First-Time Home Seller’s Guide

    Selling your first home isn’t often something one thinks about. Perhaps you have been relocated by your employer, have added family members and outgrown your home, or maybe you just want a change. Regardless of the reason for selling, your goal when selling your Jacksonville area home is to maximize your profit while selling on your terms. Our first-time home seller’s guide will walk you through the process, so you know what to expect and give you some helpful tips.

    Hire a Real Estate Agent

    Much like buying your first home, selling your first home requires some legwork up front, but not nearly as much. You can sell on your own, but if your goal is to maximize profit, hire an agent to eliminate guesswork.  If you need to sell quickly, or if you need more time to find another house, pack, etc., while selling, an agent will be able to make adjustments based off of local market expertise to help you sell when it’s convenient for you. A good agent knows the Jacksonville market, the best time to sell, and the best price for your home. They will guide you through the entire process. These are some things that will be provided early on in the selling process:

    • information about the best time to list your home
    • a comparative market analysis (CMA) based on the comps in your neighborhood, so you can accurately price your home
    • marketing materials for your home including a well-written listing with professional photos and social media promos; once your listing is posted, double-check it for accuracy.

    Price Your Home

    This is the most important part of the home selling process.  You want to find the optimum price for your home. New listings get the most exposure, so you don’t want to potentially miss out on your best group of buyers. If you price your property too low, you leave money on the table. If you price your property too high, you won’t have any interest. Everyone has access to the same data these days, so there’s no smoke and mirrors show when it comes to finding the value of your home.  Anyone can see what you paid for your home, they can find old listing photos to see what it looked like when you bought it, and a good Realtor using the latest in valuation technology can provide buyers with a full CMA on-site using apps on their phone.  If buyers feel like they are too far apart on where they feel the value is and where you have it listed, they will move on without making an offer.  Time is valuable in our current market in Jacksonville, FL and buyers don’t want to waste time chasing an overpriced listing that might cause them to miss out on another one.  On the other hand, if you’re waiting for a new home to be built, or you can’t relocate for several months, and you’re anxious about selling, pricing high might be a good strategy if you’re willing to wait for that one buyer to finally come along that will negotiate with you and accommodate a longer closing period. Look to your agent to find that sweet spot–a competitive price that draws several offers–or most importantly, the sweet spot that allows you to sell on your terms. This will also lead to a quicker sale.

    Stage & Prep Your Home

    Before you sell, and before you add photos to your listing, you need to get your home ready for potential buyers. Although the mural that you painted on your kid’s wall is spectacular, and the quilt that your grandma made for you that is hanging on the back of your sofa has special meaning, these things will not help sell your home. It may seem foolish to spend more money on your home when you are trying to sell it, but the money that you pay a staging company will result in a faster sale and allow you to get top dollar for your home. You want to make improvements and set up your house so it shows well, but not spend money that won’t increase its value. Home stagers charge between $150 and $600 for a consultation. Ask your realtor for a referral; agents take the time to build relationships with many professionals that may be of benefit to you, not only stagers. These professionals appreciate the business, so they often discount their services or give free consultations, which will save you money in the long run.

    If you aren’t in a financial position to pay for staging, here are some things that you can do on your own:

    • Paint your walls a neutral or earth tone color. If your walls are already neutral, you still need a fresh coat of paint to spruce them up. 90’s “neutral” and 2018 “neutral” is often not the same!
    • Take notice of your flooring. Living in Florida means you most likely have some kind of ceramic or stone tile in your home. If you have damaged tiles, you should fix them. Also, if your grout lines are cracked, re-grout your tile. The same goes for carpet–if you have old, worn carpet and cannot replace it, at least pay to have it cleaned.
    • De-clutter your entire home. This includes closet spaces, too. When you paint, remove excess decorations from your walls. Pack away knick-knacks, family photos, and religious items. You have two goals: make your home appear as spacious as possible and remove your personal style so potential buyers can imagine themselves living in your home.
    • Don’t forget about your yard. Concentrate on adding ‘curb appeal,’ so potential buyers fall in love with your home before they even step inside. A study at Texas Tech revealed that curb appeal can increase your home’s value by up to 17%.  Make sure the grass is mowed, plant flowers, reseed dead patches of grass, and add fresh sod if necessary. Wash windows, repair and repaint porches, decks, and stairs as needed.  If the approach to the front door is flawless, buyers will already assume the same for the rest of the home.  If there are problems before buyers even open the door, they will be looking for more problems during the showing instead of enjoying the home.

    Show Your Home

    Once you’ve made repairs and staged and listed your home, it’s time to let buyers look around. Try to be as flexible as you can with showings and make sure to leave the property during showings. Buyer’s agents prefer to show the home without any interference from the owner. Buyers will feel uncomfortable, and won’t feel free to explore the home.  They will also feel like they are intruding into someone else’s space as opposed to enjoying a home that could be theirs one day. Showings typically only last 15-20 minutes.  If the buyers are there longer, trust me, it’s worth the wait! If your home is in a good location for an open house, make sure to host one. Ask your agent how he will organize and market the event to make sure it is a success.

    couple signing real estate contract during closing closeup

    Receive Offers

    When you receive offers on your home, you should respond as soon as possible. Try to remember what it was like when you were in the buyer’s shoes. The price is not the only component of the offer that matters, so keep an open mind for negotiations, especially if you want to sell quickly. You can counter offer with things to sweeten the deal such as leaving appliances, paying the buyer’s closing costs, or a quick close. It really depends on your priorities; you should take the time to think about those during the listing process. It would be wonderful to get top dollar, have a quick close, and have to pay very little closing costs, but you may not get everything you want. Your real estate agent will help you evaluate each offer.

    Get Ready For Closing

    Once you’ve accepted an offer and signed a purchase agreement, it’s time to prepare for closing. Most offers are contingent upon a home inspection and appraisal. If the inspection reveals repairs that need to be made, you may have to negotiate repairs. Buyers will be most interested in the shape of the major parts and systems of your home, such as the roof, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC, as well as overall structural soundness. Another concern is Wood Destroying Organisms (WDO); this includes, but is not limited to termites and other pests, wood rot, and fungus. Some loans require that all of the major systems and WDO issues are fixed before closing, so it’s wise to go ahead and have a pre-listing inspection done so that you’re aware of what needs to be fixed. This keeps surprises to a minimum and adds value to your listing if you’re willing to share the inspection report and a list of repaired items, if necessary, with potential buyers. Living in Florida means lots of moisture and humidity, so pay special attention to mold and moisture issues. Other issues are negotiable; you may choose to fix them or discount the purchase price and let the buyer deal with them.  Having permits and receipts from prior work done on the home is a major plus.

    Closing

    The closing agent calculates the total amount that the buyer and seller owe on their particular fees and overall transaction expenses, including credits and debits such as taxes, title fees, recording fees, and other closing costs. They issue these figures to the buyer and seller a few days before closing so everyone is clear on what amount to bring to or expect from closing.  As you know from buying your first home, the closing, also called settlement, is the final meeting between the buyer, the seller, their agents, and a representative from the mortgage company. Most closings today will take place with the sellers signing earlier in the day and the buyers signing afterwards.  This separation makes it a more relaxing experience and allows the closing agent to focus solely on that particular parties needs and questions.  Once all parties have signed the final paperwork the funds are wired into the proper accounts, and the new title and mortgage liens are recorded. Closing is complete and keys are exchanged.

    Congratulations! You’ve just completed one homeowner life-cycle and can now buy and sell with confidence in the future.

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