How to Sell Your House Fast: 5 Must-Know Tips to Move Your Property

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If you need to sell your house fast, you probably don’t have a whole lot of time to research the current real estate market and ponder how it’ll affect your home sale. You just want sales guidance from a real estate agent (here’s how to find a real estate agent in your area) or other pro that will help you find a buyer as fast as possible.

Well, here’s the good news: It is possible for you, as a seller, to offload your home quickly. The experts say selling comes down to a few key to-do’s that you should take care of before your property hits the market.

If you’re ready to unload your abode, heed the selling advice of the experts below. Of course, we can’t guarantee all homeowners a quick sale, but putting these tips into practice definitely won’t hurt the chances of securing a buyer.

1. Tidy up to make your house stand out (and sell!)

If you’re looking to sell quickly, you’re going to want to start cleaning, especially before those listing photos are taken by your Realtor®.

“Pristine houses from sellers are more attractive to a buyer, which will keep the buyer excited,” says Debi Benoit, principal and broker at Benoit Mizner Simon & Co. Real Estate in Wellesley, MA. “And an excited buyer may pay top dollar to the seller and will usually write an offer quickly.”

Fast selling means getting rid of clutter both inside the house and in the yard and putting some elbow grease into making everything look like a brand-new home (yup, you might need a storage unit for maximum curb appeal).

And selling fast means cleaning from top to bottom in every room of the house. Wipe down cabinets, light fixtures, and drawers, remove any scuffs from the walls, give all kitchen appliances a once-over, clean air vents, shampoo your carpets, and then sweep, vacuum, or mop every inch of the house.

It will take you several days of work to declutter, but the payoff (making a sale!) will be worth it for a potential buyer. Trust us—this is a major part of selling a home quickly.

2. Have your house staged to sell fast

Be the best seller you can be, and go extra mile beyond cleaning. To do this, consider having your house staged, a real estate term that means decorating your place so that it is more attractive to buyers.

“It’s best to present the home in its best light when you’re selling,” explains Nile Lundgren, an agent with Trent & Company in New York City. He once had a real estate listing—unstaged—on the market for five months without ever getting an offer to sell.

“We took it off the market, staged it, reshot photos, and put it back on the market,” he says. “Within two weeks, we got into a bidding war and signed a contract for a sale shortly thereafter.”

Real estate staging typically takes anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the availability of rental furniture, the movers, and the installers.

If you’re facing a major time crunch to sell, Lundgren suggests focusing on staging the beds, sofas, tables, chairs, and art—items that make a house feel like a well-maintained home where people can live and get comfortable.

3. Hire a photographer to take listing photos for a quick sale

It may feel like hiring a professional will be a waste of money. After all, your cellphone has a great camera, right? But that can be a sale killer, says Rosamaria Acuña, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties in La Jolla.

“First impressions are everything, and need to be done right,” she says. “A professional photographer has all the tools to capture the right lighting and make everything look brighter and inviting.” The pros also have wide-angle lenses to fit the entire room in the photo.

4. Selling quick means making your home available for showings

Once everything is set up, get ready to spend a lot of time away from your home so buyers and real estate agents can view the property comfortably—without you or your pets wandering around the halls. Selling fast is best done when homeowners aren’t there for an open house.

Remember: If you want to sell your home pronto, you need to be flexible and open with your time, to allow buyers and real estate agents to tour it as often as possible.

5. Attract a buyer with the right price

Staging and marketing your home are important components, but at the end of the day, the amount of money you’re asking buyers to pay could be what seals the deal.

“Nothing will help sell a poorly priced home—and a well-priced home can overcome many other issues,” says Aaron Hendon, a Realtor with Christine & Company in Seattle. “To sell your home fast, your house needs to be priced to compete with the others currently on the market.”

Your real estate agent will help you decide on the right listing price for your home by looking at a variety of factors: your house’s age, any updates, square footage, and the school district.

An agent will pull up comparable homes, or “comps,” that have sold in the area to evaluate the best sale price.

By Jeanne Sager

Outdated Mortgage Advice You Should Ignore Right Now

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Buying a house is one of the most exciting things you’ll ever do in your life — and signing the mortgage for that house will probably be one of the most terrifying.

Since navigating the home loan process can be scary to do alone, many people might be tempted to seek out guidance from someone who’s been there, done that. But you should probably ignore everything your Uncle Bob says. (Sorry, Bob!) And Aunt Sue, while we’re at it. They may mean well, but let’s face it, they haven’t taken out a mortgage in 20 years. In fact, even a friend or family member who got a mortgage last year might lead you far astray (in a well-meaning way, of course), since the rules of home financing really do change on a dime.

Our two cents? For starters, beware these dusty pearls of wisdom below. They might have worked wonders back in 2018, but they don’t necessarily work for everyone right now. Here’s why, as well as some fresher, tastier alternatives.

Get a mortgage with a fixed interest rate

You’ve probably always assumed you’d get a 30-year mortgage with a fixed interest rate. Your parents had one … and isn’t that the only way to get payments you can afford? These days, you have many more choices, and reasons to try them out.

“People aren’t buying their forever home right out of the gate anymore, so the benefits of a 30-year mortgage aren’t necessarily there,” says real estate agent Heather Carbone with the Heather Carbone Team at Big River Properties in Boston. She explains that many first-time home buyers are buying starter homes, and that they plan to move on to something bigger and better after a few years. “Going with a five- or seven-year adjustable rate mortgage [ARM] could potentially save them a couple of hundred dollars off their monthly payment and ease the monthly payment burden a little bit, as they will most likely sell their home before the rates adjust,” she says. Here’s more on the pros and cons of ARMs vs. fixed-rate mortgages.

Make a 20% down payment

When you’re trying to come up with a down payment on a house, 20% sounds like a huge amount. So how do people come up with that kind of cash? Most of the time, they don’t. At least not anymore.

“I meet with lots of young buyers who have been instilled by their parents and others that the only way to buy a house is with a large, 20% down payment,” says Carbone. “In today’s market, that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Provided the buyer has a solid credit score, down payments as low as 3.5% are very much a reality today.”

Real estate agent Melissa Rubenstein, with KW Village Square Realty in Ridgewood, NJ, agrees. “While 20% has traditionally been a benchmark for what is acceptable, this no longer holds true in the market, she says. “With FHA loans requiring around 3%, and other traditional loans offering 10% down options or lower, it makes sense to explore different products with your lender. Don’t miss out on historically low interest rates while trying to stash away cash.”

Wait for interest rates to drop

It seems like interest rates could always be better, but according to Bruce Ailion, real estate agent with Re/Max Town and Country in Atlanta, that might not be true at the moment.

“For 2019, we are likely at the end of the low interest cycle, and interest rates are at their lowest,” he explains. “Today is the time to buy, if interest rates are the determining factor.”

You can always wait for them to go lower, but you might be sorry if you do.

Meet with your lender in person

In the past, the only way to talk with a lender was to walk into a bank, which often meant taking time off work and rearranging your whole day. In 2019, things are getting easier.

“Times are changing, and visiting a bank branch to meet with a lending officer is not the only route to getting a mortgage. Now, you can apply for a mortgage online,” says Kathy Cummings, senior vice president of Homeownership Solutions and Affordable Housing Programs at Bank of America in Charlotte, NC. “Research shows that 32% of Americans are comfortable applying for a mortgage digitally.”

This doesn’t mean human contact is obsolete. “When you have questions that you want to speak to an expert about—in person or by telephone—you have the option,” Cummings says. Consider it the best of both worlds.

Pay off your mortgage as fast as you can

If you have a 30-year mortgage, chances are you have a dream to pay it off in at least 20. Not only will it give you an extra 10 years without a monthly payment, but it’ll save you tons of money in interest. Right?

Not really. Jeff Chervenak, president of Guaranty Federal in Bloomfield, CT, says that’s not necessary anymore—and it probably won’t save you much money.

“Paying off your mortgage as a goal is as much emotional as financial. Because interest rates are, even now, so low, consider saving and investing with the money you would use to pay down your loan separately,” he explains. “Liquidity has a lot of value, and you could always use the lump sum accumulated to pay it down or off any time you wish.”

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, mortgages today are very different from they were just a few years ago. Do your homework before you make any decisions, and check with an expert you trust before you sign on the dotted line.

6 Surprisingly Petty Issues That Can Sabotage a Home Sale

These petty issues could sabotage a home sale.

Selling a home can be a long, time-consuming process, especially if the seller and potential buyers butt heads. Sometimes, the issues behind a deal-making deadlock are legitimately big. Other times, they simply aren’t. Here, we talk to agents about some of the most petty issues that can sabotage a home sale.

Missing cover plates

When you’ve lived in a house for a long time, sometimes little things go missing that are easy to forget about, especially when those little things are in rooms that aren’t used a ton. For people seeing a house with fresh, about-to-plunk-down-a-bunch-of-money eyes, however, these little things can seem significant.

“One of the funniest—and most annoying—requests I get is for sellers to replace missing cover plates on light switches and outlets,” Amy Berglund, a real estate agent with Re/Max Professionals City Properties in Denver, CO, says. “Usually they’re missing in places such as laundry rooms and basements—think places that aren’t used that much. It is an incredibly affordable fix.”

While this fix is cheap and easy for sellers, Berglund also cautions buyers not to let such matters stand in the way of a purchase.

“Despite what your overzealous inspector tells you, you are not going to die from electrocution because of a missing cover plate!” she says.

Missing blinds

Jen Horner, a real estate agent with Re/Max Masters in Salt Lake City, says that one all too common issue she’s encountered involves what she calls “the case of the missing blinds.” The caper goes like this: A buyer sees a house and falls in love. Between the offer and the final walk-through, however, the sellers finish moving out and, to them, that includes the blinds, rods, and/or drapes. In Horner’s experience, this can spell trouble. Big trouble!

“When looking at a property, buyers incorporate window dressings into their overall impression of the house. It’s part of the all-important connection,” she says. “And if they are not clearly excluded in the contract, window dressings belong to the home. Most of the time, the seller will agree to replace or reimburse the missing items. But if a seller refuses, we’ve seen it become a contentious issue that threatens the entire deal—even though you’ve made it to the walk-through.”

Dead lightbulbs and batteries

Berglund says another common request sellers should be prepared for is to replace light bulbs and smoke detector batteries. These might seem inconsequential, but they help make a home feel move-in ready in a really basic way. Refusing to replace them can be a petty (and unnecessary) way to kill a sale.

Weird odors, jiggly handles, and other small details

Horner stresses that tiny, seemingly inconsequential issues can often be the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity. Since sellers have often lived in a house for years, it’s easy for these small details to fade from their awareness.

“Sellers should also understand the keys to making a good first impression with potential buyers,” she says. “To start with, most sellers have lived in their home for many years and no longer have a first impression. While the seller may have grown accustomed to the litter box odor, the jiggling handle on the back-sliding door, or the mismatched paint in parts of the house, prospective buyers do not want to encounter these things. In aggregate they will kill further interest from buyers.”

Creaky floors

Due diligence is vital when buying a home, but Berglund says that especially when it comes to older homes, it’s important to be realistic. She cites floors in vintage homes that are not level as a prime example of this kind of misguided quest for perfection among some prospective buyers.”I would be creaky and un-level if I was 110 years old as well!” she says.

She notes that not all of these concerns stem from prospective buyers themselves and that sometimes, home inspectors can contribute to the potential for pettiness, especially states that don’t require licensing for inspectors.

“The bottom line is that inspection is intended for major health and safety concerns only—roof, sewer line, foundation problems,” Berglund says. “If you love the house, particularly if it’s a vintage home, talk with your agent about what constitutes a reasonable inspection objection, and don’t create problems where there aren’t any. Also, find a great home inspector! So many of these problems are created by subpar inspectors. In Colorado, home inspectors don’t need a license, so there are a lot of charlatans running around here! Be savvy, rely on your agent, and do your own homework on inspectors.”

Small freebies

Sometimes potential buyers might have their heart set on something that’s not really a part of the house that’s being sold. Horner recalls one memorable incident in which a $100 foosball table was the cherry on top that closed a deal—and threatened to kill it.

“During a 2017 sale of a $1.2M home in Utah, and after months of negotiations, the deal literally came down to a last-minute ask for a foosball table worth about one hundred bucks,” she explains. “Through some professional real estate therapy on both sides, we were able to avoid this final barrier and close on the property. Most importantly, both the buyer and seller were pleased with the outcome.”

While the foosball table might seem like a bizarre example, Horner says these small issues come up time and again and come down to the psychology of the sales process.

“Oftentimes, completing an agreement between a buyer and seller will come down to a seemingly very small term in the contract or ask,” she says. “These types of issues, which might seem petty on the surface, are oftentimes rooted in buyers or sellers psychologically wanting to feel like they got a final win before the deal closes. Successfully navigating these last-minute complications is what good real estate agents do. Good real estate agents are also therapists, and need to consistently aim for mutual assent between the parties.”

5 Unwritten Etiquette Rules Home Buyers Might Not Even Realize Are a Big Deal

Knowing a handful of etiquette rules makes the home-buying process go smoothly.

If you’re looking to buy a house, you’re probably eager and excited. That’s fine, but just keep in mind that in this heightened emotional state, it’s easy to get swept up in the moment and behave, well, not perfectly.

This can lead to trouble since, just like anything else, buying a home comes with its own set of rules. Some may be fairly obvious, since they’re outlined in all that real estate paperwork you’ll soon be signing. But some of these rules are the unwritten, etiquette-based kind. And if you break ’em, it could still stop a real estate deal in its tracks.

Worried you might not be aware of all the things you might do that could inadvertently rub home sellers or real estate agents the wrong way? Then heed these five etiquette rules that many home buyers might all too easily overlook.

Rule 1: See a house online you love? Don’t call the listing agent

When you’re looking for a house and find a place that looks like it could be The One, it can be tempting to jump the gun and call the listing agent immediately. But stop right there.

The reason? The proper channels of communication dictate that you should ask your own buyer’s agent to reach out to the listing agent, who will, in turn, let the home sellers know of your interest. We know it sounds like a long game of telephone, but it’s necessary for a number of reasons. Namely, it means both buyer and seller have an agent looking out for their distinct interests, facilitating the deal.

“You’re not going to get a better deal by going directly to the listing agent,” explains Matt Van Winkle, owner of Re/Max Northwest Realtors, in Seattle. “They represent the seller and are just trying to get the seller the best price.”

There is a caveat to this rule, says Kerron Stokes, a real estate agent with Re/Max Leaders, in Colorado: “If you are not represented and if you do not have an agent, then feel free to call the seller’s agent,” Stokes says. “But if you are a buyer, you should get an agent, as they can best represent your interests.”

Rule 2: Don’t ask your agent to show you homes until you sign a buyer-broker agreement

We get it, signing legal documents is scary. But here’s the thing: If you’re not ready to commit to your real estate agent, you’re not ready to get serious about buying a home.

“Be prepared to sign a buyer’s agreement so that your buyer’s agent knows you are serious and ready to go,” Stokes says. “From a consumer protection standpoint, it’s a very good thing for all involved.”

A buyer-broker agreement is a legal contract that defines the relationship between the buyer (that’s you) and your real estate agent. The agreement is good for both parties, since it outlines exactly what services the broker is going to provide. A buyer-broker agreement is also a way to let your real estate agent know that you’re committed to working with this pro to find your home.

And, if the relationship doesn’t end up working out, you can always end the agreement and find another agent to work with. It’s poor etiquette to work with more than one real estate agent at a time, and the buyer-broker agreement shows your agent that you’re not doing that.

“Remember that buyer’s agents are only paid if they close a deal—they aren’t paid for their time,” Van Winkle says. As such, “it’s wrong to call another agent just because yours is unavailable or on vacation.”

Rule 3: Don’t make an offer without mortgage pre-approval

mortgage pre-approval is a letter from a lender saying it will provide you with financing to buy a home up to a certain loan amount. It makes everyone’s lives easier since it provides proof of how much home you can afford to buyers and agents—and that you can put your money where your mouth is with an offer. Without it, your offer is an empty promise.

“If you want to compete against other buyers for a home, you won’t be able to do that without that pre-approval letter,” says Bill Golden, a longtime real estate agent with Re/Max Metro Atlanta Cityside.

Rule 4: Don’t be late to home showings—or bail entirely

If you have an appointment with your agent to view a home, treat it like a priority. If you’re going to be late or can’t make it, call your agent and let him know.

“If you don’t respect my time, then we don’t have a good working relationship,” Golden says. “Usually, I will have set up appointments to see several homes, and if you’re late or don’t show, I have to try to rearrange all of the showings, which may not be possible on short notice.”

Rule 5: Don’t pretend you’re ready to buy if you know you’re really not

This one might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s such a big part of real estate etiquette it’s worth driving home: Don’t pretend that you’re ready to buy if you aren’t. Don’t enlist the services of a buyer’s agent if you know you’re still in the fact-finding and “just looking” phase of your home search.

So go to open houses. Window-shop. Just be upfront with everyone about where you are in the process. Don’t pretend you’re ready to buy just because you want to be taken seriously. Real estate agents work on commission, so don’t wantonly take their attention away from actual, paying clients and potentially costing them sales, which is a serious thing. Got it?

2019: The Year in Real Estate, and Beyond

As we look forward to ringing in the new year, we’re also looking back at 2019—and the most incredible stories we published about cool homes, crazy real estate trends, and insightful advice.

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Buying, owning, and selling a home can sometimes feel like an emotional roller coaster. There are new processes to navigate and seemingly endless roadblocks to overcome. It’s only natural that you have questions and seek advice along the way. And we’re here to help!

All year long, realtor.com offers detailed advice and guidance to help you navigate just about any real estate topic that you could encounter—from home buying to refinancing to getting ready for a sale and beyond.

Want a refresher? Here’s a look back at eight of our most-read advice pieces of 2019. Click the headlines below to become a more knowledgeable homeowner now and in 2020!

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How to Test-Drive a Neighborhood Before You Buy the House

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Would you buy a car without giving it a test drive? Probably not. A test drive helps you understand what it would really be like to own, live with, and use a car, giving you the opportunity to notice subtle details that you can experience only by taking it for a spin. After all, this is a sizable investment.

And buying a home is an even bigger commitment. After all, you’re not just buying the property itself, but a new life in terms of your community, your commute, the local restaurants, you name it.  

The good news is, moving to a new place doesn’t need to be a completely blind leap of faith. This is why I always encourage my clients to take the neighborhood for a little test drive first. Here’s how.

Live like a local

The first step of this process is to spend some time in the area—ideally by booking an Airbnb listing as close as possible to the property. Sure, this isn’t free, but the peace of mind this can give you about an area is worth the investment.

Try to book for at least three days, preferably Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. In doing so, you’ll be able to see what the neighborhood is like on both weekdays and weekends.

From there, spend some time exploring the neighborhood during the morning, afternoon, and evening to gauge noise levels and safety in the area.

To get unfiltered, real-time crime updates on your area, check out the Citizen app, which provides crowdsourced crime reports.

One former client of mine, Gray Hoffman, decided to take my advice and test-drive San Francisco’s Polk Street.

“We had previously visited the property several times during weekday afternoons. On paper, we felt it could make a great home and solid investment,” he recalls. “We booked a studio apartment nearby for a weekend and quickly realized that the raucous weekend partygoers, while fun at first, would probably become disruptive.”

Hoffman didn’t buy the house. He also found the experience of test driving so insightful, he now recommends it to friends and clients.

Run through your daily routine—and commute

In addition to noise and crime levels in the area, you’ll want to get a sense of your daily commute to and from work, shopping routine for groceries, and other errands. Make sure to use the mode of transportation you’ll be using, whether that’s a car, bike, bus, or otherwise.

Another former client of mine, Maddie West, thinks test-driving your commute is particularly important if you’re commuting between suburbs and city.

San Francisco is an awesome city, but some parts can definitely be sketchy,” West says. “I often leave work late at night and, as a woman, there are definitely certain public transport stops I’d prefer to not use. It’s better to learn these kinds of things sooner rather than later.” 

Sample the nightlife

Happy hours and weekend festivities are a common part of building a social life. As such, you should spend at least one night going out where you coordinate with friends to grab dinner or even head out bar hopping. Your goal should be to see as many venues as you possibly can, to get a sense of the ambiance and demographics of the local nightlife and social scene.

My friend Elen Gales, for instance, has lived in cities as diverse as Manila, Jakarta, Kathmandu, Colombo, Sacramento, and San Francisco. As such, she’s my resident expert on how to size up and quickly integrate into a city’s social scene.

“You should go out a few times with several different groups of friends—it’s particularly helpful if they have different perspectives and lifestyles from each other,” she says. “It’s important to get unfiltered feedback from your friends about the area—after all, they’ll be visiting you there!”

Make sure to make it clear to your friends that you haven’t decided whether you’ll buy just yet, since, as Gales adds, “Your friends will be more comfortable giving you their honest opinions if they know that you haven’t made a commitment on the place yet. And the perspectives you’ll gain will be valuable.”

By: Tim McMullen: Tim is a luxury real estate agent, founder of Condo Weekly, and a former sales executive for the Four Seasons Private Residences, San Francisco.