The California Association of Realtors’ chief economist, Leslie Appleton Young, predicts the state’s real estate market will slow a little this year, mostly due to lack of inventory, but that home prices will rise another 4.2 percent.
If you plan to sell your home or investment property this year, here are few things you might want to do before putting it on the market:
1. Find the right Realtor
Maybe you already have an agent you know and trust.
If not, friends, family and neighbors who have recently sold or purchased homes can be a great source of referrals. Ask about their experiences and if they would recommend their agent.
Professionals in related fields, such as mortgage specialists, attorneys and contractors, often know most of the local agents.
Stop by open houses and meet Realtors -- be aware the agent holding the property open is not necessarily the listing agent.
You can check out an agent’s history through the California Bureau of Real Estate’s website, www.bre.ca.gov/licensees.
Interview before you hire. Agents have individual styles and varying levels of experience, and may offer more or fewer services. It’s not all about commission.
You’ll want an agent who tells you honestly what you need to hear about pricing and changes you may need to make to the property. The agent who proposes an unrealistic asking price in order to win your business is probably not the best agent for you.
Once you find a great Realtor, keep him or her in the loop about any changes in your plans, potential problems that arise with the home or neighborhood, and questions you have about the process.
2. Create a timetable
While many homes sell quickly these days, most homeowners spend weeks preparing their property before it ever goes on the market.
And while cash buyers may be able to close a transaction in 7-10 days, most buyers need time to complete inspections and appraisals, and secure a mortgage. That means 25-45 days from acceptance of an offer to close.
And if the buyer’s offer is contingent on the sale of another property, or if unexpected setbacks arise, it could take a lot longer.
Smart sellers stay open to all kinds of buyers bringing all kinds of offers. Sometimes, the buyer who requires 45 days to close makes a stronger offer than the all-cash buyer. Rushing a sale could cost you tens of thousands of dollars.
If you are hoping to move in the spring, you’ll need to be on the market soon. If you don’t want to move until later in the year, you probably have a bit more time to get things in order.
And if you are purchasing a replacement home, should you sell first or buy first? That depends on a lot of factors. Your Realtor can help map out a strategy that makes sense for your circumstances.
3. Show the property to its best advantage
Preparing your house and yard can help it sell quickly and for top dollar.
Start by decluttering. Potential buyers should be able to imagine their photographs on the walls, their trophies and collectibles on the shelves, their hobbies filling the rooms. But they can’t if yours are everywhere.
Do the extra stuff: Wash windows inside and out. Buff cabinets and wood trim with a good wood-care product. Clear out the junk that’s piled up in the side yard.
Deep clean carpets and rugs. Weed the garden. Replace burned-out light bulbs.
You may want to schedule a professional cleaning service to come before the home goes on the market.
Make all those repairs you intended to get to “someday”: tighten loose faucets, replace ripped screens, repair broken sprinkler heads.
Lock up valuables such as jewelry, cash, collectable coins and stamps, and firearms. Hide medications or keep them with you when you leave the house.
You may even want to order inspections and have necessary repairs completed before putting the home on the market.
A lot of sellers think they need to totally upgrade their property before putting it on the market. But upgrades can cost far more than they will net. A fresh coat of paint in a neutral shade, however, can do wonders.
“Staging” used to be the secret to selling high-end properties. Now, most buyers expect the homes they look at to have been professionally staged. Some Realtors include staging as part of their service. Most can refer you to a good stager. Unless your property is a true fixer upper, hiring a good stager is probably an investment worth making.
4. Gather your documentation
Mortgage documents, lease agreements, receipts for landscaping and home improvement, HOA documents.
If the property is in a trust, you will need a copy of the trust documents. If you are successor trustee, ask the attorney for an affidavit indicating you have the right to sell the property. If the home is in probate, you will need permission from the probate court to sell.
If you are married, even if your spouse is not on title, you likely will need his or her written acknowledgement of the sale.
If there are loans, liens or leases on the property, those will have to be cleared before closing on a transaction.
Some solar leases, for example, must be paid off; others can be transferred to a qualified buyer. IRS liens usually take precedence over everything except the mortgage.
Usually the escrow officer can arrange for liens to be paid off with your proceeds from the sale. Having your paperwork in order prevents unnecessary delays.
Your agent will likely prepare a “Seller’s Net Sheet” outlining costs and how much you can expect from the sale, based on an estimated sales price. He or she can refine this once you have a purchase offer.
But you may also want to consult your tax advisor, especially if you have a lot of equity or have only lived in the home a short time.
If you are thinking about selling property in 2018, contact your local Realtor today.
Cher Wollard is a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties, Livermore.