Recently, my husband and I met with a realtor to discuss putting our house on the market. In general, the real estate market in Buncombe County and the surrounding areas have been really hot this Fall. Why is it hot? Our area has seen quite a bit of relocation due to COVID-19, the ability for people to work remotely, and the draw of a more picturesque and less expensive location.
If you are considering marketing your own home, here are some thoughts that might be helpful.
Decluttering and staging
Honestly, this was the most time-consuming piece of the whole process. Our realtor suggested we clear all surfaces and store personal items out of sight. Whoa! We have a five-year-old! This process reinforced how out of control her collection of toys had gotten. We literally spent three entire weekends decluttering, staging, and cleaning our house. If you plan to sell your house, expect to spend some time getting it ready.
Pricing our house
Landing on a listing price can be a tough decision, but there are some good resources out there. We priced our house using various measures, but the main two were comparable homes and price per square foot of sales in recent months. Our realtor directed her research on houses that were comparable to ours in acreage, square footage, number of bedrooms, and number of bathrooms. We compared houses on the market currently and those that had sold within the last couple of years. The availability of online photos meant we could compare all the details of the comparable houses. We were able to then compare each house and question if our house could be in the same price range. Our house had more features than some and fewer than others, so it was fairly easy to see where we were on the scale.
Along the same lines, you’ll need to consider how flexible your price will be when it comes to negotiating. In most cases, at least some negotiations occur. If you know your roof needs to be replaced, be prepared to lower your price. Also, if you plan to do renovations, talk with your realtor first. You want to be sure to put your money in the most appropriate renovations, so you are able to get that money back when you sell your house. For instance, a year ago, we had an unfinished basement. Our realtor looked at our house and recommended we not put more than $30,000 into the basement because the improvements were unlikely to add more than $30,000 to the sale price.
Where are you going to go?
Given that we are in a sellers’ market, being on the buying side right now is not necessarily the best place to be. You must consider where you will go well before you decide to list your house. Our realtor told us if you put your house on the market, be prepared to move. That was good advice, as our house sold to folks that preferred to move quickly. In our case, we will rent for a year or so while Nathan builds our next house. Do your homework because even rentals in this housing market are hard to come by.
Dealing with showings
In our case, we were still living in our house, so we requested 24-hour notice for a showing. This allowed us to tidy up the house in plenty of time, yet still feel like we lived there. If you are lucky enough to have already moved, showings are so much easier. We also received text alerts requesting showings, which were very helpful in our case. In the first couple of weeks, we had several showings. Our realtor had a system allowing us to track the showings and read feedback from other realtors and their clients. This was very helpful in case we needed to make any changes.
Getting an offer
When it was time to consider an offer, there were more decisions to make than I anticipated. Fortunately, our offer came in just a little under our list price. There was not much negotiating that had to be done on that front. Two or three changes to the offering price is more the norm. Cash offers are often more seamless than selling to a buyer that has to qualify for a mortgage. Mortgages take time to process. With interest rates at a record low, the mortgage companies currently are very overwhelmed with new mortgages and refinanced mortgages.
The harder decisions we had to make centered more around the due diligence period and fee, closing date and earnest money, and what items might be included in the sales price. A typical due diligence time period is 15-30 days, and the average due diligence fee is $500-2,000, depending on price point. How much earnest money did we want to require? How much time did we need to move once the due diligence period was over? We had to consider appliances and furniture that were requested by the buyer as well. Lots of decisions to make. In hindsight, we would have asked for more time to move!
During the due diligence period, expect lots of inspections. We had a week of home inspections, appraisals, chimney inspections, septic inspections, and radon testing.
Real estate closings in the time of COVID-19
This was truly the easiest part of the process for us. Gone are the days when the buyer and seller show up at the attorney’s office, meeting each other for the first time. Instead, Nathan and I met in the office with the attorney only, signed a few documents, and were done in fifteen minutes.
Selling (or buying) a house is not for the faint at heart. Do thorough research before you even get started. A good realtor that knows the market well is a great place to start.