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Selling Coastal Property: FAQs

  1. When is the best time to sell a home?
  2. Should I sell my home first or wait until I have bought another home?
  3. What are the two most important factors when selling a home?
  4. How do you prepare a house to sell?
  5. How many people sell their homes themselves?
  6. Are there tips for selling a vacant home?
  7. How can I get a quick sale, particularly in a slow market?
  8. How does someone sell a slow mover?
  9. Do I have to disclose information about my home?
  10. Do sellers have to disclose the terms of other offers?
  11. What kinds of things are considered material facts?
  12. Are agents responsible for disclosing material facts?
  13. What are some costs associated with selling my home?
  14. Do I need an attorney to sell a home?

When is the best time to sell a home?

The best time to sell is when you are ready, or when you must. That is, when you have outgrown the space in your current home, or you prefer to trade down to something smaller. Perhaps your martial status has changed, which necessitates a move, or you need to relocate for a job. Market conditions also play a role, as do seasonal conditions. For example, your chances of getting top dollar for your home are more likely in a seller's market, when demand outweighs supply, than in a buyer's market. Local and national economic factors also may dictate when to sell. If a major employer in your area is laying off workers, it may not be a good time to put your home up for sale. People will be cautious about buying when the future seems so unpredictable or bleak. Most agents agree the best time to sell is in the spring. This is when the largest number of potential buyers hit the market. Your home is likely to sell faster and at a higher price, although sales begin to pick up as early as February and start to slack off in July, the slowest month for real estate transactions.

Should I sell my home first or wait until I have bought another home?

This is a tough decision, but the answer will depend on your personal situation, as well as the condition of the local housing market. If you put your home on the market first, you may have to scramble to find another one before settlement, which could cause you to buy a home that does not meet all your requirements. If you cannot find another home, you may need to move twice, temporarily staying with relatives or in a hotel. On the other hand, if you make an offer to buy first, you may be tempted to sell your existing home quickly, even at a lower price. The advantage of buying first is you can shop carefully for the right home and feel comfortable with your decision before putting the existing home on the market. On the flip side, the advantage of selling your existing home first is that it maximizes your negotiating position because you are under no pressure to sell quickly. It also eliminates the need to carry two mortgages at once. Talk with your agent for advice. Discuss the pros and of each and whether certain contingencies written into the contract can ease some of the pressures.

What are the two most important factors when selling a home?

Price and condition are the two most important factors in selling a home, even in a down market. The first step is to price your home correctly. Use comparative sales information from your agent, or pay for a professional appraiser (usually $200 to $300), to objectively evaluate your home's worth. Second, go through the house and repair any obvious cosmetic defects that could deter a buyer.

In a down market, you may have to consider lowering your price and/or making a major repair, such as replacing the roof, in order to lure a buyer. Also, make sure that your home is getting the exposure it deserves through open houses, broker open houses, advertising, good signage and a listing on the local multiple listing service or online listings provider.

If this isn't happening, take it up with your agent or agent's broker. If you are still not satisfied you are getting the service you need, you may have to switch agents.

How do you prepare a house to sell?

Doing whatever you can to put your house's best face forward is very important if you want to get close to your asking price or sell as quickly as possible. Short of spending a lot of money, here are several ideas for making your home show better:

  • Sweep the sidewalk, mow the lawn, prune the bushes, weed the garden and clean debris from the yard.
  • Clean the windows (both inside and out) and make sure the paint is not chipped or flaking. And speaking of paint, if your home was built before 1978, new federal law gives a buyer the right to request a lead inspection. If you think you might have some problems, do the inspection yourself beforehand and make any fixes you can.
  • Be sure that the doorbell works.
  • Clean and spruce up all rooms, furnishings, floors, walls and ceilings. It's especially important that the bathroom and kitchen are spotless.
  • Organize closets.
  • Make sure the basic appliances and fixtures work. Get rid of leaky faucets and frayed cords.
  • Make sure the house smells good: from an apple pie, cookies baking or spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove. Hide the kitty litter.
  • Put vases of fresh flowers throughout the house.
  • Having pleasant background music playing in the background also will help set your stage.

How many people sell their homes themselves?

Most home sellers -- about 4 in 5 -- use real estate agents to list and sell their homes. Of the other 20 percent, some sell FSBO, also known as For Sale By Owner. Other owners, however, sell without marketing their homes. Property transfers between family members account for some of the direct home sales. Also, tenants are often offered the opportunity to buy the property they are renting before the landlord lists it for sale.

Are there tips for selling a vacant home?

Yes. Once furniture is removed from the home, you will notice all kinds of imperfections you never paid attention to before - rips in the carpet, holes in the walls, and dinginess. In an empty house, everything stands out. What you see is what potential buyers will also see. So you may need to paint, tear up old carpet, and replace the kitchen floor. To get rid of the "empty house" feeling, leave a few pieces of furniture behind - simple things like a lamp, chairs, and a table will do. Pay special attention to maintenance. Someone will need to dust and vacuum, leaves will need to be raked, and the grass cut. In the winter, consider having the heating system shut down and drained to save money. But keep the electricity running because lights will be needed to show the house. Watch out for that musty smell, particularly during the summer months, that settles in from having the windows sealed and locked. And beware of pests such as mice, squirrels, ants and bats.

How can I get a quick sale, particularly in a slow market?

One of the most important things to consider is price. You may want to reduce the price of your home or, at the very beginning, set it at a low price that will generate more buyer interest. Cash is often an incentive, both for the buyer as well as the agent. You could offer the buyer a $1,000 to $2,000 decorating rebate upon closing the deal. It is also not uncommon to offer the selling agent a $500 bonus. However, some brokers - who supervise agents and run real estate offices - may prohibit such incentives, as do some REALTOR® boards. Check to find out. Other common incentives: paying for the property inspection and warranty policy and getting your home preliminarily approved for FHA and VA loans, thereby making it more attractive to a larger number of buyers. Contact a lender who writes FHA-insured and VA-guaranteed loans.

How does someone sell a slow mover?

Even in a down market, real estate experts say that price and condition are the two most important factors in selling a home.

If you are selling in a slow market, your first step would be to lower your price. Also, go through the house and see if there are cosmetic defects that you missed and can be repaired.

Secondly, you need to make sure that the home is getting the exposure it deserves through open houses, broker open houses, advertising, good signage, and listings on the local multiple listing service (MLS) and on the Internet.

Another option is to pull your house off the market and wait for the market to improve.

Finally, if you who have no equity in the house, and are forced to sell because of a divorce or financial considerations, you could discuss a short sale or a deed-in-lieu-of- foreclosure with your lender.

A short sale is when the seller finds a buyer for a price that is below the mortgage amount and negotiates the difference with the lender.

In a deed-in-lieu-of-foreclosure situation, the lender agrees to take the house back without instituting foreclosure proceedings. The latter are radical options. Your simplest, and in many cases most effective, option is to lower the price.

Do I have to disclose information about my home?

Disclosure could protect you from a lawsuit. Today, home sellers in most states must now fill out a form disclosing material facts about their homes. Material facts are details about the home's condition or legal status, as well as the age of various components.

If your state does not require a written disclosure, the real estate laws probably require sellers to disclose any known problems with the home they are selling.

Do sellers have to disclose the terms of other offers?

Sellers are not legally obligated to disclose the terms of other offers to prospective buyers.

What kinds of things are considered material facts?

The following examples include details that would qualify as material facts that must be revealed by sellers about their homes:

  • Damage from wood boring insects
  • Mold or mildew in the home
  • Leaks in the roof or foundation walls
  • Amount of property taxes paid annually
  • Problems with sewer or septic systems
  • Age of shingles and other roof components
  • A buried oil tank
  • Details about any individual who claims to have an interest in the property
  • Information about a structure on the property that overlaps an adjacent property Some things are not material facts and do not have to be disclosed. They include personal information about the seller and the seller's reason for moving.

Among those things that may or may not be material facts: whether a death took place in the home or whether a home is considered haunted.

Are agents responsible for disclosing material facts?

They can certainly be held accountable, particularly if they had prior knowledge of a material fact or should have known about it.

For example, if the seller has to use pans to collect water after a heavy rain, it is the agent's responsibility to question the seller about the integrity of the roof, and then relay this information to potential buyers. However, if the seller duly hides a defect from the agent for which the agent had no prior knowledge, then the agent is not accountable. Experts say agents are not home inspectors, but they are expected to use their best judgment when something appears suspicious.

What are some costs associated with selling my home?

Besides the costs related to making repairs and improving the overall appearance of the home, as the seller you will also need to pay the following:

  • A real estate commission, if you use an agency to sell.
  • Advertising costs, marketing materials, and other fees if you sell the home yourself.
  • Attorney, closing, or other professional fees.
  • Title insurance
  • Excise tax for the sale.
  • Prorated costs for your share of annual expenses, such as property taxes, homeowner association fees, and fuel tank rentals.
  • Any other fees normally paid by sellers in your area, including points, survey, and appraisal fees.
  • To get a better handle on all costs, ask a real estate agent. Agents deal with this information daily and can give you a pretty good estimate of the closing costs you can expect to pay.

Do I need an attorney to sell a home?

Although most sellers can handle routine real estate purchase contracts, some experts say it is a good idea to be represented by an attorney, particularly if you are selling on your own. You should choose one with expertise in real estate transactions. Before hiring someone discuss all the details of the transaction, including all legal costs you will incur. A good attorney will assist you in completing the deal swiftly and with confidence.