Holy CRAP! I’m Selling My Home. NOW WHAT?
The Home-Selling Guidebook
Growing Ideas, LLC
© 2018 GROWING IDEAS, LLC.
Holy CRAP! I’m Selling My Home. NOW WHAT? The Home-Selling Guidebook
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 or under the terms of any license permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
Published by: Growing Ideas, LLC
Text design by: Rick Machle
Cover design by: Rick Machle
A CIP record for this book is available from the Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Growing Ideas, LLC
Dedicated to Sandy, Jazmine, Willa, Efis & Tosh who have made my house a home.
Table of Contents
Rick’s Rules to Sell By
For Sale by Owner? Or Hire an Agent?
Taking Your House to the Next Stage
Marketing to Set Your House Apart
Pricing It Right
Relax. Be Patient. Be Flexible.
The phone rings. You answer. You are being transferred out of town. Or that amazing home that you’ve been watching just came on the market. Or you realize that your home is way too big, and it is time to downsize. You think, Holy Crap! I’m selling my home. Now what?
If you do not want to read or even buy this book, you simply need to hire a great real estate agent who will handle most of what is included in the following pages. However, you may still want to read this book because there is a chapter to help locate a good agent. You will also learn what to expect from that agent or the skills that you will need were you to sell your home on your own. While your cousin or that person you met in line at the grocery store may be a good agent, are you going to risk your most valuable asset on a hunch that he or she truly is? This book will give you some tips on determining the skills necessary to sell your home yourself, how reputable an agent is, how to price your home correctly, how to get your home ready for sale, and the different marketing tools that either you or your agent may utilize to let everyone know what makes your home special.
What is described in this book are the tasks that I have observed the best agents perform for their sellers. These help them sell their homes faster and for more money. Armed with this information, you will be able to guide your agent if he or she is less familiar with the tools and tips that it describes.
I am not a real estate agent but instead I have been a real estate photographer for over fifteen years. I have spoken to over one thousand agents. Over this time, certain themes and advice have consistently emerged. This book will let you know some of their guidance in a few hours instead of fifteen years.
Good. You are still here. You must be looking to avoid some of the errors I and others have made. The last time that my wife and I sold our home was before I was in the real estate industry. We wondered if we should sell it ourselves, and if not, who should we hire to help sell it? What should we do to get our home ready? What can we expect? What was the right price for our home? How long should it take? These are questions you may also have. Most people sell their homes about every 7 to 10 years. Like everything else in this world, this industry is constantly changing. Even if you sold your home a decade ago, much has changed.
When my wife and I were selling our home in a suburb of Denver, Colorado, the real estate market at the time was very hot. It should have sold in weeks—maybe a month or two. For twenty years prior to that time, I had experience in marketing businesses (both large and small), hotels, and some of the most prestigious resorts in the United States. I had been a successful business owner, professional photographer, video producer, and website developer. What I didn’t know about was real estate. And of course, since I knew nothing about it, I made assumptions that turned out to be wrong.
When we were selling our home, I thought that every agent was the same as the next. I assumed that the agent would put my home in the multiple listing service or MLS. People see it. Someone buys it. Pretty simple right? Wrong. At the end of June that year, my wife and I went down to the small boutique real estate firm in the strip mall near our house, talked to an agent, and signed a listing agreement. I gave the agent the photographs. He did an open house, and that was it. It sat for months.
Did I mention it was a hot sellers’ market where there were many more buyers than sellers? Back then, we didn’t know much about pricing our home either. When it came to setting the price, we figured that since our neighbor had just sold, and because their house was smaller than ours, we should price ours higher than theirs—yet another mistake. While the market was hot, it was not quite as hot as when our neighbor sold their home. It turned out that we priced it too high.
After five months of little action and no offers, we decided to list with a different agent. Now it was late fall. Having not learned from our previous error, we didn’t research the new agent any more than we had the first one. We thought perhaps this new agent would be more motivated or more effective. She might even have a secret buyer. She would do something miraculous that would sell our home. She didn’t.
Before we listed our home in June, we had moved much of our furniture out of the home that we were selling into our new home. After going with the new agent, we thought that we’d take the remaining furniture out of our house. We thought that a buyer could see it as a blank slate, picturing their furniture in the home instead of ours. This was yet another mistake. I’m not sure why I thought that would be an effective strategy, as we had built our home after seeing a fully staged model. After eight months, we finally sold our house for about what our neighbors had sold theirs for. In hindsight, it appears that the only part of this process that we did correctly was to use the photographs that I had taken. The person who bought it, did so sight unseen, from the photos alone.
In summary, we chose the wrong agent twice, set the price incorrectly, took too long to reduce it, and removed all the furniture. Where was this book when we were selling our house? Well, now you can benefit from what I have learned.
Since that time, I have been creating websites, videos, 3-D tours, and photographing homes for real estate agents throughout Colorado. (RockinMedia.com) My company has taken photos of low-end “fixer uppers” all the way up to multimillion-dollar properties, including penthouse condos and some of the largest, most expensive estates. I’ve photographed homes and produced other media directly for homeowners, discount agents, and full-service agents. For a time, I was even a marketing director and part owner of a real estate firm.
I have had a front-row seat seeing what it takes to successfully sell a home for the most money. I have probably seen it all. I’ve also had the privilege of working with some of the best real estate agents in Colorado. I’ve talked to thousands of agents and listened to their stories and heard the mistakes that many homeowners have made. This book is designed to help you avoid the pitfalls by teaching you how to select the right real estate agent (if any) for you, price your home correctly, get it ready for sale, and market your home most effectively.
I’m not a real estate agent or mortgage broker. I’m not trying to sell you anything. No matter whether you decide to sell your home without an agent, use a discount agent or a full-service agent you will know what to expect. My goal is to share with you my insights. This book is designed to help you get more money from the sale of your home and to sell it faster. I do have one selfish goal. By following this guidebook, you might make my or another photographer’s work easier. More importantly, by having your home ready to photograph when the photographer arrives, the better your home will look online, in print, and in person.
I’ve tried to keep this book short. After all, you have a home to sell. This book contains only the essentials as I see them for you to sell your home quickly.
I wish to thank all the agents who have shared their perspectives with me. I also want to thank my wife, Sandy, who has put up with this crazy industry and the amount of time it has taken away from us being together.
Throughout this book you’ll find links that direct you to examples of the topic being discussed. If you’re reading this as an e-book, you can click on the link itself, but photos on the web in a Kindle reader are not good quality, but it does work well in the Kindle app for tablet or phone. In the printed version of this book, type in the specific link or simply open any web browser, enter HCBookPics.com/examples, and go to each chapter.
Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts to prepare this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed, and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you or your situation. Consult with professional legal, accounting, and real estate advisors where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.
Chapter One: Overview
In order to sell your home, you need to market it. This means you need to take the appropriate steps to attract potential buyers. There’s a separate sales process that includes finding buyers, negotiating a sales price, writing the contract, overcoming issues found during the inspections, resolving miscellaneous items, and closing the sale. While these tasks are essential, they are not covered in this book. This book aims at helping you to find the right agent to work with (if you don’t want to sell it yourself), getting your home ready for sale, and marketing it so that the perfect buyer can find it. This is not a real estate sales-process book.
When it comes to marketing your home, the goal is to attract as many potential buyers as possible. This is done through high-quality photographs, a variety of real estate websites, videos, virtual tours, print materials, and purposeful use of social media platforms.
Selling your home begins with making it look its best. Some people believe that they can sell their home as is (especially in a strong sellers’ market), while others have taken extraordinary measures to get their homes ready to sell.
Some agents and homeowners have done most everything right, and more importantly for your sake, they have shared what they could have done better. You may live in a condo, townhouse, duplex, single-family home, row house, farm, cabin, estate, ranch, or any other type of residential property. To simplify the language in this book, the word “home” or “house” will be used when referring to any of these types of residential dwellings. Because each home and property is different, some of the recommendations will fit your situation; some may not. However, what is common to everyone is knowing the rules of the road.
Chapter Two: Rick’s Rules to Sell By
There are secrets to selling your home and still remaining sane. A great deal of this process has to do with your mind-set. Accept the following rules, and you will find the process much easier.
Rick’s Rule 1: It’s no longer your home. It’s just a house.
As soon as you consider putting your home on the market, it’s no longer your home. A home is a place that you live and make a life. A house is an asset that you sell for the most money. Think of your home as a large pile of cash. Whether you are asked to change the paint color or rearrange the furniture, you don’t care. It’s just four walls. Whatever makes it worth more.
In the industry the process of turning your home into a house is called “depersonalizing.” You are trying to appeal to the broadest possible market. It goes beyond taking down everything that makes it “your home,” like family photos, pet toys/beds/scratching posts, toiletries, and religious items. You want to make it a house that everyone wants to buy. Do not take the recommendations from an agent or stager personally. He or she is looking at your home from a buyer’s perspective.
The sale of your house will be easier if you keep in mind that people don’t live in staged houses. You stage your house so that it will appeal to the buyer. Consider the word “staging.” It implies that you are putting on a theatrical production. It’s not the “real” world. Once you have done all the work that is described later in chapter 4, you may feel like there’s no way you can live in this house. After all it doesn’t even feel like your home anymore. Congratulations! You have achieved the goal.
It’s no longer your home. It’s just a house. In fact, from this point forward in this book we will not use the word “home” to refer to where you live. It’s now simply a house. You want buyers to picture it as their home and not your house.
Rick’s Rule 2: Nobody wants to buy a used house.
Of course, unless it’s a newly built house, everyone knows that most houses have been previously lived in. Your job is to make your house to look as new as possible. Along with depersonalizing, you need to paint, dust, and clean. This rule also covers deodorizing your house so that it smells new. Make sure that pet hair and dreadful odors, such as that cat-box smell are also removed. It’s important to keep in mind that some buyers or their children have pet allergies. If you have an opportunity, go to a builder’s model home. You will never see dog hair or a dirty cat box. (hcbookpics.com/205).
Rick’ Rule 3: The bigger it looks, the more it’s worth.
Since most people don’t live in a staged house, what’s the secret to making yours look like one? The more stuff in your house, the smaller it will look. Alternatively, the less cluttered it is, the bigger it will look. This rule could also be called “Half and Half.” If you are like most people, you will want to go into a specific room and remove half of the items, and then go back and remove half of the remaining items that are still there. You may want to remove less than half of the larger pieces of furniture in a room, but for most people, the rule for everything else remains. For example, in the kitchen, remove half of the items that are on your counters. Then remove half of those items that still remain. (hcbookpics.com/210).
Rick’s Rule 4: A vacant house is a sad and lonely house.
This is the mirror image of Rick’s Rule 3. While you don’t want too many items in your house, and you don’t want too few either. You want to make your house look as big as possible by not having too much stuff, but you also want it to seem warm, friendly, and welcoming by not having too few things. There needs to be a balance. Most people have a hard time sizing a room. Will their couch fit along your living room wall? Can their king-sized bed fit in your master bedroom? Will their table work in the dining room? Is their pool table too big for your rec room? If you remove all the furniture, your buyer will not be able to gauge these concerns. (hcbookpics.com/215).
Secondly, a vacant house does not feel like a place your buyer can call home. There is a reason that most builders will stage their new houses: to make them feel more welcoming for potential buyers.