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Preparing to Sell

Preparing to Sell

Timing Your Sale

While the overall health of the market has the greatest impact on your sale, the date you put it on the market can also be important. The real estate marketing calendar generally has two distinct peaks and valleys created by ebbs and flows of activity in your local real estate market. You can use the predictability of these cycles to your advantage.

First peak season: spring flowers and For Sale signs bloom

Depending on where you live, the longer and stronger of the two annual peak seasons begins somewhere between late January and early March. If you're still digging out from under ten feet of snow on March 1st, your market may take a little longer to heat up.

February through May is normally the most active selling time for residential real estate. Families with children want to get their purchase or sale out of the way by late spring so moving won't disrupt the kids' schooling for the next academic year. Other people buy or sell early in the year for tax purposes, or to avoid interference with their summer vacation.

The first peak season is usually the best time to put your house on the market. High sale prices result from spirited buyer competition. Because more buyers are in the market now than at any other time of the year, your best chance of getting a fast, top-dollar sale is during the first season.

First valley: summer doldrums

Memorial Day usually marks the beginning of the first valley. Sales activity usually slows during June, July, and August. Buyers, sellers, and agents often take summer vacations, which reduces the market activity. Many folks spend their weekends having fun in the sun rather than looking at houses.

This season is an okay time to put your property on the market, but not the best. Houses ordinarily take somewhat longer to sell in the summer due to a lower level of buyer activity. Unless you have to sell now (or if property values are declining), wait until the fall to put your house on the market. You're likely to get a higher price after people return from vacation.

Second peak season: autumn leaves and houses of every color

Labor Day usually starts the second peak season. This peak normally rolls through September, October, and into November. People who sell during late autumn tend to be strongly motivated. Some bought new homes in the spring before selling their oldones. Now they're slashing their asking prices.

Others are calendar-year taxpayers who sold houses earlier in the year and want to buy their new home before December 31st so they can pay tax-deductible expenses (such as the loan origination fee, mortgage interest, and property taxes) prior to the end of the year to reduce the impact of federal and state income tax. Either way, these folks are under pressure to sell.

Unless prices are rapidly increasing in your area, wait until activity slows in mid-November and then buy your next home at a discount price. You get the best of both worlds—"sell high and buy low."

Death valley: real estate activity hibernates until spring

The second peak season usually drops dead a week or so before Thanksgiving. With the exception of a few, mostly desperate, sellers and bargain-hunting or relocating buyers who stay in the market until the bitter end of December, residential real estate sales activity ordinarily slows significantly by mid-November.

This real estate Death Valley is generally the worst time of year to sell a house. Even our brilliant pricing techniques may not be able to save you from getting your financial bones picked clean by bargain-hunting vultures if you're forced to sell at this time of the year. Don't put your house on the market during Death Valley days unless you have absolutely no other alternative.

Handling Presale Preparation

A metamorphosis occurs the moment you decide to sell your property. The "home" you love so dearly turns into a "house." This shift in vocabulary is part of letting go—the emotional detachment process all sellers experience sooner or later. Home is where your heart is. Houses, like TV sets, toasters, and tangerines, are commodities sold on the open market. You're getting ready to sell a house.

Getting your house ready to put on the market takes time. Exposing your property to the market before it looks its best gives buyers and agents who tour the house a bad initial impression. It's nearly impossible to get them back for a second look after you correct the showing flaws.

If you make the right improvements when fixing up your property, you increase the odds of selling it quickly for top dollar. If, conversely, you make the wrong changes to your property, you waste the time and money you spent, prolong the sale, and possibly even reduce the ultimate sale price.

Start the presale fix-up process by getting an outside opinion of your house's strengths and weaknesses. Good real estate agents are an excellent source of advice about readying your house for sale. Because agents see your house with fresh eyes, they can spot flaws you no longer notice. Furthermore, agents look at your house the way buyers do. They know how to prepare houses so that they're appealing for marketing—a process sometimes referred to as staging. And, last but not least, because agents work on commission, good agents don't want to waste your time or theirs trying to sell a house that's not up to snuff.

Key Exterior Improvements

Most buyers make snap judgments about your house, and buyers begin forming their opinion of your house long before they go inside. Curb appeal, the external attractiveness of your property when viewed from the street, is critically important.

Here are some tried-and-true ways to enhance your house's curb appeal:

You probably lack both the time and the desire to do all this prep work yourself. If you can afford it, make your life easier by hiring competent folks to help you with these chores. Your real estate agent can probably refer you to people who specialize in this kind of work.

Key Interior Improvements

Curb appeal draws buyers into your house. But appealing interiors make the sale. You don't have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on your house prior to putting up the For Sale sign. On the contrary, the little things you do generally give the biggest increase in value. Concentrate on the three C's—clean up, clear out, and cosmetic improvements.

Pre-marketing Property Inspection

Prudent purchasers will have your property thoroughly inspected before they buy it. Expect inspectors to poke into everything—your house's roof, chimney, gutters, plumbing, electrical wiring, heating and cooling systems, insulation, smoke detectors, all the permanent appliances and fixtures in your kitchen and bathrooms, and the foundation. They'll also check for health, safety, and environmental hazards.

Exploring the advantages of inspecting before marketing The best defense is a good offense. Beat buyers to the punch—get your inspections before they get theirs. Discover everything wrong with your house before putting it on the market. Defusing a crisis begins by discovering that a problem exists. Consider these four reasons to have your property thoroughly inspected before putting it on the market:

Staging a House

Staging a house goes way beyond your efforts to make it look nifty before having friends over for a dinner party. If you've ever visited a new home development and walked through the builder's model home, you know exactly what staging is. Builders usually do extremely elaborate staging jobs.

Staging finishes the process you started with the three Cs (clean up, clear out, and cosmetic improvements). Here are some staging tips that you can use to increase your house's emotional appeal: