3 Essential Tips for First-Time Home Sellers

By: Dana Gain

3 Essential Tips for First-Time Home Sellers

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Going through the home selling process for the first time can be intimidating. You want to be sure you know what your home is worth. You want to know that you have capable help in the form of an experienced REALTOR®. Just as important, you want the entire process to run smoothly.

Here are three essential tips to assist the first-time home seller navigate the process.
Essential Tip #1: Depersonalize
When a potential buyer views your home, your goal is to make it as easy as possible for them to imagine living there. 
For this reason, your first step will be to depersonalize the home. If the house is a loud reminder that it already belongs to someone else, it will be more difficult for a potential buyer to imagine themselves there. 
Eliminate anything in the house that appears to be personal. Consider starting by packing away the photographs and diplomas on the walls. You can replace the remaining empty spaces with inexpensive, generic-looking artwork. 

Remember to remove everything that may be attached to the front of the refrigerator, like photos and magnets.
In the bedrooms, put away all items sitting atop the bedside tables and bureaus. Reading glasses, water tumblers, jewelry, and so on. 
Similarly in the bathrooms. If an item currently lives on top of the counter, try to find a place where you can store it during showings but easily put it back later. We like small wicker baskets for this. You can keep most everything in these baskets and then put them in the cupboard when it’s time for a showing.

If you have a home office that’s in regular use, put away any paperwork and pens from the top of the desk. If during a showing your home office looks like someone was there five minutes ago and just stepped away for a moment, potential buyers may feel like they’ve intruded on your space. 
Essential Tip #2: Declutter
Most buyers will tell you that they prefer open spaces when they are choosing a home. Houses that feel open and easy to move around in are ideal for this. As such, an important goal for readying your house for sale is to remove anything in the home that gets in the way of smoothly moving through the space.
You can start by removing anything from the floor that does not permanently live there. Storage boxes or bins can be moved into a basement or garage. Shoes should be in a closet or on a shoe rack.

Next, review the placement of your furniture. Does the sectional in the living room block any areas of the house that are important, like the kitchen? If so, try to find another place for the sectional or simply sell it in favour of a smaller one. A small investment like this can have a big impact on a buyer.
We have seen many townhouses, for example, that have very large, chunky pieces of furniture in the main living area directly across from the kitchen. It’s difficult to require a potential buyer to envision a home without the furniture that’s right in front of them, so it’s incumbent on a home seller to set the stage as well as possible before buyers arrive.

The most common challenge we hear from home sellers is “But this is my house! I live here!” Selling a home is an emotional journey as much as a financial one, and it may take a little time to wrap your head around the idea that selling the house means you will no longer live there. 
Don’t be afraid to take the time you need to work through this. It’s an important point because the better job a home seller does of emotionally detaching from the home before it goes on the market, the easier the actual selling process becomes.
One final point on decluttering. The longer you have lived in the home, the bigger this task will be. One home seller we worked with commented on how surprised she was at how much junk she had collected over the nearly two decades she owned the home. 

If you have lived in the house for more than a few years, consider how long it may take you to work through the decluttering process before deciding on your listing date. 
A good benchmark is to allow one week of organizing for every 5 years you have lived in the home. If you have owned the property for 20 years, for example, plan on at least four weeks of decluttering before you list the home. 
Essential Tip #3: Plan Your Closing Date
With the real estate market moving at breakneck speed, even during the slower fall months, it’s important for home sellers to consider the full moving spectrum. This means having a good idea of where you are going next, and when.

As the housing shortage continues to drive the market, home sellers are likely to divest quickly. Priced correctly, your home will sell in a matter of days. One important consideration during the selling negotiation will be, what date would you like to close on the property?

In order to know the answer to this – better still, to be able to leverage it in the negotiation – you should know which date you prefer. Closing farther down the road means you can take more time to find the next home; closing earlier means the money comes sooner.
In the current market, consider allowing a longer timeframe for your closing to provide you with sufficient time to organize. If you prefer to close earlier, ensure you have a plan in place around where you will store your household belongings if you don’t already have a property lined up.
Time is money. If you know your closing date before going into a negotiation, you can leverage this information. 

One home seller we worked with hoped to close in 30 days, while the buyers were requesting a closing four months away. They were a full three months apart in their ideal completion date. The home seller’s position was that they had legitimate carrying costs for the property for those additional 3 months. In the end they agreed to the later closing date provided the buyers would increase the selling price to offset the additional carrying costs.
There are a lot of moving parts involved in selling a home. But if you can manage the three essentials outlined here, you will be well on your way to achieving the price you want for your home.***

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