking odor.

Pets of all kinds create odors that you may have become used to, but are immediately noticeable to some people. For those with cats, be sure to empty kitty litter boxes daily. There are also products that you can sprinkle in a layer below the kitty litter that helps to control odor. For those with dogs, keep the dog outdoors as much as possible.

Watch out for fresheners with strong scents – many people are suspicious of strong artificial scents, and will think you are covering up something.

Costs of Repairs
Do not do anything expensive, such as remodeling. If possible, use savings to pay for any repairs and improvements – do not go charging up credit cards or obtaining new loans. Remember that part of selling a house is also preparing to buy your next home. You do not want to do anything that will affect your credit scores or hurt your ability to qualify for your next mortgage.

Most real estate advice tells you to work on the outside of the house first, but unless there is a major project involved, I believe it is best to do it last. The first steps in preparing the interior of the house are easier. They also help develop the proper mind set required for selling – beginning to think of your “home” as a marketable commodity. However, the exterior is the most important. A homebuyer’s first impression is based on his or her view of the house from the real estate agent’s car.

So take a walk across the street and take a good look at your house. Look at nearby houses, too, and see how yours compares.

Landscaping
Is your landscaping at least average for the neighborhood? If it is not, buy a few bushes and plant them. Do not put in trees. Mature trees are expensive, and you will not get back your investment. Also, immature trees do not really add much to the appearance value of the home.

If you have an area for flowers, buy mature colorful flowers and plant them. They add a splash of vibrancy and color, creating a favorable first impression. Do not buy bulbs or seeds and plant them. They will not mature fast enough to create the desired effect and you certainly don’t want a patch of brown earth for homebuyers to view.

Even during our ABQ winters, there are nice flowering plants to buy to freshen up the appearance of your house – especially the front.

Your lawn should be evenly cut, freshly edged, well watered, and free of brown spots. If there are problems with your lawn, you should probably take care of them before working on the inside of your home. This is because certain areas may need re-sodding, and you want to give it a chance to grow so that re-sod areas are not immediately apparent. Plus, you might want to give fertilizer enough time to be effective.

Always rake up loose leaves and grass cuttings.

House Exterior
The big decision is whether to paint or not to paint. When you look at your house from across the street, does it look tired and faded? If so, a paint job may be in order. It is often a very good investment and really spruces up the appearance of a house, adding dollars to offers from potential homebuyers.

When choosing a color, it should not be something garish and unusual, but a color that fits well in your neighborhood. Of course, the color also depends on the style of your house, too.

As for the roof, if you know your house has an old leaky roof, replace it. If you do not replace a leaky roof, you are going to have to disclose it and the buyer will want a new roof, anyway. Otherwise, wait and see what the home inspector says. Why spend money unnecessarily?

The Back Yard
The back yard should be tidy. If you have a pool or spa, keep it freshly maintained and constantly cleaned. For those that have dogs, be sure to keep the area clear of “debris.” If you have swing sets or anything elaborate for your kids, consider if they are in good enough condition to keep in place. They take up room, and you want your back yard to appear as spacious as possible, especially in newer homes where the yards are not as large.

The Front Door & Entryway
The front door should be especially sharp, since it is the entryway into the house. Polish the door fixture so it gleams. If the door needs refinishing or repainting, make sure to get that done.

Make sure the lock works easily and the key fits properly. When a homebuyer comes to visit your home, the agent uses the key from the lock box to unlock the door. If there is trouble working the lock while everyone else stands around twiddling their thumbs, this sends a negative first impression to prospective homebuyers.

Finally, these are simply suggestions. Most of us won’t have the time, energy or money necessary to do all of these things. Accomplishing some of these visual improvements will still go a long way toward creating a great first and lasting impression. And the best part is that most of these are not too expensive to accomplish. See what you can do…

Meeting With Real Estate Professionals
So you’ve decided to sell your home and have a fairly good idea of what you think it is worth. Being a sensible home seller, you schedule appointments with three local listing agents who’ve been recommended by your friends, or who have been hanging stuff on your front doorknob for years. Each Real Estate Professional comes prepared with a “Competitive Market Analysis” and they each recommend a specific sales price.

Amazingly, a couple of the Real Estate Professionals have come up with prices that are lower than you expected. Although they back up their recommendations with recent sales data of similar homes, you remain convinced your house is worth more. When you interview the third agent’s figures, they are much more in line with your own anticipated value, or maybe even higher. Suddenly, you are a happy and excited home seller, already counting the money.

Unfortunately, if you start out with too high a price on your home, you may have just added to your stress level, and selling a home is stressful enough. There will be a lot of “behind the scenes” action taking place that you don’t know about.

Contrary to popular opinion, the listing agent does not usually attempt to sell your home to a homebuyer. That isn’t very efficient. Listing agents market and promote your home to the hordes of other local agents who do work with homebuyers, dramatically increasing your personal sales force. During the first couple of weeks your home should be a flurry of activity with buyer’s agents coming to preview your home so they can sell it to their clients.

If the price is right.
If you and your agent have overpriced, fewer agents will preview your home. After all, they are Real Estate Professionals, and it is their job to know local market conditions and home values. If your house is dramatically above market, why waste time? Their time is better spent previewing homes that are priced realistically. This can be true in areas of the MetroABQ where houses are more uniform, and a listing price may be easy to come up with – if most properties in the area have the same number of bedrooms & baths, and were made by the same builder, it’s easy to tell when the Realtor overpriced your property, compared to the other sold houses.

Most houses fall into this category.
However, Albuquerque has numerous unique areas, with many properties that don’t fit into specific categories, and stand out from many of their neighbors. In these cases, there is often no “exact number” that will be the right price – three different appraisers, all on the same day, will often come up with three very different valuations. In these unique areas, sometimes it can be beneficial to “see what the market will tell you” about the price. If you aren’t in a great hurry to sell, perhaps we list the property at the high end of the price spectrum, and see what kind of reaction we get. With all the intense marketing we do, introducing your property to the widest range of buyers and agents as possible, it will be easy to tell if we are priced too high pretty quickly. Then we can talk about a price adjustment.

I would rather start a tad high on the price and be able to go down soon, than start too low, and feel that you have lost some potential money. We can always reduce the price two weeks into the listing, but we can not raise the price after it has already been on the market – it just looks bad. Talk with me about your specific property and your specific situation; we can tailor the price to try and meet your timeline, while still offering it at a reasonable market value.

Be aware, though, that waiting too long to adjust your price downward can be just as hazardous as starting too low. The first few weeks we will see a flurry of activity around your house – I will begin the marketing blitz, open houses, set up Realtor Tours so my office agents can see the property, and also invite agents with listings in the area to also preview your home, among many other things. That flurry of activity, and the comments generated during that time, will give us a great deal of information about how to proceed. If we wait too long though to adjust – beyond that first month – your house may already be “old news.” We need to be aggressive, and know when to adjust and when to hold firm. The average home in the MetroABQ area is often on the market between two and three months. We don’t want to wait too long to hit that reasonable, target price.

Even if you do successfully sell at an above market price, your buyer will need a mortgage. The mortgage lender requires an appraisal. If comparable sales for the last six months and current market conditions do not support your sales price, the house won’t appraise. Your deal falls apart. Of course, you can always attempt to renegotiate the price, but only if the buyer is willing to listen. Your house could go “back on the market.”

Once your home has fallen out of escrow or sits on the market awhile, it is harder to get a good offer. Potential buyers will think you might be getting desperate, so they will make lower offers. By overpricing your home in the beginning, and not being willing to drop it soon, you could actually end up settling for a lower price than you would have normally received.

Obviously the name of the seller and the property address will be included in the listing contract. There are many other things that are included, too, and you should be aware of them.

When setting the terms of sale, the main thing you are concerned with is the price. You should have a basic idea of what your home is worth by keeping track of other sales in the neighborhood – I will set up a search for comparables in the neighborhood so we are all aware of the competition. Again, exercise great care in determining your asking price, making sure not to set it too high or too low.

In addition to the price, you will disclose what personal property, if any, goes with the house when you sell it. Personal property is anything that is not attached or fixed to the home, such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, and so on.

There may be some item that is considered “real property” that you do not intend to include in the sale. Real property is anything that is attached to the home. For example, you may have a chandelier that has been in your family for generations and you take it from home to home when you move. Since the chandelier is attached to the house, it is considered “real property” and a reasonable buyer would normally expect it to go with the house. We will talk about what you want to keep, and what you will want to leave for the next buyer, so there is no confusion.

It seems fairly obvious that when you put your house up for sale that I will install a “for sale” sign in the front yard. The sign will identify my company and me, and have a phone number so prospective buyers can call and get information.

Signs are great at generating phone calls, even if very few actually purchase the home they call about. However, you might be one of the lucky ones. For that reason, you should determine what happens when someone calls the number on the sign. Does a live person answer the phone or does the call go to a voicemail or recorder?

You want someone to answer the phone while the caller is “hot.” When buyers call the number on the sign, the call should go directly to the agent, who already knows your house and can answer questions immediately. A potential buyer may be on the street outside your home, placing the call using a cell phone.

The property flyers should look good! It should focus on the best features of your home, and it should be colorful and provide plenty of pertinent information, plus agent contact info. The flyers should be displayed in a prominent location in your home and also in a brochure box attached to the “for sale” sign. Single-sided flyers with blank backsides are not acceptable. Buyers are savvy – they want to be ‘Wow-ed’ by the photos and walk away with a good impression of the property.

The brochure box is convenient for those buyers who drive by and just happen to see the “for sale” sign in front of your house. It provides enough information so they can determine if they want to follow up with a phone call or inform their own agent they are interested in your house. Dozens of flyers will be taken from the brochure box, and that is a good thing – you never know who they might be showing it to.

As the sign goes up and the brochures are ready, we will list your property with the SouthWest MLS (Multiple Listing Service). The MLS is a database of all the homes listed by local real estate agents who are members of the service, which is practically all of the local agents.

Important information about your property is listed here, from general data such as square footage and number of rooms, to such details as whether you have central air conditioning or hardwood flooring. There should also be plenty of quality photos, and a short verbal description of what makes your house “special.”

Agents search the database for homes that fit the price range and needs of their clients. They pay special attention to homes that have been recently placed on the market, which is one reason you get a lot of attention when your house is first listed. Many agents will want to preview the home before they show it to their clients.

The main point about having your house listed in the MLS is that you expand your sales force by the number of local MLS members. Instead of having just one agent working for you, now you may have hundreds or more, depending on the size of your community.

As the listing agent, my main job to make sure that the other MLS members know about your house. This is accomplished through listing your house in the Multiple Listing Service, broker previews and advertising targeted toward other agents, not just homebuyers.

As I belong to a very active and fairly sizable office, an “Office Tour” will introduce your house to other agents working in the same office. In effect, they get a “head start” on selling your property. Once every other week, my office’s agents get together, share vehicles, and “caravan” to all of the new listings. We generally pull up in front of your house at about the same time then file quickly through your home like some bizarre “follow the leader” game.

It can be amazing to watch.

We go through quickly, taking notes about the things that make the house appeal to clients, and also we write about potential issues. We are usually looking for anything memorable or different and to determine if your house is one we would be proud to show their clients. We then discuss the house, good and bad. Finally, we all pile back into our cars and move on to the next house on the tour.

But some of the agents come back…with buyers.

Meanwhile, I will compile the comments, including thoughts on price, condition, and other features, especially comments concerning what might be needed to sell the house. Then I will present the results to you for discussion. We can choose to heed the comments, or not, but it is good to know what a range of different agents have to say.

I also organize Realtor Tours for agents with listings in the area. These agents are already talking with potential clients about their listing, and it is smart to make them familiar with the nicer listing down the street, too – yours. I’ve had agents call me and say, “My client didn’t much care for the house I had listed, but after we had the Realtor Tour through yours, I knew s/he would like it better.”

Every home seller likes to be assured that their listing agent or the real estate company will run ads featuring their home. Newspaper ads could be large display ads with lots of listings or small classified ads featuring just your property. Ads may also appear in local real estate magazines and your listing will also show up on the Internet. We post Open House ads in the Sunday Open House section of the ABQ Journal each week. Most companies have stopped that practice because of the cost. I meet potential buyers every time I run a newspaper ad to hold a Sunday open house.

When you first list your home many agents send “announcements” to all of the other houses in your neighborhood. This can be done in the form of postcards, a letter, or flyers left hanging on the front door. These are important because your neighbors might have friends who are looking to buy a house.

The announcements create “word of mouth” advertising, which is the best kind.

I love holding Open Houses. I meet neighbors and we explore the house and discuss the neighborhood. Contrary to what I’ve read, we do find buyers from holding Open Houses – a few times each year I meet the future buyers of the property where I am holding an Open House. An Open House performs a similar function to the neighborhood announcements – it lets all of your neighbors know that your house is for sale, and it practically invites them to come take a peak. Being generally inquisitive, a lot of your neighbors will take advantage of the invitation.

And they may tell their friends about your house – some friends can make a great neighbors – creating more word-of-mouth advertising.

Open Houses held after your home has been on the market more than a few months do not usually serve a useful purpose in selling your home. Most of the neighbors already know your house is for sale and Open House visitors show up less often. As we place ads in the ABQ Journal every week – among numerous other places – when the same house appears held open too much, newspaper readers and others stop stopping by.

Again, I enjoy holding Open Houses, and so too other agents in my office. On occasion, if I am unable to hold your home open, another agent that I trust often could.

Your house should be generally available for show, even though it may occasionally be inconvenient for you at times. Let me place a lock box in a convenient place, to make it easy for other agents see it and to show your home to homebuyers. If an agent is showing 15 homes in an afternoon and yours is difficult to access, most will just skip your home to show the house of someone else who is more ready.

Most agents will call and give you at least a couple of hours notice before showing your property – we will discuss your preferences and come up with a timeframe you can handle. I encourage, however, to live your life – an agent simply showing up at your door and expecting to be let in without calling is not acceptable. A good agent will arrange entry before hand, and not try to push their way in before you have had time to prepare. We probably don’t want to work with an agent who treats homeowners that way.

Homebuyers will feel like intruders if you are home when they visit, and they might not be as receptive toward viewing your home. Visit the local coffee house, or take yourself for a walk, or the kids to the local park. If you absolutely cannot leave, try to remain in an out of the way area of the house and do not move from room to room. Do not volunteer any information, but answer any questions the agent may ask.

My neighbor’s house sold for what?

Sold or Pending Homes Request-for-Information: What did my neighbors down the street sell their house for? As New Mexico is a “Non-Disclosure” state, there is no public record of Sold or currently Pending homes. Contact me and I will look up the final sales price of any home in the MetroABQ, and provide any other information about the home that you may want.

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I love the MetroABQ area! Extraordinary architects live and create here; beautiful and profound art installations abound; Greenspaces and Parklands define whole areas of the city; extras like Farmers' Markets and cultural events add to our quality of life. I write about it all in the MetroABQ Newsletter.