|SARIT FINKELSTEIN, REAL ESTATE BROKER |
|468 N. Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, CA. 90210 |
Get the House Ready
A house that "sparkles" on the surface will sell faster than its shabby neighbor, even though
both are structurally well-maintained.
From experience, REALTORSŪ also know that a "well-polished" house appeals to more
buyers and will sell faster and for a higher price. Additionally, buyers feel more comfortable purchasing a well-cared for
home because if what they can see is maintained, what they can't see has probably also been maintained. In readying your house
for sale, consider:
- how much should you spend
- exterior and curb appeal
- preparing the interior
How much should you spend
In preparing your home for the market, spend as
little money as possible. Buyers will be impressed by a brand new roof, but they aren't likely to give you enough extra money
to pay for it. There is a big difference between making minor and inexpensive "polishes" and "touch-ups" to your house, such
as putting new knobs on cabinets and a fresh coat of neutral paint in the living room, and doing extensive and costly renovations,
like installing a new kitchen. Your REALTORŪ, who is familiar with buyers' expectations in your neighborhood, can advise you
specifically on what improvements need to be made. Don't hesitate to ask for advice.
Maximizing exterior and curb appeal
Before putting your house on the market, take as much time as necessary (and as little money as possible)
to maximize its exterior and interior appeal. Tips to enhance your home’s exterior and curb appeal:
- Keep the lawn edged, cut and watered regularly.
- Trim hedges, weed lawns and flowerbeds, and prune trees regularly.
- Check the foundation, steps, walkways, walls and patios for cracks and crumbling.
- Inspect doors and windows for peeling paint.
- Clean and align gutters.
- Inspect and clean the chimney.
- Repair and replace loose or damaged roof shingles.
- Repair and repaint loose siding and caulking.
- In Northern winters, keep walks neatly cleared of snow and ice.
- During spring and summer months consider adding a few showy annuals, perhaps in pots,
near your front entrance.
- Re-seal an asphalt driveway.
- Keep your garage door closed.
- Store RVs or old and beaten up cars elsewhere while the house is on the market.
- Apply a fresh coat of paint to the front door.
Maximizing interior appeal
Enhance your home’s interior by:
- Giving every room in the house a thorough cleaning, as well as removing all clutter.
This alone will make your house appear bigger and brighter. Some homeowners with crowded rooms have actually rented storage
garages and moved half their furniture out, creating a sleeker, more spacious look.
- Hiring a professional cleaning service, once every few weeks while the house is on
the market. This may be a good investment for owners who are busy elsewhere.
- Removing the less frequently used, even daily used items from kitchen counters, closets,
and attics, making these areas much more inviting. Since you're anticipating a move anyhow, holding a garage sale at this
point is a great idea.
- If necessary, repainting dingy, soiled or strongly colored walls with a neutral shade
of paint, such as off-white or beige. The same neutral scheme can be applied to carpets and linoleum.
- Checking for cracks, leaks and signs of dampness in the attic and basement.
- Repairing cracks, holes or damage to plaster, wallboard, wallpaper, paint, and tiles.
- Replacing broken or cracked windowpanes, moldings, and other woodwork. Inspecting
and repairing the plumbing, heating , cooling, and alarm systems.
- Repairing dripping faucets and showerheads. Buying showy new towels for the bathroom,
to be brought out only when prospective buyers are on the way.
- Sprucing up a kitchen in need of more major remodeling by investing in new cabinet
knobs, new curtains, or a coat of neutral paint.
Tips for Making Your Home More Saleable
Before you put your home on the market, there are some things you can do to differentiate
your house among the competitors.
When preparing to put your home up for sale, your first concern is the home's exterior.
If the outside, or "curb appeal" looks good, people will more than likely want to see what's on the inside. Keep the lawn
and landscape nicely manicured. Trim the bushes and season permitting, plant some flowers. Be sure your front door area has
a "Welcome" feeling. A fresh coat of paint on the front door looks great.
Of all the rooms inside your home, pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms.
They should look as modern, bright and fresh as possible. It is essential for them to be clean and odor free. A fresh coat
of paint just may do the trick. Have any leaky faucets taken care of. A call to a plumber is a wise investment.
Since you want your home to look as spacious as possible, remove any excess or very
large furniture. Make sure that table tops, dressers and closets are free of clutter. Don't use your garage, attic, or basement
to store these extra things. These areas also need to have the impression of space. Instead, put them into storage. Make sure
walls and doors are free of smudges and look for anything that might indicate a maintenance problem, such as cracked windows,
holes in the wall or stained ceilings.
Finally, if your basement shows any signs of dampness or leakage, seal the walls.
Quick tips for showings:
- Keep counter tops cleared
- Replace all burned out lightbulbs
- Open all drapes and window blinds
- Put pets in cages or take them to a neighbor
- No dirty dishes in the sink
- No laundry in the washer/dryer
- Clean or replace dirty or worn carpets
- Put on soft music
- Burn wood in the fireplace on cold days, otherwise, the fireplace should be clean
Always look at your home from the buyer's point of view. Be objective and be honest.
The Basics of Marketing Your Home
Your broker's marketing efforts and considerations will include advertising,
showing the property, how long the house has been on the market and whether you're buying another home.
Your home should be listed, whenever possible, in the local Multiple Listing Service
and on REALTOR.com, which has the largest online database of homes and virtually 100% of potential buyers who look for property
on the Internet.
The REALTOR'SŪ largest
expense has traditionally been classified advertising in the local newspaper. However, today properties are also exposed through
popular Internet home search/listing services, radio and television promotions, and real estate guides. Even with all these additional advertising
avenues, "For Sale" signs on the front lawn are still remarkably effective. Many REALTORSŪ use brochure boxes along with these
signs to market the property. When appropriate, and with your permission, your agent may send a mailing about your property
to neighbors. Sometimes one of them has "a friend or relative who always wanted to live near me." You never know.
Showings and open houses
To prepare your home for viewing, make it as light, cheerful and serene as possible. Your REALTORŪ will probably find
a tactful way to suggest that you not be present while the house is being shown to prospective buyers. This is done because
your presence will inhibit their actions and conversations. They won’t feel free to open closets and cabinets, test
out the plumbing, and discuss their observations objectively as they walk through. It goes without saying that your children
and pets should not be on the premises either.
If your REALTORŪ has scheduled an open house, you may want to notify the neighbors,
and assure them that they'll be welcome. They'll jump at the chance to poke around in your house, and sometimes they can turn
up a buyer among their friends. In preparing for an open house, you should:
- Pull the drapes back
- Light lamps
- Simmer a few drops of vanilla on the stove
- Light your fireplace
- Set the dining room or kitchen table if you have particularly nice linen or china
- Put fresh towels in the bathroom
- Leave the house so your REALTORŪ is free to deal with prospective buyers in a professional
TIP: When preparing your home, think about the techniques that are used to show builders'
How long has your house been on the market?
Professional appraisers sum up their entire body of knowledge in three words -- "Buyers make
value." Your home is worth as much as some member of the buying public will come forth and pay for it. After it's been on
the market for months, you've been given a clear message that the property may not be worth what you're asking for it. This
is particularly true if there haven't been many prospects coming to see it. What you do at that point depends on whether you
really need to sell, and whether you're working with a time limit. If you're not really motivated to move soon, you can always
wait - years if necessary - and hope inflation will catch up with the price you want. The problem is that in that time, your
home begins to feel shopworn. Buyers become suspicious of a house that's been for sale for a long time. If, however, you really do need to sell, discuss with your REALTORŪ a schedule
for dropping your price gradually until you find a level that attracts buyers. There's no point in saying, "We simply can't
sell our house." Anything will sell if the price is right.
If you’re buying another home
Don’t spend a great deal of time worrying about what will happen when you're selling
one home and buying another. You're not alone. REALTORSŪ, lawyers, and title and escrow companies have had plenty of experience
in arranging contracts and loans so that the two transactions dovetail smoothly. It's best to list your present home for sale
Selling and buying a home is a very emotional event and if you create a "race" by
locating your replacement property before you sell your current home, you may lose it to another buyer, who does not need
to sell in order to buy. If you do find just the house you want, you can always put in a purchase offer contingent (dependent)
on selling your present one. However, in a hot market you will have difficulty getting the house you want this way.
Sometimes the seller will sign a contract agreeing to wait a certain period of time
while you find a buyer for your house - sometimes not. What would you do if you were presented with such a proposal, from
a buyer who also has a house to sell? If you do find that you need to buy the next house before you've received the proceeds
from the present one, lending institutions can sometimes make you a short-term "bridge" loan to tide you over between the
two transactions. Make sure you fully understand the exposure and emotional investment before proceeding with this type of
Tax Implications of Selling a Home
Selling a home can have a major impact on your federal and state
Check with your tax consultant on the factors
that may affect taxes resulting from the sale of your home. For example:
Whether you purchased the home or acquired it by gift or inheritance
Whether you used your home partly for business or rental
Costs associated with selling your home
Home improvements or additions, which may help to offset capital gains
Gain from the sale of a prior home on which tax was postponed prior to
the enactment of the federal Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997
The federal Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 says when you sell your home you can keep,
tax free, capital gains of up to $500,000 if you are married filing jointly or $250,000 for single taxpayers, or married taxpayers
who file separately. To qualify for the exclusion, you must have used the home as your principle residence for at least two
of the prior five years. It is not a one time tax exclusion. You can use the exclusion as often as you meet the qualifications.
The federal Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 further
clarified the law and says you can prorate the $500,000/$250,000 exclusion (not your specific gain) if unforeseen events,
such as a job change, illness, or some other hardship forced you to sell before you meet the two-year residency requirement.
Many, but not all federal tax benefits are also available from state tax departments.
Be sure to discuss your move with a tax professional familiar with state tax rules, especially if you are moving from one
state to another.
-Adapted from the MetLife Consumer Education Center with assistance
from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.