Buyer and Seller Tips

The home buying and selling processes can be a complex, stressful time for people. It doesn't have to be and can be made a lot easier if certain steps and strategies are implemented on the front end to avoid headache and heartache down the road. The following will outline some important tips/strategies for buyers and sellers.

Buyers

Become Pre-Approved

This is the single most important step for any buyer or would-be-buyer who is thinking about or has started looking for a home to buy. Being prepared is crucial, and it will save you a great deal of time, stress and, yes, heartache. I can tell many stories of buyers who have started looking for homes before becoming pre-approved. They come up with a price range they assume they can afford and start seeing properties. Eventually, they fall absolutely in love with a home or a neighborhood and focus all their attention and hopes on that home. They then speak to a lender for a pre-approval, only to find out that for one reason or another, they do not qualify for as much as they thought. Their dreams are crushed, and they now have a difficult time being happy with any other home that isn’t as nice as “the one that got away.” Even worse is when they can afford it, but somebody else who is prepared with their pre-approval letter buys it before them. Most sellers will not even consider an offer that does not include a pre-approval. Moral of the story, arm yourself with a pre-approval so you’re ready and able to pounce on that perfect property the moment you see it.

There is no such thing as the "perfect house"

Nearly all buyers find themselves creating a “must have, should have, deal-breaker” list when they start looking for a new home. While this is often a productive process, it can also sabotage your efforts of finding the right house. Certain deal-breakers are important, but make sure they aren’t criteria that are easily remedied, as you might be excluding otherwise great homes. Paint and carpet are relatively inexpensive and easy fixes, and most homes will need some updating in some areas. Things that simply can’t be changed or can’t be changed without great expenses are another thing—location, floor plan, number of beds/baths or huge remodel projects all fall into the latter category. Establishing these criteria with your agent will help greatly, as they will be able to filter through the homes that would otherwise not be of interest to you.

Act Quickly

In a strong real estate market, where homes are selling relatively quickly and prices are in an upward trend, it is important to view properties promptly after they hit the market. I usually tell buyers, if it’s a home they have genuine interest in chances are somebody else does, too. If possible, make sure to see the properties you like within 48 hours of their hitting the market. If not, then whenever the soonest possible is. If it is a hot property, it could be sold after just a few days on the market. Your agent should have a good sense if the property is one that might sell very quickly or if it’s one that will likely sit for a while (the over-priced turkeys).

Understand payment, price, and value

This is important, as some buyers worry about the price of a home too much. They see a price tag on a home for many hundreds of thousands of dollars and they think, “That is just way too much money.” What they sometimes don’t consider is what a payment would be at that price. Often times, if they haven’t actually crunched the numbers before, it is a lot less than they might have thought. It’s the payment that you have to be comfortable with for the next 30 years, so decide what you can afford based on a payment you are comfortable with. Also, price and value are two completely separate things that buyers often use interchangeably. The asking price of a home is different and they aren’t always aligned. That can go both ways though so, at times, homes might be worth more than the listed price. Make an offer on a home for what you believe it to be worth, it’s value, not based on what it is listed for. And always remember, what somebody paid for a home years ago has no bearing on what it is worth today.

Sellers

"Detail" your home

It is incredible to me how many listings I see hit the market where sellers have made little to no effort to prepare the home for sale by having it look its absolute best. When you’re going to sell a car, people will almost certainly wash the car, vacuum or shampoo the carpets, clean the tires and windows, ArmorAll the interior and, in some cases, pay to have it professionally detailed. People do this because they want to attract more buyers, have the potential buyer love the car and want to pay them the best price possible for the car. The exact same philosophy applies with real estate but is often overlooked by sellers. 

Scuffed walls, dirty rooms, broken fixtures, loose baseboards—these are all things that are often overlooked and not taken care of. Treat your house the same way you would your car. You may need to spend some money here and there, but knowing where to invest money in the right projects will go a long way, giving you a better return on investment and making your home more saleable. Go room by room and cure any defects, paint rooms that need it, clean areas that are dirty so they sparkle, put excess items away, color up rooms that are bland with flowers or colorful accessories and borrow the attitude “less is more.” Your Realtor should be guiding you in this if you aren’t sure what to do yourself and may offer some more creative approaches that will make your home show its absolute best.

Price your home right, from the start

We’ve all heard the term “chasing the market” and we all know it’s something no seller wants to do. A home will receive the most buyer traffic within the first two weeks of being on the market, which is why it is so important for your home to be the most attractive during that time. When a home hits the market, it is noticed by the majority of buyers right away through websites, specific marketing of the listing agent and other agents notifying them. They will usually make their appointment shortly thereafter to view the home. If it isn't attractive when they see it, or if it’s priced too high, they will likely pass it by, and won’t always come back later. As your “Days on Market” continue to go up and up, buyer interest will go down and down. And, after long enough, buyers will simply assume that if nobody else bought the house after so much time, then there must be something wrong and it must be over-priced. Those buyers may not even bother taking a look at all. Beware of Realtors who will try to “buy your listing,” meaning they will tell you whatever price you want to hear to get you excited, often over-promising and enticing you with a very high price, and then under-delivering when it doesn't sell anywhere close to the original recommended price.

Remove emotion from the transaction

This can often be the most difficult thing for sellers to do. We love our homes. We have made memories there, we have worked hard on them, made them beautiful, made them comfortable, spent our hard-earned money updating them. Remember, you’re selling the house because your goals are moving you to another location. Don’t let emotion cloud your judgment and sabotage a sale that would otherwise take place. We know you absolutely love that forest green carpet you put in your living room 10 years ago, but chances are the buyer today doesn’t. Many sellers will often feel their homes are worth more than the market value will actually support because they are considering personal and emotional value. The buyers who are going to be purchasing your house do not attribute that same value. The process will be a lot less stressful, and you will likely be able to achieve the best possible outcome, if that emotion can be removed from the transaction.

—Ryan Zimmerman

[Ryan Zimmerman is a licensed Broker Associate with Wheeler Steffen Sotheby’s International Realty. In addition to selling homes, Mr. Zimmerman is a board member of the Claremont Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Claremont Young Professionals. He also provides the Claremont COURIER’s monthly Claremont Real Estate Market Snapshot.]