The 4 Most Important Questions You Need to Ask Before Selling Your Home


Therecomes a time in every home owner’s life when he or she realizes: “I am not thesame person I was when I bought this place.” Maybe your lifestyle or yourfamily configuration has changed, or maybe the house just isn’t as appealing asit was when you signed that ream of paperwork on closing day.

Ifyou’re thinking about moving on, then there are a few questions you need to askyourself before you take the plunge and list the house. When you can answerthese questions, you’ll know you’re in the right place emotionally andfinancially to move on to your next space.

Whatis my home really worth?

Youcan find almost anything on the internet, and that includes an estimated valueof your home. How convenient!

Butbefore you try to figure out how much your house is worth on your own, take adeep breath and resolve to remember one thing: “I shouldn’t believe everythingI read on the internet.”

It’spossible that an automated estimate is going to be spot-on, but thosealgorithms depend on numbers that might or might not be accurate, like thecondition of your property, the square footage, any features or amenitiesyou’ve added (or removed), and recent sales of properties nearby that could becomparable to your own home.

Abetter way to figure out how much your home might be worth is to look at yourmost recent property tax bill. Your property taxes change with the value ofyour home, so if you look at your property tax rate from last year and figureout your state’s assessment rate (usually not quite the total value of yourhome — it’s somewhere between 80 percent and 90 percent of the home’s totalvalue, depending on the state), that can help you get a little bit closer interms of pinpointing price.

Youcan also talk to a professional about your home’s value; a real estateprofessional who sells properties in your neighborhood every day is going to beable to give you a more accurate idea of how much your particular, specifichome might capture on the current market.

Anda real estate professional can also explain what you can do to your home tohelp inch that number upward a little bit. Then you can make the call as towhether or not you want to make any upgrades or take the estimated price as-is.Which leads to the next question …

Howcan I sell at the highest price possible?

Whenyou’re selling anything, you want to get fair market value for the item you’rereleasing, and that’s exponentially truer for your house, which is probably thebiggest purchase you’ve ever made.

Ifyou know your neighbor’s house sold for ten figures more than the highestestimate you’ve been able to find for your own home, that can be a toughreality to swallow. But this is where real estate professionals really earntheir keep — they can explain why that house was so desirable (maybe if you’rehonest with yourself, you can admit that your neighbor’s view is much nicerthan yours, for example), and they can also show you where you do have someroom for (price) improvement.

Ifyou’re not ready to call in a professional, then start with things that canspruce up almost any dwelling. One of the first and most important steps toselling your home for top dollar is to get the place deep-cleaned from floor toceiling, including washing the windows and scrubbing down all of your kitchenappliances.

Startby attacking the clutter; it’s much easier to clean a room that doesn’t have alot of furniture or objects in it, so even if you’re hoping to move up to makespace for all your stuff, it’s a good idea to start cleaning out the items thatyou know you don’t want to move with you. If there’s still a lot left, considera shed or an off-site storage facility where you can stash things withoutpacking it all in your closets (where buyers are most definitely going to belooking). If you have a junk drawer or even a “junk room,” now is the time tostart corralling that beast.

Thenget cleaning. There’s no detail too small — make sure every room in the housesparkles to the best of your ability and smells fresh and aired-out.

Theremay be quite a few additional projects you could tackle to increase your home’svalue, such as adding a deck, remodeling the kitchen, or even adding entirerooms in some cases. Those are good opportunities to discuss with a real estateprofessional, who can share feedback about whether the project is going to beworth the eventual return on investment when you sell the home — and whatprojects will net you more money for your property.

RealEstate Professionals also know stagers and home photographers. When a buyerfalls in love with your home, it’s most likely going to be from an onlinelisting, so your listing photos should be as high-quality as possible — thatmight mean bringing in a stager to spruce up the rooms and a photographer tocapture the results.

Howlong will my home be on the market?

Noone can predict the future, but experts who work in the industry can usuallycome close. If you haven’t called an agent yet, you might need to in order toget the information you’ll need to answer this question.

Ultimately,it depends on what the housing market is like in your area, but there are a lotof anomalies within a housing market — even in markets that seem red-hot,sometimes sellers make a mistake and overprice a home that then languishes forweeks or even months longer than more realistically priced homes. And there aresome neighborhoods or even specific blocks where buyers seem to be willing todo just about anything to get their foot in the door — and other geographieswhere they might need to be lured in a little more aggressively.

Thenumber of days that homes stay on the market gets shorter and shorter ashousing heats up, but that number is absolutely contingent on the initial listprice. Homes that need to reduce their prices to attract qualified buyers willremain on the market significantly longer than homes priced competitively fromthe start. It’s really important to get the initial list price right if you’dlike the home to sell quickly. (And remember: The longer that house takes tosell, the longer you as the seller will be responsible for keeping it inshowing condition for buyers — seven days a week.)

Soeven in markets where houses seem to be flying off the shelves, it’s smart totalk to someone who sees those sales up close and personal every day. They cangive you an educated estimate about the amount of time it should take yourproperty to get from list to close.

Howcan a Real Estate Professional help?

Sellinga home is a huge life event that encroaches on just about every aspect of yourexistence, from your meals to your work schedule to how often you do laundryand vacuum up pet hair. It can be an incredibly stressful time, and a realestate professional is a personal advisor that can help sellers make the bestdecisions possible while keeping track of all the details.

Agood real estate professional will help you find the best price for your home,list it for you on the MLS, and handle all the marketing — from photos to openhouses to glossy brochures to Facebook ads. A good agent can manage yourshowing schedule for buyers who want personal tours and can help you decidewhich offer to accept if you happen to receive more than one … and a licensedreal estate professional is absolutely essential during the negotiationprocess, especially if the buyer is making demands that the seller isn’tprepared to address.

Aknowledgeable real estate professional will also know the best plumbers,electricians, and general contractors in the area who might be able to make anyrepairs or changes to the home before it closes. He or she can manage thetransaction timeline, alerting you when an inspection or appraisal is about tohappen and keeping you in the loop regarding financing and every other aspectof the deal.

Agood real estate professional can also help you do all of this while you’resimultaneously looking for a new place to live and can help you manage that,too — including what to do if you find a home before your current house sells.

Anddepending on your personal situation, there are local real estate professionalswho specialize in divorce, estate sales, and other tricky life events involvinga home transaction.

Selling a home is assimple as listing it on the MLS and waiting for an appropriate offer to come in— but there’s so much more involved that most sellers can’t handle it on theirown. Answering these questions will get you a head start, but don’t skiptalking to an agent or three when you’re actually ready to list that home;they’ll be able to point out what you didn’t know you were missing.