"I've never sold a house before," one Buyer anxiously confessed. "My husband (wife, parent, significant other) took care of all of those details. I really don't know how to buy or sell real estate on my own."
No worries - I do! You're not on your own any longer, nor is this journey insurmountable. I'll throw on my trusty cape and fly in to help.Together, we'll take it one day at a time, one step at a time, one task at a time, until we've accomplished the goal and hung the "sold" sign out front.
Listen, life is full of curve balls we hadn't anticipated - some good and some tragically sad, some exciting and some unwelcome, some liberating and some weighed down by heavy expectations and family responsibilities (been there, done that) and some that are truly unavoidable, forcing us to change course when we least expected to. At any given time, we're all just doing the best we can with whatever cards we are dealt . . . Sound familiar?
But whatever the reason you are now seeking to sell your home and transition to the next phase of life, you truly don't have to go it alone. As in last week's essay, when it comes to buying a home, the sentiment remains the same: "I got you."
Moreover I have an entire team of "Super Heroes" that are eager to display their own "super powers" and help. (Bam! Kapow! Shazam!) From gardeners, to organizers, to haulers, to piano movers, to window washers, to painters, to videographers, they'll primp your house and dress up your garden, they'll box your belongings and carefully crate your artwork, they'll mend, shine, and stage your home so beautifully that it positively glows. Like a Marvel movie, my team is comprised of talented and skilled professionals that take tremendous pride in what they do and that I have come to rely upon day in and day out. (I don't do it alone either).
So if there's an impending move in your future and you're wondering where to start, here's my top ten "To Dos" . . .
1) YOU must make the decision to sell, which means that you probably need to figure out where you are moving. For many people, this is, logistically, the most challenging part of the equation, especially if you cannot afford to buy your new home prior to selling your current one (that's true for most of us, BTW),but I've yet to help the Seller who hasn't very quickly identified the next property once in escrow. Turns out, most of us aren't willing to be homeless for very long. AND because it's a Sellers' Market and Sellers make the rules, chances are you'll be able to rent-back your house long enough to discover the next one.
2) Once having made the decision to sell, establish your goals, your timeline, and your expectations. What selling price do you really wish to obtain and is it realistic? How much is enough? When do you plan to bring your property to market? How much time do you need to prepare your home for sale? Real estate is fairly cyclical so timing can be as critical to the success of your sale as your listing price. Do your homework and plan accordingly and then create a game plan. And on a positive note, because our weather is fairly temperate year-round, there's only a few months when the market perceptively cools. In short, there's almost no bad time to sell in California.
3) Contact a local Real Estate Agent! (Hey, that's my cue.) If you have an established, long-standing relationship with a Realtor that has served you well, you're well ahead of the curve. If not, interview three neighborhood specialists and ask them to arrive with a marketing plan in hand. Selling a home will typically cost you about 8% of your selling price (plus repairs and improvements) so it's NOT an insignificant amount to invest in a market where even our smaller homes are selling for more than a million dollars. Make sure, your Agent brings real value to the process. You are paying for his/her expertise, time and attention: it's absolutely fair to understand how they work and what they provide; how they communicate and how available they will be - and whether or not they personally serve you - or hand you off to a team member (no judgement here, but you should know how your Realtor rolls).
4) Sign a contract. I can't legally work on your behalf without a contract in hand, but once signed, I can step in and take the reigns - and honestly, isn't that a relief? (Yes, it is.) Off-load your fear, stress and anxiety on to me. Like a good therapist, I'm specifically trained for it and our conversations are strictly confidential until you give me the thumbs up sign to share the exciting news! You have plenty to do without worrying about the mechanics (like selling your home) so bring on a professional to help. While I can't promise you an entirely stress-free transaction, I can certainly absorb much of the burden, and I'm happy to do so. In fact, it's what you pay me for.
5) Purge, toss, donate, or just throw the stuff away! I'm not kidding. If you haven't opened that pile of mail by now, it can't be all that important. Kids returning from college? Put them to work clearing out their rooms. No one will miss those geography reports from fifth grade (they won't) or the "Shoots and Ladders" game that hasn't been opened since they were six. I love my kids but I'm unwilling to create a shrine for them. Truth is, most of us accumulate far more than we need so use this opportunity to keep what you love and pass on the rest. Attack one room at a time, but DO get started or you may become quickly overwhelmed. Still frozen? GET HELP! (There are plenty of capes to go around.)
6) Gather all information that is pertinent to the sale of your home.Warranties, permits, plans, and a list of improvements are all incredibly helpful to the next owners and spell out the value you've added to the house during your tenure as well. These are the items you don't want to toss.
7) Pack! Clear the decks and let your Realtor and her "Super-Heroes" take over. We need to get in there to paint, garden, lay down fresh carpet, refinish floors, wash windows, stage, photograph and perform 100 other assorted tasks that are designed to bring you TOP DOLLAR. The sooner I have unfettered access to your home, the quicker I can bring it to market and deliver you the results you seek, AND the sooner we can put selling your home in the past so that you can focus on the future. (Mired down by your "things?" I've just the moving concierge to help you; she'll handle it all - nuts to bolts - truly, she's "Wonder Woman.")
8) Inspect. Only the most foolish Seller would bring his or her house to market without full disclosure. Nobody operates on a "Buyer Beware" paradigm anymore. That's the surest way to a lawsuit and you won't come out the winner.(if you hear nothing else today, hear this.) Maybe Superman could see through walls, but mere mortals need a disclosure package and deserve one. Disclose, disclose, DISCLOSE! And once having done so, make a list of reasonable repairs and hire a good handyman to address any real concerns that might preclude a quick sale or create a major roadblock in escrow.
9) Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and strap your water heaters as required. Appraisers actually can't turn in their appraisals without these in place which means your new Buyer can't move forward with their loan. This is an inexpensive and easy "fix," but it's also incumbent upon you, the Seller, to do it. (Yes, of course, I have a handyman who can do this for you.)
10) Let Go! I'm repeating this mantra and emphasizing it by putting it in BOLD, CAPITAL letters in case you miss my subtle point: LET GO! Of all the steps on the road to selling, this one may be the very toughest (emotionally speaking that is), but it's absolutely vital to the process of moving on. (May I politely suggest that a little faith and trust go a long way?) I'm here to do my very best for you and based on the pay structure, I'm also highly incentivized to bring you a great result. If the process feels fast and furious, that's because IT IS!(I'm sorry if you feel rushed). When a sale plods along too slowly, you'll more than likely suffer as a result - so please, I beg you: Let Go! (Uhhh, I meant with both hands.)
We've got you. (We really do.)
How can I help you?
(For a complete list of my favorite vendors, click here)
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.