Thinking of Selling? Be Prepared!

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If you’re planning to sell your Cape Cod home in 2018, the time to start planning is NOW. 2017 was marked by historically low inventory in the Cape Cod real estate market. Many buyers never found the home of their dreams, meaning there is pent up demand going into 2018. Sellers will likely benefit from this in the form of higher sale prices and fewer days on market. In 2017 (through November), median sale prices of single family homes rose 6.1% to $398,000 and average days on market dropped by almost 20% to 111.

So if you’re thinking of selling, here are some general tips to help you get ready.

Understand Pricing

The right list price is the most important factor in selling your home for the highest possible price in the shortest amount of time and without leaving money on the table. But it’s a difficult parameter to nail because in the end, the sale price is dictated by the buyers (or “the market”), not by the seller and not by the listing agent. What you paid for the home, how much you owe on it, and how much you have invested in it are largely irrelevant facts. The listing agent makes a pricing recommendation based on the recent sale prices of all similar, nearby properties, nicknamed “the comps”. The more recent, the more similar, the more nearby, and the more shear number of comps, the more credible the recommended price is likely to be. But in the end, the home will sell for whatever the highest bidder is willing to pay, assuming the seller agrees to the price.

Unless the seller is desperate to sell their home quickly, most sellers opt to list their homes a little higher than the price they expect to receive. This leaves some wiggle room for negotiation and also addresses the reality that most buyers expect to pay a little below asking price for the home. It also leaves open the possibility that the perfect buyer will surface who really loves the house and appreciates its full value. But it’s important not to list TOO high or you will likely miss the market and find yourself reducing the price repeatedly. In 2017, homes on the Cape sold on average for 96% of their list price and 94% of their ORIGINAL list price

In short, pricing is not an exact science. Your listing agent makes a pricing recommendation based on intelligence they gathered regarding the market. The market can change quickly for many reasons. The old adage “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched” applies to selling your home. Nobody can know for sure what the sale price of your home will be until it is sold. Sellers are wise to consult with 3 different reputable listing agents and to question them about how they arrived at their pricing recommendation.

Consider Your Presentation

How your home shows itself, both in pictures and “in person”, is critical to attracting the maximum number of prospective buyers, which is the key to obtaining the highest possible price. The first and most important step to effective presentation is to de-clutter the house. Even if you do NOTHING else to prepare your home for sale, you should get rid of as much clutter as possible on both the inside and outside of the home. Put away extraneous items on your kitchen counters, bath vanities, bedroom bureaus, etc. Invest in some inexpensive plastic storage containers at Home Depot and “hide” as many personal items as possible. Keep a few empties on hand for quickly tidying up for a last-minute showing. Nobody will know that the neatly stacked storage containers in the closet are actually filled with today’s pile of laundry, a mountain of paperwork that was on the dining room table, and all the dog toys in the family room. But your home will show better as a result.

Cleaning is equally important – especially in the kitchen and bathrooms. Even if these are old, they can sparkle. Most buyers can see themselves doing updates, but they will be inclined to leave a dirty, cluttered home quickly and not want to return for a second look.

Your listing agent may recommend some furniture staging if the home is empty or if the existing furniture should be rearranged to promote better flow and/or make the rooms appear larger.

As for repairs or renovations, you should carefully consider whether or not you will recoup your investment at the time of sale. Addressing critical home repairs such as a broken front step or extensive exterior rot might be worthwhile to make your home show better and eliminate items that will inevitably show up on the buyer’s home inspection report. Fresh, neutral-colored paint can also be a cost-effective “win” when selling, especially if you save money by doing it yourself (assuming you can do it well). Updating a kitchen will undoubtedly make the home show better and will also fetch you a higher price. But how much higher? Will it be enough to recoup your investment, not to mention the time and inconvenience of it all? These are important issues to consider and discuss in advance with your listing agent.

Know Thy Title

As the seller, it is your responsibility to deliver to the buyer a clean and marketable title at closing. If there are title issues with your property, it would behoove you to know about these sooner rather than later. Involving a real estate attorney BEFORE you have a signed offer is recommended so that he or she can uncover any title issues in advance.

Other Recommendations

  • Assuming you have a septic system, have it tested immediately so that you know whether or not it passes Massachusetts Title V inspection. If it doesn’t, you may need to repair it or even install a new one prior to sale. This is information you’d be better off having BEFORE you price and list the house. Your listing agent can recommend an appropriate septic inspector.
  • Read the Massachusetts Smoke Detector Law and know whether or not your smoke and CO2 detectors are in compliance. The laws differ depending on the year your house was built. A passing smoke certificate will be required from your town prior to sale and the onus is on the seller to obtain this. Your listing agent should be able to assist you with this.
  • Some sellers bring in their own real estate appraiser and/or home inspector before they list so that they will have an idea of how the home might be appraised by a buyer’s bank. The home inspection can reveal a number of issues that the seller could easily and more cost-effectively address themselves, rather than have the buyer try to renegotiate the price after their home inspection. Your listing agent can give you names of appraisers and inspectors.
  • Be prepared for your home to be shown at any time. Sometimes showing requests are last-minute and while this can be annoying, you should try to accommodate them. The more your home is shown, the more likely you are to find the best buyer and realize the highest possible price.
  • Most importantly, be prepared to be patient and practical. Unlike some other real estate markets such as the current Boston area market, most homes on the Cape do not sell the first weekend. Nobody knows for sure when your home will sell. If you really need to sell quickly, be sure it is priced realistically, not optimistically.

If you are thinking of selling a home on Cape Cod, I would be happy to provide you with a free, comprehensive, comparative market analysis (CMA) of what your home is worth. Please contact me for immediate service.

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