Thomas Hodgkiss-Lilly, Real Estate Agent/Attorney
Thomas Hodgkiss-Lilly, Esq.
216 235 1047216 235 1047

Seller Frequently Asked Questions

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Sellers:

  1. Why should I choose an agent who is also an attorney to help me sell my home?

You are selling one of the most expensive items you will probably ever own.  Many agents are seriously deficient in legal knowledge (a 1 week class on law is all that’s required to be an agent), and can cause very expensive errors because of that.  I took law classes for 3 years.  Choose someone who can both protect your investment as well as market your home to maximize the price.

  1. How should I price my home?

You must take into account the prevailing state of the real estate market and especially local market conditions. The real estate market continually changes, and market fluctuations affect property values. So it is critical to determine your listing price based on the most recent comparable sales in your neighborhood.  Comparables (“comps”) look at the number of bedrooms, baths, square footage, neighborhood, etc.  However, condition and amenities are important to factor in as well, and there is no easy way to do this.  This is where the value of a good real estate professional comes in – agents have seen a lot more homes in person and can more accurately gauge value.

It would be a good idea to get a home valuation, or CMA, also known as Comparable Market Analysis, from one or more agents.

  1. Should I stage my home?

Without question, most homes are helped by staging.  It can both increase price and decrease time on market.  Staging can be full-service furniture rental, multiple day affairs, or simply advice on what knick-knacks to put away and where the furniture should go.  Either way is fine, but some staging should be done usually.  The stager on our staff is one of the very best, and very comfortable to work with.

  1. Is there a “best time” to put my house on the market?

Along with economic factors such as supply and demand, the time of year you choose to sell can impact both the length of time it takes to sell your home and its ultimate selling price.

Typically, the real estate market picks up around mid-February, continues strong through late May and June, plateaus in July and August, and tapers off in the fall. The summer is usually the busiest time for moving since school is out and buyers may be looking to get their children in school before the new school year. September through November generally marks a rally not as strong as late winter and spring, followed by a slowdown from Thanksgiving through and beyond the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

In short, putting your home on the market in March-May is best if able.

  1. Why should I use a real estate agent?

You don’t need to use a commissioned real estate agent to sell your home, but you may want to consider the benefits of having a real estate agent versus not using a real estate agent.

In addition, many people would rather use an Agent due to the complexities of modern Real Estate transactions since they usually incorporate legal and financial attributes, which takes them well beyond more simple transactions, such as the sale of an automobile.

There are several advantages when using a real estate agent to sell your home, such as – your listing will be added to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) so that large numbers of buyers will have access to the seller’s property. In addition, your real estate agent absorbs all of the cost of advertising and marketing, and the screening that will be done of potential buyers by Agents. The Agent will also handle the details of contract drafting and negotiation.

Deciding whether to use an Agent or not depends on if you feel fully confident that you can handle all of the details, then you may well want to attempt selling your house on your own. Selling your house yourself can work, without question.  But it is not for everyone, or indeed most people.  Less people are trying to sell their own homes now than ever before, and FSBO success rate is 10-15%, which isn’t encouraging.  If you are not confident of your marketing, negotiating, and administrative skills, you most likely will want to use a real estate agent and leave the details to them.

  1. Should I price my home higher to leave room for negotiations?

In my opinion, probably not.  Many sellers believe they should price their home $5,000 higher than what an agent suggests to leave room for negotiations and low-ball offers.  A well-priced home will sell quickly and will sell for close to the listing price.   A seller who prices their home high to leave room for negotiations can actually be costing themselves more money than if they price it to reflect the suggested market value. But…

  1. What are disadvantages of pricing my home on the high end?

Well, several factors may come into play:

  • Your home may be on the market longer.
  • You could lose market interest and qualified buyers.
  • You might create a negative impression of the property as unrealistically priced.
  • You could lose money as a result of making extra mortgage payments while incurring taxes, insurance, and unplanned maintenance costs.
  • You may have to accept less money.
  • A potential buyer may face appraisal and financing problems resulting from the inflated price.
  • You might help sell similar homes that are priced lower (very nice of you!).

It is not recommended to sell your home any higher than the appraised value unless demand is high in your area. Ask you real estate agent which price would be right for your home. Also make sure you get a CMA to assist in determining the best sales price for your home.

  1. What steps should I take to prepare my home for sale?

The expression “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is absolutely true when it comes to selling a home.  When selling a home you must be sure that your home presents itself in the best possible light.  Making sure clutter is at a minimum, freshly painting rooms, installing new carpeting, or ensuring odors are non-existent are just a handful of things that should be done before listing your home for sale.  Consulting with an agent and a stager are both important steps.

  1. Should I be present during showings at my home?

Please don’t, if you can avoid it.  There are many reasons why sellers should not be present during showings.  The primary reason why you should not be present at showings of your home is potential buyers can feel uncomfortable to talk open and freely with their Realtor about your home.  They do not want to say something that could offend you, the seller.  The best idea is to leave shortly before the scheduled showing and come back once you are certain the buyer and their Realtor have left your home.

10.What should I disclose to potential buyers?

When selling a home, it’s important you disclosure to potential buyers any material defects you are aware of in your home.  Nobody likes “getting the raw end of a deal” when it comes to buying a home, car, or anything for that matter.  If you’re aware of defects with a roof, appliance, or home in general, you’re always going to be better off being honest and upfront.  If you’re aware of defects, whenever possible, fixing them before going on the market is best.  This can avoid potential issues and/or lawsuits once your home is under contract, after inspections, and even years after you have sold your home.

  1. Do I have to sell to the person with the highest offer?

No. If you prefer a lower-priced offer, perhaps with a better-qualified buyer and/or more attractive terms, you can accept that offer instead. Or you can give counteroffers to one or more of the buyers.

If you have offers from multiple buyers, the typical course of action is to ask for “best and highest” offers from every buyer.  This signals that they should put out their very best offer, and you pick from the best offers at that point.  You can also still counter, if none of the offers are what you are looking for.

  1. Who is responsible for making repairs, if any, as a result of home inspection reports conducted for the buyer?

Because the buyer orders one or more home inspections doesn’t obligate the seller to make repairs or modifications as a result of those inspections. Typically, however, inspection reports are used to negotiate repairs of major problems, or environmental or safety hazards that may be noted. The purchase contract should provide guidance for these negotiations.

  1. Why is the assessed value different than what you say my home is worth?

Assessed value is not the same as market value or appraised value.  There are many homes that could be sold for significantly more than an assessed value and others that maybe sold for significantly less.  The assessed value of a home is used solely for the purpose of taxes in your local municipality/county.  The assessed value of a home is multiplied by the local tax rate to determine what your yearly taxes are.  The assessed value has no impact on how much your home is worth to a potential buyer in the marketplace. The only exception to that is if your house is assessed for much more than it is worth, in which case the taxes are much higher than they should be, and can depress the price.

Unfortunately, there are many home buyer’s who believe that a home that is listed higher than the assessed value is overpriced.  This is not correlated.  Home buyer’s also question if something is wrong with a home if the list price is much less than the assessed value.  The bottom line is the assessed value has no impact on how much your home is worth.  There are homeowners who don’t pay attention to their assessed value, just to find out their municipality has been slowly raising it, year after year, even though the market value hasn’t been increasing.  You can appeal your assessed value with the county, and should if you think it is over-assessed.

  1. Can I determine how much my home is worth from an internet website?

Sometimes!  That’s part of the problem…  Anyone who has bought a home, sold a home, or just looked at homes, has heard of websites such as Zillow and Trulia.  These are also commonly referred to as third party real estate websites.  These websites can get value pretty close in aggregate (i.e., the entire market).  So sometimes it will be close.  Occasionally right on the money.  But that is because it is guessing the home is in average condition to all the other homes around.

Truthfully, just like assessed value, no valuation of your home is likely to be accurate without seeing the condition of the inside, which third party real estate websites obviously don’t.

These websites can create a false sense of hope and lead to frustration.  A home seller who is told their home is worth $20,000 less than the online estimate is going to be understandably upset.  It’s critical that when selling a home, the value is determined by a real person, who has seen the property.

  1. What happens if I’m not happy and want to cancel the listing agreement with my agent?

If you are unsatisfied with your agent’s marketing, you can ask them to cancel the contract.  Some agents will not – I will.  If you are unhappy with my service, you deserve to find someone who you are happy with.  Consider this first though – is it possible you are unhappy because you are not getting the price you want?  If so, possibly the agent is less the issue than the expectations.  If it is something else though, you are well within your rights to discuss it, and even ask to get out of the listing agreement.  If you do, generally speaking, if you decide to cancel the listing agreement, you could possibly be responsible for any expenses incurred by the real estate agent and their brokerage.  I will try to avoid that outcome, and never has a client asked to be released from their listing agreement from me.  I like to think that is because I try very hard to please my clients and get great results, but maybe I am just lucky too!

  1. How do I respond to low ball offers?

When selling a home, it’s best to think of any decision as a business decision rather than an emotional one.  Low ball offers still happen, unfortunately. Dealing well with lowballs can sometimes lead to the sale of a home, if handled properly.  The worse decision you can make if you receive a low ball offer is not responding.  Some homeowners are so upset they decide they do not want to respond to a low ball offer, which ultimately ends any potential chance for a deal.  A counter offer, even if it’s close to the list price, is better than letting a potential buyer walk!

  1. What are seller concessions?

Depending on what type of financing the potential purchaser is obtaining, the option to receive seller concessions may or may not exist.  There are many home buyer’s in the marketplace with impeccable credit scores and solid jobs but are short on the money required to purchase a home.  Seller concessions allow a homeowner to contribute a percentage or dollar amount towards a buyer’s closing costs and/or pre-paid items.  For example, a buyer who qualifies for an FHA mortgage can receive up to 6% of the purchase price towards their closing costs.  This can be a significant amount of money and can be the difference of a buyer being able to afford a home or not or the seller being able to sell their home!  Sellers sometimes balk at giving closing costs, but consider this – it is all the same to the seller if they sell their home for $105k and give $5k in closing costs to the buyer, as it is to sell for $100k.  The seller gets $100k either way.

  1. What are the common closing expenses for home sellers?

Typical closing expenses for home sellers include the abstract and title search, instrument survey, real estate commissions, and transfer taxes.  Real estate commissions vary, but will likely be the biggest chunk of costs by far.  Consider also repair costs, both before being on market, and after the inspection (which isn’t a given, but does happen quite a bit).

  1. Will you be holding open houses?

Believe it or not, open houses are a fairly controversial topic in the real estate industry.  Some Realtors will convince a seller that they will get their home sold because they hold it open every weekend.  Unfortunately, these same Realtors are not being honest with the seller.  The truth is, open houses are not held to sell the home.

The primary reason a Realtor will convince a seller that open houses are necessary is because they are hoping to pick up additional buyers who don’t yet have an agent.  The percentage of homes that sell due to an open house is less than 3%.  That 3% may be an important margin to you, or possibly you don’t want the hassle of it.  Ask the Realtor what their thoughts on open houses are and make sure you’re comfortable with their response.  It’s important you’re on the same page as the Realtor when it comes to open houses.

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