Selling a house can be a lot like remodeling: It takes longer, costs more and is more emotionally draining than you thought it would be, but in the end it was worth doing. Unless you’re the rare home owner who gets multiple offers above the asking price days after listing, the sales process can be emotionally challenging.
Prepare yourself by reviewing what happens once you sign a listing agreement. Generally, you can expect a three-step process: Getting the house ready, showing it off and responding to the marketplace.
Listings, Lockbox, and Signs
Probably the first thing your agent will do is place your home in the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This notifies all other agents in the area that your home is for sale. Your house will also likely appear here at realtor.com.
Soon, a for-sale sign will appear in the yard and a lockbox will be attached to your house, most likely on the front door. The lockbox allows local agents access to the house when you aren’t there.
That may seem unsettling, but it’s important to allow agents to show your home when you are away, especially in a slower market. If you don’t have a lockbox, many agents will put you at the bottom of their client’s list of homes to see, because it’s a headache to track down your agent, who must contact you to find out when you’ll be available, which may not fit into the buyers’ schedule. Plus, unless you’re in a hot sellers’ market, there will be plenty of other houses to see.
Your agent will want to hold a couple of open houses as soon as possible, which is why you shouldn’t list your house until it’s ready for showing. This means you’ll probably be swamped with last-minute touch-ups and clean-ups to get the house ready.
The agent will likely have a brokers’ open house during the work week, so that area agents with clients looking to buy can see the property. Next will be a public open house, traditionally held on a Sunday.
It is best if you are not present during open houses, because buyers want the freedom to look in closets and make comments. If you are home when potential buyers come for a viewing, try to step outside while they tour your house.
Whether you have additional open houses is up to you and your agent. Many sellers incorrectly think that multiple open houses are needed to sell a house. In fact, few homes are sold at open houses, but there are many good reasons to have one for the public and another for agents.
You should get the most traffic in the first two to three weeks after your house is listed. Anyone looking for a house like yours will want to see it. Don’t fret when the traffic dies down.
The average days on market (DOM) can be 60-90 days in a normal cycle, depending on the area of the country. In a slower market, buyers can take their time and usually do. If you have buyers come back a second or third time, it usually means they are seriously considering your home, and you’ll want your agent to keep in contact with their agent. Any offers — even one you consider lowball — is a chance to begin negotiating, which often leads to a sale.
Keeping your house in tip-top shape, especially if you have kids and pets, is one of the more difficult parts of selling your home. But remember: Buyers will walk into your house and try to picture living there. Most people don’t have the vision to look past toys scattered throughout the house, dishes in the sink or pet food spilled on the floor. It doesn’t matter that they probably live the same way.
Sellers usually hit the wall at about six weeks. The initial excitement of listing has waned, you’re tired of keeping the house looking like a model home, and you are irritated at yet another looky-loo coming through the front door.
Unless you are in a very difficult market, if you have not had serious interest in six weeks, it’s time to meet with your agent to discuss sales strategy. Markets can change quickly, so you need to consider price and any physical changes or improvements that could enhance the home. This doesn’t mean you have to remodel the kitchen, but maybe cleaning out the garage or repainting the pink bedroom walls can make a difference.
Knowing what to expect when your house goes up for sale can be half the battle of getting through the transaction. Be prepared, especially for changes in the marketplace, and you can avoid home-sale stress.
Rick Hazeltine wrote this article.
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