As you prepare to put your first home up for sale, you no doubt have a lot of questions and no small amount of anxiety. We’re here to help you understand the selling process, get your home ready to sell, evaluate offers, deal with closing and make your move to your next home.
1. Make a plan
The most important advice? Develop a plan. The selling process can feel out of control unless you take control, and having a plan is the key. That means making some important decisions:
Hiring an agent or going it alone
Determining when to list
Setting a price
Selecting what to keep and what to leave behind
Staging your home
Plotting your next move
2. Timing is everything
Knowing the right time to sell – financially and emotionally – can make a big difference in both your selling experience and the listing price. Zillow crunches historical data about sale prices in your area to determine the best month to list. You can find the information about your home by opening your Owner Dashboard on your home detail page.
3. Set a realistic price at the beginning
Your home will get the most buyer exposure immediately after it’s listed, so pricing it right at the start is important. Zillow notifies home shoppers about new listings that fit their search criteria. Price it even a little too high and you could miss out on your best group of buyers. Price it too low and you risk leaving money on the table. Tools like Owner Dashboard and the Zestimate®, along with your agent’s experience and local knowledge, will help you set a competitive price.
Think of your agent as a trusted adviser, especially about pricing and marketing your home. You want someone smart, communicative and with extensive understanding of the local market.
If you’re thinking about selling your home without an agent, be prepared because all the decisions will be yours alone. Unless you’ve got the kind of time and expertise that few non-professionals do, FSBO (for sale by owner) could lead to sleepless nights and costly missteps.
4. Look at your home with “buyer eyes”
Remember what made you want to buy your place, well before you created memories and made it “home.” You’re going to need to leave behind your emotions and make tough, reality-based decisions about improving, pricing and marketing. Your agent will likely suggest things to fix or refresh, and Zillow has insights into what improvements bring the biggest return on your investment.
And there’s a reason agents talk about “curb appeal.” Exterior photos are usually the first ones to pop up on for-sale home listings, and it’s the first thing a buyer sees. To make that all-important first impression, power wash the driveways and sidewalks, and add some seasonal plants to pots and garden beds.
5. Get ready for visitors
Shifting your mindset from homeowner to home seller will also help you decide which belongings to keep, store, sell or give away. Some pieces might be perfect for staging your home; your agent can offer advice and even connect you with a professional home stager to help make those decisions. Decluttering and de-personalizing your space are essential so home shoppers can envision making the space their own. It’s not always easy to have potential buyers – strangers – tromping through your space and looking at everything with a critical eye.
If you plan to live in your home while it’s on the market, you’ll have to keep it spotless and show-ready. That’s trying, especially for young families. But the better it shows, the faster it goes and the sooner you can start living like a normal family again. Did we mention this part isn’t easy?
6. Attract and track interest in your home
Your place is likely one of your biggest financial assets, so you’ll want to know right away if it’s catching buyers’ eyes. You can track the interest on Zillow by using the Owner Dashboard, which records the number of shopper views and shares. Add online curb appeal to your listing by using lots of clear, bright photos and a well-crafted description. Choose your words carefully. The right words can boost your final sales price while some innocent-sounding phrases are a big turn-off to buyers. (Hint: Think “captivating” or “impeccable” and steer clear of “nice!”) Adding a quick video walkthrough with your smart phone lets buyers take a virtual tour and piques interest.
7. Set your priorities
Make sure you and your agent know what’s important to you: Closing quickly? Getting your asking price or more? Keeping your closing costs to a minimum? You might not be able to have it all, so prioritizing your wants before you list your home will make it easier to evaluate offers, make counter offers and decide on concessions to the buyer. (Are you really that attached to your washer and dryer?)
8. Think about what’s next
If you’re planning to buy your next home, remember to get pre-approved early so you have an edge in the market. And know that there’s no easy answer to the question of which comes first, the buying or the selling. We’ve outlined some pros and cons, and provided ideas for interim housing if there’s a gap between moving out of your old house and into your new one. And if it’s been a while since you rented, we can help you through that process too.
It may seem daunting, but you have here more tools and data than previous generations of home sellers could have hoped for. Armed with this information and a top-notch agent to help you navigate, all your planning, tough decisions and hard work will mean fewer first-time seller mistakes. You’ll have your first “Sold” sign out front before you know it.
Photo Courtesy of Realtor.com