When you get ready to sell your home, you might very well have a false sense of security. After all, you got through the hard part of buying. Now all you have to do is call a Realtor, put your home on the market, and wait for the buyers to line up. Selling will be a breeze, right?
Of course not! Selling a home is as much a science as buying one is. And lots of people who've been there before will want to tell you how it's done. Beware of these (well-meaning) storytellers, and don't fall for some of the most common misconceptions about selling your home.
Myth No. 1: You can do it solo
We know -- you're cringing at the idea of paying those seller fees. But there's more to this process than putting a sign in the front yard and an ad on Craigslist.
If you try to sell on your own, you have to do all the hustle -- and there's a lot of hustle to marketing a home. Plus, who's going to weed out the creeps and the nonserious buyers? A Realtor does the heavy lifting -- to attract the right kind of buyer, sift out the ones you would never want to do business with, and negotiate the heck out of potential offers to get you the best possible deal.
"It's about establishing relationships, trust, and facilitating communication to keep the deal alive until it closes," says Deborah Stewart, a sales associate for Jan Scholtz Realty in Louisville, KY.
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Myth No. 2: You know best what your home is really worth
Who understands what your home is worth better than you? After all, you know all the sweat and money you've poured into it over the years -- plus a few tiny flaws here and there.
But stop right there. Home valuations are always better left to the pros.
Sellers "aren't always the best judges of value," Stewart says. "It's an intensely personal thing to put your home on the market."
In fact, sales by owners tend to be overpriced because of the emotional factor, she says -- and that can make it harder to attract buyers. Your agent will know the neighborhood and has access to comps in order to suss out the best price for your home.
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Myth No. 3: It's fine to sell your home as is
We're reiterating this one because we simply can't emphasize it enough. You might think your home is in great shape (or at least adequate enough to sell), but you're probably overlooking some necessary changes that could boost your profits. What are some of the home improvements that will get you the best ROI? Walls and floors, doors, and kitchens.
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Myth No. 4: Upgrades should be drastic
But you don't have to do a gut reno in order to get your home in selling condition. Maybe you need to freshen up the kitchen instead of getting a whole new one. Maybe you have to do a bit of front-yard landscaping to boost curb appeal. No matter what, sellers should be judicious about improvements, Stewart says.
"Simple things make a big difference. When I walk through, I advise sellers to remove most personal items," she says. "When people come to look, if there's a lot of memorabilia, they feel like they're intruding, not shopping. Get pros to help clean it up."
When you make too many improvements, you might be wasting money, because your taste and style might not appeal to prospective buyers. They might want to rip out your upgrades, or be turned off altogether.
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Myth No. 5: Spring is the best time to sell a home
Spring and summer have long received all the real estate glory as the best (and busiest) time to buy and sell a home. But the truth is that any season can be the best. It just depends on the market.
"In Louisville, spring used to be a strong time, but not anymore," Stewart says. "I think houses sell pretty well all year long."
Kristen Riffle, co-partner of the Schilling Group at Urban Nest Realty in Las Vegas, says the hot season to sell homes is when it's, well, hot.
"Summer or school break is a busy time, and slow time is generally mid-November to early January, due to holidays and family," she says. But she still sees plenty of buyers, even if there isn't a lot of inventory.
"It's a great time to get a good price if you list your home during the holidays," she says.
Bottom line: Know what's going on in your local housing market and don't wait for the "best" time to list. With the services of a savvy Realtor, you'll make out OK no matter when you decide to make a move.
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Myth No. 6: You can rely entirely on online home value estimates
Although online home value estimates (like the ones on realtor.com!) are a good starting point, they're no substitute for the expertise of a Realtor.
"There are all kinds of variables. You can't plug in a standard formula and expect it to give you accurate results," Stewart says. "There's no substitute for a real person."
Riffle agrees. "Most professionals have no problem giving someone a comparative marketing analysis," she says. "If a neighborhood is all over the place as far as prices go, not only do I run a CMA, I [also] go through last sales, what the photos look like, and everything listed in the area to compare. I also go to the home to see upgrades to add value."