This entire book could be devoted to answering this question.
But to be as concise as possible, a successful sale requires
that you concentrate on six considerations: your sale price,
your terms of sale, the condition of your house, its location,
its accessibility, and the extent of marketing exposure your
house receives. While some of these factors are beyond your
control (such as the actual sale price), you can compensate by
taking advantage of others (like a new paint job) to make your
property as attractive to prospective buyers as possible.
When is the best time to list a house for sale?
The "best" time to list your house is actually as soon as you
decide to sell it.
If you want to get the best price for your house, the key is to
give yourself as much time as possible to sell it. More time
means more potential buyers will probably see the house. This
should result in more offers; it also gives you time to
consider more options if the market is slow or initial
interest is low.
Is there any seasonality to the market?
Peak selling seasons vary in different areas of the country, and
weather has a lot to do with it. For example, late spring and
early fall are the prime listing seasons in many areas because
houses tend to "show" better in those months than they do in the
heat of summer or the cold of winter. And of course, people like
to do their house shopping when the weather is pleasant.
But keep in mind that there are also more houses on the market
during the prime seasons, so you'll have more competition. So
while there is seasonality in the real estate market,
it's not something that should dominate your decision on when to
What about market conditions — price trends, interest rates, and
the economy in general? Should they have any bearing on when I
Probably not. Even if you're under no pressure to sell, waiting
for better market conditions is not likely to increase your
Create a "fact sheet" about your house and neighborhood
and distribute it to as many people as possible.
How long should it take to sell?
Average listing times vary from 30 to 180 days, according to
market conditions in a particular region, town, or even
neighborhood, and of course, price, terms, condition, location,
accessibility and exposure play an even greater role. Selling in
any market is easier if you keep time on your side. Most
professionals will tell you that allowing yourself at least six
months will put you in a position to get a better return from
their marketing efforts.
What if I can't sell my old house before I have to move?
This situation can arise for any number of reasons. For
instance, getting the job promotion you've been waiting for may
mean having to relocate very quickly. Another example: you
finally find your "dream home," and need to get it under
contract before it sells to another buyer. Whatever the
reason, don't panic. You have some viable alternatives to the
worrisome possibility of double mortgage payments.
If you don't have to sell in order to buy a new home, consider
the advantages and disadvantages of renting your old house. If
you're being transferred before you've had a chance to decide on
the new house, you may be able to obtain a short-term rental of
your own while you're becoming familiar with the new area.
Either way, a local real estate professional can usually
help, by advising you how much you can expect to pay for rent in
your new city, or what you need to charge for your current home
to both cover your mortgage payments and take care of other
costs you'll entail as a landlord.
Another solution available from some brokers is the guaranteed
sale plan, which is detailed in the next question.
What if I do have to sell my current house first?
Some brokers offer guaranteed-sale plans, which are essentially
a written promise to buy your house at a pre-determined price if
it doesn't sell by a certain date. The amount of the guaranteed
price varies considerably between brokers.
It is important to be realistic about your home's value and
price it accordingly. To determine the fair market value, a real
estate professional can supply information on comparable homes
that have sold or gone under contract in your area.
What is "fair market value," and how do I determine mine?
Simply put, the fair market value of a house is the
highest price an informed buyer will pay, assuming there is no
unusual pressure to complete the purchase.
To get an estimate of fair market value, contact me for a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) of
your house. The analysis will give you a realistic figure based
on the most salient features of the local real estate market. It
should provide information about recent sales of similar houses,
including how much they sold for and how long it took. The real
estate professional's price opinion is very helpful in
determining the right asking price.
What's the difference between fair market value and asking
You can assume that some negotiation will be necessary to reach
an agreement with a buyer. The professional who presents you
with the results of your CMA will provide all the data that
establishes fair market value. Then, based on your own
timing and marketplace variables, your real estate professional
will be willing to help you establish a competitive pricing
strategy. Generally speaking, the owner's asking price — the
advertised price of a house when it goes on the market — is set
slightly higher than fair market value.
Who can help me determine the right asking price?
Real estate sales professionals suggest asking prices
based on a wide array of information you may not have at your
disposal, including recent listing and selling prices of
houses in your neighborhood. If you're not completely confident
in their suggestions, you may want to order an appraisal.
Next, establish clear priorities. If you had to choose, are you
more concerned with selling quickly, or getting the best price?
Someone else — a neighbor, friend or relative — may point out
advantages or disadvantages about your house that you hadn't
thought about. Third-party views will help you start thinking of
your house as a commodity, with positive and negative selling
points. Then you should decide on a price that you feel is
competitive and consistent with what other houses in your area
have sold for.
How flexible should I be about the asking price?
Generally, the first three weeks will be the test period of your
initial asking price. If you see showings drop off and very few
return visits, you may want to consider repositioning your
asking price. Most buyers leave room for negotiation when they
make an offer. Thus, a certain degree of flexibility is
usually called for on the part of both the buyer and seller.
While it is ultimately your decision to accept or reject an
offer, or present a counter-proposal, a good sales
professional can be of great assistance to you during the
negotiating process. In fact, negotiation is one of the valuable
skills a real estate professional can offer you. As negotiations
proceed — whether in writing, face-to-face, or by phone — your
sales professional will inform you of your options in responding
to each offer from the buyer, so you can make an educated
decision as to how you want to proceed.
Should I fix my house up before it goes on the market?
Unless your house is nearly new, chances are you'll want to do
some work to get it ready to market. The type and amount of work
depend largely on the price you're asking, the time you have to
sell, and the present condition of the house.
If you're in a hurry to sell, do the "little things" that make
your house look better from the outside and show better inside.
Read on for several specific ideas for making low-cost
What is "curb appeal," and how do I create it?
"Curb appeal" is a common real estate term for
everything prospective buyers can see from the street that might
make them want to turn in and take a look. Improving curb appeal
is critical to generating traffic. While it does take time, it
needn't be difficult or expensive, provided you keep two key
words in mind: neat and neutral.
Neatness sells. New paint, an immaculate lawn, picture-perfect
shrubbery, a newly sealed driveway, potted plants at the front
door — put them all together, and drive-by shoppers will
probably want to see the rest of the house.
Then, for both the inside and outside of your house, if you're
going to repaint, choose neutral colors, and keep clutter and
personal knick-knacks, photos, etc. to a minimum. Remember, when
a family looks at a house, they're trying to paint a picture of
what it would be like as their home. You want to give them as
clean a canvas as possible.
What should I do to make the house show better?
First, make your house look as clean and spacious as possible.
Remember, people may look behind your doors — closet and
crawlspace doors, as well as those to the bedrooms and
bathrooms. So get rid of all the clutter; rent a storage space
if you need to, hold a garage sale or call a local charity.
After you've cleaned, try to correct any cosmetic flaws you've
noticed. Paint rooms that need it, re-grout tile walls and
floors, remove or replace any worn-out carpets. Replace dated
faucets, light fixtures, and the handles and knobs on your
kitchen drawers and cabinets if needed.
Finally, as with the outside of your house, try to make it easy
for prospective buyers to imagine your house as their home.
Clear as much from your walls, shelves, and countertops as you
can. Give your prospects plenty of room to dream.
Use my "Show & Sell" Checklist to get specific ideas on
how to make your house look its best. Additionally, ask your
real estate professional for any company brochures or videos on
the subject. Such materials are usually free and extremely
helpful to most homeowners.
Before you list, give your house a bath — most equipment
rental shops carry power washers.
Should I make any major home improvements?
Certain home improvements that are useful to almost everyone
have proven to add value or speed the sale of houses. These
include adding central air conditioning to the heating system;
building a deck or patio; finishing the basement; doing some
kitchen remodeling (updating colors on cabinets, countertops,
appliances, panels, etc.); and adding new floor and/or wall
coverings, especially in bathrooms. On the other hand,
improvements that return less than what they cost are generally
ones that appeal to personal tastes that not everyone may share,
like adding fireplaces, wet bars and swimming pools, or
converting the garage into an extra room.
The challenge that comes with any home improvement designed to
help sell your house is recouping your investment. There's
always the risk of over-improving your house — that is, putting
more money into it than neighborhood prices will support.
So how much is too much? Professional renovators have found
that, no matter how much you improve any given house, you're
unlikely to sell it for more than 15 percent above the median
price of other houses in the neighborhood, whether you do $1,000
worth of work or $50,000. That's why you might want to ask your
sales professional's opinion about the viability of
recouping the cost of any major renovation you have in mind
before you start the work.
Should I do the work myself?
If you have the time and talent, do-it-yourself improvements are
the most cost-effective way to go. Painting, wallpapering,
replacing cracked trim and old plumbing fixtures — the
difference between work done by a competent amateur and a
professional is usually time and money. Just make sure you don't
tackle something you can't handle — this is no time for
"on-the-job training." If you're not experienced, it may be
worth calling in a professional.
Larger jobs involving mechanical systems (heating, electrical,
plumbing, etc.), or work that must meet local building codes,
are another story. Even if you or the family handyman know
exactly what you're doing, it's not a good idea to engage in
this type of work unless you're licensed to do so. Your attempts
could make you responsible for more than you realize if
something you worked on goes wrong after you sell.
Am I liable for repairs after I sell?
Yes. If the buyer's inspection reveals major problems
with your house's structure or mechanical systems (heating,
electrical, plumbing, etc.), the buyer may wish to negotiate the
price downward on the basis of anticipated repair costs. So even
though the repairs won't be made until after the sale,
practically speaking, you'll be paying for them.
Sometimes, repairs may be required before the transfer of
title takes place. This is especially true in sales that
involve financing that's insured or guaranteed by the government
(FHA/VA loans, for example).
You may also have heard about lawsuits involving sellers who
failed to disclose major problems before the sale — like an
addition to the house that wasn't built to code. Most states now
maintain very specific disclosure laws that require sellers to
disclose any pertinent information related to the condition of
the property. For example, most states require sellers to notify
buyers about the presence of any lead-based paint. It is
important for you to be knowledgeable about your state's
These are just a few good reasons to retain a lawyer or sales
professional who know as much about the condition of your
property as you do. It's also a good idea to get the buyer's
written acknowledgment of any major problems when you
accept their offer.
What about home warranties? Are they available to sellers as
well as buyers?
Yes they are, and they're worth investigating. It's our belief
that the our Home Warranty Plan is one of the best selling
points you can add to your house. It's easy to see why. After a
buyer has invested substantial funds in a down payment
and moving expenses, the last thing they want to worry about is
a costly home repair. With the our Home Warranty Plan, they
don't have to.
The warranty offers protection for you and your buyer,
covering repair or replacement costs for breakdowns to most
major systems and built-in appliances for up to a year after the
date of closing. In many states, there is no additional
cost to sellers who provide coverage for their buyers, except
for a small deductible if you make a claim. And when you
consider the peace of mind that comes with knowing 24-hour
emergency service is always just a phone call away, it's hard to
imagine a better investment.
For more information on the this Home Warranty Plan, visit
the my website josephabbte.com.
Buyers want kitchens to be spotlessly clean and efficient,
with as much counter space as possible.
Today, people are moving farther and more frequently than they
used to; it's not unusual for upwardly mobile executives to
relocate across the country more than once in a year. The result
is that the pool of potential buyers for your house is much
larger and spreads far wider than ever before, and the
competition to reach them is fierce.
These developments make it more important than ever to
choose the real estate company with the most
sophisticated and savvy marketing techniques. Companies
with much-visited Web sites, extensive available listings,
web tools designed to help consumers buy and sell, and
prominent, effective advertising and marketing materials
are essential for identifying the right buyers and
convincing them that yours is the house for them. The yard
sign is just the beginning, but with a knowledgeable sales
professional, your selling process can promptly reach a
What's an MLS and why do I need one?
A Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, is another resource
to help ensure you reach a large number of prospective buyers
and dramatically increase the exposure of a property.
Quite simply, it's a system under which participating brokers
agree to share commission on the sale of houses listed by
any one of them. So, for example, if you list your house with
one broker and another broker actually sells it, they
share the commission. The advantage to you is clear; more people
have an interest in selling your house.
Over the years, the MLS concept has grown from a strictly local
sales tool into a powerful national marketing system. That's due
largely to Century 21 Real Estate, whose pioneering use of the fax
machine, back in 1971, led to the development of the nation's
first interstate shared listing system.
Remove any attached decorative items — e.g., chandeliers,
stained glass, etc. — that you don't intend to sell with
How important is advertising?
Advertising remains an important component in the marketing
process. Today, however, this means much more that an ad placed
in the local newspaper. Today's real estate brokers have the
knowledge and resources to market your home through an array of
proven modern methods, including TV, magazines, radio, the
Internet and direct mail in addition to traditional print
advertising. They are trained to determine where the pool of
buyers for your particular property might most likely be found
and from that, can best determine the type of advertising that
is best for your property
The open house is another valuable part of the marketing
process, offering prospective buyers the chance to view houses
in a low-pressure, "browsing" atmosphere. With that in mind, you
shouldn't expect it to generate a sale, at least not directly.
What you should look for is interest expressed and requests for
private showings made to your sales professional in the days
following the open house.
Open houses are always valuable. If many prospective
buyers attend, it shows you that the property is attractive and
saleable. If very few people show up, it can indicate that the
price is too high, and cause you to look for ways to improve
Curb appeal. Try not to draw your own conclusions — your
sales professional will give you a full report on open-house
activity and offer a professional assessment of its results.
Sales professionals often hold an open house for other sales
professionals shortly after a house is listed. This event,
usually held mid-week when real estate people can give it their
full attention, can be as important to your efforts as your
listing in the local MLS. The more professionals who see
your house, the more prospects you're likely to reach.
Should I try to avoid being at home when the house is shown?
You should definitely plan to be out of the house during any
open house your sales professional has scheduled; the same
goes for first showings to prospective buyers. People often feel
uncomfortable speaking candidly and asking questions in front of
current owners. You want them to feel as free as possible to
picture your house as their "dream home."
Who actually sells my house — a broker or a sales professional?
Both. In legal terms, a real estate sales professional is
an individual trained and licensed to act for other people
looking to buy or sell a piece of property. While that
definition applies to both, the broker is permitted to collect
fees and/or commission for such work.
Thus, the sales professional — with whom you have most of your
day-to-day contact — works on behalf of, and is compensated by,
Will my sales professional be present at the closing?
If you wish. while the law does not require their presence, both
the buying agent and the selling agent may attend
the closing. Even though most of the procedures are
handled by the lenders, title companies, and in some
cases an attorney, you'll find that your sales professional
can be a valuable source of information and counsel, especially
if any last-minute problems arise.
Good sales professionals are also extremely helpful in the days
immediately prior to the closing. They'll help you prepare by
giving you a step-by-step preview of the entire process and what
will be expected of you. And they'll make certain you bring all
necessary documents and other information.
We believe good training and experience make the best sales
professionals. But the truth is, not every sales
professional is right for every seller. That's why we suggest
that you follow this simple formula to help you decide whether a
particular sales professional will work well for you
COMPETENCE + COMFORT = CONFIDENCE
When you first meet with a real estate professional, they'll do
their best to show you that they have what it takes to sell your
house. You can expect to see a portfolio of credentials, past
achievements, sales volume and letters of recommendation. Look
for evidence that their background is relevant to your needs.
The sales professional you choose should also be up-to-date on
the current pool of potential buyers for houses like yours;
professionals can stay informed of this through real estate
company Web sites, such as Century21.com, and industry networking.
The importance of being comfortable with your sales professional
as a person cannot be overstated. You're going to be dealing
with this individual on a regular basis, maybe for months,
during a time that can be emotionally trying for you and your
It takes a unique combination of these two characteristics —
competence and comfort — to inspire the confidence a homeowner
needs to maintain peace of mind through the process of selling a
house. It's something for which every Century 21 sales professional
strives. Always There For You And Your Family is more than a tagline. It's our
way of doing business.
How do I find the sales professional who's right for me?
A good place to start is by talking to friends, neighbors, and
relatives — anyone whose recommendation you trust. You can also
try responding to sales professionals' local advertising,
direct mail, or Web site profiles. If they have the resources
and initiative to maintain such a presence in your marketplace,
it's a good sign that they may have the sales skill you're
Why list my house with an Century 21 Broker?
Exclusive services that can make selling your house faster and
easier, and unparalleled expertise in local and national markets
— those are two of the most important reasons why no one can
sell your house more effectively than an Century 21 professional.
30. Do real estate forms have to be notarized?
A: Most real estate forms must be notarized to be recorded in
the land records. Examples are deeds and mortgages. Forms that
will not be recorded generally do not have to be notarized, such
as a lease form.
31. What is the difference in a warranty and a quitclaim
deed? A: A warranty deed assures
the buyer that the Seller will defend his title to the property
from all other persons. A quitclaim deeds conveys whatever
title the seller owns but with no warranty against the claims of
What is a disclosure statement? A: A disclosure statement,
as used in the real estate context, is a form the seller of
property must complete and provide to the buyer disclosing to
the buyer all defects and various other information about the
What is a closing? A: Although this term may
mean different things in different states, the "closing" is a
meeting where all of the documents are signed and money changes
Who is the grantee and grantor?
A: Grantee - The person to whom an interest in real property is
Grantor - The person conveying an interest in real property.
What is Truth-in-Lending? A: A federal law that
requires lenders to fully disclose, in writing, the terms and
conditions of a mortgage, including the annual percentage rate
(APR) and other charges.
What does tenancy in common mean? A: As opposed to joint
tenancy, when there are two or more individuals on title to a
piece of property, this type of ownership does not pass
ownership to the others in the event of death.
What is the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA)
A: A consumer protection law that requires lenders to give
borrowers advance notice of closing costs.
Beyond that, we're sincerely interested in helping make the
experience of selling your home as smooth and easy as possible.
So even if you're not ready to list your house — if you simply
have questions about the market in your area, price or mortgage
trends, or anything else about real estate as it relates
to you — just pick up your phone and call your Century 21 broker