PUTTING YOUR HOUSE ON THE MARKET
The first step toward putting your house up for sale is to meet with a real estate Sales Associate at your home. This is what we call the "listing appointment."
But beforehand, it's important to understand "who's who" and how brokers may cooperate to sell your house.
LISTING BROKER OR LISTING AGENT
An individual real estate broker whom the seller hires to represent the seller through a contract called a "listing agreement." The listing agent (Sales Associate) is associated with the listing broker (the real estate company). The listing broker is directly paid the listing commission and then splits the commission with the listing agent. (Although the broker and agent may be two different individuals, the term "broker" is used for simplicity.)
SELLING BROKER OR SELLING AGENT
In a "cooperative" sale, the house is listed by one broker and a buyer is provided by another broker. The selling broker receives the selling side of the commission. If the listing broker also produces the buyer, then the listing broker receives both listing and selling sides of the commission. A selling broker may have a signed buyer representation agreement with a buyer and, therefore, represent the buyer and not the seller. If the buyer's agent is a Long & Foster Sales Associate, Long & Foster becomes a disclosed dual agent with the consent of both buyer and seller.
A LITTLE HOMEWORK
Before the listing appointment, both the home seller and the listing broker are busy. While the home seller collects a list of documents requested by the broker, the listing broker studies recent neighborhood sales of homes comparable to yours, and also comparable homes currently for sale.
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
At the listing appointment, the listing broker will want to inspect the house and yard to become familiar with its special features.
You have probably enjoyed living in your home and have been pleased with its many unique features. Your listing broker will want to tell prospective buyers about the special features of your home and neighborhood. Be ready to be specific about schools, day-care, nearby public transportation, and other desirable community features, as well as home features not readily apparent.
Remember, prospective buyers will be "comparison shopping" and keenly aware of subtle differences in houses for sale in the area. Be sure to tell your listing broker why yours is special - from any home remodeling to afternoon winter sunshine.
DEMAND SETS PRICE
After conferring with the listing broker on market conditions and comparable nearby sales and listings, the home seller will set the listing or "asking" price for the house.
A common definition of market value is: "What a ready, willing and able buyer will pay, at a price a seller will accept." Buyers are sophisticated. They've already been shopping, and when they see your home, they'll be comparing features and financing.
There's a rule of thumb that says: "A house priced more than 5% over market value discourages offers." Buyers who can afford the price can get "more house" for their money elsewhere. Buyers who cannot afford the price simply won't look. This is why we say, "A house priced right is half sold."
A fair market value will be determined by comparing the property with similar properties which have recently sold and (in some cases) with similar properties currently on the market. Experience in the industry has proven this "market analysis" approach is more accurate than the "replacement cost" or "potential rental income" methods.
SAMPLE "NET SHEET"
Based on the sales price, the listing broker will go through a worksheet that estimates the "net cash" from the sale. Simply, this exercise subtracts anticipated charges paid by the seller from the sales price. A copy of the "net sheet" is left with the home seller.
No sale can be completed without financing. That is why it is generally to the home seller's advantage to appeal to the greatest number of home buyers by accepting the greatest range of financing plans. The listing broker will explain the basic differences between VA (Veterans Administration), FHA (Federal Housing Administration) and conventional financing, as well as explain "discount points."
WHAT IS A POINT?
A point is one percent of the amount of the buyer's mortgage loan. For example, if a loan is $300,000, one point is $3,000. Lenders charge points to increase the yield on their loans. On all loans, the home buyer and home seller may share the charges by mutual agreement.
PROPERTY PROFILE FOLDER
To enable the listing broker to prepare a folder of information on the property, the home seller needs to provide a number of documents and information specific to the location and jurisdiction. Because the list is long, you can understand why it's best to collect the papers before the listing appointment. These materials may include:
Pay Off Notice. A letter signed by the home seller and mailed to the lender by the listing broker to notify the lender of the intention to pay off the mortgage in order to minimize prepayment of interest penalties to the seller. The home seller should provide the broker with the lender's address, loan balance, assumability, years remaining on present mortgage, P.I.T.I. and the interest rate, if possible.
Well and Septic Inspection. If the property is on septic/well, current inspections by local health authorities are required while the home is occupied. The listing broker will usually arrange for the inspection after the contract is ratified.
Order Lender Appraisal. Lenders usually require an appraisal to ensure that the property is adequate collateral for a loan. A lender will usually insist on ordering its own appraisal for this purpose.
Assessments/Easements. The listing broker will ask the home seller if any tax assessments or easements exist on property that must be paid or included in the purchase contract and passed with the land when sold.
Property Taxes/Condominium Fees. The home seller provides a record of property tax or condominium fee payments which the buyer will reimburse a pro-rata share to the home seller at settlement.
Inspections. VA/FHA and most lenders of new mortgages require a termite inspection certificate that shows the house is free of infestation. If the home seller does not have a current certificate, then the listing or selling broker (depending on area) will arrange inspection at home seller's expense.
Sometimes a home inspection and radon testing will be ordered. The home seller should also provide all information as to the physical condition of the property, such as the presence of fire retardant plywood.
Utilities. The home seller should provide a record of the past 12 months' utility bills, including gas, electric, sewer, water, and trash where applicable. Most buyers will want to know history of utility costs.
Helpful Documents. If possible, the home seller should provide the listing broker with the deed, house location survey, condominium bylaws or homeowners association documents, subdivision plat map, house floor plan, previous title search abstracts, legal description of property (subdivision, section, and lot), home warranties on major systems if still in effect, and a copy of the homeowner's insurance policy for endorsement in the purchase contract.
In anticipation of a buyer's offer, the home seller must be ready to supply the listing broker with a specific list of the personal property that is included in the real estate property for sale. Examples of items to "convey" may include: draperies, drapery rods, remaining heating oil, firewood, washer, dryer, refrigerator, stove, microwave, disposal, swimming pool chemicals, awnings, storm doors and windows, screens, venetian blinds, shutters, window air conditioner, etc. The home seller should tag or remove items which do not convey.
When the home seller is ready to put the house on the market, a listing agreement is filled out, indication a specific period of time the agreement is in effect ("listing period"), and signed by the seller. You've now hired a listing broker and listing agent.
LEAVE THE SELLING TO US
While the home seller is actively getting the house ready to show, the listing broker is actively spreading the word that the property is available. Generally speaking, the listing is promoted to two groups: the real estate community and the buying public.
Many home sellers are surprised to learn that approximately 56% of all buyers come from referrals between brokers and their vast network of contacts. Approximately 17% of buyers come from inquiries stimulated by "for sale" signs in yards. The remaining 27% of buyers come from a combination of the real estate company's reputation and image, open houses, and advertising or other promotional efforts. Obviously, the most productive source of buyers is working closely with other brokers, and this is where your listing broker begins.
The listing broker enters a profile of your house in the Multiple Listing Service computer. This profile includes everything from location and price, to available financing and number of baths, from house style and heating system to special features and showing instructions. Now your house description is instantly available to the entire MLS membership. (MLS is a membership service available exclusively to brokers belonging to the Board/Association of REALTORS®.)
In addition, your listing broker announces the listing at regular office sales meetings, and points out noteworthy features. At Long & Foster, the listing office, as well as other Long & Foster offices, may "tour" the property. In addition, other real estate companies may also ask to tour your home.
The yard sign provides additional exposure to the neighborhood and prospects touring the area. Signs often create high-quality inquiries because prospects like the area and the house and want to get a closer look inside. Your home, as well as homes similar to yours, will be advertised from time to time in major metropolitan and community newspapers and on the Internet for mass reach. Direct mail cards are used to target specific neighborhoods.
Long & Foster also advertises nationally and internationally for potential relocation buyers for your home in military and foreign service publications.
Our entire Relocation Division receives over 10,000 leads annually, largely from broker referrals and corporate transferees.
WHEN IT'S "SHOW TIME"
With all this activity, your listing broker and other selling brokers will be bringing prospective brokers to see your house. Brokers will make an appointment with the home seller, and will give you as much advance notice as possible. That will give you time to tidy up, make beds, light dark areas, perhaps pop something in the oven, like a spicy cake, pie, bread, or even a pan of cinnamon. Make every effort to accept all appointments - you never know when your buyer will walk through the front door. Also, have the property brochure available with utility bills, MLS profile, house location survey, etc.
IF YOU'RE HOME
If you're home, greet the prospects at the door and politely excuse yourself and leave the selling to us. (Perhaps check the baking or take the dog for a walk.)
Buying a home may be the largest single purchase a family will make in a lifetime. It is a serious matter for them; therefore, too many distractions could spoil the sale. We have found over the years that a number of pointers make things a little easier for your Sales Associate and the buyers:
Too many people present during the inspection may make the potential buyer feel like an intruder, which makes it difficult for selling broker and buyer to be at ease.
It's better that you and your children busy yourselves in one part of the house or outside, rather than tagging along. The broker knows the buyer's desires and can better emphasize your home's features.
Quiet is the ideal environment. Noise is distracting, so don't have the radio or TV on - the broker and the buyer need to hear each other!
It's better to keep pets out of the house. Buyers may be timid around an unfamiliar animal.
Chatting with a potential buyer may dilute the broker's ability to present your home's features in the best light. If asked a question, respond honestly, but diplomatically refer questions to the broker.
The lived-in appearance makes it a home. There's no need to apologize for its appearance. Let the trained broker answer any objections.
Many a sale has been lost by trying to dispose of furniture and furnishings to the potential buyer. Wait until after the sale is made.
Your listing broker is most qualified to bring negotiations to a favorable conclusion.
Do not discuss price, terms, possession, or other factors with the potential buyer.
IF YOU'RE NOT HOME
Have the house ready and enclose pets in the basement, garage, or back yard. Selling brokers may leave their business cards or register at the listing broker's office, depending on local custom. Be sure to keep any cards and give them to your listing broker as soon as possible for follow-up. When an open house is scheduled, plan to be away for the afternoon. Make the house accessible to the listing broker and be sure to leave word on how to contact you.
SELLER AND BROKER TEAM
During the listing period, the listing broker will periodically update the home seller on the mortgage market, new competitive listings and sales in the area, and progress in selling the home. The feedback between broker and seller is vital to exchange selling suggestions and maintain maximum marketability. The listing broker will follow up with the other selling brokers and provide feedback to the home seller. This mutual teamwork becomes especially important later when negotiating offers to purchase.
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